End of the Babylonian Captivity
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared:
‘Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; 4and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill-offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’
The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites—everyone whose spirit God had stirred—got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 6All their neighbors aided them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with animals, and with valuable gifts, besides all that was freely offered. 7King Cyrus himself 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. 8King Cyrus of Persia had them released into the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9And this was the inventory: gold basins, thirty; silver basins, one thousand; knives, twenty-nine; 10gold bowls, thirty; other silver bowls, four hundred and ten; other vessels, one thousand;11the total of the gold and silver vessels was five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar brought up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
List of the Returned Exiles
Now these were the people of the province who came from those captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia; they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
The number of the Israelite people: the descendants of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two. Of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two. Of Arah, seven hundred and seventy-five. Of Pahath-moab, namely the descendants of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve. Of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four. Of Zattu, nine hundred and forty-five. Of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty. 10Of Bani, six hundred and forty-two. Of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-three. Of Azgad, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two. Of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six. Of Bigvai, two thousand and fifty-six. Of Adin, four hundred and fifty-four. Of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, ninety-eight. Of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three. 18Of Jorah, one hundred and twelve. Of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three. Of Gibbar, ninety-five. Of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three. The people of Netophah, fifty-six. Of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight. The descendants of Azmaveth, forty-two. Of Kiriatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three. Of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one. The people of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two. Of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three. The descendants of Nebo, fifty-two. Of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six. Of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four. Of Harim, three hundred and twenty. Of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five. Of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five. Of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty.
The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three. Of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two. Of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven. Of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the descendants of Hodaviah, seventy-four. The singers: the descendants of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight. The descendants of the gatekeepers: of Shallum, of Ater, of Talmon, of Akkub, of Hatita, and of Shobai, in all one hundred and thirty-nine.
The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,44Keros, Siaha, Padon, Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, 46Hagab, Shamlai, Hanan, Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, 48Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah, Besai, Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim, Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, Barkos, Sisera, Temah, Neziah, and Hatipha.
The descendants of Solomon’s servants: Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,56Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.
All the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants were three hundred and ninety-two. The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their families or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, six hundred and fifty-two. Also, of the descendants of the priests: the descendants of Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name). These looked for their entries in the genealogical records, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; 63the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.
The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred male and female singers. They had seven hundred and thirty-six horses, two hundred and forty-five mules, four hundred and thirty-five camels, and six thousand seven hundred and twenty donkeys.
As soon as they came to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of families made freewill-offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. According to their resources they gave to the building fund sixty-one thousand darics of gold, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly robes.
The priests, the Levites, and some of the people lived in Jerusalem and its vicinity; and the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all Israel in their towns.
Worship Restored at Jerusalem
When the seventh month came, and the Israelites were in the towns, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his kin set out to build the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt-offerings on it, as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God. They set up the altar on its foundation, because they were in dread of the neighbouring peoples, and they offered burnt-offerings upon it to the Lord, morning and evening. And they kept the festival of booths, as prescribed, and offered the daily burnt-offerings by number according to the ordinance, as required for each day, and after that the regular burnt-offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the sacred festivals of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill-offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt-offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from King Cyrus of Persia.
Foundations Laid for the Temple
In the second year after their arrival at the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their people, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upwards, to have the oversight of the work on the house of the Lord. And Jeshua with his sons and his kin, and Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and Hodaviahalong with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, their sons and kin, together took charge of the workers in the house of God.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
Resistance to Rebuilding the Temple
When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of families and said to them, ‘Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of King Esar-haddon of Assyria who brought us here.’ But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of families in Israel said to them, ‘You shall have no part with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia has commanded us.’
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, 5and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.
Rebuilding of Jerusalem Opposed
In the reign of Ahasuerus, in his accession year, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to King Artaxerxes of Persia; the letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows (then Rehum the royal deputy, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the envoys, the officials, the Persians, the people of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa, that is, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River wrote—and now this is a copy of the letter that they sent):
‘To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now may it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now may it be known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be reduced. Now because we share the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonour, therefore we send and inform the king, so that a search may be made in the annals of your ancestors. You will discover in the annals that this is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from long ago. On that account this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.’
The king sent an answer: ‘To Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now the letter that you sent to us has been read in translation before me. So I made a decree, and someone searched and discovered that this city has risen against kings from long ago, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. Jerusalem has had mighty kings who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore issue an order that these people be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until I make a decree. Moreover, take care not to be slack in this matter; why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?’
Then when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and the scribe Shimshai and their associates, they hurried to the Jews in Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. At that time the work on the house of God in Jerusalem stopped and was discontinued until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.
Restoration of the Temple Resumed
Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set out to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them.
At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus, ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ They also asked them this: ‘What are the names of the men who are building this building?’ But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report reached Darius and then answer was returned by letter in reply to it.
The copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates the envoys who were in the province Beyond the River sent to King Darius; they sent him a report, in which was written as follows: ‘To Darius the king, all peace!8May it be known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built of hewn stone, and timber is laid in the walls; this work is being done diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we spoke to those elders and asked them, “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” We also asked them their names, for your information, so that we might write down the names of the men at their head. This was their reply to us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. However, King Cyrus of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. Moreover, the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem and had brought into the temple of Babylon, these King Cyrus took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. He said to him, ‘Take these vessels; go and put them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.’ Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from that time until now it has been under construction, and it is not yet finished.” And now, if it seems good to the king, have a search made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by King Cyrus for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. Let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.’
The Decree of Darius
Then King Darius made a decree, and they searched the archives where the documents were stored in Babylon. But it was in Ecbatana, the capital in the province of Media, that a scroll was found on which this was written: ‘A record. In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices are offered and burnt-offerings are brought; its height shall be sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, with three courses of hewn stones and one course of timber; let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. Moreover, let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple in Jerusalem, each to its place; you shall put them in the house of God.’
‘Now you, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and you, their associates, the envoys in the province Beyond the River, keep away; let the work on this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God: the cost is to be paid to these people, in full and without delay, from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province Beyond the River. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt-offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests in Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his children. Furthermore, I decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of the house of the perpetrator, who then shall be impaled on it. The house shall be made a dunghill. May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.’
Completion and Dedication of the Temple
Then, according to the word sent by King Darius, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what King Darius had ordered. So the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin-offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their courses for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.
The Passover Celebrated
On the fourteenth day of the first month the returned exiles kept the passover. For both the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were clean. So they killed the passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow-priests, and for themselves. It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by all who had joined them and separated themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread for seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
The Coming and Work of Ezra
After this, in the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of the chief priest Aaron— this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses that the Lord the God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was upon him.
Some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants also went up to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. They came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. On the first day of the first month the journey up from Babylon was begun, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the gracious hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel.
The Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra
This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to the priest Ezra, the scribe, a scholar of the text of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel: ‘Artaxerxes, king of kings, to the priest Ezra, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven: Peace. And now I decree that any of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom who freely offers to go to Jerusalem may go with you. For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your hand, and also to convey the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill-offerings of the people and the priests, given willingly for the house of their God in Jerusalem. With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, and their grain-offerings and their drink-offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem. Whatever seems good to you and your colleagues to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which you are responsible for providing, you may provide out of the king’s treasury.
‘I, King Artaxerxes, decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever the priest Ezra, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred cors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and unlimited salt. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven, or wrath will come upon the realm of the king and his heirs. We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.
‘And you, Ezra, according to the God-given wisdom you possess, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River who know the laws of your God; and you shall teach those who do not know them. All who will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgement be strictly executed on them, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of their goods or for imprisonment.’
Blessed be the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king to glorify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and who extended to me steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.
Heads of Families Who Returned with Ezra
These are their family heads, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of King Artaxerxes: Of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom. Of Ithamar, Daniel. Of David, Hattush, of the descendants of Shecaniah. Of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered one hundred and fifty males. Of the descendants of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males. Of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males. Of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males. Of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males. Of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him eighty males. Of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males. Of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him one hundred and sixty males. Of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him twenty-eight males. Of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him one hundred and ten males. Of the descendants of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them sixty males. Of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them seventy males.
Servants for the Temple
I gathered them by the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped for three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the descendants of Levi. Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were wise, and sent them to Iddo, the leader at the place called Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his colleagues the temple servants at Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. Since the gracious hand of our God was upon us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the descendants of Mahli son of Levi son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and kin, eighteen; also Hashabiah and with him Jeshaiah of the descendants of Merari, with his kin and their sons, twenty; besides two hundred and twenty of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
Fasting and Prayer for Protection
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Gifts for the Temple
Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kin with them. And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king, his counsellors, his lords, and all Israel there present had offered; I weighed out into their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and one hundred silver vessels worth . . . talents, and one hundred talents of gold,twenty gold bowls worth a thousand darics, and two vessels of fine polished bronze as precious as gold. And I said to them, ‘You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill-offering to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of families in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord.’ So the priests and the Levites took over the silver, the gold, and the vessels as they were weighed out, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.
The Return to Jerusalem
Then we left the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem; the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes along the way. We came to Jerusalem and remained there for three days. On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver, the gold, and the vessels were weighed into the hands of the priest Meremoth son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. The total was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.
At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt-offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin-offering twelve male goats; all this was a burnt-offering to the Lord. They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River; and they supported the people and the house of God.
Denunciation of Mixed Marriages
After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, ‘The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.’ When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.
At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,
‘O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.
‘And now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, “The land that you are entering to possess is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations. They have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.” After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you destroy us without remnant or survivor?O Lord, God of Israel, you are just, but we have escaped as a remnant, as is now the case. Here we are before you in our guilt, though no one can face you because of this.’
The People’s Response
While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel; the people also wept bitterly. Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the descendants of Elam, addressed Ezra, saying, ‘We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. So now let us make a covenant with our God to send away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong, and do it.’ Then Ezra stood up and made the leading priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear that they would do as had been said. So they swore.
Foreign Wives and Their Children Rejected
Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God, and went to the chamber of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, where he spent the night. He did not eat bread or drink water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, and that if any did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all their property should be forfeited, and they themselves banned from the congregation of the exiles.
Then all the people of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days; it was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. All the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have trespassed and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now make confession to the Lord the God of your ancestors, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.’ Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, ‘It is so; we must do as you have said. But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for many of us have transgressed in this matter. Let our officials represent the whole assembly, and let all in our towns who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every town, until the fierce wrath of our God on this account is averted from us.’ Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levites supported them.
Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of families, according to their families, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter. By the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.
There were found of the descendants of the priests who had married foreign women, of the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. They pledged themselves to send away their wives, and their guilt-offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. Of the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. Of the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. Of the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
And of Israel: of the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. Of the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. Of the descendants of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. Of the descendants of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. Of the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. Of the descendants of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. Of the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. Of the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. Of the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi,Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu. Of the descendants of Binnui: Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. Of the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. All these had married foreign women, and they sent them away with their children.
Because of today's widespread Bible illiteracy, the entire book of Ezra is quoted above.
David Suchet reads Ezra (YouTube)
Take Note: There are many names and many details in Ezra! The seventy years captivity in Babylon has fulfilled the Seventy years of Desolation--the land has laid fallow for seventy years--the people had ignored 7 x 70 = 490 Jubillee years.
Note that the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem started with the Altar of Sacrifice. The slaying of many animals commenced. These all point to the the coming Messiah, Yeshua, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Soon music is added.
The temple building is next. Old-timers who had seen the Temple of Solomon wept at the modesty of the Second Temple. The people join the sorrow as they remember their history and the lessons of past failures that were the result of ignoring God.
There is opposition to all God is doing, but the leaders persist. The Temple is unprotected until Nehemiah leads the people in the rebuilding of the walls. Finally, the people draw boundaries in their lives--they have long compromised. But, "You must be holy, for I am holy., says the Lord."
The enter setting of these Post-Exilic writings is the Old Covenant God had with Israel. The way was being paved for the coming of the promised Messiah and a New Covenant. Yet to follow are the Books of Nehemiah and Malachi. Then follow the Four Hundred Silent Years and the grand presentation of the Messiah's arrival, at last--by John the Baptist. We are twenty five hundred years down stream now--when the calling out of a Bride for Messiah Jesus is nearly finished and God will bring all the pieces of the grand plan together in consummation.
Nehemiah | Zechariah | Esther | Malachi | The Four Hundred Silent Years | What is a Covenant?
The books of Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah cover the historical period of Israel's captivity in Babylon and the period immediately following their return to Jerusalem. Israel's return to Jerusalem from Babylon involved about fifty thousand Jews -- much, much fewer than the more recent return, which is such a wonder of our own day. The biblical record accords great importance to this return.
In the Hebrew Bible, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are one book. I am convinced that the events of these two books run parallel to one another, a point of view which is a departure from the traditional view. Most commentators on the Scripture say that Nehemiah follows Ezra chronologically, but I believe that a careful study of these two books will indicate that the events covered by them were concurrent. Ezra is concerned with the building of the temple. Nehemiah is concerned with the building of the city and walls of Jerusalem. Now, the temple was the last thing to be destroyed when the nation fell into captivity. It was the last holdout, if we may put it that way, of the Spirit of God. It is the last place (the temple representing the spirit) to be destroyed in an individual's failure to relate to his God. The temple is also the first place where God begins to set about the work of restoration; and therefore the book of Ezra, which deals with restoring the temple, is placed first in the Scriptures. Notice the opening words of this book:
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing. (Ezra 1:1 RSV)
Now look at 2 Chronicles 36:22:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: (2 Chronicles 36:22 RSV)
The same words exactly! The book of Ezra begins right where Chronicles leaves off. This is one reason why it is felt that Ezra wrote both books. Ezra hence becomes a picture for us of the work of God in the restoration of a heart that has fallen into sin. Restoration can be on an individual basis. It can be on a local church basis, or on the part of any of the great God-honored denominations of our day. It can be the work of God in a nation, bringing it back from secularism and materialism to true spiritual knowledge and strength. In any case, it always follows the pattern depicted here in the book of Ezra. This is the picture of how God works when he sets about to restore the heart that has fallen into sin.
The book divides very naturally in line with the ministries of two men: Zerubbabel, in chapters 1 through 6; and Ezra, in chapters 7 through 10. Both of these men led the captives of Babylon back to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, interestingly enough, was a descendant of David. He is of the kingly line. Ezra, descended from Aaron the priest, is likewise a priest. Clearly outlined here is the need for the work both of the king and of the priest in accomplishing restoration. The work of the king is to build or, in this case, to rebuild. The work of the priest is to cleanse. Both are essential in the work of restoring someone who has fallen into a sinful state.
Restoration in the individual life involves rebuilding the control of the Spirit of God through obedience to the kingship and lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus, it involves his ministry as king in our lives. It means the recognition, again, of God's right to own us, to direct us, to replace our plans with his, to change us, and to make both the major and minor decisions of our life. But restoration also means cleansing. The spirit and the soul are cleansed by our great high priest who, when a human heart earnestly confesses its sin, washes away the guilt, tidies up the past, and restores us to a place of fellowship and blessedness in his sight.
Now, return from sin is always the work of God's grace. In the first verse:
The Lord stirred op the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia. (Ezra 1:1b RSV)
And verse 5 says:
Then rose up the heads of 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 which is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:5 RSV)
God always takes the initiative. No one, after falling into a sinful experience, would ever come back to Christ unless God brought him back. This is indicated so clearly in the case of these Israelites. When they had gone into Babylon, they became a different kind of people. Dr. J. Vernon McGee has pointed out that while they were in Israel they were sheep-keepers, or shepherds. When they went to Babylon they could no longer keep sheep, so they became shop-keepers, or merchants. And they became very successful, too. So much so that this stereotyped image of the Jew is popular worldwide today -- the merchants of the earth. In Babylon they started a number of chain stores -- Macy's, Emporium, and some other leading department stores. They became so prosperous, so lost to materialism, that they did not want to go back to Jerusalem even though they were still slaves and exiled from their own land. Many of them refused to return when God opened the door. But the Spirit of God stirred up the hearts of some and made them unsatisfied with material prosperity. Mere things will never satisfy the deep-seated cry of the human spirit. When we feel that crying need, God the Spirit is stirring us up to return and rebuild the things that make for spiritual strength.
Under Zerubbabel the first return takes place. This great kingly descendant led about fifty thousand people from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The account of that return is given to us in chapters 1 and 2. When they came to Jerusalem, it was the seventh month of the year -- just in time for the Feast of the Tabernacles of the Jews. This Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Ingathering) was the time when Israel dwelt in booths to remind them of their pilgrim nature. Incidentally, this feast looks forward to the eventual regathering of Israel from the vast worldwide dispersion for the millennium and is the feast that is mingled with tears of sorrow as the people saw the foundations of the temple being relaid.
Their first act was to build an altar on the original temple site in the midst of the ruins. Out under the open sky they erected an altar to God and began to worship and offer sacrifice as the law of Moses had bid them. This is significant because the first act of a heart that really desires to return from wandering in darkness in the ways of the world to real fellowship with God, is to erect an altar. An altar is always the symbol of ownership. It is both the acknowledgment that God has sole right to us and the symbol of our personal relationship to him. Therefore, an altar almost invariably involves sacrifice, worship, and praise -- the sacrifice of recognizing the truth, "You are not your own; you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); the worship of again enjoying a restored relationship, when again the heart is ministered to by the only one who can meet its needs; and the praise of a rejoicing heart.
A man reminded me recently about an occasion when he took time off work to come talk to me about his prayer life. He had brought along sheets of paper on which he had written all the things that he had been trying to pray about. He had three or four sheets. At that time he had said, "I have a great deal of trouble with this. I find that it's hard to remember all these things and to go through these lists. It's so mechanical, so empty." I had suggested, "Why don't you just forget all this and spend your time, for a few prayer sessions anyway, just praising the Lord." He said, "I was mad. I took time off work to talk to you, and all you told me was, "Why don't you spend your time praising the Lord?" I wanted some advice for organizing my prayer life and handling it a little better. But after I got over being mad, I tried it -- and I found that it worked. There was a sense of restoration, a sense of restored personal fellowship." That is what God is after. That is why the altar is the important thing in this work of restoration.
The second thing they did was to lay the foundation of the temple. The work was met with mixed feeling, in chapter 3, verses 11-13:
And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy; so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard afar. (Ezra 3:11b-13 RSV)
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever come back to God after a time of coldness and withdrawal -- a captive of sin's power -- with a great sense of joy as the foundations of fellowship were relaid by the Spirit? Yet also with regret for the lost and wasted years? This is exactly what is portrayed here. Tears of joy mingled with tears of sorrow as the people saw the temple being relaid.
The third factor in this return under Zerubbabel is the opposition that immediately develops, as we read in chapters 4 through A force is at work in every human heart, as in world affairs, that immediately rises up to oppose everything that God attempts to do. A force is found in every human individual that resists with enmity and hatred the work of the Spirit of God. This force immediately manifests itself here, and there is a great lesson in how it does so. This opposition first appears as friendly solicitude. Chapter 4, verses 1 and 2:
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' houses and said to them, "Let us build with you; for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here." (Ezra 4:1-2 RSV)
Incidentally, this is the beginning of the Samaritans, who frequently appear in the New Testament. These Samaritans, worshiping the same God said, "Let us help you. We would like to join with you in this enterprise. You are rebuilding the temple. Fine. We would be glad to help." They come with an earnest, openhearted, friendly wish to participate in the work. A very subtle request, isn't it? It is not very difficult to say no to an enemy who breathes fiery threats of slaughter. But when he comes dripping with solicitude and offers to help in your projects, it is very difficult to say no. The only way you can do it is with a heart that is willing to be obedient to the word of God, as these people were. We read in verse 3:
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers' houses in Israel said to them, "You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us." (Ezra 4:3 RSV)
That may have seemed a bit churlish, but it was not mere capriciousness that made them reply that way. God had commanded that Israel was not to fellowship with other nations, or to engage with them in enterprises that concerned the faith. What does this mean? That it was wrong for one nation to intermingle with another? No, this has been twisted and distorted, and applied today to situations in which it has no application. It means simply that God rejects utterly the philosophy of the world in carrying out his work in the world. There is a worldly religion. There is a philosophy that tries to interject worldly concepts, worldly philosophies, and worldly methods into the lives of God's people. God has simply made it clear that these are to be rejected. The philosophy with which the world would defend its actions and its attitudes is quite contrary to the work of the Spirit of God. The world reflects the spirit of the devil, who is the god of this age, in the philosophy, "Advance yourself. Do this for your own glory. Use religious ways to advance your purposes and win admiration, power, fame, or whatever your heart desires. Use religious ways to achieve self-satisfaction." God rejects this principle here.
The veil of friendship that was offered quickly turns to hatred. In verses 4 and 5:
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:4-5 RSV)
And in the next two chapters is the story of how successful they were in stopping the work of rebuilding the temple. By deliberately attempting to frustrate these people, by mocking them and taunting them, they discouraged Israel from doing work that God had commanded. These so-called friends even used legal means to undermine Israel's authority and right to build. This is what goes on any time anybody wants to stand for God. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit." (Galatians 5:17) This is the picture that we have here, and the principle was quite successful. The work was stopped for sixteen years and the temple lay half-completed, overrun with weeds and grass. Again, worship ceased.
Then God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. These two men were God's instruments to move the people's hearts. The minute the people began to turn back to God, he also turned the hearts of the kings, Darius and Artaxerxes, and they issued the decree that started the temple work again. Finally the work was finished. In chapter 6 we read that the first thing they did was celebrate the Passover, marking the beginning of their life under God. Similarly, you can never make sense out of your conversion unless you are in fellowship with the living God. You have nothing to celebrate. You have nothing to thank God for unless you are enjoying the glory and the light of heaven upon your heart. It is only when you are in fellowship, with the temple built, that the Passover can bring joy to you.
The latter part of the book concerns the ministry of Ezra, who also led a return to the land. Ezra was a most remarkable man, a priest of the line of Aaron. In chapter 7, verse 6, we are told:
...this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses which the Lord the God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was upon him. (Ezra 7:6 RSV)
Wouldn't you like to have that written of you, "the king granted him all that he asked"? What kind of man is this, whom a heathen gentile king regards so highly that he will give Ezra anything that he asks? The secret of this man's character is given in verse 10:
...Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, (Ezra 7:10a RSV)
That is something else isn't it? We may be Bible students. But are we Bible doers?
...to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel. (Ezra 7:10b RSV)
As a result, Ezra could ask anything of the king and the king would grant his request.
Now this man is a man of the word. Therefore, God sent him to Jerusalem to strengthen and beautify the temple. That is the work of the word of God in our lives. It strengthens and beautifies within us the place of our fellowship with God. Ezra came to Jerusalem and found an incredible condition. In chapter 9 Ezra writes:
After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons; so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost." (Ezra 9:1-2 RSV)
What does this mean? They were simply starting the whole wretched mess all over again. This is what had broken the strength of the nation before. This is what had undermined the power of God among them and finally dispersed the people, broken up the tribes, and separated them into two nations. At last, as they had carried on this idolatrous practice, God had delivered them into the hands of their captors. Now, after seventy years, they hadn't learned a thing. The flesh never changes. No matter how long you walk in the Spirit, you will never get to the place where you cannot revert to the worst you ever were, if you depart from dependence upon the Spirit of God. They are right back to the same old ways. Ezra, in verse 3, says:
When I heard this, I rent my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled....until the evening sacrifice. (Ezra 9:3-4 RSV)
It was unbelievable.
As the book nears its close, Ezra prays to God and confesses this great sin. In his graciousness God moves in the hearts of the people. The leaders come in broken-hearted contrition to Ezra and acknowledge the wrong. A proclamation is issued. The people assemble together. It happens to be a day when it is raining, but despite the rain, the people stand, thousands of them in front of the temple, and confess their guilt -- the fact that they had disobeyed God -- and agree to put away the wives and children they had acquired outside the will of God.
Now this is a hurtful thing, isn't it? It isn't easy. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "If any one comes to me...does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children...he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) Our relationship with God comes first. It doesn't mean that a man is to put away his wife today. This is a symbolic teaching. It means that we are to put away whatever stems from the flesh, which is always pictured by these Canaanite tribes in the land. But we love the flesh, don't we? We like to feel angry and resentful toward others. We love to nurse a grudge, cherish feelings of bitterness, or keep an unforgiving spirit burning away in our hearts against someone. We love it! We don't want to give it up! These things can cause physical ailments in us. Perhaps more than fifty percent of the nervous and physical problems that we suffer are due to wrong attitudes. But when someone points it out to us, we would rather go on having the problem than change the spirit or the attitude. It is hard, isn't it? It was hard for the Israelites to put away their wives and children, but they realized that the only chance of being restored to the place of fellowship with the living God and finding the power of God manifest once again among them, was to be obedient to his word. Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away...If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off." (Matthew 5:29, 30) Be ruthless in these things. Put them away.
As the book nears its close, Ezra prays to God and confesses their great sin. In his graciousness God moves in the hearts of the people. The leaders come in broken-hearted contrition to Ezra and acknowledge the wrong. A proclamation is issued. The Jesus meant when he said, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children...he causes you to sin, cut it off." (Matthew 5:29, 30) Be ruthless in these things. Put them away. --Ray Stedman, Ezra: The Way Back.
A physical temple in Jerusalem was a key part of Israel as God's template on how God intends a nation to function. The destruction of that temple, and Jerusalem, on the 9th day of Av in 856 BC was a terrible loss for the Jewish people and their nation.
The other nations were not to have temples, but to focus their attention on Jerusalem and learn from the Jews about the one true God. Abraham was called out of the background sea of the polytheism of his day to give a clear picture to the world who the one true God really is, as contrasted with the demon gods of the nations. That distinctive monotheism was to be modeled by the nation of Israel, an earthly nation. The church Jesus the Messiah would build among all the pagan nations would be God's secret government over the entire planet.
"...so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 2:18-23)
That is, the church is God's appointed governing body in the nations. Therefore, "As the Church Goes, so Goes the Nation." Church history and the rise and fall of nations are vast subjects, obviously.
An important feature of God's character is that He keeps His promises. During Israel's darkest hour in 586 BC, God announced through Jeremiah, a bright future for Israel. This would take place under an entirely New Covenant. It was Jesus who put that New Covenant into effect at the Last Supper some 630 years later. In spite of her failures, God will keep His promises to Abraham, the Prophets, the Messiah, Jesus.
The Post-Exilic Books of the Old Testament describe the return of a remnant to Jerusalem seventy years after the destruction of 586. These Books are Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. This article is a window into the rebuilding of a modest temple in Jerusalem. The temple represents the human spirit, the true dwelling place of God.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. The New Man This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:3-24)
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)
"Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Jeremiah and the Death of Nations
Second Temple Times
The 9th of Av, 586 B.C.E. The Destruction of the First Temple
The Ninth of Av, 70 C.E. - The Destruction of the Second Temple
Ray Stedman: Haggai | Nehemiah | Zechariah | Esther | Malachi
The Four Hundred Silent Years
Does God Need a Temple?
Israel's Future Third and Fourth Temples
Israel is the Key to World Peace
Jerusalem: An Adulterous Woman
The Excluded Ones
New Body Life
Teaching and Serving
Spiritual Gifts and Body Life
Christ in You
Born Again and Adopted
The Normal Christian Life
The Exchanged Life
Your God is Way Too Small
Nekrosis and Thanatos (Dying and Death)
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
And the Spirit and the bride say,
“Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:16-17)
Notes by Lambert Dolphin
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January 1, 2022