Ezra 1:3
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.
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Ezra 1:3. Who is there among you of all his people? — Not of the tribe of Judah only, but of Israel also, who were under his government, the Assyrians and Medes, among whom they were scattered, being his subjects. Accordingly Josephus says, that Zerubbabel sent the edict of Cyrus into Media to the rest of the tribes. His God be with him — Let his God help him, as I also shall; and let him go up to Jerusalem — Thus he not only makes a proclamation to them of liberty to go to their own country, but desires them to go, and prays God to be with them, and prosper them in building his house, saying, He is the God, and thereby evidently acknowledging him to be the true, if not also the only God.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.

3. Who is there among you of all his people—The purport of the edict was to grant full permission to those Jewish exiles, in every part of his kingdom, who chose, to return to their own country, as well as to recommend those of their countrymen who remained to aid the poor and feeble on their way, and contribute liberally towards the rebuilding of the temple. Of all his people, to wit, of Israel. A material clause; by virtue of which they justly refused the help of those aliens who pretended to join with them in the building, Ezra 4:2,3.

His God be with him; let his God help him, as I also shall do.

Which is in Jerusalem, or only

in Jerusalem, as it is in the Hebrew. So it notes the place where he allows and requires them to build it. Who is there among you of all his people?.... The people of God, the Israelites, as well of the ten tribes, as of the two of Judah and Benjamin; for this edict was published throughout all his dominions, where were the one as well as the other:

his God be with him; to incline his heart to go, to protect him in his journey, and succeed and prosper him in what he goes about:

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; the one only living and true God:

which is in Jerusalem; who has been in former times, and is to be worshipped there; though Aben Ezra says, this is to be connected with "the house of the Lord"; as if the sense was, to build the house, that was in Jerusalem, or to be built there; and so our version connects them, putting those words into a parenthesis, "he is God"; but this is contrary to the accents.

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.
3. Who is there among you of all his people? his God, &c.] R.V. Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God, &c., rightly translating by the indefinite relative instead of by the interrogative pronoun.

among you] The decree is addressed to the inhabitants of the many kingdoms which the Persian Empire included.

of all his people] From the context, in which Judah and Jerusalem alone are mentioned, it is clear that the edict referred only to the Southern kingdom whose inhabitants had been ‘deported’ by Nebuchadnezzar. It is not likely that Cyrus would have been acquainted with the circumstances of the ‘deportation’ of the Northern kingdom by Sargon the Assyrian, so many years previously (721 b.c.), even if (which is most unlikely) the identity of the Ten Tribes had been preserved. At the same time there is good reason to suppose that some captives from the Northern tribes, who had preserved their lineage and their national religion, availed themselves of the opportunity which the decree of Cyrus offered them. See on Ezra 2:2. Cf. 1 Chronicles 9:3.

his God be with him] The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 36:23 reads ‘the Lord (Jahveh) his God be with him’. As it is more probable that the sacred Name should have been inserted than omitted by the Jewish copyists, the text as it stands in our verse is preferable; it is also supported by the LXX. and by 1Es 2:5. The word in the original for ‘be’ (y‘hî), containing the first two consonants of ‘Jahveh’, may possibly have been mistaken for it and have given rise to the variation. The words are a common form of blessing. Cf. English ‘Good-bye’ (God be with you). After the blessing comes the substance of the decree, (1) the Return, (2) the Building of the Temple.

and let him go up] Change of subject, “His God be with him and let such an one ‘go up’ ”. The journey to the land of Judah is treated as an ascent. Cf. “The Songs of Ascents”, Psalms 120-134.

and build] i.e. rebuild.

the Lord God of Israel] R.V. the Lord, the God of Israel, in the original ‘Jahveh the God of Israel’; ‘the God of Israel’, the old national title used freely without room for misconception after the destruction of the Northern kingdom (cf. in Ezra 4:1; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14; Ezra 6:21-22; Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:15; Ezra 8:35; Ezra 9:4; Ezra 9:15). The discipline of the Captivity had revived the conception of the true Israel (see Isaiah 41:17; Jeremiah 30:2; Ezekiel 8:4).

(he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem] So R.V. text, but R.V. margin ‘he is the God which is in Jerusalem’, gives an alternative rendering.

(a) If the words ‘he is the God’ be taken parenthetically as in A.V. and R.V. text, then ‘which is in Jerusalem’ refers to ‘the house of Jahveh’. It gives an additional piece of information necessary to those who did not associate the temples of gods with any one place. Temples of heathen gods, e.g. of Nebo, might be erected in any number of towns. Why not therefore of Jahveh? Cyrus’ decree explicitly localizes the cult.

(b) Otherwise the words, ‘which is in Jerusalem’, are taken closely with ‘He is the God’, as in the margin of the R.V. This is the rendering of the LXX. (αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς ὁ ἐν Ἱερονσαλήμ) and the Vulgate (Ipse est Deus qui est in Ierusalem). It is also supported by the Jewish tradition preserved by the Hebrew accents. Accepting this collocation of the words, the student must be careful to attach the proper emphasis to the words ‘the God’. For the clause is not simply geographically explanatory of the foregoing words, ‘the Lord the God of Israel’, stating that ‘he is the God who is in Jerusalem’ in order to distinguish him from the gods of other localities. But the name, ‘the God’, is used emphatically (hâ-Elohim, not Elohim) and absolutely, as in Ezra 1:4-5. Compare ‘The Lord He is the God’ in 1 Kings 18:39. The sense then is ‘He is The God, the Almighty, and He has made choice of Jerusalem as His dwelling-place’.

Reasons for preferring the former translation (i.e. that of the A.V. and R.V. Text) are the following

(1) The phrase ‘which is in Jerusalem’ is almost invariably in this book applied to the Temple or Temple service (cf. Ezra 1:4-5, Ezra 2:68, Ezra 5:2; Ezra 5:14-16, Ezra 6:5; Ezra 6:12 (9, 18), Ezra 7:15-17; Ezra 7:27). (2) It is not a natural phrase—whether part of the original edict or added by Jewish translator—by which to designate One who has already been termed ‘the God of Israel’. (3) The objection to the separation (in the A.V. and R.V.) of the clause, “which is in J.”, from the word to which it should be attached, has occasioned the rendering of the LXX., Vulg., and R.V. marg. (4) But a parenthetical ‘He is the God’ bears the impress of a thoroughly Jewish insertion after the mention of the sacred Name. (5) The supposed significance of the alternative rendering disappears with the discovery that Cyrus was no monotheist. For Cyrus would not have said ‘He is the (i.e. the true) God who is at Jerusalem’—while a post-captivity Jewish editor would not have introduced so unusual and restrictive a localization for his God.

We conclude therefore that the words ‘He is the God’ are a Jewish parenthesis inserted by the compiler reverently but awkwardly, in such a way as to break up the sentence ‘the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—which is at Jerusalem’.Verse 3. - Who (is there) among you of all his people? Cyrus does not limit his address to the Jews, or even to Judah and Benjamin, but extends it to the whole people of Jehovah, i.e. to all the tribes equally. Gozan and Media, to which the ten tribes had been transported by the Assyrian monarchs, were within his dominions no less than Babylonia. That many non-Jewish Israelites did return appears from 1 Chronicles 9:3. His God be with him. A pious wish, almost a blessing, indicative of the deep religious feeling and great goodness of heart which characterized Cyrus alone of Persian monarchs. Among the Greeks, AEschylus, who first speaks of him, calls him kindly" or "gracious" (εὔφραιν); Herodotus says he ruled his subjects like a father; Xenophon makes him a model prince; Plutarch observes that "in wisdom and virtue and greatness of soul he excelled all other kings;" Diodorus ascribes to him a remarkable power of self-command, together with good feeling and gentleness. The Latin writers, Cicero and others, add their meed of praise; and altogether it may be said that, so far as the evidence reaches, no nobler character appears in ancient history. The Scriptural notices, whether in this book or in Isaiah, are in remarkable accord. Let him go up. Jerusalem was on a much higher level than Babylon, and the travellers would consequently have to ascend considerably. And build the house. The "charge" to Cyrus did not require him to take a personal share in the building. He was simply to "say to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah 44:28). He is therefore content to assign the actual work to others. He is the God. The Septuagint and the Vulgate attach the last clause of the verse to these words, and render "He is the God who is in Jerusalem," which greatly weakens the force of the expression. According to this punctuation, Cyrus makes Jehovah a mere local Deity; according to the far preferable arrangement of the A. V., he declares emphatically that Jehovah is the one true God, beside whom there is no other. Compare the very similar confession of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 6:26). He who remained from the sword, i.e., who had not been slain by the sword, had not fallen and died in war, Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon into captivity; so that they became servants to him and to his sons, as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:7) prophesied, until the rise of the kingdom of the Persians. These last words also are an historical interpretation of the prophecy, Jeremiah 27:7. All this was done (2 Chronicles 36:21) to fulfil (מלּאת instead of מלּא, as in 1 Chronicles 29:5), that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, he having prophesied (Jeremiah 25:11., 2 Chronicles 29:10) the seventy years' duration of Judah's desolation and the Babylonian captivity, while the king and people had not regarded his words (2 Chronicles 36:12). This period, which according to 2 Chronicles 36:20 came to an end with the rise of the kingdom of the Persians, is characterized by the clause וגו רצתה עד as a time of expiation of the wrong which had been done the land by the non-observance of the sabbath-years, upon the basis of the threatening (Leviticus 26:34), in which the wasting of the land during the dispersion of the unrepentant people among the heathen was represented as a compensation for the neglected sabbaths. From this passage in the law the words are taken, to show how the Lord had inflicted the punishment with which the disobedient people had been threatened as early as in the time of Moses. רצתה עד is not to be translated, "until the land had made up its years of rest;" that signification רצה has not; but, "until the land had enjoyed its sabbath-years," i.e., until it had enjoyed the rest of which it had been deprived by the non-observance of the sabbaths and the sabbath-years, contrary to the will of its Creator; see on Leviticus 26:34. That this is the thought is placed beyond doubt by the succeeding circumstantial clause, taken word for word from Leviticus 26:34 : "all days (i.e., the whole time) of its desolation did it hold it" (שׁבתה, it kept sabbath). "To make full the seventy years;" which Jeremiah, ll. cc., had prophesied.

This connecting of Jeremiah's prophecy with the declaration in Leviticus 26:34 does not justify us in supposing that the celebration of the sabbath-year had been neglected seventy times, or that for a period of 490 years the sabbath-year had not been observed. Bertheau, holding this view, fixes upon 1000 b.c., i.e., the time of Solomon, or, as we cannot expect any very great chronological exactitude, the beginning of the kingly government in Israel, as the period after which the rest-years ceased to be regarded. He is further of opinion that 2 Chronicles 35:18 harmonizes with this view; according to which passage the passover was not celebrated in accordance with the prescription of the law until the end of the period of the judges. According to this chronological calculation, the beginning of this neglect of the observance of the sabbath-year would fall in the beginning of the judgeship of Samuel.

(Note: The seventy years' exile began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., in the year 606 b.c., or 369 years after the division of the kingdom; see the Chronol. Tables at 1 Kings 12 (ii. 3, S. 141), to which the eighty years of the reigns of David and Solomon, and the time of Saul and Samuel, must be added to make up the 490 years (see the comment. on Judges).)

But this is itself unlikely; and still more unlikely is it, that in the time of the judges the sabbath-year had been regularly observed until Samuel; and that during the reigns of the kings David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, this celebration remained wholly in abeyance. But even apart from that, the words, that the land, to make full the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah, kept the whole time of the desolation holy, or enjoyed a sabbath rest such as Moses had proclaimed in Leviticus 26:34, do not necessarily involve that the land had been deprived of its sabbath rest seventy times in succession, or during a period of 490 years, by the sin of the people. The connection between the prophecy of Jeremiah and the provision of the law is to be understood theologically, and does not purport to be calculated chronologically. The thought is this: By the infliction of the punishment threatened against the transgressors of the law by the carrying of the people away captive into Babylon, the land will obtain the rest which the sinful people had deprived it of by their neglect of the sabbath observance commanded them. By causing it to remain uncultivated for seventy years, God gave to the land a time of rest and refreshment, which its inhabitants, so long as they possessed it, had not given it. But that does not mean that the time for which this rest was granted corresponded to the number of the sabbath-years which had not been observed. From these theological reflections we cannot calculate how often in the course of the centuries, from the time of Joshua onwards till the exile, the sabbath-year had not been observed; and still less the time after which the observation of the sabbath-year was continuously neglected. The passage 2 Chronicles 35:8 has no bearing on this question, because it neither states that the passover had been held according to the precepts of the law till towards the end of the time of the judges, nor that it was no longer celebrated in accordance with the precept from that time until Josiah; it only contains the thought that such a passover as that in Josiah's reign had not been held since the time of the judges: see on the passage.

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