Reading for Today:
- Ezra 1:1–2:70
- Psalm 86:6-10
- Proverbs 21:15-16
- Acts 21:18-40
Ezra 1:5 whose spirits God had moved. The primary underlying message of Ezra and Nehemiah is that the sovereign hand of God is at work in perfect keeping with His plan at His appointed times. The 70 years of captivity were complete, so God stirred up not only the spirit of Cyrus to make the decree, but His own people to go and build up Jerusalem and the temple (1:1).
Ezra 2:2 Zerubbabel. This man was the rightful leader of Judah in that he was of the lineage of David through Jehoiachin (1 Chr. 3:17). He did not serve as king (the curse on Jehoiachin’s line, Jer. 22:24–30), but was still in the messianic line because the curse was bypassed (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27).The curse of the messianic line for Christ was bypassed in Luke’s genealogy by tracing the lineage through David’s son Nathan. His name means “offspring of Babylon,” indicating his place of birth. He, rather than Cyrus’s political appointee Sheshbazzar (1:11), led Judah according to God’s will. Jeshua. The high priest of the first return whose name means “Yahweh saves.” He is called Joshua in Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 3:1. His father Jozadak (Ezra 3:2) had been exiled (1 Chr. 6:15). He came from the lineage of Levi, Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinehas; thus he was legitimately in the line of the high priest (Num. 25:10–13).
Acts 21:24 be purified. Having just returned from an extended stay in Gentile lands, Paul was considered ceremonially unclean. He therefore needed to undergo ritual purification before participating (as their sponsor) in the ceremony marking the end of the 4 men’s vows. pay their expenses. For the temple ceremony in which the 4 would shave their heads and the sacrifices associated with the Nazirite vow. Paying those expenses for another was considered an act of piety; and by so doing, Paul would give further proof that he had not forsaken his Jewish heritage. shave their heads. A practice commonly associated with a Nazirite vow (Num. 6:18).
Acts 21:28 the people, the law, and this place. Paul’s enemies leveled 3 false charges against him. They claimed that he taught Jews to forsake their heritage—the same lie told by the Judaizers. The second charge, that Paul opposed the law, was a very dangerous one, albeit false, in this setting. Originally, Pentecost was a celebration of the firstfruits of the harvest. But by this time, it had become a celebration of Moses’ receiving the law on Mt. Sinai. Thus, the Jewish people were especially zealous for the law during this feast. The third charge, of blaspheming or defiling the temple, had helped bring about the deaths of Jesus (Mark 14:57, 58) and Stephen (Acts 6:13). All 3 charges were, of course, totally false.
Acts 21:30 doors were shut. This was done by the temple guards, since Paul’s death on the temple grounds would defile the temple (2 Kin. 11:15). They made no effort, however, to rescue the apostle from the crowd, which was intent on beating him to death.
DAY 20: How did God sovereignly restore the Jews to the land?
It was through a proclamation by Cyrus king of Persia. The Lord had prophesied through Isaiah, who said of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd,…saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ’Your foundation shall be laid’” (Is. 44:28). The historian Josephus records an account of the day when Daniel read Isaiah’s prophecy to Cyrus, and in response he was moved to declare the proclamation of Ezra 1:2–4 (538 B.C.).“That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” Jeremiah had prophesied the return of the exiles after a 70-year captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11; 29:10–14; Dan. 9:2). This was no isolated event, but rather an outworking of the covenant promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3.
We are told that “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” A strong expression of the fact that God sovereignly works in the lives of kings to effect His purposes (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 2:21; 4:17). Cyrus made a proclamation, which was the most common form of spoken, public communication, usually from the central administration. The king would dispatch a herald, perhaps with a written document, into the city. In order to address the people, he would either go to the city gate, where people often congregated for social discourse, or gather the people together in a square, occasionally by the blowing of a horn. The herald would then make the proclamation to the people. A document called the Cyrus Cylinder, recovered in reasonably good condition by archeologists, commissions people from many lands to return to their cities to rebuild the temples to their gods, apparently as some sort of general policy of Cyrus. Whether or not this document was an extension of the proclamation made to the exiles in this passage must remain a matter of speculation.
It is possible that Daniel played a part in the Jews’ receiving such favorable treatment (Dan. 6:25–28). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, he was Cyrus’s prime minister who shared Isaiah’s prophecies with Cyrus (Is. 44:28; 46:1–4). The existence of such documents, written over a century before Cyrus was born, led him to acknowledge that all his power came from the God of Israel and prompted him to fulfill the prophecy.