Getting Back to Basics—Three

Recapping. In one of my Bibles, the book of Ezra is introduced as having a theme of “Restoration: getting back to basics.” In my reading I found a number of points worthy of discussion. The first point, “As shown in the book of Jonah, and now in Ezra, non-Jews can acknowledge G-d as The G-d of All and obey Him,” was discussed Wednesday. The second point is that “G-d sees to it that even when He allows His people to be hauled into captivity—which perhaps provides a modern analogy for backsliding into sin—He finds a way for them to return to His service.” Here’s how the book of Ezra begins (Ezra 1:1,2):

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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

It doesn’t seem that ol’ King Cyrus was really letting the Exiled Jews return out of pure altruism. The king said he was charged to build G-d a house at Jerusalem. Additionally, it was a general policy he’d developed of letting exiled people and their stolen goods return to their homelands. A note in The Apologetic Study Bible states that “Skeptics note that the magnanimity shown by Cyrus toward the Jewish exiles was not due to divine intervention. It was a typical policy toward displaced people under his rule. This is undeniable, but this fact of history does not diminish the significance of the return of the Jews for exile. After all, the return was a fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah prophesied the rise of Cyrus and his benevolence toward Israel 150 years earlier (se Is 44:28-45:7). Furthermore, the timing was impeccable. Cyrus’s decree coincided with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (see Jr 25:11).”

Irregardless of what people think, G-d worked upon the heart of king Cyrus—says the Bible—and the king decided he would let Israel go. Good decision. Better than Pharaoh. The prophesy was fulfilled. Israel’s exiles returned.

In the book of Ezra, the people got into this state of captivity because they were hauled away after conquest. Israel was conquered as a result of forsaking G-d. Israel remained only seventy years in Babylon. Egypt is different. Israel fled from drought that would have led to famine, into a land that G-d had prepared in advance to receive them. Once there, Israel remained for four hundred thirty years. And in the beginning, Israel was welcomed, given land away from the Egyptians in Goshen (see Genesis 46:34). Israel prospered in Goshen too. But perhaps too much, as successors of Pharaoh that didn’t know Israel well, became afraid of Israel, and began to subjugate the people. As with Israel in Babylon, the people ended up in harsh captivity. As with G-d rescuing His people out of Babylon, the LORD came to the rescue of His people in Egypt, Both times, returning the people to the place He’d chosen for them. The Promised Land.

Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

note: There’s no doubt more that can be compared/contrasted between the two exile periods and the subsequent returns. You may also like Mark’s Blog This Day With God, in which he has great studies from the book of Ezra.

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