Ezra 1:1

(1-4) The decree of Cyrus: marking an epoch of very great importance, and therefore repeated almost word for word from the end of Chronicles.

(1) The first year.--Cyrus became king of Persia in B.C. 559. Twenty years afterwards he took Babylon from Belshazzar; and this first year of his rule in Babylon was his beginning as an agent in Jewish affairs and for the Kingdom of God.

Stirred up.--By a direct influence, probably through the instrumentality of Daniel. This prophet we may suppose Cyrus to have found in Babylon, and to have had his mind directed to the express prediction of Isaiah 44:28, where his name is mentioned. But the writer, who again and again records the prophetic intervention of Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14), makes no allusion to the part that Daniel the earlier prophet had taken. He refers only to the Divine prediction by Jeremiah, which must be fulfilled: "And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon" ( Jeremiah 25:12); "For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10).

(2) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia.--In the interpretation of this decree two courses are open. We may suppose that "the spirit" of Cyrus was so effectually "stirred up" by the Spirit of God, through the prophecies of Isaiah, as to send out a written proclamation avowing his faith in Jehovah-Elohim, and thus publicly accepting the prediction: "He hath charged me to build." In this case the parenthesis of Ezra 1:3 (He is the God) may be compared with the confession of his father-in-law, Darius the Mede: "He is the living God" (Daniel 6:26). Or we may assume that "Ormazd" in the original was reproduced in the Hebrew version that accompanied it by its equivalent, "Jehovah." The latter supposition avoids the difficulty involved in making Cyrus disavow the national faith in the presence of his empire. The decree itself runs much in the style of those found in the majority of Persian inscriptions, such as "By the grace of Ormazd is Darius king;" and the spirit of tolerance! and piety in it is perfectly in harmony with all ancient testimonies to the character of Cyrus.

(4) Whosoever remaineth.--As to all the Remnant in all places. There is a singular correspondence between this and the beginning of Nehemiah; but there this familiar name for the survivors of the great national catastrophe is used of those who had returned to Jerusalem, while here it is used for the dispersion in all the provinces of the empire (Nehemiah 1:3).

Where he sojourneth.--Every individual Jew is thus significantly supposed to be only an exile.

Let the men of his place help him.--The heathen subjects of Cyrus are required to assist the departing sojourner, and expected also to send freewill offerings to the Temple. Note that in all these terms the spirit and phrase of the Hebrew people are used; and that there was more in the decree than is here given, as appears in the sequel. Cyrus was under strong influence, both human and Divine.

Verse 1. - In the first year of Cyrus. The context shows that it is the first year of Cyrus at Babylon which is intended. Cyrus the Great became King of Persia by his final defeat and capture of Astyages, in B.C. 559 probably. His conquest of Babylon was, comparatively speaking, late in his reign (Herod., Xenoph.), and is fixed by the Canon of Ptolemy to B.C. 538. He took the city on the night of Belshazzar's feast (Daniel 5:30), when Daniel had just been appointed to the third place in the kingdom (ibid. ver. 29), and was practically at the head of affairs. Thus the great king and the great prophet of the time were brought into contact, and naturally conferred together, as may be gathered from Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:1). That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled. The reference is to Jeremiah 25:11, 12, and Jeremiah 29:10. Jeremiah had prophesied not only the fact, but the date of the return, by assigning to the captivity a duration of "seventy years." There might be some doubt when exactly this term would run out, since the year of 360 was in prophetic use no less than the year of 365 days ('Dict. of the Bible,' s.v. YEAR), and, moreover, the exact date of the commencement of the captivity admitted of question; but Daniel appears to have calculated in B.C. 538 that the term was approaching its termination (see Daniel 9:2-19). If the captivity were regarded as commencing in the third year of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1, 2), which was B.C. 606-605, and if years of 360 days were regarded as intended, this would clearly be so, since 360 x 70 = 25,200, and 365 × 68 = 24,820, so that in B.C. 538 only another year was wanting. For the prophecy to be fulfilled, it was requisite that the first steps towards bringing about the return and the cessation of desolation should not be delayed beyond the close of B.C. 538. The Lord, accordingly, in this year stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia. As God in earlier times had worked on the minds of Abimelech (Genesis 20:3) and Balaam (Numbers 23:5, 16), and more recently of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:28), so now, it would seem, he directly influenced the heart and will of Cyrus. This is the less surprising, as Cyrus was, in the Divine counsels, fore-ordained to do this work, and had been raised to his high station for the purpose (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4). Cyrus was thus induced to make a proclamation (literally, "to make to pass a voice") throughout the whole kingdom, which reached from the AEgean Sea to the borders of India, and from the Caucasus to the Persian Gulf, and even to put it in writing, b miktab, that so it might be sure to become generally known. Writing was probably of recent introduction into Persia; but there is positive evidence in the native remains of its use by Cyrus. His proclamation was probably issued in at least two languages, Persian and Chaldee.

1:1-4 The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus. The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord. God governs the world by his influence on the spirits of men; whatever good they do, God stirs up their spirits to do it. It was during the captivity of the Jews, that God principally employed them as the means of calling the attention of the heathen to him. Cyrus took it for granted, that those among the Jews who were able, would offer free-will offerings for the house of God. He would also have them supplied out of his kingdom. Well-wishers to the temple should be well-doers for it.Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia,.... Not in the first of his reign over Persia, for he had been many years king over that, and now had all the kingdoms of the earth given him, Ezra 1:2, but over Babylon, and the dominions belonging to it, which commenced with Darius upon the taking of Babylon; he reigned in all thirty years, as Cicero (g) from a Persian writer relates; or twenty nine, according to Herodotus (h); but in what year this was is not certain; Africanus (i), has proved, from various historians, that it was the first year of the fifty fifth Olympiad, perhaps about the twentieth of Cyrus's Persian government (k); See Gill on Daniel 10:1,

that the word of the Lord, by the mouth of Jeremiah, might be fulfilled; which foretold that the Jews should return from their captivity at the end of seventy years, which fell on the first of Cyrus, reckoning from the fourth of Jehoiakim, and the first of Nebuchadnezzar, see Jeremiah 25:1.

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia; who has the hearts of all men in his hands, and even of the kings of the earth, and can turn them as he pleases; he wrought upon him, put it into his heart, enlightened his mind, showed him what was right, and his duty to do, and pressed him to the performance of it; so that he could not be easy until he had done it, and he was made thoroughly willing, and even eager to do it:

that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing; gave it in writing to his heralds to read and proclaim throughout all his dominions:

saying; as follows.

(g) De Divinatione, l. 1.((h) Clio, sive, l. 1. c. 214. (i) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 10. c. 10. p. 488. (k) Nic. Abrami Pharus, p. 303.

2 Chronicles 36:23
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