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Proclamation of Cyrus

Now in the [a]first year of [b]Cyrus king of Persia [that is, the first year he ruled Babylon], in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah [the prophet], the Lord stirred up (put in motion) the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:(A)

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The [c]Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is God who is in Jerusalem. In any place where a survivor (Jewish exile) may live, let the men (Gentiles) of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”

Holy Articles Restored

Then the heads of the fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, all those whose spirits God had stirred up, [d]arose to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. All those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle, and with valuable things, in addition to all that was given as a freewill offering. Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem [when he captured that city] and had put in the house of his gods. And Cyrus, king of Persia, had Mithredath the treasurer bring them out, and he counted them out to [e]Sheshbazzar, the governor (leader) of Judah. And they counted: 30 dishes (basins) of gold, 1,000 dishes of silver, 29 duplicates; 10 30 [small] gold bowls, 410 [small] silver bowls of a second kind, and 1,000 other articles. 11 All the articles of gold and of silver totaled 5,400. All these Sheshbazzar [the governor] brought up with the exiles who went from Babylon up to Jerusalem.

Number of Those Returning

Now these are [f]the people of the province [of Judah] who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had deported to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own city. These came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, [g]Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, [h]Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.

The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons (descendants) of Parosh, 2,172; the sons of Shephatiah, 372; the sons of Arah, 775; the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812; the sons of Elam, 1,254; the sons of Zattu, 945; the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2,056; 15 the sons of Adin, 454; 16 the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98; 17 the sons of Bezai, 323; 18 the sons of Jorah, 112; 19 the sons of Hashum, 223; 20 the sons of Gibbar, 95; 21 the men of Bethlehem, 123; 22 the men of Netophah, 56; 23 the men of Anathoth, 128; 24 the sons of Azmaveth, 42; 25 the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743; 26 the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621; 27 the men of Michmas, 122; 28 the men of Bethel and Ai, 223; 29 the sons of Nebo, 52; 30 the sons of Magbish, 156; 31 the sons of the other Elam, 1,254; 32 the sons of Harim, 320; 33 the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725; 34 the men of Jericho, 345; 35 the sons of Senaah, 3,630.

Priests Returning

36 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 973; 37 the sons of Immer, 1,052; 38 the sons of Pashhur, 1,247; 39 the sons of Harim, 1,017.

Levites Returning

40 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai, in all 139.

43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, 44 the sons of Keros, Siaha, Padon, 45 the sons of Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, 46 the sons of Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan, 47 the sons of Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, 48 the sons of Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, 49 the sons of Uzza, Paseah, Besai, 50 the sons of Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim, 51 the sons of Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, 52 the sons of Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, 53 the sons of Barkos, Sisera, Temah, 54 the sons of Neziah, Hatipha.

55 The sons of [King] Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, Hassophereth (Sophereth), Peruda, 56 the sons of Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, 57 the sons of Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-hazzebaim, Ami.

58 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants totaled 392.

59 Now these are the ones who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, but they could not provide evidence of their fathers’ households and their descendants, whether they were of Israel: 60 the sons of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, 652.

Priests Removed

61 Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, of Hakkoz, and of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was known by their name.(B) 62 These searched [for their names] among those registered in the genealogies, but they were not found; so they were excluded from the priesthood as [ceremonially] unclean. 63 The [i]governor told them that they should not eat of the most holy things [the priests’ food] until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim [who by consulting these articles in his breastplate could [j]determine God’s will in the matter].

64 The whole assembly totaled 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and [among them] they had 200 male and female singers. 66 Their horses totaled 736; their mules, 245; 67 their camels totaled 435; their donkeys, 6,720.

68 Some of the [k]heads of the fathers’ households (extended families), when they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, made voluntary contributions for the house of God to rebuild it on its [old] foundation. 69 They gave according to their ability to the treasury for the work, 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priestly [linen] garments.

70 So the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants settled in their [own] cities, and all Israel [gradually settled] into their cities.

Altar and Sacrifices Restored

When the seventh month came and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the [l]Law of Moses, the man of God. So they set up the altar on its [old] foundation, [m]for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, morning and evening. They celebrated the Feast of [n]Booths, as it is written, and offered the fixed number of daily burnt offerings, in accordance with the ordinances, as each day required; and afterward, there was the continual burnt offering, the offering at the New Moons, and at all the appointed festivals of the Lord that were consecrated, and the offerings of everyone who made a voluntary offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. They gave money to the masons and to the carpenters, and gave food, drink, and [olive] oil to the people from Sidon and Tyre, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the seaport of Joppa, in accordance with the authorization they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

Temple Restoration Begun

In the second year of their coming to God’s house at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began [the work], with the rest of their brothers—the priests and Levites and all who came to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers stood united with Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah and the sons of Henadad with their sons and brothers the Levites, to oversee the workmen in the house of God.

10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with their cymbals, to praise the Lord in accordance with the directions of David king of Israel. 11 They sang [responsively], praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness (mercy) toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first house (temple), wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.


  1. Ezra 1:1 Cyrus the Great captured Babylon in Oct 539 b.c. This was about seventy years after the first Hebrew captives were taken to Babylon.
  2. Ezra 1:1 Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire and ruled from 559-530 b.c. His kingdom extended from Turkey in the west to the Indus River in the east, covering most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia. He was a great soldier as well as a wise and benevolent king, whose respect for religious freedom led to the return of the Hebrew captives to Jerusalem. Ancient historians report that the tomb assumed to be his was visited by Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.) when he conquered Persepolis in 330 b.c. The tomb still exists among the ruins of Pasargadae in modern Iran.
  3. Ezra 1:2 It is remarkable that Cyrus actually used God’s special name, the tetragrammaton YHWH (traditionally rendered “Lord”). Certainly Cyrus recognized the true God, but he probably considered Him as one of a number of existing gods, as was typical for a polytheist. For Cyrus God of heaven probably meant just that, along with God of Israel and the God who is in Jerusalem (v 3).
  4. Ezra 1:5 The Hebrew verb “to stand” or “arise” is often an instruction to get ready to fulfill a command, somewhat similar to the military command “attention.”
  5. Ezra 1:8 There is occasionally a debate over the identities of Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel. Sheshbazzar was an older Jewish official who was appointed by Cyrus and served in Judah (5:24). Zerubbabel was a younger man who was recognized as a political leader among the Jews. He was the son of Shealtiel and an ancestor of Jesus (5:2; Matt 1:12, 13).
  6. Ezra 2:1 Tens of thousands of the Jews returned, but many of the exiles declined the offer and remained in Babylon.
  7. Ezra 2:2 Not the author of the Book of Nehemiah.
  8. Ezra 2:2 Not the relative of Esther.
  9. Ezra 2:63 Heb Tirshatha, a Persian title. Probably either Sheshbazzar or Zerubbabel.
  10. Ezra 2:63 But the effort doubtless would have been in vain. Long-standing disobedience had apparently caused Israel’s priests to forfeit the divine gift of guidance through Urim and Thummim, and it was never recovered. Except for a similar incident in Neh 7:65, Urim and Thummim are not again mentioned in the Scriptures. The higher revelation by the prophets superseded them as interpreters of the will of God (see also Ex 28:30; Amos 3:7).
  11. Ezra 2:68 I.e. patriarchs.
  12. Ezra 3:2 The Hebrew word here is torah, usually translated “law.”
  13. Ezra 3:3 Lit for a state of terror was upon them. Some prefer “in spite of the hostility [or fear] upon them,” indicating that setting up the altar was an act of bravery in the face of external threats. But the real problem seems to be that they had delayed construction of the temple, even on the foundation (vv 6, 10), for fear of their neighbors. So now they conducted services in the open, with the bare minimum of the altar in its proper position. One can credit Zerubbabel and his associates (v 2) for taking the initiative to begin worship services and festivals, but having to do so with nothing more than the altar paints a pathetic picture, especially since the nation had the full support of Cyrus.
  14. Ezra 3:4 Or Tabernacles.

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