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Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished- Daniel understood from Jeremiah’s prophecies that Jerusalem’s fortunes would be revived after the 70 year period was ended. Yet he goes on to ask God to immediately forgive His people, as if Daniel even dared hope that the period might be shortened. Daniel lived into the reign of Cyrus (Dan. 6:28), and so he would have witnessed “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:25; Ezra 1:1). But it seems to me that whilst the prophecy of the 70 years came true in one sense, the Jews didn’t respond as they should, and so the time of Zion’s true freedom in the Messianic Kingdom was delayed. Daniel had been petitioning the Father to not delay beyond the 70 year period in doing this. But in another sense, the prophecy was re-interpreted; Daniel was now told that there was to be a “seventy weeks of years” (Dan. 9:24 RSV) period involved in order to gain ultimate forgiveness for Israel as Daniel had just been praying for. The 70 years had become “seventy weeks of years”. The command to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the first year of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1); but Daniel must have watched in vain for any sign that Zion’s glad morning had really come. And so it is recorded that in the third year of Cyrus Daniel was given a vision that confirmed to him that “the thing was true, but the time appointed was long [Heb. ‘extended’; the word is also translated “greater”, “more”]: and he understood the thing” (Dan. 10:1). What was “the thing” that was true, which Daniel sought to understand? Surely it was the vision of the 70 years that he had sought to “understand” in Dan. 9:2. The Hebrew dabar, translated “thing”, is usually translated “word”. He was comforted that the word of prophecy would come true; it was “noted in the scripture of truth” (Dan. 10;21). It was just that it had been extended in its fulfilment; “for yet the vision is for many days” (Dan. 10:14). And this was how he came to “understand the thing / word”. The essential and ultimate fulfilment of the 70 years prophecy would only be after a long time, involving 70 “weeks of years”. Thus Daniel came to “understand” the vision (Dan. 10:1); hence he was so shocked, depressed and disappointed that the fulfilment would not be in his days. But he is set up as a representative of those of us in the very last days who shall likewise “understand” (s.w. Dan. 12:10) the very same prophecies which Daniel studied. Daniel is described as both understanding, and also not understanding (Dan. 10:1; 12:8). Surely the idea is that he understood the principle of deferment and the outline meaning of the prophecy; but he didn’t understand the details. And so perhaps it is with us who will, or do, likewise “understand” as Daniel did.

Ez. 4:6 revealed the variable nature of Divine time periods: "You shall lie on your right side, and shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah: forty days, each day for a year, have I appointed it to you". Ezekiel was asked to prophecy that Judah would suffer for their sins for 40 years. Perhaps something could've happened after 40 years... And then, the starting point of the 70 or 40 years was somewhat flexible- for Ez. 22:3,4 records Ezekiel's prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians [the starting point of the time periods] was actually being hastened, brought forward, by the terrible behaviour of the Jews living there after the initial Babylon invasion of the land. Closer study reveals the variableness of outworking of the time periods. Jer. 25:11,12 and Jer. 29:10 speak of a 70 year period of Babylonian rule over Judah, beginning with the invasion of BC597. But Babylon only ruled over Judah for 49 years, before Babylon fell to the Persians. This would connect with the way that Zech. 4:3 speaks of 7 menorah candlesticks each with 7 lamps, making 49 lamps. 49 is the cycle of 7 Sabbath years that culminated in the jubilee year, and the jubilee year, the proclamation of liberty to the land (Lev. 25:8-12; 27:7-24) is a figure used so often in Isaiah to describe the freedom of Judah once released from Babylon. Lev. 26:34,43 speak of the land enjoying her Sabbaths whilst Israel were in exile for their sins- i.e. for 49 years. So it seems that there could have been some restoration after 49 years- but it didn't happen. But Dan. 9:2 and 2 Chron. 36:21 seem to reinterpret those 70 years of Jeremiah's prophecies as speaking of a 70 year period during which Jerusalem and the temple would be desolate. See on Ez. 6:8.

Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation- This is the same word for "noise" in Ez. 37:7: “So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone”. This meant that the “whole house of Israel” was to stand up from their graves and return as a mighty army to the land. Their attitude in Babylon was exactly as in Ez. 37:11: “behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts”. These were the very sentiments of Jeremiah in Lamentations, and those who wept by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion. They were revived by the gift of the Spirit, the breath / spirit which was blown into them by God's initiative.

The stirring up [Heb. 'opening the eyes'] of Cyrus is a parade example of the ability of God to work directly on the human mind, inserting ideas and initiatives, and confirming a person in their responses to various psychological stimuli. This is the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers today, and it was and will be seen in the revival of the dead bones of Israel. Not visible miracles, but internal mental working. And that Spirit can be resisted, as it was by many of the exiles; for we are not mere puppets in God's hand. Yet grace means that God takes the initiative; "He first loved us". That initiative is seen through His working on the human heart in calling us to action (s.w. 2 Chron. 21:16; Is. 13:17; Jer. 50:41; Joel 3:9) and Cyrus was a parade example of this (Is. 41:2,25, 45:13). The hearts of the returnees were likewise stirred up (see on :5). But this was not some irresistible manipulation of the human person; Zion was called to be stirred up ["awake"], but she refused to be stirred up (Is. 51:17; 52:1 cp. Is. 64:7). Zerubbabel had his mind or "spirit" stirred up to be the king-priest Messianic figure (Hag. 1:14); but he let the baton drop.


Throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying-The restoration prophecies speak of how “all nations” are to be gathered to Zion; they are those who scattered Judah amongst the nations; not every literal nation. And who “scattered” Israel? The Hebrew word is used in Jer. 50:17 to describe how Babylon scattered Judah amongst the nations. And most significantly, the same word occurs again in Est. 3:8: “And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom...”. It is quite wrong for us to imagine Judah sitting quietly by the rivers of Babylon, all huddled together. They were scattered throughout all the many provinces / colonies of the Babylonian empire. This was why Cyrus’ decree bidding the Jews return to rebuild Jerusalem had to be published “throughout all his kingdom” (Ezra 1:1), and Jews living “in any place” of that kingdom were included in the invitation. It was Babylon who had “parted my land” by dividing it up amongst the various ‘Samaritan’ peoples who were transported there from other conquered territories. And their being in Babylon is paralleled with being scattered to the four corners of the world as it was known to them: “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech. 2:6-7). And consider Zech. 7:14: “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them [i.e. this concerns the Babylonian invasion], that no man passed through nor returned”. Indeed, Zech. 8:7,8 speaks of the restoration as coming from both West and East of Israel, implying that the Babylonians had sold some of the Jews as slaves in Greece and north Africa. 

Ezra 1:2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He has commanded me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah-
Cyrus clearly had a sense of relationship with Yahweh, and I have argued that he was one of the potential Messiah figures who could have reestablished the Kingdom at the restoration. Is. 44:28 is crystal clear about this. God "says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure’, even saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built;’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid’". It was God's intention that Cyrus repent and become a proselyte, and Yahweh would then use him to save His people "out of all places where they have been scattered". The decree of Cyrus was addressed to "Whoever is left [of the Jews], in any place where he lives" (Ezra 1:4). "Cyrus" literally means "sun" and so contrasts with the cloudy and dark day. But Cyrus let the ball drop and didn't carry through the Divine purpose as he might have done and neither did the Jews respond as they should have done. Cyrus was Yahweh's anointed (Is. 45:1), and so the essence of these prophecies is to come true in the last days in the person of the Lord Jesus. We could say that the prophecies are transferred from Cyrus to the Lord Jesus. LXX "Who bids Cyrus be wise, and he shall perform all my will" suggests Cyrus had a choice; he was commanded, and it seems he partially obeyed, but not enough to the Messiah figure envisaged.

It is significant that Ezra and Nehemiah speak of the "God of Heaven" (e.g. Ezra 1:2) whilst Zechariah speaks of the "God of the earth" or 'land' of Israel, perhaps because the Angel of Israel literally went to Heaven when the glory departed from Jerusalem, and returned, in a sense, at the restoration- to depart again at the Lord's death ("Your house is left unto you desolate"; of the Angel that once dwelt in the temple).

Ezra 1:3 Whoever there 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 Yahweh, the God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem-
"His God..." sounds as if Cyrus had not adopted Yahweh as his own God. And yet he does recognize that "He is God". We can know things about God, without grasping their personal reality. That is the lesson of Cyrus.


Amos 9:11-15 is most comfortably interpreted when read as referring to the restoration of Judah and the “remnant” of the ten tribes to the land under Ezra: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God”. “I will raise up” uses a Hebrew word very commonly featured in the records of the restoration, when the people were exhorted to “rise up and build” (Ezra 1:5; 3:2; 10:4,15; Neh. 2:18,20). The statement that they would “close up the breaches thereof” is exactly the language of Neh. 6:1, which records that the walls were rebuilt so that there was no breach [s.w.] therein. It was after the Babylonian invasion that Zion was “fallen” and ‘ruined’ (s.w. Jer. 31:18; 45:4; Lam. 2:2,17). “I will build it” is exactly the theme of the records of the return from Babylon (Ezra 1:2,3,5; 3:2,10; 4:1-4; Neh. 2:5,17,18,20; 3:1-3, 13-15; 4:1,3,5,6,10,17,18; 6:1,6; 7:1). Surely Amos 9 is saying that at the rebuilding at the time of the restoration, God’s people could have ushered in the Kingdom age of agricultural plenty and victory over their Arab neighbours. But they intermarried with Edom, and suffered drought because they didn’t fulfill the requirements to rebuild Zion correctly. But the words of Amos were still to come true in some form- they are given an application in Acts 15:17 which may appear to be way out of context, i.e. to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus words which could have had a plain fulfilment at the restoration were given a delayed fulfilment; but they were not fulfilled in a literal sense, but in a spiritual one. And so it is with prophecies like Ezekiel 38, and the temple prophecies of Ezekiel. They will be fulfilled in spiritual essence, but probably not in strict literality, although they could have been had God’s people been more ‘fulfilling’ of them.  

Ezra 1:4 Whoever is left, in any place where he lives, let the men of his place help him with silver, with gold, with goods, and with animals, besides the freewill offering for God’s house which is in Jerusalem’-
It's surely intentional that the repentance and subsequent witness of Jonah led to the King of Assyria [often paralleled with Babylon in the prophets] making a phenomenally unexpected decree and published it (Jonah 3:7)- which ought to have prepared the faithful in exile for the possibility that such a decree could be forthcoming from the King of Persia, if they like Jonah repented and witnessed their faith to the world. It did in fact happen (Ezra 1:1-4). But it happened by grace, for there seems to have been little true repentance let alone preaching by the Jews in exile.

God had told His people to flee from Babylon before she fell, to come out of her and return to His land and Kingdom (Is. 48:20; 52:7; Jer. 50:8; Zech. 2:7). Babylon offered them a secure life, wealth, a society which accepted them (Esther 8:17; 10:3), houses which they had built for themselves (Jer. 29:5). And they were asked to leave all this, and travel the uncertain wilderness road to the ruins of Israel. They didn't leave as asked, and so after Babylon fell, Cyrus the Persian was moved still to as it were push them to return to the land. We see here God's continual effort to get people to respond to His message even if they at first refuse. They are cited in the NT as types of us in our exit from this world (2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 18:4). Those who decided to obey God’s command and leave Babylon were confirmed in this by God: He raised up their spirit to want to return and re-build Jerusalem, and He touched the heart of Cyrus to make decrees which greatly helped them to do this (Ezra 1:2-5). And so the same Lord God of Israel is waiting to confirm us in our every act of separation from the kingdoms of this world, great or small; and He waits not only to receive us, but to be a Father unto us, and to make us His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18).

Ezra 1:5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, even all whose spirit God had stirred to go up, rose up to build the house of Yahweh which is in Jerusalem-
This fulfilled Joel 3:7 “I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them”. The same Hebrew word is used in Ezra 1:1,5 concerning how God raised up the spirit of Judah to return to the land.  

God 'stirred up' the spirit of Cyrus (see on :1) and also of the Jews who returned (Ezra 1:1,5). Isaiah uses the same Hebrew term to describe how Israel's saviour would be "raised up" [s.w.]- Is. 41:2,25; 45:13. And yet Isaiah pleads with Zion, i.e. the faithful, to indeed be stirred up- Is. 51:17; 52:1 appeals to Zion to "Awake!"- the same word translated "stirred up". But Isaiah tragically concluded that there were so few who would 'stir up themselves' (Is. 64:7). God had given them the potential to be 'stirred up' in their hearts and minds to leave Babylon and return- but they wouldn't respond. And today, the same happens. God is willing to change hearts, to stir up materialistic and complacent spirits- but because we're not robots, we have to respond. And yet, God's grace still shines through. 1 Kings 8:47-50 had predicted that God would give the exiles compassion in captivity if they repented. They didn't repent, as passages like Ez. 18 make clear (they blamed everything on their fathers and protested their personal innocence)- and yet still God gave them compassion in the eyes of their captors, through the amazing decrees of Cyrus enabling them to return to their land and rebuild the temple at his expense.


"Rose up / arose" is a word used often of the 'rising up' of the exiles to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5; 3:2; 9:5; Neh. 2:18; 3:1). This was a fulfilment of the command to "Arise... Jerusalem!" (Is. 51:17; 52:2; 61:4). But this 'arising' was to be associated with the dawning of Zion's light in the form of Yahweh's glory literally dwelling over Zion (Is. 60:1). This didn't happen at the time, because the appearance of 'arising' by the exiles was only external and wasn't matched by a spiritual revival. Yahweh cut off the “master” [‘the stirred up one’, s.w.] because they divorced their wives and married Gentiles (Mal. 2:12). The potential work of God on men’s hearts was frustrated by their hardness of heart.

Ezra 1:6 All those who were around them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with animals, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered-
The book of Esther has explained how the Jews were popular in captivity. These precious gifts recall those given to Israel when they left Egypt. The whole narrative of their return from Babylon is framed by Isaiah in terms of the exodus from Egypt. As Israel were intended to use these gifts to build the tabernacle, so the exiles were to use them to rebuild the temple. Ez. 40:42 speaks of the vessels to be used in the temple [AV “instruments”] with the same word used for the temple vessels which were brought up out of Babylon back to Judah, in fulfilment of several of Isaiah’s ‘Kingdom’ passages (Ezra 1:6-11; 8:25-33 cp. Is. 52:11; 66:20). The restoration of the kingdom could potentially have happened at the time of Ezra. But so much potential was wasted.

Ezra 1:7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of Yahweh, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem, and had put in the house of his gods-
This sounds very much like at least some element of repentance, although it has been argued that this was standard Persian practice and policy at this time. For the other captive nations were also bidden return to their homelands with their religious paraphernalia which had been taken into captivity by them.

Ezra 1:8 Even those, Cyrus king of Persia brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah-
Note how “the prince” is very much the language of Ezekiel 40-48 concerning a mortal “prince”, and also Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:8; there is good reason to think that Sheshbazzar was an official name for Zerubbabel- see Michael Ashton, The Exiles Return). And Isaiah 53 is prefaced in chapter 52 by the command to return from Babylon and to proclaim the good news of the Messianic Kingdom which Cyrus’ decree could have brought in; as if it could have come true then. He shall “grow up” as a root from a dry land (Is. 53:2) uses the word frequently used about the ‘going up’ from Babylon to Jerusalem.  

There could have been a fulfilment of Jer. 23:5 by Sheshbazzar / Zerubbabel: "Behold, the days come says Yahweh, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land". I suggested on Jer. 22:24 that the king in view was potentially Zerubbabel, "the branch of God from Babylon". Zech. 6:12 interprets this as a reference to Zerubbabel: "the man whose name is the branch... shall  build  the  temple of the  Lord". Zerubbabel being a king-priest was in the kingly line, and thus can correctly be called a king in the line of David (Mt. 1:12; Lk. 3:7; 'Sheshbazzar' of Ezra 1:8 is the Babylonian equivalent of 'Zerubbabel'; Ezra 3:8 describes his brothers as "priests and Levites"). Great prince Nehemiah humbly entered Jerusalem incognito on an ass (Neh. 2:11-15)- it is a wild speculation that Zerubbabel did the same, and thus provided a primary basis for Zech. 9:9 "Thy king cometh unto thee (also unrecognized, in the case of Jesus entering spiritually ruined Jerusalem)... lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass".

Ezra 1:9 This is the number of them: thirty platters of gold, one thousand platters of silver, twenty-nine knives-
"Platters" or "chargers" is an unusual word; "Aben Ezra derived it from two words meaning ‘to collect’ and ‘a lamb’, and understood it to be applied to ‘vessels intended to receive the blood of victims’".

Ezra 1:10 thirty bowls of gold, silver bowls of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels one thousand-
Of a second sort" is LXX "double".

Ezra 1:11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand four hundred-
This is larger than the sum of the vessels listed in :9,10. In addition to the 1000 "other vessels" (:10), there may have been other vessels of gold and silver, perhaps belonging to the royal family rather than to the temple (see 2 Chron. 36:18); and the total sum is given here.

Sheshbazzar brought all these up, when the captives were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem- Those who truly waited upon Yahweh would renew their strength; they would “mount up as eagles” (Is. 40:31), the s.w. used throughout Ezra and Nehemiah for the ‘going up’ or 'bringing up' to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:3,5,11; 2:1,59; 7:6,7,28; 8:1; Neh. 7:5,6,61; 12:1). The idea of mounting up with wings as eagles also connects with Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim, mounting up from the captives by the rivers of Babylon, and returning to the land. This was the strength available to confirm them in their desire to return. But the reality was as in Neh. 4:10: “And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall”. Examination of the context shows that they had just had plenty of strength; they lost physical stamina because of their spiritual weakness.