Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The proclamation of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the temple, Ezr 1:1-4. The people provide for their return, Ezr 1:5, Ezr 1:6. Cyrus restores to Sheshbazzar the vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar out of the temple of Solomon, Ezr 1:7-11.
In the introduction to this book the reader will find the history of Ezra detailed at considerable length. It is only necessary to say here that he is generally allowed among the Jews to have been of the sacerdotal family, and therefore he is called ὁ ἱερευς, the priest by the Septuagint. Among the rabbins he passes for a most extraordinary critic, Divinely authorized to collect and arrange the different portions of the sacred writings, and digest them into a system. How far all they say on this subject is true, we cannot tell; he was, beyond all controversy, a very eminent man; and in all that he did, acted under the immediate direction and inspiration of the Almighty.
This history contains the transactions of about eighty-two years; from the first year of Cyrus in Babylon, according to Archbishop Usher, A.M. 3468, to the nineteenth year of Ardsheer Diraz Dest, or Artaxerxes Longimanus, who sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem, about A.M. 3550. For all other particulars, see the introduction.
Now in the first year - This is word for word with the two last verses of the preceding book; which stand here in their proper place and connection, but there are entirely destitute of chronological connection and reference.
Cyrus - This prince, so eminent in antiquity, is said to have been the son of Cambyses king of Persia, and Mandane, daughter of Astyages king of the Medes; and was born about six hundred years before Christ. Josephus accounts for his partiality to the Jews from this circumstance; that he was shown the places in Isaiah the prophet where he is mentioned by name, and his exploits and conquests foretold: see Isa 44:28; Isa 45:1, etc. Finding himself thus distinguished by the God of the Jews, he was anxious to give him proofs of his gratitude in return; and so made the decree in favor of the Jews, restored their sacred vessels, gave them liberty to return to their own land, and encouraged them to rebuild the temple of Jehovah, etc.
It is very probable that when Cyrus took Babylon he found Daniel there, who had been long famed as one of the wisest ministers of state in all the East; and it is most likely that it was this person who pointed out to him the prophecy of Isaiah, and gave him those farther intimations relative to the Divine will which were revealed to himself. Of his death there are contradictory accounts. Herodotus says, that having turned his arms against the Massagetes, and killed the son of Tomyris their queen, the mother, impatient to avenge the death of her son, sent him a defiance; promised to glut him with blood; and, having attacked him, pretended to be worsted and to fly; and thus she drew him and his army into an ambuscade, where he was routed and slain, and a considerable part of his army destroyed. The enraged queen having found his body, cut off his head, and threw it into a vessel full of human blood, with this most bitter sarcasm: -
Ευ μεν, εμευ ζωσης τε και νικωσης ες μαχην,
απωλεσας παιδα τον εμον, ἑλων δολῳ· σε δ' εγω,
καταπερ ηπειλησα, αἱματος κορεσω.
- Herod. Clio, c. 214.
"Although living and victorious, thou hast destroyed me in slaying my son, whom thou hast overcome by deceit; but, as I have threatened, I will now slake thy thirst with blood."
Cyrus, thy thirst was blood, now drink thy fill.
By - Jeremiah - This prophet, Jer 25:12; Jer 29:11, had foretold that the Babylonish captivity should last only seventy years: these were now ended; Cyrus had given the Jews permission and encouragement to return to Judea, and rebuild the temple of the Lord; and thus the prediction of Jeremiah was fulfilled.
The Lord God of heaven - It is not unworthy of remark, that in all the books written prior to the captivity, Jehovah is called The Lord of Hosts; but in all the books written after the captivity, as 2 Chronicles, Ezra Nehemiah, and Daniel, he is styled The God of Heaven. The words however have the same meaning.
All the kingdoms of the earth. At this time the empire of the Medo-Persians was very extensive: according to ancient writers, Cyrus, at this time, reigned over the Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Armenians, Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Lydians Phoenicians, Babylonians, Bactrians, Indians, Saci, Cilicians, Paphlagonians, Moriandrians, and many others. His empire extended on the East, to the Red Sea; on the North, to the Euxine Sea; on the West, to the island of Cyprus and Egypt; and on the South, to Ethiopia.
Whosoever remaineth in any place - Every one was at liberty to go, but none was obliged to go. Thus their attachment to God was tried; he whose heart was right with God went; he who was comfortably settled in Babylon, might go if he chose. Those who did not go, were commanded to assist their brethren who went.
Vessels of silver - Articles of silver, gold, etc.
The king brought forth the vessels - See on Ezr 1:9-11 (note).
Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah - This was probably the Chaldean name of him who was originally called Zerubbabel: the former signifies joy in affliction; the latter, a stranger in Babylon. The latter may be designed to refer to his captive state; the former, to the prospect of release. Some think this was quite a different person, a Persian or Chaldean, sent by Cyrus to superintend whatever officers or men Cyrus might have sent to assist the Jews on their return; and to procure them help in the Chaldean provinces, through which they might be obliged to travel.
All the vessels - were five thousand and four hundred - This place is without doubt corrupted; here it is said the sum of all the vessels, of every quality and kind, was five thousand four hundred; but the enumeration of the articles, as given in Ezr 1:9, Ezr 1:10, gives the sum of two thousand four hundred and ninety-nine only. But we can correct this account from 1 Esdras 2:13, 14.
I shall set both accounts down, that they may be compared together.
Ezr 1:9, Ezr 1:11 1 Esdras 2:13, 14 Golden chargers 30 Golden cups 1000 Silver chargers 1000 Silver cups 1000 Knives 29 Silver censers 29 Golden basons 30 Golden vials 30 Silver basons, second sort 410 Silver vials 2410 Other vessels 1000 Other vessels 1000 Said to be 5400 - only 2499 Total 5469 Difference of the first account from itself: 2901 Difference of the second account from the first: 69
According, therefore, to the sum total in Ezra, the sum total in Esdras is only 69 different. See the next chapter, Ezra 2 (note).
It may be said that the vessels did actually amount to 5400, and that the chief of them only were intended to be specified; and these happen to amount to 2499; but that it was not the design of Ezra to insert the whole; and that the ninth verse should be considered as stating, And of the chief of them, that is, the gold and silver articles, this is the number. But the expression in Ezr 1:10, other vessels, sets this conjecture aside: the place is most manifestly corrupted.