For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

1:1.  “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,”


In the present context the first year of Cyrus king of Persia was 538 B.C., this being the beginning of his reign over Babylon, not of his total reign which had begun more than twenty years earlier. 


He is the same Cyrus as is mentioned in Isaiah 44:28, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid,” and 45:1, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates (of the Temple); and the gates shall not be shut ....” 


Instrument though he was in God’s hand for the accomplishment of the Divine purposes, many scholars do not consider him to have been a believer.  His name means possess thou the furnace, but I regret being unable to see the significance of that meaning; nor do I see the significance of Persia, which means he divided.


The prophecy of Jeremiah referred to here is Jeremiah 25:11-12, “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  And it shall come to pass when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations,” and in Jeremiah 29:10 “For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place,”


1:2.  “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 a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”


This may not be taken to imply that Cyrus was a believer, but rather that he acknowledged the existence of Jehovah, though as simply another god among many.  Nothing is recorded as to how God communicated His desire to the Persian king.


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”


More than one historian has pointed out that Cyrus’ seemingly magnanimous offer was impelled less by concern for the well-being of Israel, than by regard for his own security, his shrewd ploy being to surround himself with as many friendly buffer states as possible.


1:4.  “And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of the place help him with silver, and with gold, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”


Cyrus then commanded those Jews who choose to remain in Babylon, to give to those who would return to Jerusalem, not only a freewill monetary offering for the reconstruction of the Temple, but also for everything else that they could possibly need.


1:5.  “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.”


Those who choose to return to Jerusalem were they in whose hearts God had implanted that desire, reminding us that every activity in which we would engage for God must be at the Spirit’s impulse, otherwise it will prove to be wasted labor.


1:6.  “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, besides all that was willingly offered.”


In addition to what was given as a free-will offering, the Babylonians, and those Jews remaining in Babylon, gave also to their departing brethren silver, gold, costly wares, animals, and miscellaneous articles of value.  And in this God is presenting us with the model for the support of those of our brethren who give themselves full-time to the advancement of His kingdom during this present age.  Those whom He has gifted and called, are to be supported, not by a guaranteed salary, but by the free-will gifts of their brethren and sisters, as the Holy Spirit directs them.


It is instructive to note that here, as frequently in Scripture, silver is listed before gold, and for good reason: silver is the Biblical emblem of redemption; gold, of glory: the lesson being conveyed in this is that redemption precedes glory.  Men are first redeemed here on earth through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, their glorification awaiting their removal to heaven, and their judgment at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ.


1:7.  “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;”


1:8.  “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.”


All the holy vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temples of his idols Cyrus retrieved from those idol shrines, and returned them to the remnant about to begin their journey to Jerusalem, listing the articles carefully, and giving them into the charge of Sheshbazzar the chief prince of Judah, Sheshbazzar being thought to have been the Chaldean name for Zerubbabel which means melted by Babylon.


Mithredath means remainder of law: searching out of law; and Sheshbazzar fine linen in the tribulation.  I regret being unable to read the significance of Mithredath; but Sheshbazzar may point to the truth that even amid all the tribulation they may have to endure here on earth, believers are clothed spiritually in Christ’s righteousness, fine linen being the Biblical emblem of righteousness, as it is written, “... fine linen is the righteousness of saints,” Revelation 19:8.


1:9.  “And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold; a thousand chargers of silver; nine and twenty knives,”


1:10.  “Thirty basons of gold; silver basons of a second sort, four hundred and ten; and other vessels, a thousand.”


A charger was a basin, bowl, or plate, the capacity of which isn’t given here; nor is any information given relative to the composition or use of the twenty-nine knives, though they were probably used in preparing the animals for sacrifice.


Since all scriptural numbers have meaning, and since God’s numerical system is based on seven - the meaning of those greater than seven being determined by factorizing - we discover the significance of thirty by examining its factors, which are two, three, and five.  Two is the number of witness or testimony; three, of the tripartite Godhead; and five, of responsibility, so that the thirty gold chargers are the symbolic witness to the truth that He who has ordained this order of Old Testament worship is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it being the responsibility of all men to obey Him and be blessed, or to disobey Him, and die.


Silver is the biblical symbol of redemption, so the thousand silver chargers remind us that He Who ordained this mode of worship is God the Redeemer; the large number of the chargers speaking of the vast extent of the redemption He freely offers: it is available to every man who will confess himself a sinner, repent, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.  But it extends even further: through the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ, the last Adam, the whole creation will yet be redeemed from the curse brought upon it by the rebellion of the first Adam, see Romans 8:21-22, “Because the creature (creation) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now ....”


Twenty-nine knives were used in preparing the sacrifices, the rule governing the meaning of prime numbers greater than seven seeming to be that one is subtracted, and the remainder factorized, so that twenty-nine becomes one, plus seven multiplied by two raised to the second power. One, as already noted, is the number of God; two, of witness or testimony; and seven, of completeness or perfection, so that the twenty-nine knives speak of God as the Source of all things, as one is the source of every other number.  The two speaks of Him as the perfect Witness to man’s ruined sinful state; while seven speaks of Him in Whom all things are comprehended, as it is written, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty,” Revelation 1:8.


Relative to the numbers three, four, and five: three is the number of resurrection; four, of earth and testing; and five of human responsibility.


1:11.  “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 difference between the number of vessels 2,499 listed in the preceding verses, and the 5,400 mentioned here in verse 11, is usually accounted for by taking the 2,499 to be the number of the more important vessels, and the 5,400 the total number of all the vessels.


That returning remnant is a type of the believing remnant that will emerge from the Great Tribulation into the Millennium; and their bringing with them all the vessels that had been used in connection with the Temple worship, is the symbolic announcement of the fact that the millennial worship, not only of Israel, but of all the nations, will be according to the original Levitical order, the only difference being that whereas the worship of the Old Testament age was anticipative of the Lord’s vicarious death and resurrection, that of the millennial age will be commemorative of His great work.

[Ezra 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough