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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Ezra

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

2.16–30 : Opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple and the city walls

(Ezra 4.7–24 ). A misplaced account of opposition to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Artaxerxes I (465–424 BCE). Cambyses (530–522) succeeded Cyrus and was followed by Darius I (522–486). Josephus (Ant. 11.2.1–3 ) substitutes Cambyses for Artaxerxes, thus providing the correct sequence of Persian kings.

16–20 : The opponents' letter.

16 :

The name Beltethemus is an error derived from the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic title (“be'el te'em”) of the office held by Rehum.

17 :

The persons named are officials of the region called “Beyond the River” (Ezra 4.10 ), which included the lands of (Coele‑) Syria, Phoenicia, Samaria, and Judah. Rehum is designated “the royal deputy” in Ezra 4.8 ; the title recorder is supported by Josephus.

20 :

The account differs considerably from that in Ezra 4.14 , which contains no reference to the rebuilding of the Temple at this point. However, Ezra 4.24 states that work on the Temple stopped. This revision and reworking of material is consistent with the focus of 1 Esdras on the Temple.

25–29 :

The royal reply.

29 :

Ezra 4.21 includes “until I make a decree,” setting the stage for a reversal at a later date.

30 :

Until the second year of … Darius implicitly refers to Darius I (522–486), the ruler in the subsequent narrative. It is unimaginable to these sources that construction stopped from lack of initiative, so external motivations are found.

1.1–4 : God's promise and Cyrus's decree.

1 :

King Cyrus, a Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and issued this decree in 538. The decree is in line with Persian religious policy: Cyrus's inscriptions depict him as restorer of several temples. Jeremiah, see Jer 29.10 .

2–4 :

The decree is also found in 2 Chr 36.22–23 , and in a different form in 6.2–5 .

3 :

His people, i.e., worshipers of the LORD, Israel's God. Are now permitted, better translated as a command to go up (see 2 Chr 36.23; 1 Esd 2.5 ). Rebuild the house of the Lord, the Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE (see 2 Chr 36.19 ).

4 :

Survivors, Jews still in exile.

1.5–Neh 7.73 : Exiled Israel responds:

three stages of return and reconstruction.

1.5–11 : Anticipatory summary.

5–6 :

These two verses form the heading for the three stages of return from exile, depicted in Ezra 2–Neh 7 . The end of Nehemiah celebrates the completion of the return.

5 :

Judah and Benjamin formerly constituted the kingdom of Judah (destroyed by Babylon); the “ten tribes” of the Northern Kingdom (destroyed and exiled by Assyria in 722 BCE according to 2 Kings 17 ) had assimilated, and did not return. The Levites were religious functionaries; the priests were a more exclusive subgroup of Levites who claimed descent from Aaron, the first priest (see Ex 28.1 ).

7–11 :

Restoration of Temple vessels, symbols of continuity.

7 :

Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the first Temple in 586 BCE (see 2 Kings 25 ).

8 :

Sheshbazzar, possibly a Davidic descendant.

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