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.