READING THE BIBLE IN 52 WEEKS
THE BOOK OF EZRA – THE ANSWERS
Please read prayerfully and carefully the book of Ezra and answer these questions that we will discuss in our session on next Wednesday:
1.Who was Ezra and what did his name mean?
ANSWER: Ezra was a scribe and a priest who led the returning exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem and this book is named for him and probably written by him. Ezra’s name meant “God is a help.”
2. Who was King Cyrus and why did he write the great proclamation in Verses 1-4?
ANSWER: King Cyrus was king of Persia (559 B.C. – 530 B.C.), who allowed the captives to return to their homeland Jerusalem. He wrote the proclamation because in Ezra 1:1 it says “the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:” NIV
3. What did King Cyrus’s proclamation do for the Israelites in Babylon, when was it written and in what other Old Testament book and verses did we see the same proclamation before?
ANSWER: The proclamation allowed the Israelites in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. The same proclamation is in the book we just completed 2 Chronicles 36:23. Verse 1 says Cyrus wrote the proclamation in his first year which would have been 538 B.C.
This also fulfilled the popular prophecy and Scripture of Jeremiah 29:10-11 NIV where it says:
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
4. If one were to add up the number of persons in Verses 64 and 65, how many people returned from Babylon in this first wave of returnees?
ANSWER: 49,897, which was just a remnant of what was in Jerusalem before the exile to Babylon because the only two tribes included were Judah and Benjamin.
5. Who led this first group back to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon?
ANSWER: Zerubbabel, whose name meant “begotten in Babylon,” head of the tribe of Judah led them. He’s in Jesus’ genealogy: Luke 3:27 & Matthew 1:12.
6. What was the first thing in the temple that the Jews built upon their return?
ANSWER: They rebuilt the altar of the Temple and then laid the foundation.
7. When the foundation was laid for the new temple some people praised and thanked the LORD while others cried bitterly. Why do you think some praised God while others cried so loud that they could be “heard far away”?
ANSWER: Younger leaders like Zerubbabel praised God because the temple had a foundation and they never saw the former temple. The older priests, Levites and family heads cried because the new temple did not compare with the grandeur of the former temple. 3:12 says some of the older members were shouting for joy!
8. Just like with most church building projects, there were those who opposed the rebuilding of the temple. What two methods did the “old enemies” of the Jews use to try to stop the Jews from rebuilding the temple?
ANSWER: The enemies tried deceit by pretending to want to help the Israelites to build the temple. This was so they could infiltrate and sabotage the building project. When deceit didn’t work, they tried threats and intimidation.
9. In Verse 5, the enemies had some success. What did the enemies do to create fear among the Jews and “frustrate” their building plans during the time of King Cyrus?
ANSWER: The enemies hired “counselors” to harass the builders and it worked pretty well for a while because they started building the temple in 536 and was not finished until 515 which means it took 21 years! Solomon took 7 years!
10. Who wrote the letter to King Artaxerxes? What did the letter say?
ANSWER: Rehum, commanding officer, and other leaders sent the letter to Artaxerxes. The letter accused Jerusalem of being a rebellious and wicked city that should not be rebuilt. They also wrote the new temple would cause reduced taxes being paid to the king’s income for the kingdom. They also told the king he should have the records searched to prove Jerusalem was a rebellious city.
11. How did King Artaxerxes answer the letter and why did he answer that way?
ANSWER: King Artaxerxes ordered the search of the records and found that Jerusalem had a history of many rebellious and powerful kings. And if they got another king, no taxes would be paid to this king. So he ordered his servants to direct the Israelites to stop building the temple.
12. Who were the two prophets Haggai and Zechariah and how did their preaching help to resume the rebuilding of the temple?
ANSWER: Haggai and Zechariah were true prophets of God who had books in the Old Testament named after them among the minor prophets. Haggai’s book is after Zephaniah and Zechariah’s book is just before Malachi. These two prophets encouraged and challenged the Zerubbabel, et. al. to rebuild. See Ezra 6:14; Haggai 1:8; 2:4 & Zechariah 4:7-9.
13. Who challenged the Jews again after they resumed the rebuilding project and what did they ask the Jews to provide?
ANSWER: In Ezra 5:3, it says that “Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates” came to challenge Zerubbabel and Jeshua the priest on building the temple and asked them who authorized them to rebuild the temple and what were the names of the men doing the rebuilding.
14. This time a different letter was written to a different king of Persia. What was this king’s name and what did the letter to that king say?
ANSWER: Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius saying the Israelites were rebuilding the temple quickly and when they were challenged their elders said the great King Cyrus had approved the rebuilding of the temple and authorized funds from the royal treasury to help pay for the rebuilding project. The letter asked King Darius to search the royal records to determine if the elders claim was true.
15. What did this letter show about the importance of the elders of the church knowing the history of the church?
ANSWER: The letter showed that good records are important but even more important the history of a church, group, organization must be kept by the elders and passed down so that their legacy can be preserved and their inheritance protected! Praise God someone knew the story!
16. How did King Darius answer the letter and how did King Darius’ answer show that “the eye of their God” was watching over their work to rebuild the temple?
ANSWER: King Darius ordered the search of the royal records and found that King Cyrus had indeed issued such an order just as the elders had said and then King Darius ordered Tattenai not to interfere with the rebuilding and provide from the royal treasury all the money and items necessary to rebuild the temple. Ezra 5:5 says “the eye of their God” was watching over the temple and God did not allow officials and those who challenged them to stop God’s work. Charity learned NOT let adversaries or adversity stop us from building God’s temple!
17. In which verses was the temple completed and where do we see that after the temple was rebuilt the Jews held their first Passover after returning to Jerusalem?
ANSWER: In Ezra 6:16 the temple was completed and in 6:19 the first Passover after returning to Jerusalem was held 14th day of the first month.
18. We finally meet Ezra in which chapter? What is said about Ezra that lets us know he was a student and an excellent teacher of the word of God?
ANSWER: We meet Ezra in 7:1 and in 7:6 it says, “this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given.”
19. Ezra led the second group of Jews to return voluntarily to Jerusalem. Why was this second group able to return? What was Ezra’s role after they returned to Jerusalem?
ANSWER: They were able to go because Ezra found favor with the king and the king gave a decree allowing all who voluntarily wanted to return to Jerusalem to go back with Ezra and take silver and gold from the king!
20. What did the powerful prayer and confession of Ezra, in Chapter 9 cause the Israelites to do that their ancestors had not done?
ANSWER: Ezra’s prayer and confession in Chapter 9:5-15 made the Israelites confess their sin of disobedience in marrying non-Jews that had led their ancestors to idolatry. They not only confessed their sin but they took an oath with God to stop the sinful practices. They cried as a community and acknowledged their past sins. Instead of looking down on them and referring to “their sins” Ezra identified with the people by saying “our sins.” See Ezra 9:6-7; 13-15.
With the return of exiles from Babylon, what have you learned about the love of God for His people, despite their sinful ways and disobedience?
PLEASE READ NEHEMIAH FOR JULY 5, 2017