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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). Ezra 1:3The proclamation - "Jahve the 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" - corresponds with the edicts of the great kings of Persia preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions, inasmuch as these, too, usually begin with the acknowledgment that they owe their power to the god Ahuramazd (Ormuzd), the creator of heaven and earth.

(Note: Comp. e.g., the inscription of Elvend in three languages, explained in Joach. Mnant, Expos des lments de la grammaire assyrienne, Paris 1868, p. 302, whose Aryan text begins thus: Deus magnus Auramazd, qui maximus deorum, qui hanc terram creavit, qui hoc coelum creavit, qui homines creavit, qui potentiam (?) dedit hominibus, qui Xerxem regem fecit, etc. An inscription of Xerxes begins in a similar manner, according to Lassen, in Die altperisischen Keilinschriften, Bonn 1836, p. 172.)

In this edict, however, Cyrus expressly calls the God of heaven by His Israelitish name Jahve, and speaks of a commission from this God to build Him a temple at Jerusalem. Hence it is manifest that Cyrus consciously entered into the purposes of Jahve, and sought, as far as he was concerned, to fulfil them. Bertheau thinks, on the contrary, that it is impossible to dismiss the conjecture that our historian, guided by an uncertain tradition, and induced by his own historical prepossessions, remodelled the edict of Cyrus. There is, however, no sufficient foundation for such a conjecture. If the first part of the book of Ezra is founded upon contemporary records of the events, this forbids an priori assertion that the matter of the proclamation of Cyrus rests upon an uncertain tradition, and, on the contrary, presupposes that the historian had accurate knowledge of its contents. Hence, even if the thoroughly Israelitish stamp presented by these verses can afford no support to the view that they faithfully report the contents of the royal edict, it certainly offers as little proof for the opinion that the Israelite historian remodelled the edict of Cyrus after an uncertain tradition, and from historical prepossessions. Even Bertheau finds the fact that Cyrus should have publicly made known by a written edict the permission given to the Jews to depart, probable in itself, and corroborated by the reference to such an edict in Ezra 5:17 and Ezra 6:3. This edict of Cyrus, which was deposited in the house of the rolls in the fortress of Achmetha, and still existed there in the reign of Darius Hystaspis, contained, however, not merely the permission for the return of the Jews to their native land, but, according to Ezra 6:3, the command of Cyrus to build the house of God at Jerusalem; and Bertheau himself remarks on Ezra 6:3, etc.: "There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the statement that Cyrus, at the time he gave permission for the re-settlement of the community, also commanded the expenses of rebuilding the temple to be defrayed from the public treasury." To say this, however, is to admit the historical accuracy of the actual contents of the edict, since it is hence manifest that Cyrus, of his own free will, not only granted to the Jews permission to return to the land of their fathers, but also commanded the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. Although, then, this edict was composed, not in Hebrew, but in the current language of the realm, and is reproduced in this book only in a Hebrew translation, and although the occurrence of the name Jahve therein is not corroborated by Ezra 6:3, yet these two circumstances by no means justify Bertheau's conclusion, that "if Cyrus in this edict called the universal dominion of which he boasted a gift of the god whom he worshipped as the creator of heaven and earth, the Israelite translator, who could not designate this god by his Persian name, and who was persuaded that the God of Israel had given the kingdom to Cyrus, must have bestowed upon the supreme God, whom Cyrus mocked, the name of Jahve, the God of heaven. When, then, it might further have been said in the document, that Cyrus had resolved, not without the consent of the supreme God, to provide for the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, - and such a reference to the supreme God might well occur in the announcement of a royal resolution in a decree of Cyrus, - the Israelite translator could not again but conclude that Cyrus referred to Jahve, and that Jahve had commanded him to provide for the building of the temple." For if Cyrus found himself impelled to the resolution of building a temple to the God of heaven in Jerusalem, i.e., of causing the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar to be rebuilt, he must have been acquainted with this God, have conceived a high respect for Him, and have honoured Him as the God of heaven. It was not possible that he should arrive at such a resolution by faith in Ahuramazd, but only by means of facts which had inspired him with reverence for the God of Israel. It is this consideration which bestows upon the statement of Josephus, Antt. xi. 1. 1, - that Cyrus was, by means of the predictions of Isaiah, Isaiah 41:25., Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1., who had prophesied of him by name 200 years before, brought to the conviction that the God of the Jews was the Most High God, and was on this account impelled to this resolution, - so high a degree of probability that we cannot but esteem its essence as historical.

For when we consider the position held by Daniel at the court of Darius the Mede, the father-in-law of Cyrus, - that he was there elevated to the rank of one of the three presidents set over the 120 satraps of the realm, placed in the closest relation with the king, and highly esteemed by him (Daniel 6), - we are perfectly justified in adopting the opinion that Cyrus had been made acquainted with the God of the Jews, and with the prophecies of Isaiah concerning Coresh, by Daniel.

(Note: Hence not only ancient expositors, but also in very recent times Pressel (Herzog's Realencycl. iii. p. 232), and A. Koehler, Haggai, p. 9, etc., defend the statement of Josephus, l.c., ταῖτ ̓ (viz., the previously quoted prophecy, Isaiah 44:28) οὖν ἀναγνόντα καὶ θαυμάσαντα τὸ θεῖον ὁρμή τις ἔλαβε καὶ φιλοτιμία ποιῆσαι τὰ γεγραμμένα, as historically authentic. Pressel remarks, "that Holy Scripture shows what it was that made so favourable an impression upon Cyrus, by relating the rle played by Daniel at the overthrow of the Babylonian monarchy, Daniel 5:28, Daniel 5:30. What wonder was it that the fulfiller of this prediction should have felt himself attracted towards the prophet who uttered it, and should willingly restore the vessels which Belshazzar had that night committed the sin of polluting?" etc. The remark of Bertheau, on the contrary, "that history knows of no Cyrus who consciously and voluntarily honours Jahve the God of Israel, and consciously and voluntarily receives and executes the commands of this God," is one of the arbitrary dicta of neological criticism.)

Granting, then, that the edict of Cyrus may have been composed in the current language of the realm, and not rendered word for word in Hebrew by the biblical author of the present narrative, its essential contents are nevertheless faithfully reproduced; and there are not sufficient grounds even for the view that the God who had inspired Cyrus with this resolution was in the royal edict designated only as the God of heaven, and not expressly called Jahve. Why may not Cyrus have designated the God of heaven, to whom as the God of the Jews he had resolved to build a temple in Jerusalem, also by His name Jahve? According to polytheistic notions, the worship of this God might be combined with the worship of Ahuramazd as the supreme God of the Persians. - On וגו עלי פּקד, J. H. Mich. well remarks: Mandavit mihi, nimirum dudum ante per Jesajam Isaiah 44:24-28, Isaiah 45:1-13, forte etiam per Danielem, qui annum hunc Cyri primum vivendo attigit (Daniel 1:21; Daniel 7:1) et Susis in Perside vixit Daniel 8:2 (in saying which, he only infers too much from the last passage; see on Daniel 8:2).

Ezra 1:3

In conformity with the command of God, Cyrus not only invites the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple, but also requires all his subjects to assist the returning Jews, and to give free-will offerings for the temple. מי בכם, who among you of all his people, refers to all those subjects of his realm to whom the decree was to be made known; and all the people of Jahve is the whole nation of Israel, and not Judah only, although, according to Ezra 1:5, it was mainly those only who belonged to Judah that availed themselves of this royal permission. עמּו אלהיו יהי, his God be with him, is a wish for a blessing: comp. Joshua 1:17; 1 Esdras 2:5, ἔστω; while in 2 Chronicles 36:23 we find, on the other hand, יהוה for יהי. This wish is followed by the summons to go up to Jerusalem and to build the temple, the reason for which is then expressed by the sentence, "He is the God which is in Jerusalem."

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