Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
By the first year of Cyrus is to be understood the first year of his sovereignty over the Jews, or 538 B.C.
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
The Lord God of heaven - Or, "Yahweh, the God of heaven." In the original Persian, the document probably ran - " Ormazd, the God of heaven." The Hebrew transcript took "Yahweh" as the equivalent of "Ormazd." The Persian notion of a single Supreme Being - Ahura-Mazda, "the much-knowing, or much-bestowing Spirit" - did, in fact, approach nearly to the Jewish conception of Yahweh.
Hath given me all the kingdoms ... - There is a similar formula at the commencement of the great majority of Persian inscriptions.
He hath charged me to build him an house - It is a reasonable conjecture that, on the capture of Babylon, Cyrus was brought into contact with Daniel, who drew his attention to the prophecy of Isaiah Isa 44:28; and that Cyrus accepted this prophecy as a "charge" to rebuild the temple.
Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
Let the men of his place help him - i. e., "Let the pagan population help him" (see Ezra 1:6).
The freewill offering - Probably that made by Cyrus himself Ezra 1:7-11.
Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.
Only a portion of the Israelites took advantage of the permission of Cyrus. Many remained in Babylon, since they were disinclined to relinquish their property. They who returned were persons whom God had especially stirred up to make sacrifices for His glory.
And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.
Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods;
The house of his gods - Rather, "of his god" Daniel 1:2, i. e., Merodach, "his lord" (see 2 Chronicles 36:7 note).
Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
Mithredath - Or, "Mithridates." The occurrence of this name, which means "given by Mithra" or "dedicated to Mithra," is an indication that the sun-worship of the Persians was at least as old as the time of Cyrus.
Sheshbazzar - i. e., Zerubbabel. On his royal descent, see 1 Chronicles 3:19 note.
And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,
Chargers - The word in the original thus translated occurs only in this passage. Its meaning is doubtful. Some derive it from a Hebrew root, "to hollow out," and translate "cup" or "vessel."
Knives - This is another doubtful word, only used here. The etymology points to some employment of basket-work.
Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand.
All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
The sum of the numbers as they stand in the present Hebrew text is 2,499, instead of 5,400. In the Apocryphal Book of Esdras the sum given is 5,469, and with this sum the items in that place exactly agree (1 Esdras 2:13, 14). Most commentators propose to correct Ezra by the passage of Esdras; but the items of Esdras are improbable. Probably the sum total in the present passage has suffered corruption.