Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, Ezra 1:1
Chapter 1-6. The First Return
The return commanded: 1:1-11. In Cyrus’ first year the decree permitting the return of the Jews is issued. This may be due in part to Daniel’s influence (cf. Dan. 10:1). The prophecy mentioned in 1:1 was made by Jeremiah, identifying the length of time the Jews would be captive in Babylon. The 70-year period was fixed in order that the land might “enjoy its Sabbath rests” (2 Chron. 36:21). OT Law said that every 7th year the land was not to be planted. The Hebrews would live from the extra harvest granted the 6th year. But for 490 years this commandment had been ignored. So God gave the land its rest, by removing his people to Babylon!
21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. 2 Chron. 36:21
Cyrus also permitted other peoples to return home and to bring their idols. The Jews were permitted to bring gold and silver articles used in the temple worship, plus freewill offerings from those Jews who chose to stay in Babylon.
The Proclamation of King Cyrus
11 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
Comments: In addition to not worshipping idols, it is also important to keep the Sabbath day. Work 6 days and rest on the 7th day. Keep it holy and remember our God. The latter is hard for many of us. We are always busy doing things to provide for ourselves. Let’s change that in obedience of God’s command. Let us learn to trust God who made us is also our provider, always.
In this chapter, we learn that God even uses pagan kings such as King Cyrus of Persia like chess pieces to provide for His people.