Pastoral Commentary for Ezra 1-2
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
In the book of Ezra we hear about the end of the exile, which God had spoken of in advance through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:10). Just as God used Queen Vashti and King Xerxes to preserve his chosen people during their exile, so now he uses King Cyrus, the king of Persia to issue a proclamation ordering the return of the exiles to Jerusalem for the rebuilding of the temple that had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. As the members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the remnant of the Southern Kingdom, along with the priests and Levites prepared for their return, God's hand of grace was upon them so that all their neighbors assisted them with gifts and offerings so that they could undertake their journey and rebuild the House of God. In addition, King Cyrus gave the returning exiles articles and utensils belonging to the temple, which had been carried off with the exiles. The inventory included 5400 articles of silver and gold. A careful accounting was also made of the people returning from the exile. Just as a church today will keep a roster of its charter members, so the people of God made a detailed roster of the people who made up the remnant for the rebirth of Israel. If you add up the numbers listed it is less than 30,000, whereas the number of returning exiles is stated to be 42,360. The discrepancy may include women and children who were not included in the individuals listed by name. There may also have been people from other tribes who were not counted among those from Judah and Benjamin. Those priests who could not demonstrate their lineage to the Aaronic priesthood were excluded from the priesthood as being "unclean." The offering given for the rebuilding of the temple at today's prices for gold and silver would equal nearly $800 per returning exile. Clearly, God had blessed His people even in exile, and He moved their hearts to honor Him in the rebuilding of His house.