1:5-6 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered.
The writer is clear that God is in control of both history and people’s hearts. It is He who stirs up the spirit of the people to take action. Judah and Benjamin are singled out because the Southern Kingdom was mainly made up of those two tribes, along with the tribe of Simeon which had been assimilated into the tribe of Judah. The term “Judah and Benjamin” appears frequently in Chronicles, as well as Ezra-Nehemiah, and it does not imply a denial of the descendents of the other ten tribes (1 Chron 12:16; 2 Chron 11:1, 3, 10, 12, 23; 15:2, 8, 9; 25:5, 31:1, 34:9; Ezra 4:1, 12:34; Neh 11:4, 12:34.). The remnant returning is divided into three classes: priests, Levites, and laity. Verse 6 suggests a reversal of fortunes for the Jews who were in exile. Now, the people of God who are returning to their homeland do so enhanced not only by golden and silver vessels, but also animals to help with transportation.
1:7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods.
The Chronicler depicts Nebuchadnezzar as the one who destroyed Jerusalem, burned the Temple, and stole goods from it (2 Chron. 36:18). Yamauchi explains that “conquerors customarily carried off the statues of the gods of conquered cities. The Hittites took the statue of Marduk when they conquered the city of Babylon. The Philistines took the ark of the Jews and placed it in the temple of Dagon (1 Sam 5:2). As the Jews did not have a statue of the Lord, Nebuchadnezzar carried off the temple goods instead."
1:8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
The name “Sheshbazzar” occurs four times in Ezra, later revealing that he was made governor by Cyrus (5:14) and that he laid the foundation of the temple (5:16). While some try to identify Sheshbazzar with Zerubabbel, that “is an improbable hypothesis.”Some rabbis suggested that “Sheshbazzar is identical with Daniel…because he endured six troubles.” The title “prince” is the Hebrew word hannäSî´ which can be translated “prince,” or “chief.” Here it is probably just a synonym for “governor”.
1:9-11 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
The numbers do not add up: 30 + 1000 + 29 + 30 + 410 +1000 equals 2499, and verse 11 mentions 5400. Fensham suggests that “The transmission from Aramaic to Hebrew might have caused many of the problems in these verses.” Rabbi Rashi proposes that only important vessels were counted,while Segal suggests that the list was compiled using symbols, accounting for the discrepancy in numbers. Segal cites Allrik who proposed that the numbers found in Ezra “were composed using symbols to represent the numbers, and not words… Such a system helps to explain the discrepancies between those two lists.”
|538||The first return under Cyrus||1-2|
|538-536||The rebuilding of the altar and foundation of the temple||3|
|Post 538||The refused offer of help and ensuing opposition||4:1-5|
|520-515||Temple reconstruction hindered until Darius’s second year, work revived under Haggai and Zechariah, Tattenai’s investigation, Darius’s support, and rebuilding of the temple||4:24-6:22|
|486||Opposition during the reign of Xerxes||4:6|
|465||Opposition during the reign of Artaxerxes||4:7|
|458||Return of Ezra with imperial grant||7-8|
|458||Problem of mixed marriages exposed and resolved||9-10|
|Post 458||Successful opposition to rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls during the reign of Artaxerxes||4:8-23|
Table 3: The Chronology of Ezra
Today’s Christian leader can rest secure in the thought that the same God who directed history during the time of Ezra is the same God who directs our history. Despite economic uncertainties or corrupt government leadership at the local, nation, or global level, God is the One who is in charge of history. God can overcome any human obstacles to accomplish His will and plan, but just like in time of Ezra, He uses godly and committed men and women who are ready to submit to His Word and will.