Legend has it that as a baby he was removed from his royal family and taken to a mountain, and was left there to die. His grandfather, being the culprit, was convinced by a vision that a young child would grow up to take over his kingdom. Instead of dying; however, he was taken in by poor herding peoples and raised. Around 10 years old, it was discovered that he was obviously a member of the royal family and he was returned to his rightful spot. He became Cyrus the Great, the first king of Persia. Interestingly he is a king mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible. His name is recorded as a prophecy about 150 years before his birth. He ruled for about 30 years and is important in Jewish history because it was under his rule that Jews were liberated and allowed to return to Israel following their 70 years of captivity.
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
In the first year of the reign of Cyrus…he did not waste time! As a reminder this is what was predicted in Isaiah 45:1-5 45 Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.5 I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me. Not only does God specifically have plans for him, God proves his plans by announcing the King’s name long before he is even born. At the time of Isaiah’s writing Israel has not gone into captivity. At the time of Ezra’s writings, they have been in captivity close to 70 years and Cyrus will be the King to set them free. Just a thought to consider, this is a gentile pagan king. 28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.(Isaiah 44:28) Who is in charge of rulers and kings and kingdoms? Yes, that’s right. It is God who still has everything under control. What a marvelous realization for his people and the first step in being liberated is knowing who has the true authority.
3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
Cyrus was known for having the largest kingdom in the world at that time, God had obviously watched over and sent him to Israel for just such a time as this. God had directed him to send the captives that wanted to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild. Their lessons hopefully learned. He also put it on the hearts of many people to help financially accomplish this task. Staunchly religious people may have resented a pagan King giving aid. True Godly people realize that God uses whoever, whenever he wants, to accomplish his tasks. By building the house of the Lord, they would be able to again offer their sacrifices and honor passover. These required practices had been somewhat suspended while in captivity.
5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.
They are not returning home to the same place that they left. This is 70 years later and many things can and did change in that time. They have to start all over from the ground up. They will build the temple, the city, the walls. They have to teach the old ways and the rituals that may have been forgotten. They will have to redirect themselves and their children to appreciate God's rules, God's ways, and God's promises. Maybe some have gotten comfortable in captivity, after all, there were many “attractions” in Babylon. They are work worthy and spirit filled. Liberation from captivity allows them to become the people that God desires with a fresh start, a new beginning, a sort of second Exodus analogy. Some records and commentators stipulate that it possibly took over 90 years to get things back in order and functioning in Jerusalem.
6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
When God makes a plan he provides a way. Many willingly offered to accomplish what God had promised. With God all things are possible. Why oh why, is that so easily forgotten! Cyrus even sent back the remaining vessels of gold and silver that had been confiscated during the deportation. Not all of them but some of them. They could start by remembering the old paths and walking therein. Notice God didn’t change his temple set up. He didn’t change the sacrifices or Passover. He didn’t change how he wanted them to live. God is counting on them to use their captivity lessons wisely to draw closer to him and to set their priorities, determine their allegiance to God, and to dedicate their hearts and minds toward him.
64 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,65 Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.66 Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five;67 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.68 And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place:69 They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments.70 So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
Not everyone that went into captivity returned home when the King decreed that they could. Those that stayed may have sent help to those rebuilding. Some may have married and had new families. Some we know settled in other areas away from Jerusalem. Some may have been just too old or too sick to travel. Regardless, God had promised that they would return and he made the way himself to bring them back to Jerusalem.
What does the freedom we have from sin look like today?
The Holy Spirit is doing a work in us. What are our responsibilities and how should we respond to his leadership?
We all learn godly lessons the hard way at times. What is the difference between learning from wise counsel and learning from experience?
Who the Son sets free is free indeed. What is a believer set free from?
The Jewish people risked everything to go back to rebuild, believing that God’s promises did not have an expiration date. What promises has God made to the church, that even in these unstable times, are a source of strength and faith for the believer?
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