EZRA part 2

1 – 2


Tonight we are going to dig in to our text in Ezra and discover the awesome power of God’s providence at work. Let begin in,


Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,  2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.  3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.  4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.


This was amazing time in history because we have a heathen King who did not believe in one particular God who ended up becoming a vessel for God as he was the main reason God’s promise was fulfilled that He made through Jeremiah and Isaiah. The first thing I want point out are some of the main points our verses have taught us.


  • These events were the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jer 29:12-15
  • The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus
  • Cyrus was given his position of power by the providence of God
  • Cyrus was charged by God to build His house and he would do it by sending Jews back to Jerusalem
  • The rebuilding of God’s house would be funded partly by the Persians that were around Jerusalem. This will become more apparent as we get further into the book of Ezra.


Since these events are so precisely dictated by prophecy and that prove that God had a hand in these events, I want to share with you some historical proof that has been found in regards to these events.


In 1879, an explorer by the name of Hormuzd Rassam discovered the famous “Cyrus Cylinder” at the site of ancient Babylon and this artifact can be seen at the British Museum. The “Cyrus Cylinder” is a  small 9 inch long, barrel-shaped, clay chronicle that describes the benevolent policy of Cyrus in restoring captives to their homelands, along with their religious treasures. Please notice part of this inscription that records what Cyrus said:


“I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which [used] to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I [also] gathered all their [former] inhabitants and returned [to them] their habitations” (Pritchard, 208).


This gives us strong external proof that King Cyrus did exactly what the book Ezra said that he did and it also shows King Cyrus’ benevolent attitude toward those whom were under his power. King Cyrus was not a cruel King like many others had been. Instead, he was kind and fair man and his character is also founded in external history. For instance,


Xenophon, a Greek writer who was contemporary with Cyrus and fought in his army, described the Persian ruler as psuchen philanthropotaton, i.e., as a humane, benevolent, loving soul (8.7.3; cf. 1.2.1).

George Rawlinson, Camden Professor of ancient history at Oxford University, wrote the following concerning Cyrus:

“Of all the Persian monarchs, he was the one most distinguished for mildness and clemency; the one to whom the sufferings of a captive nation, torn violently from its home and subjected to seventy years of grievous oppression, would most forcibly have appealed” (1873, 194).

Cyrus kind nature made him the perfect king to carry out God’s promise to the Jews. It also interesting that Cyrus called the Jews God, “God of heaven” because based on the external history of the Persians and Cyrus himself they believed in multiple God’s and they considered “The God of Heaven” as being their supreme God. Yet, we find Cyrus giving this title to Jehovah. In regards to this Keil says the following,

"The edicts of the great kings of Persia preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions ... usually begin with the acknowledgment that they owe their power to the god of Ahuramazda (Ormuzd), the creator of heaven and earth. In this edict, however, Cyrus expressly calls the God of heaven by His Israelite name Jahve (Jehovah), and speaks of a commission from this God to build Him a temple at Jerusalem.  Hence, it is manifest that Cyrus consciously. entered into the purposes of Jahve (Jehovah), and sought, as far as he was concerned, to fulfill them."

While Cyrus most likely didn’t believe the Jehovah was the only God, he did believe that Jehovah was responsible for him coming into power and that he needed to fulfill what Jehovah wanted done namely the building of His house and the release of His people.

Our text says that God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus. Now we are not told how this was done in the Bible. However, the first century Historian Josephus gives us a good idea of how this king may have been stirred up by God. He said that God,

“…stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write throughout all Asia: ‘Thus says Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty has appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.’

“This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken to him in a secret vision: ‘My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.’ This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written…” (Antiquities 11.1.1-2).

 Now, I know I have no way of proving this is the way Cyrus was stirred up, but it seems the most logical way that happened. Either he read what Isaiah said about him almost 200 years before he was born or maybe one the prophets told him about it. If I were in his shoes and began to read Isaiah prophecy about me, it would be enough to convince me that I need to pay attention to what God wants me to do. Notice this is part of what he could read from Isaiah,

Isaiah 45:1 "Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held -- To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut:  2 'I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron.  3 I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.  4 For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.  5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me,

Then he could have also read,

Isaiah 44:26 Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, 'You shall be inhabited,' To the cities of Judah, 'You shall be built,' And I will raise up her waste places;  27 Who says to the deep, 'Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers';  28 Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," And to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid." '

He could have easily seen this was talking about him and how he would become king and it also fits perfectly with how he defeated the Babylonians. Another thing the Cyrus Cylinder reveals that we talked about earlier is that the Persian commander took the city of Babylon “without any battle”; the soldiers “strolled along, their weapons stowed away” (Pritchard, 207). This simply shows that God was in control of Cyrus being able to defeat people like the Babylonians and was allowed to take their treasures and it was all done to prove to Cyrus that Jehovah was God. This is why I believe the most logical way that King Cyrus’ spirit was stirred up by God was by Cyrus reading or being told about these prophecies in Isaiah that specifically name him and tell him why he was able to be so successful.

However, he was stirred up, we can see that he was not going to resist what God wanted him to do so he made a decree for the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God.

Some Jews choose to stay in Babylon. When I thought about this, I wondered why would any of these Jews want to remain in Babylon? This just proves that some people get used to being where they are and they don’t want to change. Some of the Jews had become accustomed to living in a foreign land and they did not want to go back home. As, I thought about this it made me think of how people today become accustomed to living in a world of sin and they don’t consider the heavenly home they will receive if they are faithful to God. Instead, they immerse themselves in this world and they will eventually die in their sins because they have no desire to live in heaven.

One last point I want to make about our text is that when it says this return of the Jews happened in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign it talking about his reign over Babylon because had already reigned as the King of Persia around 23 years. When we combine the prophecies of these events along side the historicity of these events, no one with an honest heart can deny that these events took place and that God almighty was the one that made all this happen.

Ezra 1:5 Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.  6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.  7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods;  8 and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.  9 This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives,  10 thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles.  11 All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem.

King Cyrus decree included all the Jews. However, we verse 5 only mentions the heads of the family of Judah and Benjamin along with the Levites and priest that had assembled and made their way to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Verse 6 teaches that all the people that were around them encouraged them with silver, gold and other items. This means that not only did the Jews that remained behind gave toward this event, so did all their heathen neighbors, including the Babylonians.

Verse 7 and 8 are referring to the vessels that had been carried away by King Nebuchadnezzar in his first conquest against the Jews under the reign of Jehoiakim because during Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd conquest he broke up the vessels that he took (2 Kings 24:13). King Nebuchadnezzar had taken these vessels and put them up as trophies in the house of his Gods. Later on, under King Belshazzar in Dan. 5 we learn that he sent for these sacred vessels to drink from them and they did. That is when the finger of man’s hand appeared and wrote of the wall and then Babylon fell that very night to Darius the Mede.

Once these vessels were retrieved, they were given to Sheshbazzar who most believe is Zerubbabel because some the same things are attributed to Sheshbazzar are also attributed to Zerubable. Zerubbabel was born in Babylonian captivity and Sheshbazzar was most likely his Chaldaean name. This was common practice just like Daniel and his 3 companion were given new names. This man took the money and then lead the children of Israel back to Jerusalem. Then remaining verses just give us the details of how much valuables they took with them.

In Ezra 2 we have another genealogy list, which is repeated in Nehemiah 7 and it shows those who had returned to Jerusalem and this list would have been used to keep the records straight of what family would receive certain portions of land and also it be used identify those who could serve as priests and it would be used identify the lineage of David.

Instead, of reading all these names, I just want to break this list down in the following parts:

·        The leaders of Israel are given in (Ezra 2:2)

·        Those who returned according to families (Ezra 2:3-19)

·        The number of those who returned according to localities (Ezra 2:20-35)

·        The number of priests arranged according to their families (Ezra 2:36-39)

·        The number of Levites, likewise arranged according to their families (Ezra 2:40-42)

·        The families of the Nethinim (Ezra 2:43-54)

·        The families of "Solomon's servants" (Ezra 2:55-57)

·        Those who could not show their genealogy (Ezra 2:59-63).

As with any OT story you and I can learn a great deal about God and how we can improve our relationship with Him. We have learned that God can use His providence to bring about His promises. We have gained further proof of the existence of God and the accuracy of His Word because these events can be proven from external history. Once this story was proven historically, there is only one logical way that prophecies written over hundreds years before this event could have happened just as God’s Word said they would, and that is that God foretold these events through His prophets, which means that the Words that we have in our Bible are true and the are from God. This story also proves that God keeps His promises. So we can gain great comfort and hope when we study chapters like these.