Ezra – Chapter 6

Ezra chapter 6

Verses 1-5 – Many clay and papyrus documents recording business transactions and historical data have been discovered in the area (near present day Syria). Archives with thousands of records have been discovered at Ebla in Syria. Archaeological evidence shows that Persian kings, including Darius, were involved in state-supported reconstruction of temples outside of Persia.

Verse 14 – How ironic that God’s work was carried on by the discovery of a lost paragraph in a pagan library. All the opposition was stopped by a clause in a legal document. God’s will is supreme over all rulers, all historical events, and all hostile forces. He can deliver us in ways we can’t even imagine. If we trust in His power and love, no opposition can stop us. The temple was completed in 516 B.C.

Verses 19, 20 – This celebration of Passover was probably April 21, 515 B.C. This was a huge occasion for God’s people to remember their forefathers deliverance from Egypt as well as their own deliverance from Babylon.

Verse 22 – Though God works on our attitude first to change our thinking about a situation, He also can change the attitude in someone else (non-believer)  in order to help us accomplish His desires. God is infinitely powerful, His insight and wisdom transcends the laws of human nature.

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Ezra – Chapter 5

Ezra chapter 5

Verses 1, 2 – More details about the work and messages of Haggai and Zechariah are found in the books of the Bible that bear their name. God sent His prophets Haggai and Zechariah, not only to preach, but they were also involved in the labor.

Verses 3-5 –  The non-Jews who lived nearby attempted to hinder the construction of the temple. But scripture says God had His eye upon them and they weren’t about to stop building while a dispute was going on. If what you are doing is a desire from God, don’t let others discourage or distract you.

Verse 11 – When the Persian governor questioned the Jews as to who gave them permission to construct this temple, they answered, “the God of heaven and earth.” As believers our allegiance is to God first, people second. When we contemplate the reactions and criticisms of hostile people we can become paralyzed with fear. If we try not to offend anyone and please everyone, we won’t be effective in the work He has for us. Let others know by your words and actions whom you really serve.

Verse 13-17 – Cyrus is called King of Persia in 1:1 and King of Babylon in 5:13, because Persia had conquered Babylon. Cyrus was king of both nations. Babylon is more important to this story because it was the location of the Hebrew 70-year captivity. So from here in the story, Darius hunts for a decree from the previous king.

Ezra – Chapter 4

Ezra chapter 4

Zerubbabel:

Sometimes God’s ownership of a project is only recognized after our best efforts have failed. We should not think that God is only responsible for the insignificant details while we take charge of the larger aspects of a project. Instead it is God who initiated the project and is in control. We only play a small part in His bigger plan. When God gives us important jobs to do, it isn’t because He needs our help. Zerubbabel learned this lesson.

The Jews that had come from Babylon were allowed to rebuild their homes and lives. They constructed an altar first and then started on the foundation of the temple. Some enemies of the Jews tried to infiltrate the work force and stop the building with political pressures. Fear caused the work to grind to a halt. The people stopped work and  went to their homes and 16 years passed.

Zerubbabel’s hope and excitement must have dashed into hopelessness. So God sent Haggai and Zechariah to encourage hm. They confronted the people’s fears and the work began again. This time they didn’t stop until it was completed 4 years later. Zerubbabel, like many of us, know how to start, but find out how hard it is to keep going. Zerubbabel had let discouragement get the better of him. But when God took control, the task was finished.

Verses 1-3 – The enemies of Judah and Benjamin were people who had been relocated in the northern kingdom when Assyria conquered Israel. In an attempt to disrupt the project they offered to help in the building of the temple. They wanted to keep a close eye on what the Jews were doing. The Jews, however, saw through their ploy. These enemies claimed to worship the same God s Zerubbabel did. In a sense that was true, but along with many other pagan gods (2 Kings:27-29, 32-34, 41). To these foreigners, God was just another “idol” to be added to their collection.

Verse 4, 5 – Discouragement and fear are two of the greatest obstacles to completing God’s work. Most often it will come where you least expect it. Discouragement eats away at our motivation and fear paralyzes us so we don’t act at all. That is why its important for believers to stand with other believers in order to accomplish the assignment–God’s will.

Verses 6-23 – Ezra summarizes the entire story of the opposition to rebuilding the temple, the walls, and other important buildings in Jerusalem. He grouped them here to highlight the persistent opposition to God’s people over the years and God’s ability to overcome it.

Verses 19, 20 – By reading the historical records, Artaxerxes learned that mighty kings had come from Jerusalem, and may have feared that another would arise if the city were rebuilt.

Verse 23 – Set backs are discouraging, yet sometimes out of our control. But as believers, we are to know that God is bigger than anything that can come against us.

Verse 24 – Ezra resumes his chronological account here. The start-up of building did not begin again until the second year of Darius’ reign.

Ezra – Chapter 3

Ezra chapter 3

Spiritual Preparation of the People

If you have been reading along in the Old Testament, there’s a sadness of how many times Israel had to rebuild not only God’s house, but their spiritual lives. As long as they had a king or priest that did what was right, God blessed them. In the Christian life our actions should match up to what we believe. We should not be a “yo-yo”, faith one day, doubt the next. Light that fire and keep it lit by staying in God’s Word!

Verses 2, 3 – The Jews built the altar, first. It symbolized God’s presence and protection. It also demonstrated their purpose as a nation and their commitment to God alone.

Verse 4 – The Feast of Tabernacles, also called Festival of Booths, lasted seven days. During this time the people lived in temporary dwellings (tents or booths). This Feast reminded the people of God’s protection and guidance in the desert and of His continual love for them.

Verse 5 – The people began worshiping God through daily sacrifices even before the foundation of the temple was laid. After being in captivity all those years, the people had learned their lesson. They figured out that God wouldn’t protect them when they ignored Him. They realized the importance of obeying God from the heart and not merely out of habit.

Verse 6 – The first day of the seventh month was most likely “our” September.

Verse 7 – When Solomon built the first temple (2 Chronicles 2), he also exchanged food and oil–plentiful resources in Israel. What they didn’t have, was wood. The wood came from Sidon and Tyre, that time too. The famous cedars of Lebanon were cut and floated down the coast to Joppa just south of the present day Tel-Aviv.

Verse 8 – They wanted to build the house of the Lord before they even put the walls of the city up because they now knew that if they didn’t have God as their protection, the walls wouldn’t help them.

verse 8 – It took around 9 months to just get the preparations to build the temple in order. Preparation may not feel heroic or spiritual, but it is valid and necessary for any project to be done well.

Verses 10, 11 – Completing the foundation took a great effort on the part of all involved. No one took the praise for himself and his own hard work. All good gifts come from God. The abilities, talents, and strength to get things done, comes from God.

Verse 12 – Some of the older people remembered how glorious Solomon’s temple was and they wept. But the beauty of the temple was not nearly as important to God as the people’s attitudes towards Him. When we seek God with our whole heart, there’s no need to compare our work with someone else.

Verse 13 – When we come into the presence of God, we may feel full of joy and thanksgiving, yet at the same time feel sorrow over our shortcomings or what we have lost.

Ezra – chapter 2

Ezra chapter 2

Babylon, the once-mighty nation that had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people of Judah into captivity, had become defeated. Persia was the new world power, and under its policy, captured peoples were allowed to return to their homelands. They returned in three successive waves.

Verse 2 – The Nehemiah listed here is a different person from the one who rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls 80 years later, and the Mordecai listed here is not the one who appears in the book of Esther.

Verses 2-35 – These people listed were from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Verses 59-63 – Genealogies were very important credentials to the Hebrews. If they could not prove they had descended from Abraham, they were not considered true Jews. In addition some privileges were restricted to members of certain tribes. Only descendants of Levi were allowed to serve in the temple.

Verses 68, 69 – As the temple progressed with plans for construction, everyone contributed freewill offerings, according to his or her ability.

Verse 69 – Drachmas and minas were gold and silver coins. Even though the people gave willingly and enthusiastic, this temple would never match what Solomon had built. The money David gathered to start building the temple, was a thousand times more (1 Chronicles 22:14). Some people wept as they remembered the temple that had been destroyed.

Ezra – Chapter 1

Ezra chapter 1

Introduction:

Ezra continues the Old Testament narrative of 2 Chronicles by showing how God fulfills His promise to return His people to the land of promise after 70 years of exile.

Ezra relates the story of two returns from Babylon-the first led by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple, and the second under the leadership of Ezra to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people. Between these two accounts is a gap of 60 years,  during which time Ester lives and rules as queen of Persia.

Verse 1 – The book of Ezra begins in 538 B.C., 48 years after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562, and because is successors were not strong, Babylon was overthrown by Persia in 539 B.C. just prior to the events recorded in this book. Both the Babylonians and the Persians had a relaxed attitude towards their captives allowing them to own land, home, and take jobs. Many Jews such as Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther rose to prominent positions within the nation. King Cyrus also allowed many groups to return to their homeland. Cyrus was used by God in this effort of returning the Jews.

Verses 2-4 – King Cyrus was not a Jew, but God worked through him to return the Jews to their homeland. He not only gave them a proclamation for them to return, he gave them protection, money and the temple articles that had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar. God’s power is not limited to our resources. He is able to use whom ever He chooses to carry out His plans.

Verse 5, 6 – God moved the hearts of the leaders, family heads, and priests and Levites and placed a desire in them to return to Jerusalem. These inner changes moved them into action. After 48 years of being shut off, the arrogant nation had been humbled. When their attitude began to change, God gave them another chance. Many Jews chose  to go to Jerusalem, but many more chose to stay in Babylon . The journey from Babylon back to Jerusalem was hard. It took about four months. The ones who stayed had grown comfortable and had acquired material possessions. Persian records indicate that many Jews in captivity had accumulated great wealth. They didn’t want to go to a place left in ruins. They preferred wealth and security to the sacrifice that God’s work would require (Mark 4:18, 19)–(sown among thorns–cares of the world; the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things, choking out God’s Word.)

Verses 9-11 – Although many years had passed, God delivered these temple articles back to His people. You may get discouraged by events that are taking place, but never forget, God is faithful to His promises to us.

2 chronicles – Chapter 36

2 chronicles chapter 36

Verse 1 – Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, deposed and deported by Pharaoh Neco, only lasted as king 3 months.

Verses 2-4 – After Neco, and the Assyrians lost their battle with the Babylonians, they passed back through Judah. Neco didn’t want any rebellion from this king as his father had done, so he deposed him and made his brother Eliakim king. Then Neco changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. (The year Nebuchadnezzar became kin of Babylon he won the battle of Carmish. The Assyrians were crushed and it destroyed their empire.

Verses 5-8 – Jehoiakim was an evil king, he committed adultery and opposed the word of God that came from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:10-26). He was eventually carried off by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, along with a number of young men. That was the first of three deportations, the one in which Daniel and his friends were taken (Daniel 1:1-3).

Verses 9, 10 – Now Jehoiachin is made king. He lasted three months and 10 days before he started to aggravate Nebuchadnezzar. So the king of Babylon returned to Jerusalem, collected more treasures and carried another group back to Babylon into exile. This was the second deportation which included the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1). Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle is then made king.

Verses 11-14 – Zedekiah: Nineteenth and last king of Judah, son of Josiah; uncle of Jehoiachin; refused to submit to Nebuchadnezzar; and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. Even the leaders and priests multiplied their wicked deeds towards God.

Verses 15-17 – God sent messengers time and again to warn Israel but the people mocked, ridiculed, and scoffed at His prophets. So God brought up the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in their sanctuary. Nebuchadnezzar raided the temple and burned the all the palaces. They left Jerusalem in ruins and carried all the treasure back to Babylon.

Verse 21 – The book of Jeremiah records the prophecy of Judah’s punishment for their wickedness. The Lord’s Word was fulfilled and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest until the 70 years were fulfilled. The 70 years that Israel was in captivity made up for all the years that Israel had not observed this law of rest (Exodus 23:10,11).

Verses 22, 23 – 2 Chronicles focuses on the rise and fall of the worship of God. David planned the temple; Solomon built it and then put on the greatest dedication the world had ever seen. However, several evil kings defiled the temple and degraded worship so that the people revered idols more highly than God. Finally, king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed the temple and Jerusalem. The kings were gone, temple destroyed, and the people removed. The nation was stripped to it very foundation. But God… The Book of Ezra tells the story and the return of the exiles to Judah.