Showing posts with label Ezra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ezra. Show all posts

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ezra 10

The foreign women

The People’s Confession of Sin
A large crowd gathered around Ezra was weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God. They too wept bitterly.

One of them said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us." He made a motion to send away all those women back, along with their children.
Ezra 10:5 So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath.
Even then, Ezra mourned unfaithfulness of the exiles.  He then sent out a proclamation for every Israelite to gather in three days.
Ezra 10:10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now honor[a] the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”
12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say.
It was rainy season and the people asked for some time to settle this matter. Ezra then appointed leaders over men to carry out the action plan.

Those Guilty of Intermarriage
This section outlines those who married foreign women. This is somewhat a shameful list - their wives were not willing to convert to Jewish religion.

A Root Cause Analysis performed on why these Jewish men were inclined towards marrying women from pagan culture leads us to Malachi chapter 2. It seems due to the hardships of exile, Jewish women had lost their beauty and they aged before their time. Jewish men were attracted towards the external beauty of pagen women even though they were unwilling to accept Jewish faith.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ezra 9

Ezra praying

Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage
Ezra discovered that with the help of leaders and elders, people have started intermarrying Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. He was alarmed to learn that the detestable practices of the heathen were being followed by his people.

When he heard this, he tore his garments in public and sat like a dumb fellow till the time of evening sacrifice.

During the evening sacrifice, he fell on his knees, confessed and prayed to the the LORD, “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens."

The LORD had sent the people into exile due to their detestable practices, and the people were once again repeating them.

Ezra 8

Return from captivity

List of the Family Heads Returning With Ezra
This section lists the names of those families who joined Ezra in that hazardous journey.

The Return to Jerusalem
Levites had to go to educate the people, but many opted not to. Ezra had a tough time drafting many to go with him by undertaking a fast - he knew that only LORD could provide for their journey. Ezra admitted that he was ashamed to go ask the king for military help as he proclaimed that LORD'S hand was with them.

Ezra entrusted the gold, silver and valuable articled with twelve leading priests and gave them the responsibility of guarding them against bandits and robbers. With the help of the LORD, they arrived safely and handed over the valuables into temple treasury. Later, they offered sacrifices and thanked the LORD.

The king's decree was handed over to the governor and his provisions were provided.

Ezra 7

Ezra reads the law

Ezra Comes to Jerusalem
After all these events, Ezra, one of the descendants of Aaron came to Jerusalem from Babylon. Ezra was well versed with the scripture and was a teacher.

Ezra had requested permission from the king to go to Jerusalem and to provide spiritual guidance to people. It took four months to complete the journey of a thousand miles.

King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra
The king issued a letter to Ezra, the priest, giving authority to take as many Jews who were willing to go to Jerusalem. He also opened up the treasury and provided valuables. No taxes were imposed upon them. Ezra was tasked with establishing religious worship and justice in the land. For this, an expense account was opened where Ezra could freely ask whatever he wanted.

Towards the end of this chapter, Ezra praises the hand of LORD that was with him, who extended favor for him.

Ezra 6

Darius issuing a decree to continue construction

The Decree of Darius
King Darius of Persia ordered a thorough search and a scroll containing the decree issues by king Cyrus was discovered. In this decree, it was documented that the Jews were supposed to rebuild their temple and the Persian king would finance the project.

To this decree, King Darius added his own decree that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates should not interfere in the construction and instead should fully finance the project and provide all necessary support. Anyone obstructing the construction was ordered to be impaled.

Completion and Dedication of the Temple
With the governor's encouragement, the temple work was completed. Though the building was not as grandiose as King Solomon's temple, it was dedicated to the LORD.
Ezra 6:16 Then the people of Israel - the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles -  celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.
The Passover
Those who returned from exile changed their detestable ways and sought the presence of the LORD. They were ceremonially clean while observing the Passover.
Ezra 6:19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover.

Ezra 5

Tattenai’s Letter to Darius
The word of LORD was proclaimed by two prophets - Haggai and Zechariah, that the work will resume.
Ezra 5:2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates questioned who provided the authority to rebuild the temple. After learning the details, he drafted a letter to Darius.

In his letter, he indicated that the material and labor was supplied rightly from the royal treasury in the first year of Cyrus. He also indicated that a search could be conducted to investigate this matter.

Ezra 4

Opposition to the Rebuilding
There is always one person who does not want LORD'S work to prosper - none other than our enemy, Satan. He creeps in wherever there is positive construction, and tries to destroy it.

The enemies of Judah, the Samaritans came and said, “Let us help you build the temple." But Joshua and Zerubbabel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God."

Hearing this, they bribed the officials, discouraged them and worked against frustrating their plans.

Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes
A false accusation was written against people of Judah to stop the construction, by influencing the king. The letter had a combination of truth and lies - hence it has to be drafted under the influence of Satan. The language was skillfully crafted to sound as if they supported the king.

The king commanded to stop the work until further notice. It was discontinued for fifteen years, until the second year of Darius.

Ezra 3

Rebuilding the Altar
Rebuilding the Altar
The first priority was to rebuild the altar. The exiles trusted in the LORD and obeyed him. Joshua, the priest and Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, who was a royal descendant led the people to establish sacrifices.

The sacrifices were made in the seventh month, during the month of the feast of Tabernacle.

Rebuilding the Temple
The Persian king gave support both moral and financial to rebuild the temple. Masons, carpenters and other skilled workers were brought in from Sidon and Tyre. Timber was brought in from Lebanon. Then in the second month of second year, work of the temple began.

There were mixed reaction among the people. Many praised the LORD saying, “He is good; His love toward Israel endures forever.”
Ezra 3:12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.
Those who were fortunate to stand at the very site over half a century ago, wept aloud because they knew the splendor and glory of the first temple of Solomon could never be matched.

Ezra 2

The return of the exiles

The List of the Exiles Who Returned
This chapter outlines the Jews who returned to Jerusalem.

The registry is organized in parts
- Leaders,
- Certain families,
- Certain towns,
- The priests,
- The Levites,
- Temple helpers,
- Solomon's servants,
- Those without genealogy.

The total number was 49,897. All twelve tribes were represented. The priests offered twelve male goats for the twelve tribes.

Now, many Jews settled down in Babylon and had no intention to return. They were comfortable with the material benefit and security and abandoned the promised land of their forefathers and stayed back.

Ezra 1

Jews return to Jerusalem

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return
Even before the great ruler Cyrus was born, an amazing prophecy was made about him by Isaiah in chapters 44 and 45.

Cyrus conquered Babylon and treated the prisoners of war differently. He encouraged the Jews to return to their land and build their temple. He made a proclamation regarding this.

Hearts of the people were moved and they were encouraged to go back and rebuild the temple. Cyrus even returned those valuables including gold and silver which was looted from Solomon's temple which was placed in their temple of gods.
Ezra 1:11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah

We read from the Kings and Chronicles that Babylonians deported several people between 606 BC and 586 BC.

Ezra and Nehemiah tell the same story - return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and rebuilding the temple. Therefore, the two are essentially one book in the Hebrew Bible.

Daniel and Ezekiel were among those who were deported. Prophet Jeremiah, in his writings predicted a seventy year captivity.

The book of Esther fits into this period as well, along with books of prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

Chronology of events
BC 606 Babylon began invasion and deportation
BC 587 Jerusalem fell completely to the enemy
BC 539 Babylon fell to the Persian Empire
BC 538 Cyrus permitted Jews to return and about 50,000 returned.
BC 535 Temple construction began, but was stopped
BC 520 Work of Temple started again
BC 515 Temple constructed completed and dedicated
BC 476 Esther became the queen of Persia
BC 458 Ezra traveled to Jerusalem

About Ezra
Ezra was a patriotic and Godly Jew, who was also a priest. He studied the scripture regularly and was a man of prayer. Ezra means 'help'. Ezra had immense faith in the LORD. He was willing to undertake a dangerous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. He did this without any military escort.

About Nehemiah
Nehemiah was a layman and was not of royal or priestly lineage. He was an officer in the King's court. The priest during that time was Joshua, and the two prophets were Haggai and Zechariah.

It was during their time in exile Jews realized the importance of prayers. Regular and family prayers originated during that time. They prayed in unison at a specific time.