Ezra 1:2
Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
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Ezra 1:2. The Lord God of heaven — It is observable, says Mr. Locke, that God, in the former books, is called the Lord of hosts, but in the last of Chronicles, in this, in Nehemiah, and Daniel, that is, in the books written after the captivity, he is styled the God of heaven, and not Lord of hosts, though the sense of both expressions is the same. Probably those who showed or interpreted to Cyrus the prophecy of Isaiah concerning himself, acquainted him that the God, whose prophet Isaiah was, was worshipped by the Jews, not as the God of their particular country merely, but as the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. And Cyrus, though it is likely he did not entirely forsake the religion of his country, yet might acknowledge and revere Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, as the true and great God. For, though the Jews were strictly commanded to worship one God, and not to admit another into fellowship with him, yet many in the heathen nations, while they worshipped idols, acknowledged a true and supreme God, and often worshipped the gods of other countries in common with their own. Hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth — All in those parts of the world; all those large dominions which the Assyrians and Babylonians had possessed: the eastern kings were wont, as they are still, to speak magnificently of their dominions. The gift of these Cyrus ascribes to the great God, through the above-mentioned prophecy of Isaiah concerning him, which must have carried a great evidence with it, especially to him who was so highly encouraged by it; or through some special illumination which God had vouchsafed to him, as he had to Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, and some other heathen princes. And he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem — So he might conclude from the prophecy just referred to, (Isaiah 45:13,) where God says of Cyrus, He shall build my city, of which the temple was a principal part, and more plainly from Isaiah 44:28, He shall say to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.1:1-4 The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus. The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord. God governs the world by his influence on the spirits of men; whatever good they do, God stirs up their spirits to do it. It was during the captivity of the Jews, that God principally employed them as the means of calling the attention of the heathen to him. Cyrus took it for granted, that those among the Jews who were able, would offer free-will offerings for the house of God. He would also have them supplied out of his kingdom. Well-wishers to the temple should be well-doers for it.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.

2. The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth—Though this is in the Oriental style of hyperbole (see also Da 4:1), it was literally true that the Persian empire was the greatest ruling power in the world at that time.

he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem—The phraseology of this proclamation, independently of the express testimony of Josephus, affords indisputable evidence that Cyrus had seen (probably through means of Daniel, his venerable prime minister and favorite) those prophecies in which, two hundred years before he was born, his name, his victorious career, and the important services he should render to the Jews were distinctly foretold (Isa 44:28; 46:1-4). The existence of predictions so remarkable led him to acknowledge that all his kingdoms were gifts bestowed on him by "the Lord God of heaven," and prompted him to fulfil the duty which had been laid upon him long before his birth. This was the source and origin of the great favor he showed to the Jews. The proclamation, though issued "in the first year of Cyrus" [Ezr 1:1], did not take effect till the year following.

All the kingdoms of the earth, to wit, in those parts of the world; all that vast empire formerly under the Assyrians and Babylonians. The gift of which he ascribes to the great God, either by virtue of those common notions which were in the minds of the heathens, who though they worshipped idols, yet many of them did acknowledge a true and supreme God; or by that clear and express prophecy of Isaiah concerning him, Isaiah 44:28 45:1,13, so long before he was born; which prophecy the Jews had doubtlessly showed him, which also carried a great evidence with it, especially to him, who was so highly gratified and encouraged by it; or by a special illumination which God vouchsafed to him, as he did to Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, and some others of the heathen princes.

He hath charged me; either by his prophets, Isaiah formerly, or Daniel now; or by an inward suggestion to his mind. Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia,.... Of whom, and this edict of his, Isaiah prophesied two hundred years before he was born, Isaiah 44:28

the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; many he had conquered before he took Babylon, and then the whole Babylonian monarchy fell into his hands. Herodotus (l) says, he ruled over all Asia; Xenophon (m) reckons up many nations that were under his government, Medes and Hyrcanians, Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, both the Phrygians, Carians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, Sacae or Scythians, Paphlagonians, Megadinians, and many other nations, the Greeks inhabiting Asia, and the Cyprians, and Egyptians; and elsewhere he says (n), the borders of his kingdom were, to the east the Red sea, to the north the Euxine Pontus, to the west Cyprus and Egypt, and to the south Ethiopia. And the possession of these kingdoms Cyrus ascribes, not to his own martial courage and skill, but to the providence and disposal of the God of heaven, which he seems to have had some notion of:

and he hath charged me to build an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah; in the prophecy of Isaiah, which, according to Josephus (o), he had seen and read, and believed it to be a charge upon him, and a command unto him to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem; however, to give leave for the rebuilding of it, and to encourage to it, and assist in it; an Arabic writer says (p), that Cyrus married a sister of Zerubbabel, and that it was at her request that the Jews had leave to return; which is merely fabulous.

(l) Clio, sive, l. 1. c. 130. So Sallust, Bell. Catalin. p. 2.((m) Cyropaedia, l. 1. in principio. (n) L. 8. c. 48. (o) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 1. sect. 1, 2.((p) Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. Dyn. 5. p. 82.

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me {d} all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

(d) For he was chief monarch and had many nations under his dominion, which this heathen king confesses to have received from the living God.

2. The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth] R.V. all the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord, the God of heaven, given me. More correctly, (1) bringing out the emphasis implied by the position of the words in the original; (2) showing more accurately the usage of the Divine name.

The acknowledgment that all earthly sway is derived from Heavenly authority forms the basis of the decree. ‘All the kingdoms of the earth’, the universality of the mission, with which Cyrus is divinely entrusted, justifies his action in dealing with the fortunes of a part.

The Lord God of heaven] literally ‘Jahveh (i.e. Jehovah), the God of heaven’. This use of the sacred name of the God of the Jews in the decree of Cyrus gives occasion to the question, whether Cyrus knew, and, if he knew, believed in and worshipped the God of the Jews.

Commentators generally used to hold this view. This was not unnatural. For (1) they considered these verses to reproduce verbatim the decree of Cyrus: (2) they very generally supposed that Cyrus, being a Persian, was also a monotheist, who favoured the Jews on account of their monotheism, and saw in Jahveh a local representation of the One God that he adored: (3) they accepted and reproduced the statement of Josephus that Cyrus, having seen in Isaiah the Jewish prophecies relating to himself, recognised their fulfilment, and worshipped and believed in Jahveh: (4) they derived support for their view from analogous utterances of allegiance to the God of the Jews recorded of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius in Daniel 3:28-29; Daniel 4:2-37; Daniel 6:25-28.

But (1) it is evident that the edict in these verses is recorded in the words of the Hebrew translator and presented in its Jewish form. (2) Recent discoveries have shown that Cyrus was no monotheist. His own inscriptions testify to his having been a polytheist to the last. He acted as High Priest towards the great deities of Babylon. He constantly styles himself and his son Cambyses the worshippers of Nebo and Merodach. (3) The policy of the victorious monarch was to include among the lesser divinities of his Pantheon the gods of the subjugated countries, and to secure the favour of those who presided over different territories. The deities of whom he avowed himself the servant were (a) those of his own land, who had protected him in his career of victory, (b) those of the conquered kingdoms who had transferred to him their favour, and had thus permitted him to be victorious.

Whether Josephus’ story that Cyrus had seen the prophecies of Isaiah is correct or not we cannot say. There is nothing in it intrinsically impossible. On the other hand, it was a very probable hypothesis to suggest itself to the mind of a Jew by which to account for Cyrus’ benevolent action towards his race (see note on Ezra 1:4).

When Cyrus here, in his edict, made use of a Divine name, he (a) either referred to one of the great gods whom he especially worshipped, e.g. Merodach, Nebo, Bel, for which the Hebrew version has reverently substituted the name of Jahveh: (b) or actually referred by name to Jahveh, as the god of the people, in whose favour the edict was promulgated.

The author of the book presupposes the acquaintance of heathen people with the popular use of the sacred Name which the Jew of later days was forbidden to pronounce.

God of heaven] A title, found also in Darius’ letter, chap. Ezra 6:9-10, and in Artaxerxes’ letter, Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:21; Ezra 7:23. It is found in the Jewish reply reported in Tattenai’s letter Ezra 5:12. In Nehemiah it occurs Ezra 1:4-5, Ezra 2:4; Ezra 2:20; cf. Psalm 136:26; Daniel 2:18-19; Daniel 2:44. Like the similar phrase ‘the God of heaven and earth’ (Ezra 5:11) the title implies boundless sovereignty. For ‘Heaven’ combined the ideas of infinite space, cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 31:37, the forces of nature, cf. Psalm 19:1, and the dwelling-place of Spiritual beings (cf. Isaiah 66:1; 1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 2:4; Psalm 115:3.)

given me] An expression of pious humility on the part of Cyrus in acknowledgment of the fact that he had won by his sword, and not inherited, the kingdoms of his empire.

he] Very emphatic in the original (cf. LXX. αὐτὸς. Vulgate ipse).

hath charged me] The Divine mission which Cyrus probably unconsciously discharged is described in Isaiah 44:24-28; Isaiah 45:1-13. The view that he was shown these prophecies and was influenced by reading them has been already referred to. Some have also supposed that Cyrus was actuated by statements of Daniel as to his duty towards the chosen people. For neither view is there any historical evidence.

a house] i.e. a Temple.

at Jerusalem which is in Judah] with geographical detail, Judah being a small and obscure province, unknown probably in many quarters of the great Persian Empire.Verse 2. - Thus saith Cyrus. Persian inscriptions do not ordinarily commence in this way; but the formula "says Darius the king," "says Xerxes the king" is frequent in them. King of Persia. So the Behistun inscription: "I am Darius, the great king, the king of kings, the king of Persia." The Lord God of heaven, Yehovah Elohey hashshamayim. "God of heaven" seems to have been a usual title of the Supreme Being among the Persians (see below, Ezra 6:9, 10; Ezra 7:12, 23), and perhaps designated Ormuzd in contradistinction to Ahriman, who was lord of the infernal regions. The use of the term "Jehovah," instead of Ormuzd, is remarkable, and was probably limited to the Hebrew transcript of the proclamation. Hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth. An acknowledgment that they have received and hold their royal power from Ormuzd is universal on the part of all the Persian kings who have left inscriptions of any length; but they do not often indulge in such a hyperbole as this of Cyrus. Artaxerxes Ochus, however, calls himself "king of this world" (Rawlinson, 'Cuneiform Inser.,' vol. 1. p. 341). The mention of the "kingdoms of the earth" is appropriate, since Cyrus had not inherited his empire, but built it up by the conquest of a vast number of independent states ('Herod.' 1. passim). His earn feeling that God had in all cases given him the victory harmonizes with the statement of Isaiah in Isaiah 45:1. He hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem. The he is emphatic, and is expressed by αὐτὸς in the Septuagint and ipse in the Vulgate. He himself, Jehovah-Elohim, has given it me in charge to build him a house. Most critics rightly explain by referring to Isaiah 44:28, and accepting the statement of Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:1) that the passage was shown to Cyrus shortly after his capture of Babylon. He understood the prophecy as a command, and proceeded to obey it. Which is in Judah. The addition of this clause marks strongly the oblivion into which the ruined city had fallen. Apparently, it was necessary, to recall its situation to men's minds by an express mention of the province whereof it had been the capital. Note the repetition of the clause in the next verse. They burnt the house of God; they pulled down the walls of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces of the city with fire, and all the costly vessels were devoted to destruction. On להשׁחית, cf. 2 Chronicles 12:12.
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