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. 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) They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles after the altar was built and they paid money to the carpenters for the cedar logs needed for the rebuilding of the temple.
When the foundation was completed “they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; His love to Israel endures forever.'” (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. Socked and ashamed, Ezra immediately began praying for God’s mercy while confessing, weeping and throwing himself down. When the people saw how their intermarriage sin affected Ezra, one person confessed and Ezra led them into a sacred covenant with God. (Ez 10) A long prayer of confession 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. The name Ezra means help and his devotion to forming the Scripture canon has helped us all. 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 wonderful words contained in Psalm 119, which is all about the Word of God. “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law. At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:57) LESSON: Obey the Word of God.
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved. DONE 4/17/19