Ezra 1:1-2 -
"Cyrus, king of Persia" - until ca. 650 BC the Persians were a relatively small nation, living to the north of what is now the Persian Gulf. Around 650 BC Zarathustra (Zoroaster) founded Zoroastrianism, a dualistic religion which teaches that the Universe is a battle-ground between a Good God (Ahura-Mazda) and a Bad God (Shaitan). The Persians set out to conquer the world for Ahura-Mazda. Cyrus was probably a Zoroastrian, and wanted to enlist the gods of all other nations in the battle for Ahura-Mazda. The dates given for Cyrus in the text-book need some explanation - he ascended the throne of Persia ca. 559 BC, and conquered the Kingdom of the Medes ca. 550 BC, but did not conquer Babylon until ca. 539 BC. The "Edict of Cyrus:, which allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
Ezra 1:8 - "Sheshbazzar, prince of Judah" - his name was Babylonian rather than Hebrew; he may have been a son of Jeconiah (I Chronicles 3:18)
Ezra 2:2 - Zerubbabel may have been another name for Sheshbazzar, or this may be a second group of people returning from the Exile.
Ezra chapter 2 - The genealogy was very important to the returning Jews - it allowed them to show whether or not someone was legally a Jew.
Ezra 2:63 - "the Tirshatha" - a title meaning "Governor" - Judah was no longer an indepemdemt nation, but was now a province of the Persian Empire.
Ezra 2:63 - the Urim and Thumim were used by the Priests to find God's will when pronouncing judgements to the people (Exodus 28:30)
Ezra 3:11 - see Psalms 118, 136 & 106
Ezra 4:1-2 - "the adversaries of Judah" - in the Hebrew lierally "the sons of the transportation" - these were the descendents of the peoples who were moved into northern Israel by the Assyrians after the Fall of the Northern Kingdom (see II Kings 17:24-41) - they worshipped God, but also continued to worship other gods and godesses as well. They were the ancestors of the Samaritans, who only accept the Pentateuch as being Scripture, and who do not include the Prophets in their "Bible". Esar-haddon, king of Asshur (Assyria) was the son of Sennacherib, the king who invaded Judah and beseiged Jerusalem, and who was mudered by two of his other sons (see II Kings 19:32-37)
Ezra 4:5 - from the days of Cyrus the Persian until the reign of Darius king of Persia : Cyrus the Persian (Cyrus II) conquered Media 549 BC, then Lydia in 546 BC, and Babylonia in 539 BC. He reigned as king of Babylon 539-530 BC. Darius I reigned 522-486 BC
Ezra 4:6 - Ahasuerus - the Persian form of the name of Xerxes I, who ruled 486-465 BC and who married Esther
Ezra 4:7 - Artaxerxes I ruled 465-424 BC
Ezra 4:10 - Asnapper - refers either to Esar-haddon or to his son Ashurbanipal
Ezra 4:12 - "the Jews . . " from now on, the term "Israelite" drops out of use, and is replaced by "Judahite" or "Jew", as the territory round Jerusalem had belonged to the tribe of Judah.
Ezra 4:24 - the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia - ca. 520 BC.
Ezra 5:1 - the prophets Haggai and Zechariah - their prophecies are contained in the Biblical books named for them.
Ezra 6:15 - the sixth year of the reign of king Darius - ca. 516 BC.
Ezra 7:1 - "in the reign of Artaxerxes" - ca. 465-424 BC
Ezra 7:7 - the Nethinim were Temple servants who may have been non-jewish slaves. The seventh year of Artaxerxes was around 458 BC.
Ezra 8:1-14 - the genealogy was important because only those who could trace their genealogy back to jewish ancestors could be counted as part of the nation.
Ezra 8:21-22 - Ezra had told the king that God would look after them, but now he realized that they had to cross potentially hostile territory, carrying a large amount of gold and silver which would attract thieves and robbers. So he called for a time of fasting and prayer before starting the journey.
Ezra 9:1-2 - some of those who had returned earlier had entered into marriages with foreigners. The Priests in particular were only supposed to marry someone from the family of Aaron.
Ezra 9:8 - "a remnant" - only a relatively few Jews returned from the Exile - the majority chose to remain in Babylon.
Ezra 9:12 - see Exodus 34:12-16, Deuteronomy 7:3-6
Ezra 10:44 - the children of the foreign wives, who had been brought up to worship several gods and goddesses were not eligible for inclusion in the nation.
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated: April 9, 2008