The exiled Jews return to Jerusalem after the Lord moved the heart of king Cyrus of Persia to make a proclamation to build a temple in Jerusalem. “And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3) God provided for His people when they left Babylon, just like He did in the Exodus of His people from Egypt. When God prompted king Cyrus to proclaim the freedom of the captives, it was God’s way of demonstrating His ongoing mercy, grace and forgiveness. (Isaiah 40:66 fulfilled) The list of Jews who returned to the Holy Land included Nehemiah and Mordecai along with a number of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants, and some descendants of Solomon. The number of jubilant captives released totaled a population of 49,897. It took seven months for the Israelites to settle in their towns before “the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem.” (Ez 3:1)
“Draw near to Me and hear this: From the beginning, I did not speak in secret; From the time anything existed, I was there. “And now the Lord God has sent me, endowed with His spirit.” Isaiah 40:16-17
כֹּֽה־אָמַ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה גֹּאַלְךָ֖ קְד֣וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֲנִ֨י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ מְלַמֶּדְךָ֣ לְהוֹעִ֔יל מַדְרִֽיכֲךָ֖ בְּדֶ֥רֶךְ תֵּלֵֽךְ׃ Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures, published by JPS
(Ez 3:11) When Zerubbabel and the heads of the Israelite families denied the enemies of Judah’s request to be a part of the rebuilding, they began a campaign of fear as they attempted to frustrate the plan to rebuild. Later under the reign of Artaxerxes, the enemies filed an accusation against the people of Judah. “The king should know that the Jews are rebuilding the walls and the king will collect no more taxes and the royal revenues will suffer” (Ez 4:12-24) King Artaxerxes issued a stop work order. Tattenai, the governor sent a letter to the king that said “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, He handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.”(Ez 5:11) The king researched the plea of governor Tattenai and issued a strict order “Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lift a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.” (Ez 6:11) The Israelites finished building the Temple according. The Jews dedicated the house of God with great joy and installed the priests according to the law. Ezra, a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, came up from Babylon to Jerusalem. The king granted Ezra everything he asked for because the hand of the Lord was on him. Ezra had devoted his life to the study and application of God’s word, and he taught the Law of the Lord to the people of Israel.
God blessed Ezra’s obedience and King Artaxerxes issued a letter to Ezra. Permission was granted to any priest or Levite willing exit with Ezra to go. They were able to exit with gold, silver, wheat, wine, olive oil, and salt. Another great blessing was that no tax was to be imposed on the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, or servants of the house of God.
After all the abundant blessings of the Lord, the people of Israel, including the priests and Levites mingled the holy race by marrying pagan peoples that surrounded Jerusalem. “I proclaimed a fast…so that we might humble ourselves before God” Ezra 8:21 “While Ezra prayed and confessed, weeping and falling face down before the house of God, an extremely large assembly of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him. The people also wept bitterly” Ezra 10:1 When the people saw how their sins affected Ezra, one person confessed and Ezra led them into a sacred covenant with God. (Ez 10) A long prayer of confession is found in the ninth chapter.
There are many great lessons in the book of Ezra and it is always wise to learn from the mistakes of others. The ten Northern tribes were the first to be taken captive by Assyria (2 Kings 17) The two Southern tribes (Benjamin and Judah) were taken captive by Babylon. (2 Kings 25) The ten Northern tribes who were carried away to Assyria never returned. The Southern tribes were restored to their own land (Jerusalem) while under the Persian Empire.
Originally Ezra and Nehemiah were combined as one Hebrew book. Ezra was gifted bu God with a photographic memory. When the Temple was destroyed, so were all the scrolls. Ezra gathered the few copies left and enrolled the help of 120 scholars to pen the scriptures off of what scrolls he gathered. Ezra instituted the synagogue worship. Under Ezra we see the great revival of Bible study. He is credited to writing portions of 1 and 2 Chronicles, and the non poetic first chapter of Job. It is suggested by some scholars that Ezra was mentored by Daniel and that Ezra was his Persian name, while Malachi was his Jewish name? Disputing the origin of the name of Ezra we learn with research that Ezra (עזרא in Hebrew) is a unisex forename, or Jewish surname of Hebrew origin, means “help” or “helper” in the Hebrew language. These prophets spoke about the return; Isaiah 40:66 and in the books of Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi. Each prophet told about a “delayed fulfillment.” Someday, Jerusalem’s victory “will go forth like brightness, and its salvation will burn like a torch” Isaiah 60. Someday, “the glory of this later temple will be greater than that of the first” Haggai 2:8. Someday, but not immediately. Isaiah wrote about king Cyrus 700 years before the fulfillment described in Ezra chapter 1. The public reading of the Law by Ezra was done while he stood facing the square in front of the Water Gate. Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people and read from daybreak until noon. All the people stood and listened attentively. Ezra praised the Lord and with their hands uplifted they shouted AMEN and bowed down humbly to worship the Lord with their faces to the ground. The Levites translated and explained the law to the people. “This day is holy to the Lord your God.” Nehemiah 8:9
NOTE the LESSON to be OBEDIENT and WORSHIP GOD. “You did not abandon them in the wilderness because of Your great compassion….You sent Your good Spirit to instruct them, You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths, and You gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. You gave them kingdoms and peoples and assigned them to be a boundary.” Nehemiah 9:19-22