READING THROUGH THE BIBLE: 2008 - 2009
The Book of Ezra
Ezra has 10 chapters.
If you read 3 chapters a day
you will finish the book in 4 days
The book of Ezra gives the account of the return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity, first that of Zerubbabel and those who returned with him about 50,000. Chapter 7 begins with the return of those with Ezra the number much less, about 2000 (neither women nor children returning are counted in the numbers.)
Cyrus, the king of Persia in his first year, the word of Jeremiah the prophet being fulfilled the Lord did stir the heart of Cyrus and the Jews returned to their homeland to rebuild the Temple.
The first chapter renews a truth found in Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Great provision was ordered by the king to be given for the task. There were more who decided to remain in the Persian Empire than returned to Israel. The king proclaimed that they would give of their obvious great provision for rebuilding the Temple and all the vessels of the House of the Lord stolen by King Nebuchadnezzar were returned as well.
The list of those who went up to Jerusalem are given. Verses 59-62 highlights those who were unable to show proof of genealogy and were considered polluted and therefore unfit for the Priesthood.
Seven months have passed. The people are gathered in Jerusalem. An altar is built for the Lord God of Israel. Burnt offerings are offered as it was written in the Law of Moses and as had been done by King Solomon as he made prayer to God for the people of Israel (2 Chronicles chapters 6 and 7). The Feast of Tabernacles is restored with all other set feasts and daily burnt offerings.
In the second year (verse 8) the foundation for the Temple is laid. The Levites were appointed. The Priests were dressed in their apparel and given trumpets and with the Levites, sons of Asaph began to praise the Lord as King David had appointed. As the shouts and praise went forth the ancient among them began to weep, remembering the glory of the former house in contrast to the rebuilding of the Temple. The people could not differentiate the shouts of joy from the weeping of the ancients. The noise could be heard far off.
There is a first attempt of God's enemies to stop the rebuilding of the Temple. They deceitfully contend they would like to ally with the Israelites in rebuilding the House of God, but they have come to stop the work (See 2 Kings 17). They are rebuked by the chiefs of the Fathers of Israel. But their reign of terror weakened the Israelites and continued throughout Cyrus' reign even until King Darius. The final attempt is a letter to King Darius which results in a decree to stop the rebuilding of the Temple.
CHAPTER 5 - 6
God summons his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to go and prophesy among the people to strengthen them and begin to help them build. A letter was sent to king Darius offering proof in a historic, written overview and the permission to rebuild making reference to King Cyrus' decree and proclamations.
Darius commands a search be made for the rolls where the treasure was laid up in Babylon. The rolls are found. King Darius sends word to Jerusalem with permission to resume building and even more provision and favor are given by decree of King Darius.
The emphasis now turns completely to Ezra and the Word of God to Israel, the Law of Moses (The Torah). References to Torah are sprinkled throughout the chapter.
Ezra is both Priest and Scribe. His is the ministry of Mosaic Law. He is descended from Aaron the High Priest. His commitment to the Law of Moses and the Statutes given by God is un paralled in Scripture.
Again, many Jews choose not to return to Israel. Bountiful provisions are generously given towards the work of restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple. King Artaxerxes gives Ezra governing power. This is a beautiful chapter revealing the powerful hand of God in the affairs of His people as they return to their homeland.
This is the roll call of those who return with Ezra. Arriving at the river that runs toward Ahava, they make camp for three days. Ezra surveys the camp and finds none of the sons of Levi have joined them. He chooses them by name and sends for the ministers of the House of God.
He refused to request soldiers for protection along the way. Citing he had declared the good hand of God upon them, he calls for a fast at the river of Ahava to seek God for their protection, direction and guidance. God grants their petition and Ezra organizes the Priests and Levites. He gives them orders concerning the gifts from the king until they reach Jerusalem.
A serious offense before the God of Heaven has taken place in Jerusalem. The Hebrews have married foreign women, even the Priests and Levites. Many have children by them. Verse four reveals how very serious it is.
Ezra calls for men who "tremble at the Word of God." An atmosphere of deep shame and sorrow has encamped among them. Ezra repeats their unholy offense before the God of Israel. They cannot be blessed as long as the abomination continues. Ezra comes before God in deep prayer because of the evil that has taken hold of his people in marrying strange women and polluting the seed of Israel.
This is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Old Testament. The seriousness of what they have done is evident. After Ezra has prayed, the men gather with their families and wept admitting their transgression. They vow a covenant with God to put away the strange women and the children that were birth of them.
They have vowed to obey. Ezra retreats to pray and fast for a nation who have brought this shame before God. When they gather again they make plans to make things right before God.
The scene is horrendous. It is a time of heavy rains. Yet this great congregation of people stand in the rain to promise to do whatever is right before God according to the Law.
The book of Ezra ends with a roll call of all the men of God who had taken strange wives and those who had children by them and they put them away.
Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.