Hour Ten: Post-Exile History Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Hour Ten: Post-Exile History

Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Although Esther comes after Nehemiah, its events antedate Nehemiah

by about 30 years. Esther made possible the work of Nehemiah: Except

for her, Jerusalem might never have been rebuilt, and there might have

been a very different story to tell to all future ages. If the Hebrew nation

had been wiped out 500 years before it brought Christ into the world, it

might have made a gigantic difference in the destiny of mankind! No

Messiah for a lost world…

The Book of Ezra: The Rebuilding of the Temple

Cryus II (“the Great,” 559-530 B.C.) was the founder of the Achaemenid

Persian Empire. Cyrus’ father, Cambyses I (600-559 B.C.), was king of

Anshan, a region in eastern Elam (Persia). His mother was Mandane, a

daughter of Astyages, king of Media (585-550 B.C.). When Cambyses

died in 559 B.C., Cyrus inherited the throne of Anshan and, after unifying

the Persian people, attacked his father-in-law, the weak and corrupt

Astyages. (The Median general Harpagus, whom Astyages had previously

wronged, deserted the king and brought his army to the side of the

young Cyrus.)

Astyages was soon captured and the Persians took the capital city of

Ecbatana in 550 B.C. without a battle. (This was also to be the result at

Babylon 11 years later.) Cyrus succeeded in welding the Medes and

Persians into a unified nation. that continued for two centuries until the

time of Alexander the Great (331 B.C.).

The Conquest of Babylon

On October 12, 539 B.C., Cyrus’ general captured Babylon without a battle:

The Persians diverted the River Euphrates into a canal upriver so that the

water level dropped “to the height of the middle of a man’s thigh,” which

thus rendered the flood defenses useless and enabled the invaders to march

through the river bed to enter by night.

Herodotus

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure:

even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy

foundation shall be laid.

Isaiah 44:27, 28

“My Shepherd”: Unlike previous conquerors, Cyrus would prove

favorable to the Jews

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have

holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings,

to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break

in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:

Isaiah 45:1,2

“His Anointed”: a Gentile king!? “Subdue nations”: 46 nations, among

which were the: Medes, Babylonians, Lydians, Carians, Caunians,

Lysians, Bactrians, Sacae, Parthians, Hyracanians, Chorasmians,

Sogdians, Arians of Heiat, Zerangians, Arachosians, Satagydians,

Gandarians, et al.

“Loose the loins of kings”: Dan 5:6!

When Isaiah wrote this Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. Yet, here

he notes that even the foundation will be rebuilt (implying, at the time

of writing, that it will be destroyed).

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret

places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name,

am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast

not known me. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside

me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

Isaiah 45:3-5

Cyrus’ Response

Cyrus was duly impressed. He freed the captives and returned the

vessels that had been plundered from the Temple 70 years earlier. He

even gave them incentives to return to their homeland and rebuild their

temple (2 Chr 36:22; Ezra 1:1-4). Only about 50,000 Jews responded to this

royal proclamation and returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of

Zerubbabel.

The Stele of Cyrus

This cylinder, discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in the 19th century, can

presently be seen in the British Museum in London.

“…without any battle, he entered the town, sparing any calamity; … I

returned to sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of

which have been ruins for a long time… and established for them permanent

sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to

them their habitations.”

British Museum, London

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, “The LORD God of heaven hath given

me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an

house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his

people? 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 the God,) which

is in Jerusalem.”

Ezra 1:2-3

The focus is the Temple, not the city. That will be the burden of Nehemiah

later… Ezra is the robable author of 1 & 2 Chronicles also: 1 & 2

Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah = 1 book. He is credited with establishing the

“canon.”

Return from Exile

• 538 B.C.: 49,697 under Zerubbabel.

• 515 B.C.: (23 years later); Temple finally rebuilt (Book of Esther).

• 458 B.C.: (57 years later); 2,000 additional under Ezra.

• 445 B.C.: (13 years later); Nehemiah obtains authority for Jerusalem.

The Book of Esther: “Something Hidden”

Persia was an awe to the ancient world and Xerxes I is the Ahasuerus

of Esther: Khshayarsha, Greek translation: Xerxes; Hebrew:

Akhashverosh; English: Ahasuerus. Xerxes dishonored the remains of

the heroic Spartan, Leonidas. He cut a canal through the Isthmus ofAthos for his fleet (!) but his bridge over the Hellespont was destroyed

by a tempest just after completion. Blindly enraged, he commanded 300

strokes of a scourge to inflicted on the sea, and a pair of fetters to be

thrown into it at the Hellespont; and then had the builders beheaded.

Pythius, the Lydian, offered a sum equivalent to 5 ½ million towards

expenses of a military expedition; Xerxes so impressed that he returned

the money accompanied by a handsome present. When requested that

he spare just one of Pythius’ sons from the expedition (the eldest), as

sole support in his declining years, Xerxes ordered the son cut into

pieces and the army to march between them.

Book of Esther: He was just the despot to dethrone Queen Vashti for

refusing to expose herself before his tipsey guests; he was just the one

to consign the Jewish people to be exterminated; and then swing to the

opposite extreme of sanctioning Jewish vengeance on thousands of

other subjects.

The Drama

There was a lavish royal banquet. Queen Vashti refused to immodestly

display herself and forfeited her royal diadem. Esther, orphaned Jewish

girl, raised by her cousin Mordecai, was selected as her replacement.

Mordecai thwarts a plot against the king

Mordecai

• David declined to take vengeance Shimei (2 Sam 16:5-13; 19:16-23).

• Mordecai was a descendant of Shimei, of the House of Kish, the

father of King Saul, a product of David’s grace.

• He will ultimately confront Haman, the result of Saul’s failure to

follow God’s instructions.

• He refuses to do obeisance to Haman…

The Flesh vs. The Spirit

• Jacob and Esau, struggling since the womb (Gen 25:21-34);

• Amalek descended from Esau (Gen 36:12);

• Amalek fought with Israel at Rephidim (Ex 17:8-16);

• Doom foretold (Balaam, Num 24:20; Moses, Deut 25:17-19).

• Saul’s Failure

– Instructed to destroy the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:1-3);

– Spared Agag, King of Amalekites

– Kingdom taken from Saul (1 Sam 15:7-28);

• Haman was a descendant of Agag (Est 3:1).

The Deadly Threat

• Haman succeeds in getting the king to order the extermination of all

the Jews.

• Mordecai prevails upon Esther to intercede:

– “Thou art come for such a time as this.”

– “If I perish, I perish.”

• She asks for three days of fasting and prayer.

The Critical Moment

• Esther enters the inner court; the king extends his sceptre.

• She invites the king and Haman to a banquet.

• She demurs: she invites them to a subsequent banquet…

Her deferral sets the stage…Haman, in his gloating, prepares a gallows

(a tree, actually) for Mordecai; during the sleepless night, the king

reviews the chronicles and realizes that Mordecai’s foiling the plot

against the king was never rewarded…

What a Day Brings…

• A gloating Haman prepares a gallows.

• A sleepless king reads the chronicles. – Mordecai was never rewarded for his deed.

• Haman unknowingly specifies Mordecai’s reward.

The Second Banquet

• Esther asks for her life to be spared.

• An astonished king ponders Haman’s deceits.

• Haman falls on Esther’s couch to plead.

• The king, returning, misconstrues the move and orders Haman

hanged…on the very “gallows” he built for Mordecai!

The Denouement

• Haman’s estate escheat to the crown:

– Set under Mordecai’s supervision.

• A second decree authorizes the Jews to defend themselves:

– 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia;

– Magistrates also assist them…

• Celebrated as The Feast of Purim.

The Ten Sons of Haman

Parshandatha Curious Self busy-body

Dalphon Weeping Self self-pity

Aspatha Assembled Self self-mobilized;

self-sufficiency

Poratha Generous Self spend-thriftiness;

self-indulgence

Adalia Weak Self self-consciousness;

inferiority

Aridatha Strong Self assertiveness;

insists upon one’s way

Parmashta Preeminent Self ambition; desire for

preeminence

Arisai Bold Self imprudence

Aridai Dignified Self pride; haughtiness;

sense of superiority

Vaizatha Pure Self worst of all:

self-righteousness

The Book of Esther

• Name of God does not appear? Esther = “Something Hidden”

(hidden due to their Lo-ammi condition…Ironside, pp 110ff).

Hidden Codes: 5 Acrostics; 3 Equidistant Letter Sequences: The name

of God is hidden no less than eight times in the text. Four times it appears

as an acrostic, the hwhy (the famed Tetragammaton, “YHWH” or “Yahweh”

or “YeHoVaH”); once as hyha (“EHYH” or “I AM”). It also appears as

Meshiach (“Messiah”), Yeshua (“Jesus”), and El Shaddai (“The Almighty”),

in equidistant letter sequences.

Lessons from Esther

God, although operating invisibly behind the scenes, was clearly

orchestrating His plan caring for His people. Mordecai was a result of

David’s grace. Haman was the result of Saul’s failure. What are the

implications for today?

A Chain of Gold (thanks to Pastor Joe Focht)

Edward Kimball had a burden for one of his Sunday school students to

know Jesus as Lord and Savior. He went to see him at the shoe store

where he worked and led him to Christ in the shoe store. His name?

Dwight L. Moody.

That young man, Dwight L. Moody, went on to become an evangelist

whose ministry rocked two continents. While preaching in the British

Isles, Moody spoke in a mall chapel pastored by Federick Brotherton

Meyer. In his sermon Moody told an emotionally charged story of a

Sunday School teacher he knew who personally went to every student

in his class and won them to Christ. The message changed Pastor

Meyer’s entire ministry, inspiring him to become an evangelist.

Over the years, Meyer came to America several times to preach. Once

in Northfield, Massachusetts a confused young preacher sitting in the

back row heard Meyer say, “If you are not willing to give everything to

God, are you willing to be made willing?” That remark led J. Wilbur

Chapman to accept the call of God on his life.

Chapman went on to become one of the most effective evangelists of his

time. A volunteer helped set up Chapman’s crusades and learned to

preach by watching him. His name: Billy Sunday.

Sunday eventually took over Chapman’s ministry, becoming one of the

most effective evangelists of the 20th century. In the great arenas of the

nation, Billy Sunday’s preaching turned thousands to Christ. Inspired

by a 1924 Billy Sunday crusade in Charlotte, NC, a committee of

Christians committed themselves to reaching that city for Christ. They

invite Mordecai Ham to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in 1932.

A lanky 16 year old sat in the huge crowd one evening. Spellbound by

the message of the white haired preacher who seemed to be shouting and

waving his long finger directly at him. Night after night the youth

attended and finally went forward and gave his life to Christ. That

teenager’s name: Billy Graham. Graham has doubtlessly communicated

the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people than anyone else in the history

of the world. Yet, remember how this sequence of events started: a

nobody name Kimball, concerned for one of his students visited him at

his shoe store. In doing that Kimball changed the world! Millions upon

millions have been affected by his decision to go to that shoe store and

millions more will continue to feel the impact. Can anything like that

happen today?

The Book of Nehemiah: The Rebuilding of the City

Although Esther comes after Nehemiah, its events antedate Nehemiah

by about 30 years. Esther made possible the work of Nehemiah: Except

for her, Jerusalem might never have been rebuilt, and there might have

been a very different story to tell to all future ages. If the Hebrew nation

had been wiped out 500 years before it brought Christ into the world, it

might have made a gigantic difference in the destiny of mankind! No

Messiah for a lost world…

Kings of Persia

Cyrus the Great (Mede/Persian) Ezra 1, Isaiah 45

Cambyses Ahasuerus of Ezra 4

Gaumata Artaxerxes of Ezra 4

Darius I “Hystaspis” Ezra 5, 6

Xerxes I Ahasuerus of Esther

Artaxerxes I (“Longimanus”) Nehemiah 2

Xerxes II

Darius II “Nothus” Nehemiah 12

Artaxerxes II “Mnemon”

Artaxerxes III “Ochus”

Darius III “Codomanus” Nehemiah 12

“Jews” vs. “Israelite”

• After the Babylonian captivity, the terms “Jew” and “Israelite” are

used interchangeably.

• Ezra calls the returning remnant “Jews” 8 times, “Israel” 40 times,

and “all Israel” (Ezra 2:70; 3:11; 8:35; 10:25, et al.)

• Nehemiah calls them “Jews” 11 times, “Israel” 22 times, and “all

Israel” as being back in the land (Neh 12:47).

• Malachi calls the remnant = “the nation” (Mal 1:1, et al.)

• Anna knew her tribal identity was of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36).

• Paul knew he was of the tribe of Benjamin, a “Jew” and an “Israelite”

(Romans 11:1).

• The New Testament uses “Israel” 75 times and “Jew” 174 times.

• At the Feast of Pentecost Peter cries, “Ye men of Judea” (Acts 2:14);

“Ye men of Israel…” (Acts 2:22); and, “All the house of Israel”

(Acts 2:36).

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