Ezra 1:1-2:70 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The First to Return
Comments for Study 1

Ezra 1:1-2:70
Memory Verse: 4

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I. The Edict of Cyrus (1:1-4)

Return Time line by Chapters

>1. Who was the new world power? (1)

* Ezra 1:1 "In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:"

* "Persia" -Persia and Media were a dual country controlled empire. Cyrus' (539-530 B.C.) defeated the armies of Babylon in 539 B.C. to become the world power. Here only Persia is mentioned. Other places in the Bible both countries are mentioned. Daniel 6:8 states Media before Persia in Darius I reign (522-486). Daniel 9:1 states, "In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom" meaning Babylon only, not the entire kingdom. Later, Esther 1:3 when stating Xerxes reign (486-465/4) Persia was mentioned first.

>Who was the leader?

* "Cyrus" -Cyrus was the third king of Anshan. He assumed the throne about 550 B.C. According to the best histories Cyrus was reared by a shepherd after his grandfather, Astyages, king of Media, ordered that he be killed. As an adult, Cyrus organized the Persians into an army and revolted against his grandfather and father (Cambyses I). He defeated them and claimed their throne. He defeated Lydia and then Babylon. The people of Babylon welcomed him seeing him as a liberator. His son, Cambyses II (530-522) defeated Egypt. His last years are obscure. Cyrus was killed while fighting a frontier war with the nomadic Massagetae people. His tomb is in Pasargadae (modern Murghab). (Holman Bible Dictionary)

* "in the first year" -This is the first year after Cyrus defeated Babylon (539), thus becoming the world power. All the Israelites (north and southern kingdoms) were scattered throughout Babylon. Thus, Cyrus became their king when he defeated Babylon in 539. Slowly after Cyrus defeated Babylon Israelites began moving into Persia too.

>2. Who was Jeremiah?

* "Jeremiah" -Jeremiah was a prophet during the time preceding Judah's defeat by Babylon. He remained in Babylon when Daniel and his friends were taken to Babylon. Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem until the Babylonians finally destroyed it. Then he moved to Egypt.

>What did he prophecy?

* Jeremiah 25:11-14 "This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt," declares the LORD, "and will make it desolate forever. I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands."

* "to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah" -The Lord stated through Jeremiah that Babylon would fall seventy years after Babylon and their king would be punished. When this happened Ezra and Daniel knew it was time for the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Some scholars point out that seventy is a rounded number because it was actually 68 years. However, seventy years would put the date at 609 B.C. for the beginning of the count down. In 609 Egypt defeated the Jews ending Judah as an independent country. Then in 605 Babylon defeated Egypt at the battle of Carchemish (2 Kings 24:1-7).

>How was the word of the Lord he spoke accomplished?

* "the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing"

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>What does it mean that the Lord can move the heart of men, even kings?

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>3. Who did Cyrus acknowledge for his success? (2)

* Ezra 1:2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah."

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>Why did he say the Lord did this?

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>4. Who was Cyrus referring to when he stated "his people" in verse 3?

* Ezra 1:3 "Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.:

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>Was God in Jerusalem as he stated?

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>5. For God's people who did not go back to Jerusalem to build the temple, what were they told to do? (4)

* Ezra 1:4 "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.'"

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>Why might some not want to go back to Judah?

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>Was the decision to stay in the Persian empire wrong or right?

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II. The Return Under Sheshbazzar (1:5-11)

>6. Who went back to Jerusalem? (5)

* Ezra 1:5 "Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem."

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>What did everyone else do?

* Ezra 1:6 "All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings."

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>What is a freewill offering?

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>7. What did Cyrus offer to the effort? (7)

* Ezra 1:7 "Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god."

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>Why did Judah loose these important items? (2 Kings 24:1, 12-14)

* 2 Kings 24:1 "During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar."

* 2 Kings 24:12-14 "Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the LORD had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD. He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans--a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left."

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>8. Who did Cyrus entrust them to? (8)

* Ezra 1:8 "Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah."

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>What were they?

* Ezra 1:9-10 "This was the inventory: gold dishes, 30 silver dishes, 1,000 silver pans, 29 gold bowls, 30 matching silver bowls, 410 other articles, 1,000"

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>What might Sheshbazzar be concerned about? (11)

* Ezra 1:11 "In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem."

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III. Those Who Returned (2:1-70)

>9. Examine the list of names in verses 1 and 2. Who do you recognize in this list?

* Ezra 2:1-2 "Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah): The list of the men of the people of Israel:"

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>10. Consider the rest of the chapter. What problem did some have?

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