Ezra begins in 539 BC with the proclamation of Cyrus. This was prophesied hundreds of years before he was even born – in Isaiah 44:28-45:1. Verse 1 says that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia,” affirming that the proclamation was the Lord’s doing. The reference to the words of Jeremiah is about Jeremiah 25:11-14 and 32:36-38, wherein the prophet predicts the exile to Babylon as well as their return. The leaders of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, along with the priests and Levites, gather money and material for the temple – as Cyrus decreed it to be rebuilt. Cyrus also brings the treasures that were taken from the temple in 586 b.c. for them to take back to Jerusalem (verses 7-11).
Side note: The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 by Hormuzd Rassam. Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and captured Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. He details the restoration of exiles and the return of temple “gods” to their sanctuaries. There is a great story about this cylinder in this article from BibleArchaeology.org.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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