Book of Ezra – Rebuilding the Temple

English: The Jews Return to Jerusalem in the T...

English: The Jews Return to Jerusalem in the Time of Cyrus; as in Ezra 1:1-11; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Book of Ezra is one of the books of the Old Testament that is generally classified as one of the books of history. The book is only 10 chapters long; and the first 6 chapters are written about events that occurred before Ezra came on the scene, beginning in 539 B.C. (Ezra did not arrive until 458 B.C.). Although Ezra 7:27 – 9:15 is written in the first person, indicating that Ezra wrote them, the first six chapters (as well as chapter 10) are written in the third person, leaving open the possibility of a different author for those chapters.

Ezra 7:27 – 9:15 is often called the Ezra Memoir. It hardly matters, but the reader should keep in mind the possibility that Ezra wrote that portion in that voice to differentiate the time periods, pointing out that the first six chapters predated him. Chapter 10 is largely a historical record. It documented those who had “broken faith,” taking foreign wives and having children with them. It is thought by some that the author of Ezra wrote the book of Nehemiah. Early rabbinical writings indicate that the two books were counted together as one book. Ezra’s arrival in 458 B.C., over 80 years after the book began, preceded the arrival of Nehemiah (445 B.C.) by 13 years.

English: Ezra Reads the Law to the People (Neh...

English: Ezra Reads the Law to the People (Neh. 8:1-12) Русский: Священник Ездра читает народу Закон (Неем. 8:1-12) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the first verse of the book tells us, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled,” the book begins with the time of captivity coming to an end. Ezra begins the story of the small remnant of Jews that returned to their ravaged land, including the building and dedication of the second temple . Ezra 2:64, following a more detailed account, tells us that their number “together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720.” The book tells of the remnant’s struggle to regain and retain their identity as a chosen people.

For more information on the Proclamation of Cyrus and a link to the archaeological artifact known as the Cyrus Cylinder, which was found in the ruins of Babylon in 1879, see this previous post.

Key Events

  • Cyrus king of Persia captures Babylon     (539 B.C.)     Dan. 5:30–31
  • King Cyrus issues a decree freeing Jewish exiles to return     (538–537 B.C.)     Ezra 1–2
    • The remnant of Jewish exiles, led by Sheshbazzar, return  Jerusalem     (~537 B.C.)     Ezra 1:11
  • The rebuilding of the altar     (537 B.C.)      Ezra 3:1–2
  • The remnant rebuilds the Temple at its original location      (536 B.C. – 516 B. C.)     Ezra 3:8–6:22
    • Opposition and conspiracies against rebuilding / rebuilding ceases      (530-5B.C.)      Ezra 4:24
    • Rebuilding resumes (2nd year of the reign of Darius)     (520 B.C.)     Ezra 5:2; Hag. 1:14
    • Construction completed      (516 B.C.)       Ezra 6:15
  • Ezra the Priest leaves Babylon and comes to Jerusalem to teach the people and establish Mosaic Law (arrives in the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes)    (Ezra 7–8)
    • King Artaxerxes gives Ezra the authority to establish the law of Moses     Ezra 7
    • Ezra sets out for Jerusalem with more remnants, bringing royal gifts for the temple      Ezra 8
  • Ezra confronts the issue of Intermarriage / marriage to idolaters      Ezra 9–10
    • The people agree to dissolve the marriages      Ezra 10:1–17
    • Assembly of men from Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem      (458 B.C.)      Ezra 10:9
    • Investigation  lasts 3 months   (458–457 B.C.)     Ezra 10:16–17
    • The guilty are documented      Ezra 10:18–44
/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Luke 1 – The Birth of John the Baptist

Luke, who also wrote the Book Acts, addressed this book specifically to Theophilus, who was likely a government official (note the way that he refers to him in verse 3).   As it opens, it has been 400 years since Malachi prophesied.  John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, was a priest.  In those days, the priests were separated in divisions, each of which served for a week – except during times of major feasts, such as Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles.    Zechariah was chosen by lot to serve in the Temple (verses 8-9).  Zechariah (as he and his wife Elizabeth were childless and advanced in years) had no doubt prayed often for a child.  An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him they would have a son, and that his name would be John.  He was not to drink wine or strong drink, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit “even from his mother’s womb” (indicating he would then already be a human person), and would “make ready for the Lord” (verses 11-17).  Also, jumping ahead to (verses 41-44), upon Mary’s visit, Elizabeth’s baby leaped for joy in her womb.

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both as a rebuke for his unbelief, as well as the sign he asked for, the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he would be unable speak until his son was born (verses 18-23), and  Elizabeth did conceive.  The “sixth month” in verse 26 refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  At this time, the Angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin (Mary), who was pledged to be married to Joseph, who was of the house of David (verses 26-27).  The reference to Nazareth being a city of Galilee is confirmation that Luke’s intended audience was unfamiliar with the territory.  Mary is told that she would have a son and name him Jesus, that God would give him the throne of his father, David, and that “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (verses 28-33). He also tells her of her relative, Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Verses 46-55 are Mary’s praise to the Lord, and are known as Mary’s song.

When Elizabeth bore her child, the neighbors expected them to name him Zechariah after his father, but she insisted that he would be called John.  Not satisfied, they tried to get Zechariah to give them a sign (since he still could not speak).  He wrote on a tablet that “his name is John,” and immediately he could speak again – because then all that the angel of the Lord had said to him previously had come to pass.  Verses 65-66 indicate that the word of this miraculous birth and Zechariah’s change became famous very quickly.  Zechariah’s prophecy in verses 67-79 verify that the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people through Abraham – and the Messianic age – had indeed begun!

Side note: Excavations at Nazareth by archaeologists have located tombs, olive presses and other indications that it was a small agricultural community.  The most interesting discovery of the past few years is that of a first-century house there.  A very good article on this discovery can be found at this article at BiblePlaces.com.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 25 – Fall and Captivity of Judah

The events of this chapter are recounted in Jeremiah 52, as God’s judgment on Judah comes to pass.  Nebuchadnezzar and his army besieged Jerusalem for two years.  There was severe famine, and no food was left.  So Zedekiah and his men of war managed to escape through the exit in the wall that is probably referred to as the “Fountain gate” in Nehemiah 3:15.  But the Chaldeans overtook him in the plain s of Jericho.  They slaughtered his sons in front of him, put out his eyes, put him in chains, and took him to Babylon.

Two panels of Babylon gate relief by Nebuchadn...

Two panels of Babylon gate relief by Nebuchadnezzar II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, a servant of the king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan (the captain of the bodyguard) came to Jerusalem.  He burned the house of the Lord, the Kings house, and all the great houses down (verse 9).  Verse 10: “And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” The rest of the people were carried into exile, leaving the poorest as vinedressers and plowmen.  They took the majestic pillars of bronze that Solomon had made; and many were slaughtered.  Nebuchadnezzar made Gedeliah his vassal governor over those left behind in Judah, but he was murdered.  A more complete account of Gedeliah and the circumstances connected with his murder can be found in Jeremiah 40-41.

We close out the Books of Kings with verses 27-30.  After 37 years, Nebuchadnezzar’s son (Evil-merodach) freed Jehoiachin.  He dined at the king’s table and was given a regular allowance.   Thereby, there was hope for the Davidic line and the promises of God to David in 2 Samuel 7:15-16.

Side note: Excavations of Babylon have yielded thousands of inscribed tablets with a wealth of information for scholars. Among many other things, they list the kings of other nations who were captured and living at the palace of the Babylonian king.  Four of those tablets list “Jehoiachin, king of Judah” and his family as receiving rations from the king.  An excellent article with photos, originally posted in the Summer 2007 issue of “Bible and Spade” can be found at this link.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 18 – Hezekiah Reigns in Judah

Hezekiah removed the high places, tore down the pillars, and even destroyed the Bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9).  It had become an object of worship – an idol, probably because of the association of serpents with the “goddess” Asherah.  Verses 6-7 tells us that Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord” and that the Lord was with him.  He rebelled against the Assyrian king, and would not serve him.  Verse 8 declares his many victories in battle over the Philistines.  But verse 13 tells us that in the fourteenth year of his reign, Sennacherib took the fortified cities of Judah.

The Taylor Prism from the Neo-Assyrian empire ...

The Taylor Prism from the Neo-Assyrian empire tells the story of king Sennacherib’s third campaign and includes descriptions of his conquests in Judah, some of which are described from another point of view in the old testament of the Bible. This picture has been assembled from File:Taylor Prism-1.jpg and File:Taylor Prism-2.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hezekiah’s initial response was to bargain with the Assyrian king (verses 14-15), which at first seems effective.  But Sennacherib tires of his further rebellion; and sends his Rabshakeh, or (chief cupbearer) to deliver his message.  Eliakim tries to get him to speak to them in Aramaic, so that the people will not understand.  But that is exactly what the Assyrian wants – they want the people to hear and be dismayed  and frightened for their plight, in order to quash rebellion.

In verses 31-35, the cup-bearer, speaking for Sennacherib, tells them not to listen to Hezekiah, and even tells them that their God has sent the Assyrians Himself.  Then he makes the mistake of comparing the Lord to the impotent “gods” of other lands, saying that he will not deliver Jerusalem out of Sennacherib’s hand.

Side notes:

Now residing in the private collection of Shlomo Moussaieff of London, a bulla (clay seal) was found bearing Hezekiah’s name. It reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of Ahaz], king of Judah.”

Archaeologists at the site of Beersheba unearthed a horned altar from the late 8th century  B.C. made of hewn stones, with a serpent carved into one of the stones.  More information on the site can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com.

This link to the British Museum about the Sennacherib Relief details the siege and capture of Lachish by the Assyrian king.  At the southwestern corner of Lachish, Sennacherib built a siege ramp and used archers, infantry, and siege machines. The Judeans constructed a counter-siege ramp. But it failed – Sennacherib conquered Lachish. Both of the actual ramps have been uncovered.  The victory was important enough to Sennacherib to devote an entire wall at his palace to it.  Had he been able to capture Jerusalem, that victory would undoubtedly have over-shadowed the one at Lachish.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 9 – Jehu Anointed King of Israel

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God has ordained that Elisha will anoint Jehu (son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi) as king over Israel.  The servant of the prophet, at Elisha’s instructions, anointed him in secret chambers (reminiscent of Samuel’s anointing of Saul in 1 Samuel 9:27-10:1).   As he anointed him, the servant gave him the instructions of the Lord as given to Elisha (verses 6-10).  He is to carry out the prophecy of 1 Kings 21:21-4 that Elijah had spoken to Ahab, declaring the death and destruction of Ahab’s house, that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs (we learn later that this is for killing the Lord’s prophets), and that Ahab’s blood would be shed in the very same place where he and Jezebel had caused Naboth to be stoned to death for his vineyard (1 Kings 21:19).  Because of Ahab’s repentance in 1 Kings 21:25-29, the Lord relents on Ahab himself, and has Elijah wait for his son to come to power.

Jehu wastes no time in assuming power (verses 12-13), and heads to Jezreel to deal with Ahab’s son, Joram and his mother Jezebel.   The tension of the story mounts while Jehu furiously approaches, as one by one, messengers sent to inquire of Jehu’s intentions fail to return – instead turning to ride with Jehu!    Ahaziah, the king of Judah, had come to visit Joram, so at first reading, one might think that it was just his bad luck to be there.  But another account of this event with more details is in 2 Chronicles 22 (especially 2 Chronicles 22:7-9), making it clear that Ahaziah’s death was ordained by God.

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of J...

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of Jehoshaphat [1], and grandson of Nimshi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Jehu, kills Joram, he has his body taken to be thrown on the ground of Naboth’s vineyard.  He then pursues Ahaziah and has him shot near Ibleam; and Ahaziah makes it to Megiddo before dying.   Back in Jezreel, he had Jezebel tossed out the window; and when he sat down to eat, he gave instructions to have her buried.  But when they went to get her, there was not much left of her body (verses 35-37), just as God had said.

This chapter shows us once again that when God’s will is made known, you can count on it coming to pass – in His time.

Side notes:

This link to an interesting article about excavations in Tel Jezreel has a lot of great information and pictures, and interesting bits of history, such as a reference that “shortly before Jehu’s revolt in 842 BCE King Joram and the dowager Queen Jezebel were in residence in Jezreel.”

Also, this link to the British Museum is about an Assyrian exhibit of a find in an 1846 excavation containing the Black Obelisk of Shalmanesar III (a public monument erected about 825 BCE), which both mentions and pictures Jehu (the earliest known picture made of an Israelite) and Ahab’s father Omri.  It has an inscription about tribute the Assyrian king received from Jehu when he was king (dated about 841 BCE) written in Assyrian cuneiform:

“The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Trouble in the Northern Kingdom \ Week 23 summary posted

We will begin this weeks reading tomorrow with Elisha demonstrating God’s sovereign power, while a succession of kings in the northern kingdom accompanies trouble because of the wickedness and idolatry of the people.  Change is in the air.

English: Kurkh stela of Shalmaneser that repor...

English: Kurkh stela of Shalmaneser that reports battle of Karkar, of 853 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As or schedule has left first 1 Kings behind and has skipped over some of the wicked king Ahab’s story (some will be revisited next week), we thought it appropriate to include another interesting bit of archaeological evidence of Ahab’s rule from the Assyrian empire, which was on the rise at the time.  This article from Bible and Spade contains a picture and account of a monolith found in 1861 in southeastern Turkey, which inscriptions record the Assyrian kings first six military campaigns.  The battle in 853 BCE listing 2,00 chariots and 10, 000 soldiers received as aid from “Ahab, the Israelite” is not mentioned in the Bible because it is not relevant.  A bit ironic that Israel provided aid to the rise of an empire that would come to crush them later.

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 23 (June Week 1) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about 1 Kings 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8:1 – 9:9, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.