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Cyrus Allows the Exiles to Return

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia,[a] the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah.[b] He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.

King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah.[c] This is a list of the items that were returned:

gold basins30
silver basins1,000
silver incense burners[d]29
10 gold bowls30
silver bowls410
other items1,000

11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and silver. Sheshbazzar brought all of these along when the exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Exiles Who Returned with Zerubbabel

Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

This is the number of the men of Israel who returned from exile:

The family of Parosh2,172
The family of Shephatiah372
The family of Arah775
The family of Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab)2,812
The family of Elam1,254
The family of Zattu945
The family of Zaccai760
10 The family of Bani642
11 The family of Bebai623
12 The family of Azgad1,222
13 The family of Adonikam666
14 The family of Bigvai2,056
15 The family of Adin454
16 The family of Ater (descendants of Hezekiah)98
17 The family of Bezai323
18 The family of Jorah112
19 The family of Hashum223
20 The family of Gibbar95
21 The people of Bethlehem123
22 The people of Netophah56
23 The people of Anathoth128
24 The people of Beth-azmaveth[e]42
25 The people of Kiriath-jearim,[f] Kephirah, and Beeroth743
26 The people of Ramah and Geba621
27 The people of Micmash122
28 The people of Bethel and Ai223
29 The citizens of Nebo52
30 The citizens of Magbish156
31 The citizens of West Elam[g]1,254
32 The citizens of Harim320
33 The citizens of Lod, Hadid, and Ono725
34 The citizens of Jericho345
35 The citizens of Senaah3,630

36 These are the priests who returned from exile:

The family of Jedaiah (through the line of Jeshua)973
37 The family of Immer1,052
38 The family of Pashhur1,247
39 The family of Harim1,017

40 These are the Levites who returned from exile:

The families of Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah)74
41 The singers of the family of Asaph128
42 The gatekeepers of the families of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai139

43 The descendants of the following Temple servants returned from exile:

Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
44 Keros, Siaha, Padon,
45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
46 Hagab, Shalmai,[h] Hanan,
47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim,
51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
54 Neziah, and Hatipha.

55 The descendants of these servants of King Solomon returned from exile:

Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
56 Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
57 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.

58 In all, the Temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants numbered 392.

59 Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Kerub, Addan, and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel. 60 This group included the families of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda—a total of 652 people.

61 Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) 62 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. 63 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.

64 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, 65 in addition to 7,337 servants and 200 singers, both men and women. 66 They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

68 When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, 69 and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins,[i] 6,250 pounds[j] of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.

70 So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.

The Altar Is Rebuilt

In early autumn,[k] when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak[l] joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening.

They celebrated the Festival of Shelters as prescribed in the Law, sacrificing the number of burnt offerings specified for each day of the festival. They also offered the regular burnt offerings and the offerings required for the new moon celebrations and the annual festivals as prescribed by the Lord. The people also gave voluntary offerings to the Lord. Fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began,[m] the priests had begun to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. This was even before they had started to lay the foundation of the Lord’s Temple.

The People Begin to Rebuild the Temple

Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[n] to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.

The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring,[o] during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites. The Levites who were twenty years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple. The workers at the Temple of God were supervised by Jeshua with his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons, all descendants of Hodaviah.[p] They were helped in this task by the Levites of the family of Henadad.

10 When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. 11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:

“He is so good!
    His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”

Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.

12 But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. 13 The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.

Footnotes

  1. 1:1a The first year of Cyrus’s reign over Babylon was 538 B.c.
  2. 1:1b See Jer 25:11-12; 29:10.
  3. 1:8 Hebrew Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
  4. 1:9 The meaning of this Hebrew word is uncertain.
  5. 2:24 As in parallel text at Neh 7:28; Hebrew reads Azmaveth.
  6. 2:25 As in some Hebrew manuscripts and Greek version (see also Neh 7:29); Hebrew reads Kiriath-arim.
  7. 2:31 Or of the other Elam.
  8. 2:46 As in an alternate reading of the Masoretic Text (see also Neh 7:48); the other alternate reads Shamlai.
  9. 2:69a Hebrew 61,000 darics of gold, about 1,100 pounds or 500 kilograms in weight.
  10. 2:69b Hebrew 5,000 minas [3,000 kilograms].
  11. 3:1 Hebrew In the seventh month. The year is not specified, so it may have been during Cyrus’s first year (538 B.c.) or second year (537 B.c.). The seventh month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred within the months of September/October 538 B.c. and October/November 537 B.c.
  12. 3:2 Hebrew Jozadak, a variant spelling of Jehozadak; also in 3:8.
  13. 3:6 Hebrew On the first day of the seventh month. This day in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred in September or October. The Festival of Shelters began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.
  14. 3:7 Hebrew the sea.
  15. 3:8 Hebrew in the second month. This month in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred within the months of April and May 536 B.c.
  16. 3:9 Hebrew sons of Judah (i.e., bene Yehudah). Bene might also be read here as the proper name Binnui; Yehudah is probably another name for Hodaviah. Compare 2:40; Neh 7:43; 1 Esdras 5:58.

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