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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

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Commentary on Ezra

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

21–5a(2 Chr 36.22–23; Ezra 1.1–3 a):

The proclamation of Cyrus. The last two verses of 2 Chronicles and the first two verses and part of the third verse of Ezra say the same thing in almost identical words. This kind of repetition is called a doublet. Even though 1 Esdras is closely following the language in Chronicles and Ezra, the writer does not reproduce this doublet. This has led a number of scholars to propose that the books of Chronicles and at least part of the book of Ezra once comprised the Chronicler's history of Israel, from which the writer of 1 Esdras took his version.

2 :

The author believes Cyrus was divinely inspired.

Chs. 1–2

The beginning of Ezra-Nehemiah seeks to establish the legitimacy of rebuilding the house of God, the Temple. * This is expressed by opening with the imperial order to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple, immediately jumping to a listing of those who did return, and concluding with the tangible signs of devotion among them. The repetition of Cyrus's decree (Ezra 1.1–4 and 2 Chr 36.22–23 ) introduces the theme of Ezra and is not a direct link to the end of 2 Chronicles.

1.1–11 :

The decree of Cyrus and its results. The legitimation pattern is opened by having Cyrus, the dominant founder of the Persian empire as Israel experienced it, decree that all those from Jerusalem should return and rebuild the house of the LORD .

1–2 :

In order that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished: Jeremiah had claimed the Exile * in Babylon would last 70 years (Jer 29.10 ). The first year of Cyrus is probably a reference to his first year over the Babylonian empire, which he captured in 539 BCE. The decree that follows is substantially the one that closes 2 Chr 36 . Charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem is not the confession of Cyrus's belief in Israel's God, but rather a balanced polytheistic way of claiming that all subjugated peoples' gods have empowered Persian rule. Thus the Persian king, by virtue of having rule, should honor the gods who have permitted it. In other ancient sources, Cyrus claims the same divine approval from Marduk, the chief Babylonian god.

3 :

He is the God who is in Jerusalem reflects the common ancient Near Eastern concept that gods and goddesses are specially present and should be worshipped in particular locations.

4 :

For the house of God in Jerusalem is an expansion of the decree in 2 Chr 36 that allows for the collection of offerings for the Temple * in Jerusalem by all those living outside the city.

5 :

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites: The primary tribes populating the southern kingdom of Judah were Judah and Benjamin. The priests and Levites were usually counted separately from the tribes.

7 :

King Cyrus himself brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem: When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 587 BCE, the Babylonians looted the Temple precinct, including the gold and silver vessels used in the Temple service. The return of these vessels links the Temple of Solomon that had been destroyed by the Babylonians with the Temple that will be built after the Exile.

8 :

Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah: There is no consensus on what this title may have meant in this time period. In Ezra 5.14 Sheshbazzar is called a “governor” of the province, so it may be that the author is using “prince” to indicate a leading citizen.

9 :

And this was the inventory: This list possibly has been copied from an authentic inventory of the returned vessels.

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