Category Archives: Bible Books

Chapter-by-chapter overview of books in the Bible

Prophetic Words of Daniel, Part 2

“Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.’ Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. And he said, ‘Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.'” Daniel 8:15-19

In this passage, Daniel has been granted a vision of the (more immediate) future: the fall of Persia and the rise of the Grecian kingdoms (Alexander the Great and his generals). He was puzzled by the vision, but as always God made a way for Daniel to understand it; this time, God sent His chief messenger angel, Gabriel, to Daniel.

The events Gabriel explains to Daniel have great significance; out of the four kingdoms born of Alexander’s empire, a king would rise and cause great trouble for God’s people. History identifies him as Antiochus IV, the Grecian ruler who desecrated the rebuilt Jewish Temple and tried to force worship of himself and Greek deities. The account of the fight against him is recorded in the four books of the Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha. Eventually, his armies are defeated and godly worship restored; this is evidenced and remembered by the celebration of Hanukkah.

Three things to take from this: 1. While Antiochus IV was certainly the foretold king of this prophecy, other historical figures bear similarities to him, the greatest still to come – the Antichrist. 2. While God may know what is to come, including all the atrocities evil people will commit, His holiness and goodness are not diminished by it – He used Antiochus as a test to increase the faith of His people, and through the Maccabees He preserved the nation Jesus would be born into. 3. God knows our hearts, and when we seek to understand His ways more deeply, He will provide us with exactly what we need. It may be a little scary at times (angels have that effect), and what we learn may be troubling (Daniel’s health was affected by what he learned), but God never gives us anything that He knows we cannot handle.

Prophetic words of Daniel, Part 1

Originally posted on Facebook in January of this year; for those who didn’t get to read it as a post, peruse it here!

“‘I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened'”…”‘I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.'” Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

This chapter begins in the first year of Belshazzar, the party king. Daniel has been God’s spokesman for many years, but now God reaches him in a new way; while he previously interpreted dreams, now God gives the prophet dreams of the future.

This vision is a mirror image of the statue dream Nebuchadnezzar had seen in chapter 2; Daniel saw the four empires as ravaging beasts, which represented their spiritual state. The fourth empire was Rome, which was different because it absorbed other kingdoms into itself rather than consume them, and from Rome is born the kingdom of the Antichrist (represented by the ten horns and the little horn with eyes and a boastful mouth).

After these things, Daniel is granted a vision of God’s court in heaven, where He (the Ancient of days) sits in judgment against the kingdoms of the world. After the judgment sentence has been passed, Jesus appears, is brought near to God, and the Kingdom of God is forever established with Jesus as its king. While both dreams (ch.2 & ch.7) point to the white throne of judgment and new creation of Earth in Revelation 20 & 21, Daniel’s is deeper because he existed in a closer relationship with God than Nebuchadnezzar did; God reached each man according to the state of their hearts.

It is interesting that God is described as the Ancient of Days; it is from a misinterpretation of the simile here that the image of God as an old man comes from. The whiteness of His hair is not due to age, but rather the light that comes from it – it is a picture of the holiness and purity of God’s character. The very term “Ancient of Days” actually points to God’s creation of linear time (and by extension His existence before and outside of it).

Ezra Part 5 (final)

Apologies for my month-long hiatus; things have gotten pretty busy with school this semester.

Finally, the conclusion to the book of Ezra!

June 11, 2012

As I read through Ezra 9, I began to understand why Ezra has such a pivotal place in the book. This eluded me before because I had not yet considered the entire story; I was still 2 chapters from the end! What happens next is a two-part action; I will go into greater detail of the results next time, and for now will focus on the cause.

Having arrived in Judah after Zerubbabel’s rebuilding efforts, Ezra finds out that the Israelites have been drawn into sin again. They have repeated a less-savory part of their history – intermarriage with Gentile nations, producing half-breed children with split loyalties. Ezra grieves when he hears of this, astonished at how quickly Israel has been drawn off the right path once again. After all, they had just returned from exile and rebuilt the Temple; what’s more, Ezra had just arrived, expecting to teach the Law to people eager to learn it! How could they become so complacent so quickly?

It is in this time that we see Ezra’s character shine; instead of turning back and returning to Persia, he stays to confront the problem. At the evening sacrifice (ironically the same time of day when Jesus died centuries later), Ezra prays to GOD, begging forgiveness on behalf of the nation; rather than set himself apart, he acknowledges himself as one of the people and approaches the LORD in that mindset. He recognizes GOD’s love and grace, and how the people have been spared only because of it. He fears that, having come so far and learned nothing, something even worse than exile awaits should the people fail to turn away from this sin. It is during this time, I believe, that GOD is preparing Ezra’s heart and those of the people for the Torah-reading in the final chapter; the first step towards change is to recognize what is wrong. Their hearts will be broken by the guilt for their sins, then GOD may come in and heal them, drawing His children back to Him in the spirit of love.

Then, following this powerful prayer, the events of chapter 10:

June 12, 2012

This chapter explains yet more pain for the former exiles – and perhaps more bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans.

As Ezra mourns, a large crowd gathers to grieve with him, confessing their guilt to GOD. That in itself is a sign of their sincerity; having newly been restored to GOD, they now have caused grief to Him and themselves, and they know it. The path to healing will not be easy, though – GOD will ask something of them that will be most difficult indeed.

GOD’s law expressly forbade intermarriage with non-Jews, just as today Christian doctrine forbids marrying non-believers. The people recognize their sin, and as part of their repentance decide to “put away” the pagan women they have married and the children born by these marriages. In essence, they have pledged to send away their wives and children, ending one relationship to restore the other – their relationship with GOD. They then make a promise to Ezra to support him as he oversees/advises them in this endeavor.

While it was not done overnight, the agreement was made and the great separation began. Beginning with the religious leaders, who should have been leading the way anyway, the men of Judah send away their foreign wives, some of them with children born from the marriages. Division seems to have been a constant part of Israel’s family history; from Abraham to Jacob & Esau to the twelve Patriarchs, it has never been easy – and it should never be so.

One of the hardest thing a father could ever do is send away his wife and/or children. In Scripture, this action is seen in Genesis when Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael at the urging of Sarah and the confirmation of GOD; while GOD promised to watch over Ishmael, it must have been devastating for Abraham to send away his own son, especially in front of Isaac, the son of GOD’s promise and Ishmael’s half-brother. We see it again in Esther when Xerses banishes/divorces his queen, Vashti. When he was looking for a new queen, might he have been comparing each candidate to his former wife, wondering if he would ever experience the same happiness again? That pain and hurt is multiplied to an exponential level, as all these local leaders in Judah send away their pagan wives and half-breed children. Yet the list herein is not meant to condemn, but rather to display those men who were willing to make that choice for GOD’s sake as an example for all who read.

Where could they possibly go? The closest – and most logical – option would be Samaria, and for at least a couple reasons. First, Samaria was in the local area; it would be easiest to travel a short distance to shelter and aid rather than risk returning to whatever home they might have come from. Even had they been able to do so, the children would never have been accepted; being half-Jewish, they would have been given no place among the pureblood Gentile cultures their parents would have come from. The second reason was because of the background of the Samaritans; they too were half-Jewish, and had also been rejected by the now-returned exiles. They were natural allies, and people to whom the newly-turned outcasts could reach out to without fear.

The anger, sorrow, and resentment toward their Jewish brethren would stay with the Samaritans through the centuries, finally being addressed when Jesus Christ came. After preaching to the Jews, Jesus reaches out to certain Samaritans in His ministry. From the woman at the well to the Samaritan leper and the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses the outcast to reach hundreds, and opens the Church to them after His resurrection. GOD healed the wounds between Jew and Samaritan in His time and in His way, bringing them together at the foot of the Cross, covered by the blood of Jesus.

Following GOD wholeheartedly demands that we make very difficult decisions in life; sometimes, that means not going places or doing certain things that our acquaintances and peers do. Other times, it means removing something/someone from your life for GOD’s sake because of the ungodly influence they have on you. Jesus never said that following Him would be easy; that’s why He tells us in the Gospel to pick up the cross. Elsewhere, He compares following Him to a narrow gate/path that few would find; it is also a difficult path to stay on, because there are so many things around that will try to get us to step off. The reward of eternal life with GOD in eternity, however, makes any risk seem small by comparison.

What makes it even better is that, by doing as GOD instructs, we may actually draw people into His kingdom by the Holy Spirit speaking through our actions. So long as we draw breath, there is a chance for everyone and anyone to be redeemed. That is why we should make every effort to live for GOD in our lives; both He and others are watching us, observing what we do. As I close this look at Ezra, I pray that we would remember the events and lessons of the past, carefully note what part they play in our present lives, and what GOD hopes to accomplish with both in the future.

Thus ends our progress through Ezra. I hope this has been a blessing for you to read, and that GOD has spoken to you through it. I will endeavor to post Nehemiah and Esther when I can, and perhaps afterwards go further back in the Bible. A new day lies before me, however, and I must go to meet it. Until next time, dear readers!

Ezra Part 4…

At long last, Ezra arrives on the scene. In the interim after chapter 6, the events of Esther occurred; strangely, however, GOD does not observably speak/move, as though He is giving an opportunity for growth. We are always looking for the next big step in faith, yet forget that GOD moves not by clocks but by the condition of our hearts. Like a crop, we need time to grow and mature; GOD moves again once we are ready for Him. With the Temple rebuilt, the Jews now need to reestablish a working knowledge of the Law, and Ezra will take a leadership role in teaching it. His name means “helper,” and thus is an human example to us of the Holy Spirit’s work. The reconstruction continues, but now the site is in the hearts of the people.

June 8, 2012

Today’s Scripture was Ezra 7; this is the chapter in which Ezra actually appears in the book. He was sent to Judah by the king of Persia to re-teach the Jews the Law of Moses. He traces his lineage back to Aaron, the first high priest of Israel; furthermore, he was an expert on the Law, and was given authority to appoint officials who will assist him in executing judgment according to the Law. In effect, he is rebuilding what Moses started in Exodus, following a visit from Jethro: a way for GOD’s word to be spread and applied throughout the nation without one man having to shoulder the burden alone. This is, I believe, yet another sign of GOD’s provision; the king of Persia gives Ezra the command to do so, and yet I would ask why the Persian king would take such an interest in one of his subject peoples? It can only be because GOD put the thought in his heart; he recognized that GOD had given him the kingdom, and that it was the best course of action to obey his divine Suzerain (superior).

A point of intellectual interest for me is the fact that Artaxerxes gives the Jewish religious leaders immunity from taxation of any kind. It should be noted that these were from the tribe of Levi, who did not possess any land inheritance like the other tribes. It was a point of grace that GOD caused their provision from the offerings and gifts of their brethren, and perhaps in recognition of this fact, the king protects them from the greed of corrupt political officials in his edict to Ezra. This custom must have been a tradition passed on to the Church, as the Medieval church in Europe enjoyed many of the same privileges as the Levitical priesthood.

Although he is a scribe, Ezra’s lineage goes all the way back to Aaron, who was Israel’s first high priest. The rebuilding of the Temple therefore had great significance for him; he was coming home to minister to the nation and reconnecting with his family legacy. In a way, Ezra puts me in mind of the Hasidim, a group of scholars formed during the Exile; their task was to ensure that the people would not break the Law again, resulting in another Babylonian Exile, by studying the Law to its minute details and applying it in the most appropriate way. While their goal was very noble, their practice eventually led to the rise of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time.

Chapter 7 concludes with a little prelude for chapter 8. Ezra enters the book in a first-person narrative. He begins by praising GOD for His mercy in using Artaxerxes to bring Ezra home to the Holy Land, with such a task of faith. Peeking ahead, I find that, apart from this prologue/epilogue, Ezra only gets to speak like this for two more chapters out of the entire ten of the whole book. Despite this, however, his name is credited as the book’s title; he overshadows both Zerubabbel and the high priest. That, I conclude, can only be a reflection of how pivotal a role he will play in what will happen next in Judah’s history. He will be instrumental in returning Israel to a proper relationship with GOD, not just teaching them the Word, but convincing them to live it out.

June 9, 2012

In my Scripture reading today, I perused through the text of Ezra 8. It continues Ezra’s personal account of his journey to Jerusalem, focusing on who traveled with him and the consequences of their journey.

Surprisingly, of all the people who are going up to Jerusalem, Ezra is the only Levite among them until verses 15 to 20. The Levites were essential to worshipping the LORD, yet they had to be drafted into service because so many had become comfortable and did not desire to return to the Promised Land. GOD wants us to be ready when He calls, and doesn’t call us to come at our convenience; we should be ready at any time, ready to go at a moment’s notice, as was symbolized by the Passover tradition in Judaism.

Once again, I see the intent of bringing multiple leaders of the people with Ezra; they are to spread out according to their allotments among the people and be the local “rabbis” (I think), teaching/re-teaching the people the laws and statutes of GOD. This seems to be based off the old system of governance from Moses’ time, and also serves as part of the foundation for traditional Rabbinical Judaism. Having lost the land, the kings, and the Temple, the one identifying mark for the Jews in exile was the Law – and having lived through the consequences of their fathers’ failure to keep it, it was imperative to learn it all the better.

Something else strikes me just now – just as with Chronicles, the Jews make a careful note of their genealogy. To those of us not from the culture, it may seem a tedious task, but for the Jews this was essential, especially having just returned from 70 years in exile. Having undergone relocation time and again in their history, lineage was essential to tracking the identity of the nation and the people who comprised it. It was, after a fashion, a reflection of GOD, whom they served and lived for as His chosen people. To mingle with other nations was to become embroiled in their idol worship – and to lose that identity.

A key point Ezra takes care to record is the fasting prayer he and his companions underwent prior to their journey. They had declined military escort from Artaxerxes, saying that GOD would protect those who sought Him, and Ezra was ashamed to renege on his word. Having placed their faith in GOD’s protection, Ezra wanted to be sure that GOD would guide them along the right path to avoid disaster, which seems oddly reminiscent of the Wilderness Wanderings with Moses. As I continue through the book, it seems that reliving the past, as well as renewal, seem to remain the constant theme.

Also before setting out, Ezra takes a careful tally of everything that they are taking to the Temple, making certain to charge everyone with responsibility over their share of the load. In this way, every member of the journey is held accountable, because another tally will be taken at journey’s end to confirm that everything made it. Ezra makes it clear that this is more than an accounting matter; it is a religious honor/duty, since everything and everyone present is dedicated to serving GOD. This passage also serves as an example for us; at the end of life, we will give an account to GOD for all we have and have done, and when that time comes we should be able to give a favorable account, saying “Yes, GOD, I have wisely used the gifts You gave to me.”

After the journey is completed, a large sacrifice is made as a sign of Israel’s restored communion with GOD; this seems a fitting end to the journey, and yet Ezra’s work has only just begun, as we will see next time.

Ezra, Part 3…

Here, at last, is the third part of Ezra, chapters 5 and 6. Much of these chapters are dominated by letters to and from Persia, but I’ve done my best to boil them down for you. Please don’t hold it against me that I wrote this back in June; I was hesitant about even opening this blog at first, but thanks be to GOD for giving me the courage to do so and the wisdom to seek Him before publishing.

June 6, 2012

For today’s devotional, I read Ezra chapter 5, which continues the account of how the Temple was rebuilt. In the previous chapter, the Jew were approached by Gentiles dwelling in the land; these people were descended from those brought into the land by the Assyrian Empire in 722BC, and who in turn would become the ancestors of the Samaritans. Chapter 4 was the first sign of conflict between the two groups; the Samaritans offered to help the Jews rebuild the Temple, citing their own worship of the LORD since the Assyrian Empire’s invasion, but the Jews refused their offer of aid. Thanks to 2nd Kings 17, we know that the Samaritans’ Gentile ancestors did indeed worship GOD, but only half-heartedly as they continued to worship their idols. This led to further conflict and animosity that would continue until the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church.

After being rebuffed by the Jews, the Samaritans began to hamper the reconstruction efforts, continuing for many years. Following the death of Cyrus, they craftily send an appeal to his successors, claiming that the Jews intend to rebel should their city and Temple be completely rebuilt. As the Persians wrote everything down, an inquiry to the royal archives was made, and a history of the Jews’ past conduct is made. The Persians discover that the Jews do indeed have a record as a thorn in the side of former empires such as Egypt and Babylon, and not wishing to suffer a similar fate, King Artaxerses (mentioned also in Nehemiah) sends a reply commanding for the Jews to cease their labors. Thus, work on the Temple ceases for a number of years.

Chapter 5 shows GOD moving to start things again; He had provided an impetus to rebuild the nation through Cyrus, and now He stepped in to help encourage His people against the opposition. Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, are raised up to speak to the people and, after confronting them for their backsliding, the prophets reignite the reconstruction project. Naturally, this attracts the attention of the Samaritans, who demand to know an explanation. The Jews keep their faith in GOD, who protects them from their enemies, and they send a petition through the Samaritans (how ironic is that?) to King Darius of Persia, citing that they began to rebuild with the permission and urging of Cyrus, requesting that the king search for the proof, which will justify their present labors.

What can be gleaned from this passage? As with any good work, opposition quickly rises, sometimes at a seemingly overwhelming rate. What’s important is to keep on doing what’s right for GOD, even when our neighbors and government seek to oppose and stop the work. Galatians 6 reminds us of this, promising that the reward for our labors will come if we diligently continue in spite of whatever problems may arise to slow us down. GOD is still in control of everything, and so long as we obey and trust in Him, He will continue to work things out, even if the results are not immediately apparent.

June 7, 2012

This morning, I read through Ezra 6, which is in essence Darius’ reply to the Jewish request in the previous chapter. In the letter, we learn that proof of Cyrus’ proclamation was found and thus it has been ratified; Darius does not seek to oppose or subvert it. There are perhaps a couple reasons for this: first of all, the Persians had a legal system where even the kings submitted to the law; once a law was made, even the king himself could not change it. Darius was bound by this tradition, and he respected it by allowing Cyrus’ decree to be fulfilled. I believe, however, that there is another, deeper reason for Darius’ support – GOD worked through Cyrus to bring the Jews home, and now He used Darius to protect them from the Samaritans. In his reply, Darius settles the cultural dispute by commanding the Samaritans to stop causing problems for the Jews, and even going so far as to provide materials for the Jews from his/their own hands. Once again, GOD proves through history that His will shall be done, no matter what men try to do to oppose Him.

What interests me as I look back is that, when the temple was completed and prepared, it was in time for the Passover in the first spring month of their calendar. That is significant, I think, because it symbolized the renewed life of the nation and their covenant with GOD that began in Egypt and at Sinai. They didn’t jump in during the middle or end of the year; GOD provided, and the people were diligent to keep their part, starting from the beginning. (Little side note: my NOAB says that the “king of Assyria” reference is an “anachronistic” reference to the king of Persia, alluding to the earliest exile of Israel under Assyria, which has been reversed/undone.)

In this chapter, we see two different ways Yahweh works His purpose in the lives of humanity; not only does He move through the reigning king to protect His people, but GOD also provided a means for educating, encouraging them in His will through prophets. In essence, the events of this passage reveal another instance of GOD’s sovereignty over the affairs of humanity, just as the Truth Project espouses. Even if the world is in denial about it, GOD still remains in control of all things and works them according to His eternal design.

Ezra Part 1 Epilogue…

A little application note that didn’t make it in with the original post; my apologies for missing it before.
Like Zerubabbel’s return party, we the Church are the few who answer the call of GOD to come and fellowship with Him.  Whether we realize it or not, that makes us a “shining” example, as we are to shine His light to the world, with our lives as examples or testimonies of His transforming work in us.  All who entered the Promised Land were called to be examples for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.

Ezra Part 2…

There was a bit of a gap between the two posts; the first part (chapter 3) began on June 2, while the second half (chapter 4) was begun on July 25.  Until next time, enjoy and be edified!

I was just reading through Ezra chapter 3, when Zerubbabel and some of the people of Judah return from the Babylonian Captivity to rebuild God’s Temple in Jerusalem.  What struck me was the reactions of the people in verses 10 through 13, watching as the foundation of the new Temple is being laid.  The younger generation shouts for joy, while the older generation weeps with sorrow.  Why is that?

Verse 12 tells us that those weeping were those who had seen Solomon’s Temple in their younger days.  That got me thinking: what is the thought behind that, and how does it relate to us today?  The older generation wept because they remembered Judah’s former relationship with God, and how that was reflected in the Temple.  They must have recalled how Judah had abandoned God, and how in the end their sin had robbed them of the Promised Land, the Davidic line of kings, and the Temple.  In short, they were mourning for the past, and that it would never come again.


By contrast, the younger generation shouts for joy to see the Temple being remade.  There are at least a few reasons why: first, they had grown up without the Temple, but had no doubt heard stories about it through their parents.  Second, they are coming home to the Promised Land, and the Temple was a symbol of a renewing/reestablishing of God’s presence and covenant with His people.  Third, having grown up scattered in exile, the laying of the Temple foundation declared that Israel, having received the land and the Temple once more, was now a nation again.  They now had a future as the Chosen People; is it any wonder they shouted for joy?

Both generations had lived most or all of their lives without the Temple; when the captivity first began, the people mourned because they thought that, with the destruction of the Temple, they were exiled from God as well.  Through prophets like Ezekiel, however, God made it clear that He traveled with His people into Babylon and remained in touch with them no matter where they were.  The younger generation, having grown up in that setting, now had a greater and deeper connection with God than they had ever known.  Their joy is comparable to that shown in Jesus’ parables in the Gospels, when the shepherd finds the lost sheep or when the Prodigal Son comes home.  The shepherd and father rejoice, for the lost has been found and the dead has come back to life!  That, I believe, is the attitude the younger generation of Ezra 3 had in their hearts.

How does this apply today?  In the Church, we have two basic backgrounds: I’ll call them Church Children and World Wanderers.  The former group is comprised of those who grew up in the faith, while the latter are believers who came to faith later on after living in the world for a time.  So often, Church Children have the same point of view as the older generation from the exile – focusing so much on the past that they can become calloused to what God is doing in the present, thinking that the future cannot compare to or be greater than what has come before.  The World Wanderers, however, have lived without God for a time, and thus know what it is like to have that emptiness that the Church Children have perhaps never felt.  Oh, that we would all have that joy, content with what God has provided and is doing in our lives than pining over what He has not!

In Ezra 4, we witness local opposition to the Jews rising.  The “adversaries” named herein are most likely the inhabitants of the land north of Judah, where Israel once was.  These are the Samaritans, descendents of Israelites who intermingled with the Gentile settlers brought in by Shalmaneser, the Assyrian monarch who conquered and scattered the 10 northern tribes in 722 BC.  They profess to have worshipped Yahweh (admittedly in their own diluted way) and request a partnership in rebuilding the Temple.  The Jews, however, reject their half-breed brethren, claiming Cyrus’ command was only to them.

This marks the first blow in the conflict between the Jews and Samaritans, which will continue until the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.  The Jews did not believe the Samaritans to be of their fellowship, having mixed themselves with Gentiles in blood and religion, and the Samaritans felt that the pure-blooded Jews unjustly excluded them.  For the next four centuries, they will bear this animosity against each other; such a blood feud will literally divide the land, as in later years the Jews will go so far as travel around Samaria to reach their northern settlements in Galilee.

Having been rejected, the Samaritans use this as an opportunity to frustrate the Jews in their reconstruction efforts.  This may have been their intent all along; in John chapter 4, Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, and she brings up the debate of the “proper” location for worshipping Yahweh.  The Samaritans had a temple of sorts on Mount Gerizim (possibly a “high place,” as described in the Old Testament), while the Jews built the traditional temple on Mount Zion (the “high place” of Jerusalem, where it was at the pinnacle of the city).  From the time of Cyrus all the way to Artaxerxes (three kings later), the Samaritans harass the Jews, but ultimately Yahweh provided for them and the Temple was at last rebuilt.

What can be gleaned from this?  I believe two simple yet profound truths can be found herein: first, with every good work, opposition will inevitably arise.  The second ties into the first: completing the task is much more rewarding when one has persevered through every obstacle along the way.

Ezra Part 1…

Sorry it took so long to post this; finally, the foray into the Exilic period begins!  I’ll get the other four parts (chapters 3 through 10) up ASAP.  Enjoy!

Here, we begin the book of Ezra, which begins after the 70 years of exile are completed.

Ezra picks up where the book of 2nd Chronicles trailed off, with the end of the Exile and Cyrus the Persian’s proclamation that any Jews who were willing should return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the Temple.  It’s unclear how Cyrus came to know of it, but we can be sure that either the prophet Daniel or another Jewish student of prophecy was watching carefully during the Babylonian Captivity for the sign of the return.  That sign – and Cyrus’ part in it – can be found in Isaiah chapters 44 and 45.  Just as He revealed the future to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel through visions, Yahweh was actively moving in it as well, bringing His promises to pass.

Unlike his Babylonian predecessors, Cyrus recognized Yahweh’s authority right off; that he should do so makes him an even more sympathetic figure for the Jews in this book.  He further shows his generosity in two other ways: in his proclamation, Cyrus orders that everyone not going to Jerusalem donate to the cause (as they are able) and he opens the royal treasure rooms, returning the precious Temple tools that the Babylonians took as spoil when they conquered Jerusalem.


The leader of the expedition is listed as Sheshbazzar, “prince of Judah;” the most prominent figure of the book besides Ezra is Zerubbabel.  Some theorize that the two men are either related or simply two names for the same man.  Whichever the case, the leader of the expedition is a descendent of King David through Jeconiah, the boy-king who went into exile about 11 years before Jerusalem’s fall.  This is, perhaps, a sign of Cyrus’ trust; he is giving them a leader from the line of their kings, trusting that they will not rebel against him and that Yahweh has established his throne.  If only we might have seen such faith in Jeroboam, the first king of Israel under the Divided Kingdom.

Ezra 2 may seem somewhat tedious at first glance, but it’s important on multiple levels to understand why they are listed as they are.

First, the Jews have remained as a nation precisely because they put such emphasis on their ancestry, and they kept it carefully recorded to ensure that they would not absorb or be absorbed by any Gentile blood.  They placed high value on their bloodline because they were the LORD’s chosen people, set apart from the other nations for a special purpose.

Another reason these names are so significant is because they were the obedient to both GOD’s and Cyrus’ call.  Of all the Jews who were alive at the time, only a fraction returned to their ancestral home in the Promised Land, and so to be among these faithful few would be a high honor for those who would follow them.

Lastly, by tracing their family lineage, everyone who came knew exactly what their purpose/job would be in Judah’s return to nationhood.  Among those listed are priests, tribal leaders, Levites, various Temple functionaries, royal servants, and others; everyone had a special task to perform, and now that GOD had blessed them with an opportunity for renewal, they would perform it as their predecessors in exile never could.  Theirs would be lives of purpose and faith, as opposed to languishing in foreign lands.

Intro to the post-Exilic period

During the past couple months, I’ve been reading through the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and it’s been a most interesting time as devotionals.  One of the most interesting parts was not only finding out more details behind the histories, but also finding modern applications for them.  For my first endeavor on this blog, I’ll post my OIA (observations, interpretations, and applications); please let me know if you find something else or anything I’ve missed.  I’ve found the best way to present the books is in two-chapter portions; I hope you enjoy perusing them as much as I did writing them!