November 10, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Ezra 1-5
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Author: Ezra, a priest
Date: post-captivity, approximately 520 BC
Context: In 539 BC, Cyrus, King of Persia, overthrew the Babylonians and permitted the Israelites to return to their homeland. This action fulfills an earlier prophecy from Jeremiah. Chapter 2 lists those who returned to Jerusalem from captivity. Not all Israelites chose to return to Jerusalem. Some chose to remain where they were taken after captivity, as they had built a life for themselves. Chapters 3 and 4 recount the rebuilding of the temple and problems that were encounters. Unfortunately, these problems led to a stall in building the temple for nearly two decades. The people needed motivation to once again begin the rebuilding process. Haggai spoke to and encouraged the people to once again begin rebuilding. Notice that the people once again encountered problems, this time of their own making. However, instead of stopping, they persisted in their rebuilding efforts, trusting in the Lord to solve their problems.
World History: This book is a record of the Israelites’ history after they were taken captive by the Babylonians. Prophets during this time included Haggai and Zechariah. Babylon seized Jerusalem and sacked the city, including the temple, in 586 BC. In 539 BC, the Persian ruler Cyrus conquered Babylon. Cyrus granted his captors considerable religious freedom (as opposed to the Babylonians), and it was during the reign of the Persians that the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland.