Key Verse: Ezra 1:2b-3
“…He [the Lord God of Heaven] has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? May his God be with him! Now 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.” Cyrus the Great, Ruler of the Persian Empire.
Cyrus defeated the Babylonians and released the Jews from captivity, encouraging them to rebuild the Temple. Today’s reading records that the amazing treasure, which Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had stolen from the original Temple of David and Solomon, was returned to the Jewish people. Several years later, after the death of Cyrus, the new ruler, Darius (of Daniel’s den of Lions fame) had to search for the memorandum Cyrus had written ordering the new Temple to be built (Ezra 6:1). It might be useful for us to read Daniel 6:25-28. Darius also had a high view of the God of Israel. Queen Esther and the potential persecution of the Jews is in the mix here also. Hopefully in the next two weeks, as we proceed through Ezra and Nehemiah, we’ll get the history sorted out adequately.
Cyrus the Great is named in an amazing prophecy. In the writings of Isaiah it is predicted, approximately 150 years before Cyrus came to the throne, the actions of a ruler named Cyrus in the restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem (read Isaiah 44:24-28). God, who created the cosmos, could surely have let His prophet Isaiah know in advance what His plans were. Those who choose to not believe will surely say that this was added to the book of Isaiah after the event.
The historical record of these events outside of the Bible is impressive. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “In 538 B.C. these events happened as recorded in the Bible.” Add to that the Cyrus Cylinder (see photo below…a most unusual archeological artifact – I’ve seen a replica), which tells the story exactly as the Bible records it, and of course Josephus, the Jewish historian, also records the story.
This first commentary on Ezra is way over 100 words. An economy of words hopefully will follow in the next few days.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord God of Israel, You are faithful to Your promises to Your ancient people. I pray that I will have the faith given to me so that I, too, will trust Your promises which You have made over and over in Your Holy Word to all people at all times. Amen!
100 PERSONAL WORDS:
On Canadian media, one of the most outspoken opinion commentators is Ezra Levant. I invited him to check out my blog, particularly because he is Jewish and obviously named after the scribe, Ezra. I did not mention to him something he no doubt already knows, that his last name, “Levant”, is the description of the name of the area once ruled by Cyrus, which extends from the Euphrates River (Babylon) on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and from southern Turkey to the tip of the Sinai in the south. It seemed to be a cultural and geographic region which had at one time been ruled by King Solomon, and later by the Assyrian Empire.
Also, I could not help but think of the far-reaching impact of the social and political actions of Cyrus. He developed the model which would be used by Rome and even the British Empire, i.e. local rulers who owed their power to the Emperor. Remember, one of the titles of Queen Victoria was, “Empress of India.”
Yours for having a far-reaching impact on today’s world,