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The Decree of Cyrus

[a] In the first[b] year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the Lord’s message spoken through[c] Jeremiah,[d] the Lord motivated[e] King Cyrus of Persia to issue[f] a proclamation[g] throughout his kingdom and also to put it in writing. It read:[h]

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“‘The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed[i] me to build a temple[j] for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

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  1. Ezra 1:1 sn In addition to the canonical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, there are two deuterocanonical books that are also called “Ezra.” Exactly how these books are designated varies in ancient literature. In the Septuagint (LXX) canonical Ezra is called Second Esdras, but in the Latin Vulgate it is called First Esdras. Our Nehemiah is called Third Esdras in some manuscripts of the LXX, but it is known as Second Esdras in the Latin Vulgate. (In the earliest LXX manuscripts Ezra and Nehemiah were regarded as one book, as they were in some Hebrew manuscripts.) The deuterocanonical books of Ezra are called First and Fourth Esdras in the LXX, but Third and Fourth Esdras in the Latin Vulgate. The titles for the so-called books of Ezra are thus rather confusing, a fact that one must keep in mind when consulting this material.
  2. Ezra 1:1 sn The first year of Cyrus would be ca. 539 b.c. Cyrus reigned in Persia from ca. 539-530 b.c.
  3. Ezra 1:1 tc The MT reads מִפִּי (mippi, “from the mouth of”), but this should probably be emended to בְּפִי (befi, “by the mouth of”), which is the way the parallel passage in 2 Chr 36:22 reads. This is also reflected in the LXX, which is either reflecting an alternate textual tradition of בְּפִי or is attempting to harmonize Ezra 1:1 in light of 2 Heb “from the mouth of.”
  4. Ezra 1:1 sn Cf. Jer 29:10; 25:11-14. Jeremiah had prophesied that after a time of seventy years the Jews would return “to this place.” How these seventy years are to be reckoned is a matter of debate among scholars. Some understand the period to refer to the approximate length of Babylon’s ascendancy as a world power, beginning either with the fall of Nineveh (612 b.c.) or with Nebuchadnezzar’s coronation (605 b.c.) and continuing till the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 b.c. Others take the seventy years to refer to the period from the destruction of the temple in 586 b.c. till its rebuilding in 516 b.c.
  5. Ezra 1:1 tn Heb “stirred the spirit of.” The Hebrew noun רוּחַ (ruakh, “spirit”) has a broad range of meanings (see BDB 924-26 s.v.). Here, it probably refers to (1) “mind” as the seat of mental acts (e.g., Exod 28:3; Deut 34:9; Isa 29:24; 40:13; Ezek 11:5; 20:32; 1 Chr 28:12; cf. BDB 925 s.v. 6) or (2) “will” as the seat of volitional decisions (e.g., Exod 35:5, 22; Pss 51:12, 14; 57:8; 2 Chr 29:31; cf. BDB 925 s.v. 7). So also in v. 5. The entire phrase “stirred the spirit” has been rendered as “motivated” to better reflect normal English.
  6. Ezra 1:1 tn Heb “caused to pass.”
  7. Ezra 1:1 tn Heb “a voice.” The Hebrew noun קוֹל (qol, “voice, sound”) has a broad range of meanings, including the metonymical (cause—effect) nuance “proclamation” (e.g., Exod 36:6; 2 Chr 24:9; 30:5; 36:22; Ezra 1:1; 10:7; Neh 8:15). See BDB 877 s.v. 3.a.2.
  8. Ezra 1:1 tn Heb “in writing, saying.”sn For an interesting extrabiblical parallel to this edict see the Cyrus cylinder (ANET 315-16).
  9. Ezra 1:2 tn Or “instructed.”
  10. Ezra 1:2 tn Heb “house.” The Hebrew noun בַּיִת (bayit, “house”) is often used in reference to the temple of Yahweh (BDB 108 s.v. 1.a). This is also frequent elsewhere in Ezra and Nehemiah (e.g., Ezra 1:3, 4, 5, 7; 2:68; 3:8, 9, 11, 12; 4:3; 6:22; 7:27; 8:17, 25, 29, 30, 33, 36; 9:9; 10:1, 6, 9).