2486.) Ezra 6

November 12, 2018

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling.” –Psalm 132:13

Ezra 6 (New Century Version)

The Order of Darius

1 So King Darius gave an order to search the records kept in the treasury in Babylon.

This was the response to the respectful request made by Tattenai described in the last part of Ezra 5.

2 A scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital city of Media.

This is what was written on it:

Note:

 3 King Cyrus gave an order about the Temple of God in Jerusalem in the first year he was king. This was the order:

This is the decree originally recorded in Ezra 1, giving the Jewish people who wanted to return to Jerusalem and Judea the right to return and to repopulate Judea and to rebuild Jerusalem. Not only did Cyrus give permission for the temple to be rebuilt, he commanded the funding of the work from the royal treasury. Furthermore, Cyrus ordered that the spoils taken from the temple some two generations before be returned to the Jerusalem temple.

    “Let the Temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices. Let its foundations be laid; it should be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide. 4 It must have three layers of large stones and then one layer of timbers. The costs should be paid from the king’s treasury.5 The gold and silver utensils from the Temple of God should be put back in their places. Nebuchadnezzar took them from the Temple in Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon, but they are to be put back in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

Other similar letters dealing with permission to rebuild subject peoples’ temples have been found among ancient Aramaic papyri.

 6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and all the officers of that area, stay away from there. 7 Do not bother the work on that Temple of God. Let the governor of the Jewish people and the Jewish elders rebuild this Temple where it was before.

 8 Also, I order you to do this for those elders of the Jewish people who are building this Temple: The cost of the building is to be fully paid from the royal treasury, from taxes collected from Trans-Euphrates. Do this so the work will not stop. 9 Give those people anything they need—young bulls, male sheep, or lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, or wheat, salt, wine, or olive oil. Give the priests in Jerusalem anything they ask for every day without fail.10 Then they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven, and they may pray for the life of the king and his sons.

Such generosity from the king! And so the work of God is not hindered, but furthered.

 11 Also, I give this order: If anyone changes this order, a wood beam is to be pulled from his house and driven through his body.

Impalement was a common form of execution in ancient Persia; I will spare you the pictures and statues!

Because of his crime, make his house a pile of ruins.12 God has chosen Jerusalem as the place he is to be worshiped. May he punish any king or person who tries to change this order and destroy this Temple.

    I, Darius, have given this order. Let it be obeyed quickly and carefully.

Completion of the Temple

13 So, Tattenai, the governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their fellow workers carried out King Darius’ order quickly and carefully. 14 The Jewish elders continued to build and were successful because of the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo.

“Work on the temple made little progress because of opposition and the preoccupation of returnees with their own homes (Haggai 1:2-3). Because they had placed their own interests first, God sent them famine as a judgment (Haggai 1:5-6, 10-11). Spurred by the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, a new effort was begun (Haggai 1:12-15).”

–Edwin Yamauchi

They finished building the Temple as the God of Israel had commanded and as kings Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes of Persia had ordered. 15The Temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year Darius was king.

16 Then the people of Israel celebrated and gave the Temple to God to honor him. Everybody was happy: the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the Jewish people who had returned from captivity.17 They gave the Temple to God by offering a hundred bulls, two hundred male sheep, and four hundred lambs as sacrifices.

Compared to the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:62-66), this was a meager dedication celebration. Solomon sacrificed some 142,000 animals at his dedication of the temple; here at the dedication of the second temple they only sacrificed a total of 712 animals. However, given the relative wealth of Israel in the days of the first temple as compared to the second temple, the smaller gift recorded in Ezra may have been more beautiful to God.

–David Guzik

And as an offering to forgive the sins of all Israel, they offered twelve male goats, one goat for each tribe in Israel.

“It was a confession of failure but also faith. There was still atonement and still the covenant with the whole people – for this was the implication of the twelve sacrifices.”

–Derek Kidner

18 Then they put the priests and the Levites into their separate groups. Each group had a certain time to serve God in the Temple at Jerusalem as it is written in the Book of Moses.

Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

We are the young — our lives are a mystery
we are the old — who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.

Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.

Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

–Marty Haugen

The Passover Is Celebrated

19 The Jewish people who returned from captivity celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.20 The priests and Levites had made themselves clean. Then the Levites killed the Passover lambs for all the people who had returned from captivity, for their relatives the priests, and for themselves.21 So all the people of Israel who returned from captivity ate the Passover lamb. So did the people who had given up the unclean ways of their non-Jewish neighbors in order to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.

Psalm 14:2 (ESV)

  The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
   to see if there are any who understand,
   who seek after God.

22 For seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in a very joyful way. The Lord had made them happy by changing the mind of the king of Assyria so that he helped them in the work on the Temple of the God of Israel.

“Do not be afraid of joy; when God makes you joyful, do not think it necessary to restrain your songs or smiles.”

–F. B. Meyer

_________________________

Music:

Psalm 122 (NIV)

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
   “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
   in your gates, Jerusalem.

 Jerusalem is built like a city
   that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
   the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
   according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
   the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
   and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
   I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
   I will seek your prosperity.

“Shalom Jerusalem,”  HERE,  by Paul Wilbur.

_________________________

New Century Version (NCV)   The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Images courtesy of:
Jerusalem.   https://imgcop.com/img/Israel-Today-Prophecy-17632403/
scroll.    http://www.learnersdictionary.com/art/ld/scroll.gif
Proverbs 21:1.   https://www.hearthymn.com/proverbs-21-1-the-kings-heart.html
second temple.    http://bijbelseonderwerpen.nl/engels/kinderen/images/Levend%20water/tempel%20salomo/temple-zerubbabel-22g.jpg
bread and wine.    https://www.trinityportalberni.ca/ministries/worship
Passover Seder table.    http://www.ilanramondayschool.com/Websites/irds/files/Content/5522430/HOLIDAF.pdf
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2485.) Ezra 5

November 9, 2018

Ezra 5 (Good News Translation)

Work on the Temple Begins Again

1 At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem.2 When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them.

(We will soon be reading the books of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, hearing their encouragement!)

3 Almost at once Governor Tattenai of West-of-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow officials came to Jerusalem and demanded:
Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?4 They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping build the Temple.5 But God was watching over the Jewish leaders,

Psalm 33:18 (ESV)

 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
  on those who hope in his steadfast love.

and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Emperor Darius and receive a reply.

The official asked for information and the Jews provided it. He seems to be a reasonable official who just wants to cover his bases, and while the inquiry to the ruler is in progress, work on the temple is allowed to continue. After all, as verse 5 says, God was watching over them. And as Psalm 1 says, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.”

6 This is the report that they sent to the emperor:7

         To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace.8 Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily.9 We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it.10 We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are.11 They answered,

         We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel.12 But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia.13 Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt.14 He restored the gold and silver Temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Emperor Cyrus turned these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah.15 The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before.16 So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but it is still not finished.

   17 Now, if it please Your Majesty, have a search made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Emperor Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter.

_________________________

Music:

We have all had experiences when we knew we were doing the right thing, yet, like the returning Israelites, there are so many problems and delays and set-backs! Where is God in all this?! As Scripture and this song attest, “Your Love Never Fails.”  We can rest in the Lord as he works all things together for good.  Chris Quilala sings it  HERE.

_________________________

Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
map of Persian Empire.    http://www.keyway.ca/gif/persian.gif
Psalm 33:18.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/psalm-33-18-christian-wallpaper.jpg

2484.) Ezra 4

November 8, 2018

Ezra 4 (Good News Translation)

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

“From this point onwards right to the end of Nehemiah there is conflict. Nothing that is attempted for God will now go unchallenged, and scarcely a tactic be unexplored by the opposition.”

–Derek Kidner

1 The enemies of the people of Judah and Benjamin heard that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel.2 So they went to see Zerubbabel and the heads of the clans and said,  Let us join you in building the Temple. We worship the same God you worship, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Emperor Esarhaddon of Assyria sent us here to live.

Coptic icon of the Good Samaritan

These people are Samaritans, from the area of the former northern kingdom of Israel. After Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BCE, many of the Jews of Israel were deported and scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire, never again to return to their homeland. And the Assyrians settled other deported from their homelands into what had been the northern kingdom. The remaining Jews and these new inhabitants cobbled together a new culture which included the worship of God and reverence for the books of Moses. The newly returned Jews refused their help because the Samaritans were seen as half-breeds, both physically and spiritually. To the Samaritans, Yahweh was one of many powerful gods. This was a dangerous partnership for the returned exiles.

The antagonism between the peoples was openly displayed well into New Testament times. Jesus, of course, treated the Samaritans with his usual respect:  the first person to whom he clearly said, “I am the Christ” was the Samaritan woman at the well, and when a Jewish lawyer asked him to narrow the field by defining just who exactly is my neighbor, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

3 Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans told them,  We don’t need your help to build a temple for the Lord our God. We will build it ourselves, just as Emperor Cyrus of Persia commanded us.

4 Then the people who had been living in the land tried to discourage and frighten the Jews and keep them from building.5 They also bribed Persian government officials to work against them. They kept on doing this throughout the reign of Emperor Cyrus and into the reign of Emperor Darius.

Construction of the second temple was begun in 536 B.C. on the Solomonic foundations leveled a half century earlier by the Babylonians. Not until 516 B.C., the sixth year of the Persian emperor Darius I, was the construction finally completed at the urging of Haggai and Zechariah (6:13-15).

Of the temple and its construction little is known. Unlike the more famous temple structures razed in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70, respectively, the temple begun by Zerubbabel suffered no major hostile destruction but was gradually repaired and reconstructed over a long period. Eventually, it was replaced entirely by Herod’s magnificent but short-lived edifice.

–from the Archaeological Study Bible

Opposition to the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

6 At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Xerxes, the enemies of the people living in Judah and Jerusalem brought written charges against them.

7 Again in the reign of Emperor Artaxerxes of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote a letter to the emperor. The letter was written in Aramaic

The Lord’s Prayer, written in Aramaic

From 4:8 to 6:18 this book is not in Hebrew, but Aramaic, the official language of the Persian Empire.

and was to be translated when read.

8 Also Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary of the province, wrote the following letter to Emperor Artaxerxes about Jerusalem:

         From Rehum, the governor, from Shimshai, secretary of the province, from their associates, the judges, and from all the other officials, who are originally from Erech, Babylon, and Susa in the land of Elam,10 together with the other peoples whom the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved from their homes and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in West-of-Euphrates Province.

11 This is the text of the letter:

         To Emperor Artaxerxes from his servants who live in West-of-Euphrates.

 12 We want Your Majesty to know that the Jews who came here from your other territories have settled in Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil and rebellious city. They have begun to rebuild the walls and will soon finish them.13 Your Majesty, if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes, and your royal revenues will decrease.14 Now, because we are under obligation to Your Majesty, we do not want to see this happen, and so we suggest 15 that you order a search to be made in the records your ancestors kept. If you do, you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and that from ancient times it has given trouble to kings and to rulers of provinces. Its people have always been hard to govern. This is why the city was destroyed.16 We therefore are convinced that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, Your Majesty will no longer be able to control West-of-Euphrates Province.

Their attack by letter was a skillful combination of truth and lies. It was true that Jerusalem had a sinful past; yet with these returned exiles, it truly was the past and not the present. However, that truth was completely irrelevant because of the great lie – the lie that Jews and the builders of Jerusalem had a rebellious intent.

–David Guzik

17 The emperor sent this answer:

         To Rehum, the governor, to Shimshai, secretary of the province, and to their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of West-of-Euphrates, greetings.

 18 The letter which you sent has been translated and read to me.19 I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority and that it has been full of rebels and troublemakers.20 Powerful kings have reigned there and have ruled over the entire province of West-of-Euphrates, collecting taxes and revenue.21 Therefore you are to issue orders that those men are to stop rebuilding the city until I give further commands.22 Do this at once, so that no more harm may be done to my interests.

23 As soon as this letter from Emperor Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop rebuilding the city.

24 Work on the Temple stopped and remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of Emperor Darius of Persia.

That is a delay of some 16 years.

_________________________

Music:

What to do, when you cannot do the work you want to do? When the frustration piles up? When the disappointment overwhelms? Scripture suggests singing, and may I add to that suggestion, singing songs of praise and power! Like this one, which has been translated into many languages since it was first composed by Martin Luther in 1529. This is a good hymn to know by heart so you can sing it whenever you need it!  HERE  is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” sung so wonderfully by the men’s a cappella choir GLAD.

_________________________

Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
stop sign.   http://www.dimensionsguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Stop-Sign.jpg
Good Samaritan.   https://i0.wp.com/www.dustinlyon.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Good-Samaritan.jpg
Expect delays.   https://randalldsmith.com/second-chances-delay-of-game-ezra-45-51/
Aramaic writing.    https://parsseh.ir/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Aramaic.jpg
coming to stop the building.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/ezra%204%20-%2023%20they%20went%20up%20in%20haste%20to%20jerusalem.jpg

2483.) Ezra 3

November 7, 2018

The foundation of the new Temple is started!

Ezra 3 (Good News Translation)

Worship Begins Again

1 By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns.

The seventh month was an important month on the spiritual calendar of Israel:  they celebrated the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

–David Guzik (and all following comments in green)

Then they all assembled in Jerusalem,

This was an encouraging sign of obedience among the returned exiles. In a time of small resources and great work to be done, they took the time and money to observe the commands to gather in Jerusalem for the major feasts.

2 and Joshua son of Jehozadak,

Jeshua (Joshua) the high priest was the grandson of Seriah, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces. There being no king in Jerusalem after the exile, the high priest’s office took on great prestige and political power. By the time of the New Testament, priestly involvement in politics had led to great corruption in the priesthood and discontent among the Jews.

–footnote from the Archaeological Study Bible

his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel, so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God.

“Thus, we see, the full establishment of religious services precedes the building of the temple. A weighty truth is enshrined in this apparently incongruous fact. The worship itself is felt to be more important than the house in which it is to be celebrated.”

–W. F. Adeney

3 Even though the returning exiles were afraid of the people who were living in the land, they rebuilt the altar where it had stood before. Then they began once again to burn on it the regular morning and evening sacrifices.4 They celebrated the Festival of Shelters according to the regulations; each day they offered the sacrifices required for that day;5 and in addition they offered the regular sacrifices to be burned whole and those to be offered at the New Moon Festival and at all the other regular assemblies at which the Lord is worshiped, as well as all the offerings that were given to the Lord voluntarily.

The Feast of Tabernacles (one of the three major feasts of Israel) celebrated God’s faithfulness to Israel during the wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. During this feast the families of Israel were commanded to “camp out” in temporary shelters, meant to remind them of how their forefathers lived during the exodus. In this context – when in returning to destroyed cities, they were forced to live this way until they could properly rebuild – the celebration held a special meaning for these returned Jews to Judah.

“During their long stay in Babylon, the Jews were not able to offer any sacrifices, as this could only be done in Jerusalem. Instead they were surrounded by a myriad of pagan temples. About fifty temples are mentioned in Babylonian texts together with 180 open-air shrines for Ishtar, three hundred daises for the Igigi gods, and twelve hundred daises for the Anunnaki gods.”

–Edwin Yamauchi

6Although the people had not yet started to rebuild the Temple, they began on the first day of the seventh month to burn sacrifices to the Lord.

They could not wait for the building! They had to worship God just as soon as they had an altar! (How eager am I, Sunday morning or otherwise, to worship the Lord?)

The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins

7 The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters and gave food, drink, and olive oil to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar trees from Lebanon, which were to be brought by sea to Joppa.

This is how the first temple was built . . .

1 Chronicles 14:1  (ESV)

And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also masons and carpenters to build a house for him.

All this was done with the permission of Emperor Cyrus of Persia.8 So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they began work. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their people, the priests, and the Levites, in fact all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. All the Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of the work of rebuilding the Temple.9 The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons (the clan of Hodaviah) joined together in taking charge of the rebuilding of the Temple. (They were helped by the Levites of the clan of Henadad.)

10 When the builders started to lay the foundation of the Temple, the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals.


They praised the Lord according to the instructions handed down from the time of King David.11 They sang the Lord’s praises, repeating the refrain:

The Lord is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.

Psalm 118:1 (ESV)

   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

In general, the description matches the massive and elaborate dedication ceremony for Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 5:13), except this was held in far humbler circumstances.

Everyone shouted with all their might, praising the Lord, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started.12 Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy.

Some, remembering the richness and grandeur of Solomon’s temple, wept at this lesser model. But others rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to return them to their homeland so they could begin to rebuild the house for the name of the Lord!

13 No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard for miles.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a perfect fit for our song and our chapter today!  “You’re Amazing, God”  was written by Brenton Brown  and is sung here by Anthony Evan.

We can hear it growing louder
songs from every nation
rising to your throne
Saints in every generation
singing for your glory
telling what you’ve done
.
From the north and south, we are crying out
There is hope in Jesus’ name
.
You’re amazing God, You’re amazing God
You can bear the weight of every heavy heart
You can heal the pain, you can clean the stain
You can turn our tears into songs of praise
You’re amazing God
.
Beauty rises from the ashes
sorrow turns to gladness
when our God is near
You speak light into our darkness
you heal the broken-hearted
you wipe away our tears
.
Songs of praise surround us, songs of praise surround us
Hear it growing louder, we are growing louder

_________________________

Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Temple foundation started.   http://www.templeinstitute.org/gallery_images/2nd_temple_stone_gallery.jpg
Feast of Tabernacles.  https://toriavey.com/what-is-sukkot/
priests with trumpets and cymbals.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/ezra%203%20-%2010%20they%20set%20the%20priests%20with%20trumpets.jpg
Zechariah 4:10.   https://www.pinterest.com/pin/385831893060652321/

2482.) Ezra 2

November 6, 2018

Ezra 2 (Good News Translation)

The List of Those Who Returned from Exile

1 Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own hometowns.

The caravan would have followed the “Fertile Crescent” — north along the Euphrates River up to point east of Aleppo, crossing west to the Orontes River valley and then south, perhaps through Damascus, until they came to Jerusalem.

Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. Their leaders were Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel and the grandson of Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:17), the next-to-the-last king of Judah. With this leadership position given to him from Cyrus, he is the last one of David’s line to have political authority among the Israelites. He is also listed as an ancestor of Christ in Matthew 1.

Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “We’re Marching to Zion” — quite literally, for these pilgrims! Listen as you breeze through the many names listed below . . .

_________________________

This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:
3-20Parosh – 2,172
Shephatiah – 372
Arah – 775
Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) – 2,812
Elam – 1,254
Zattu – 945
Zaccai – 760
Bani – 642
Bebai – 623
Azgad – 1,222
Adonikam – 666
Bigvai – 2,056
Adin – 454
Ater (also called Hezekiah) – 98
Bezai – 323
Jorah – 112
Hashum – 223
Gibbar – 95

“The thousands of homecomers are not lumped together, but (in characteristic biblical fashion) related to those local and family circles which humanize a society and orientate an individual. Such is God’s way, who ‘setteth the solitary in families’ (Psalm 68:6).” 

–Derek Kidner

21-35People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:
Bethlehem – 123
Netophah – 56
Anathoth – 128
Azmaveth – 42
Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth – 743
Ramah and Geba – 621
Michmash – 122
Bethel and Ai – 223
Nebo – 52
Magbish – 156
The other Elam – 1,254
Harim – 320
Lod, Hadid, and Ono – 725
Jericho – 345
Senaah – 3,630

36-39This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:
Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) – 973
Immer – 1,052
Pashhur – 1,247
Harim – 1,017

These families represent only four of the twenty-four divisions of the priesthood established by King David in 1 Chronicles 24:8. Most of the priests stayed behind in Babylon.

40-42Clans of Levites who returned from exile:
Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) – 74
Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) – 128
Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) – 139

43-54Clans of Temple workers who returned from exile:
Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
Keros, Siaha, Padon,
Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
Hagab, Shamlai, Hanan,
Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim,
Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
Neziah, and Hatipha

55-57Clans of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile:
Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-Hazzebaim,
and Ami

58 The total number of descendants of the Temple workers and of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile was 392.

59-60There were 652 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites.

61-62The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and had taken the name of his father-in-law’s clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests.63 The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God

until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim (that is, a priest who could make the final decision).

The Urim and Thummim are also among the precious Jewish treasures that were never recovered.

64-67Total number of exiles who returned – 42,360
Their male and female servants – 7,337
Male and female musicians – 200
Horses – 736
Mules – 245
Camels – 435
Donkeys – 6,720

The size of this entire group is here stated to be about 50,000. However, this was only the first wave of repatriation to Israel from the Babylonian captivity and includes only the heads of families. The approximate total of the returned exiles was probably somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000. This was only a small percentage of those who had been exiled and their descendants; the great majority stayed behind in Babylon.

Indeed, Josephus wrote, “many remained in Babylon, being unwilling to leave their possessions.” 

One should not think that there was no spiritual life among the Jewish exiles; Ezekiel (who went into exile after 597 or 586 b.c.) describes what we might call a “home Bible study” at his home with the elders of Judah (Ezekiel 8:1). “Deprived of the temple, the exiles laid great stress on the observation of the Sabbath, on the laws of purity, and on prayer and fasting. It has often been suggested that the development of synagogues began in Mesopotamia during the Exile.” (Yamauchi) Indeed, “In the Talmud it is said that only the chaff returned, while the wheat remained behind.” (Adeney)

–David Guzik

68 When the exiles arrived at the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem, some of the leaders of the clans gave freewill offerings to help rebuild the Temple on its old site.69 They gave as much as they could for this work, and the total came to 1,030 pounds of gold, 5,740 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for priests.

70 The priests, the Levites, and some of the people settled in or near Jerusalem; the musicians, the Temple guards, and the Temple workers settled in nearby towns; and the rest of the Israelites settled in the towns where their ancestors had lived.

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Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
from Babylon to Jerusalem.    http://oneyearbibleimages.com/scenes20from20the20return20from20exile.jpg
No soup for you!   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/no_soup_for_you1.png

2481.) Ezra 1

November 5, 2018

Cyrus the Great (ruler 559-530 BCE) founded the Persian Empire, reigning from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River. He was a beneficent king, allowing his subject peoples to return to their homelands and restore their places of worship.

Ezra 1 (Good News Translation)

Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return

First the Lord stirred the Spirit of Cyrus–

1 In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor,

King Cyrus of Persia took the city of Babylon without a battle in 539 BCE and began to reign as the emperor of Babylonia.

the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire:

2 This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The Lord, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah.3 May God be with all of you who are his people. 

God gave the Persian king a sense of urgency about this, and the relief from exile was granted the very first year of his reign as the LORD stirred up his spirit. Cyrus made a decree giving the Jewish exiles in his empire the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple in 538 BCE. The first six chapters of this book tell of the pioneers who came back from exile to Jerusalem a whole lifetime before Ezra. In fact, we do not meet Ezra till chapter 7.

It is quite possible that the Prophet Daniel was instrumental in this stirring of Cyrus. He may have showed the king the prophecies of Jeremiah 25:8-13 and Jeremiah 29:10-14, which refer to the punishment of Babylon and the end of Israel’s exile. And if he showed Cyrus such prophecies, he almost certainly would have included Isaiah 44:48-45:5, which mentions Cyrus by name some 150 years before he was born.

–David Guzik

You are to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is worshiped in Jerusalem. 

The command of Cyrus not only allowed the return of the exiled people, but also a rebuilding of the destroyed temple.

If any of his people in exile need help to return, their neighbors are to give them this help. They are to provide them with silver and gold, supplies and pack animals, as well as offerings to present in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

Remember how the Egyptians gave items of clothing and articles of gold and silver to the Israelites as the people of God left Egypt?

–Then the Lord awakened the spirit of the people.

5 Then the heads of the clans of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and everyone else whose heart God had moved got ready to go and rebuild the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem.

 It was essential that God move the spirits of these returning exiles, because they faced many difficulties.

· The journey itself was long, dangerous, and expensive.

· They returned to a city in ruins with no proper homes, roads, or city institutions.

· They didn’t have all the material resources they needed.

· They didn’t all return to Jerusalem but spread out over the province of Judea.

· They had many enemies.

· Their land was actually the possession of another empire.

–David Guzik

Psalm 127:1 (NIV)

Unless the LORD builds the house,
   the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
   the guards stand watch in vain.

6 All their neighbors helped them by giving them many things: silver utensils, gold, supplies, pack animals, other valuables, and offerings for the Temple.

7 Emperor Cyrus gave them back the bowls and cups that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his gods.8 He handed them over to Mithredath, chief of the royal treasury, who made an inventory of them for Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah,

Sheshbazzar’s name is Babylonian, but he was likely a Jewish official; some scholars believe Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were the same person.

9-10 as follows:

gold bowls for offerings    30
silver bowls for offerings    1,000
other bowls    29
small gold bowls    30
small silver bowls    410
other utensils    1,000

silver bowl with gold inlay, from Iran, 6th century BCE, now in the Miho Museum in Japan

11 In all there were 5,400 gold and silver bowls and other articles which Sheshbazzar took with him when he and the other exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.

The careful reckoning of the returned articles shows how valued they were and how carefully they were treated.

What is conspicuously missing from the list is any mention of the more significant articles of the temple – the altar of incense, the table of showbread, the brazen altar, the golden lampstand, and especially the ark of the covenant. These articles were presumably lost to history at the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians.

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Music:

HERE  is “He Is Lord” sung in Farsi, the most widely spoken Persian language. Christianity has a long history in present-day Iran, although the situation presently is very difficult, as Christians are closely monitored, Bibles are confiscated, and Christian religious education is restricted (even within the churches).  Pray for the believers in Iran!

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Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Cyrus the Great.    http://listverse.com/2008/10/11/top-10-most-successful-military-commanders/
rebuilding the temple.    http://oneyearbibleimages.com/nehemiah_rebuilding_jerusalem.jpg
silver bowl.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3384/4638121772_ae46ae484c.jpg

649.) Ezra 10

October 27, 2011

The Bible tells us: Do not be unequally yoked 🙂 with unbelievers.

Ezra 10 (New Century Version)

The People Confess Sin

1 As Ezra was praying and confessing and crying and throwing himself down in front of the Temple, a large group of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him who were also crying loudly. 2 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel the Elamite said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying women from the peoples around us. But even so, there is still hope for Israel.3 Now let us make an agreement before our God. We will send away all these women and their children as you and those who respect the commands of our God advise. Let it be done to obey God’s Teachings.

We can trust that although these women and children were sent out of the Israelite community, God, who is Love, did not abandon them.

4Get up, Ezra. You are in charge, and we will support you. Have courage and do it.”

Joshua 1:7-9 (New International Version)

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

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5 So Ezra got up and made the priests, Levites, and all the people of Israel promise to do what was suggested; and they promised.6 Then Ezra left the Temple and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While Ezra was there, he did not eat or drink, because he was still sad about the unfaithfulness of the captives who had returned.

One Bible commentator has said — “The man who sets himself ‘to seek, to do, to teach’ the law of God invariably brings himself into places where sorrow will be his portion, and intrepid courage necessary.”

7 They sent an order in Judah and Jerusalem for all the captives who had returned to meet together in Jerusalem. 8 Whoever did not come to Jerusalem within three days would lose his property and would no longer be a member of the community of the returned captives. That was the decision of the officers and elders.

9 So within three days all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered in Jerusalem. It was the twentieth day of the ninth month. All the men were sitting in the open place in front of the Temple and were upset because of the meeting and because it was raining.

Ahoghill, Northern Ireland

Ezra 10:9 (English Standard Version)

And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain.

This response has been seen again as the Holy Spirit has moved upon the people of God.  In March of 1859, at the beginning of a great move of God that would bring more than one million souls to conversion in Great Britain, some unordained men with a passion for revival preached at the First Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill, Northern Ireland.  There was such a large crowd at that meeting that they had to dismiss the meeting out of fear that the balconies would collapse under the weight of so many people.  They took the meeting to the street right outside the street, and in the freezing rain James McQuilkin preached to 3,000 people in the streets, with many of the listeners falling to their knees in the wet and muddy street because they were so moved by the conviction of sin under the preaching of these laymen.

–David Guzik

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10 Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful and have married non-Jewish women. You have made Israel more guilty.11 Now, confess it to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Do his will and separate yourselves from the people living around you and from your non-Jewish wives.”

12 Then the whole group answered Ezra with a loud voice, “Ezra, you’re right! We must do what you say.13 But there are many people here, and it’s the rainy season. We can’t stand outside, and this problem can’t be solved in a day or two, because we have sinned badly. 14 Let our officers make a decision for the whole group. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a non-Jewish woman meet with the elders and judges of each town at a planned time, until the hot anger of our God turns away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel, Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai the Levite were against the plan.

16 So the returned captives did what was suggested. Ezra the priest chose men who were leaders of the family groups and named one from each family division. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to study each case.17 By the first day of the first month, they had finished with all the men who had married non-Jewish women.

The whole process took many weeks, because so many men had taken pagan wives. The questioning was necessary because they needed to examine if one of these wives had genuinely decided to serve the Lord God and to forsake her native religions.

 If the pagan wife had decided to keep her primary allegiance with her former people and their idols, she could not live among the covenant community and had to be divorced.

 To the end of the chapter, there is a list showing that only about 114 of these pagan wives refused to embrace the God of Israel and had to be divorced. Yamauchi calculates that it was less than one-half of one percent of the people who were guilty of this pagan intermarriage and who had to divorce their wives. Though it was such a small percentage, it still had to be dealt with strongly – and it was. It also shows that most of the foreign wives joined the people of God in their heart as well as their home.

–David Guzik

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Music:

“Sweetly Broken”  by Jeremy Riddle.  We all need to face our sins honestly.  Christ will help us do that — and then forgive us.

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Those Guilty of Marrying Non-Jewish Women

18These are the descendants of the priests who had married foreign women:

From the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and Jeshua’s brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.19 (They all promised to divorce their wives, and each one brought a male sheep from the flock as a penalty offering.)

20 From the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah.

21 From the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah.

22 From the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23 Among the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

24 Among the singers: Eliashib.

Among the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 And among the other Israelites, these married non-Jewish women:

From the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah, and Benaiah.

26 From the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah.

27 From the descendants of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza.

28 From the descendants of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.

29 From the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth.

30 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh.

31 From the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.

33 From the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.

34 From the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel,35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi,36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu.

38 From the descendants of Binnui: Shimei,39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah,40 Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah,42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.

43 From the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.

44 All these men had married non-Jewish women, and some of them had children by these wives.

Ezra here disappears from the Biblical record for about thirteen years, when he appears again in the Book of Nehemiah. His passion then was the same as it was at the end of the Book of Ezra: to transform the people of God by bringing them the Word of God.

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New Century Version (NCV)   The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Images courtesy of:
eggs.  http://www.crewchurch.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/yolks.jpg
The task ahead of you . . .   http://glitter69.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/christian-glitter-graphics-a86.gif
Ahoghill, Northern Ireland.   http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/14909176.jpg