Ezra 1:8
Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ezra 1:8. And numbered them — Caused them to be delivered to the Jews by number; unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah — The captain and governor of these returning Jews, Ezra 2:2. The sceptre, therefore, was not yet departed from Judah. This person’s name was originally Zerubbabel, but it was common for the great men of Judah, at the time of the captivity, to have two names, one of their own country, which was domestic, and another of the Chaldeans, which was used at court. “Zerubbabel was born at Babylon, and his name, which signifies an exile, or stranger in Babylon, implies the misery of the people of Israel at that time; but Sheshbazzar, which is a compound of two words, signifying fine linen and gold, seems to be a name of better omen, and to denote their future and more flourishing condition. So Bishop Patrick. Dr. Trapp, however, says that Sheshbazzar signifies joy in tribulation. Some are of opinion, that among the sacred things which Cyrus ordered to be restored, the ark of the covenant was one; but it nowhere appears that this ark was carried from Jerusalem to Babylon. They tell us, indeed, that in the second temple sacrifices were offered as in the first, and all solemn days observed, especially the great day of expiation, when the law ordained that the blood should be sprinkled before the mercy-seat, and the mercy-seat, say they, was part of the ark; but besides that the ark, without the Shechinah, (which was then certainly withdrawn,) would have been of no great significance, the Jews universally acknowledge that the ark was one of the five things which were wanting in the second temple.” — Dodd. 1:5-11 The same God that raised up the spirit of Cyrus to proclaim liberty to the Jews, raised up their spirits to take the benefit. The temptation was to some to stay in Babylon; but some feared not to return, and they were those whose spirits God raised, by his Spirit and grace. Whatever good we do, is owing to the grace of God. Our spirits naturally bow down to this earth and the things of it; if they move upward in any good affections or good actions, it is God who raises them. The calls and offers of the gospel are like the proclamation of Cyrus. Those bound under the power of sin, may be made free by Jesus Christ. Whosoever will, by repentance and faith, return to God, Jesus Christ has opened the way for him, and raises him out of the slavery of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Many that hear this joyful sound, choose to sit still in Babylon, are in love with their sins, and will not venture upon a holy life; but some break through all discouragements, whatever it cost them; they are those whose spirit God has raised above the world and the flesh, whom he has made willing. Thus will the heavenly Canaan be filled, though many perish in Babylon; and the gospel offer will not have been made in vain. The bringing back the Jews from captivity, represents the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ.Mithredath - Or, "Mithridates." The occurrence of this name, which means "given by Mithra" or "dedicated to Mithra," is an indication that the sun-worship of the Persians was at least as old as the time of Cyrus.

Sheshbazzar - i. e., Zerubbabel. On his royal descent, see 1 Chronicles 3:19 note.

8. Shesh-bazzar, the prince of Judah—that is, Zerubbabel, son of Salathiel (compare Ezr 3:8; 5:16). He was born in Babylon, and called by his family Zerubbabel, that is, stranger or exile in Babylon. Shesh-bazzar, signifying "fire-worshipper," was the name given him at court, as other names were given to Daniel and his friends. He was recognized among the exiles as hereditary prince of Judah. Numbered them, i.e. he caused them to be delivered to the Jews by number.

Unto Sheshbazzar, i.e. Zorobabel, as appears by comparing Ezra 3:8, with Ezra 5:16, to whom the Persians, or rather the Chaldeans, had given this name of Sheshbazzar, as they gave other names to Daniel and his companions, Daniel 1:7.

The prince of Judah, and the captain and governor of these returning Jews, Ezra 2:2. So the sceptre is not yet departed from Judah. Even these did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer,.... Or Mithridates, a name common with the Persians, from their god Mithras, the sun they worshipped:

and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar prince of Judah; delivered them by tale to him; who, according to the Jewish rabbins, as Jarchi says, was Daniel, who was so called, because he stood in six tribulations; but it does not appear that Daniel went up to Jerusalem with the captivity, as this man did, but remained at Babylon; rather, with Aben Ezra, it is best by him to understand Zerubbabel, who did go up, and was the prince of Judah; and Cyrus, in his letter (q) to the governors of Syria, expressly says, that he delivered the vessels to Zerubbabel, the prince of the Jews. He had two names, Sheshbazzar, which signifies he rejoiced in tribulation, and Zerubbabel, which signifies either the seed of Babylon, being born there, or dispersed, or a stranger there, as others.

(q) Apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 11. c. 1. sect. 3.

Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto {h} Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

(h) So the Chaldeans called Zerubbabel who was the chief governor, so that the preeminence still remained in the house of David.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. by the hand of] So A.V. and R.V. This phrase in the original is a little difficult. It occurs Ezra 8:26, ‘I even weighed into their hand &c.’, 33, ‘was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed into the hand of, &c. (marg. ‘by’), Esther 6:9, ‘let the apparel and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes’. It seems better here to render ‘into the hand of’. The vessels were brought out and given into the charge of Mithredath, who was to superintend their numbering.

Mithredath the treasurer] This is the Hebrew form of the old Persian name ‘Mithradata’, familiar to us as Mithridates. On coins we find the more correct transliteration ‘Mithradates’. It was a very common name among the Medo-Persians, cf. Ezra 4:7. It is derived from ‘Mithras’, the name of the Persian sun-god, and the root ‘da’ = to give, and has been differently understood to mean either ‘given by Mithras’, or ‘given, i.e. dedicated, to Mithras’. Of these the former is the preferable Cf. Hormisdas = ‘given by Ormuzd’, Theodotus = ‘given by God’.

the treasurer] The word in the original is a Persian, not a Hebrew word, and occurs again Ezra 7:21; Daniel 3:2-3. The ‘gizbar’, Old Persian ‘gazabara’, mentioned here seems to have been the king’s Privy Purse, the bearer or dispenser of the royal treasure. The Persian word will remind the student of the Hellenistic ‘gaza’ (γάζα) = ‘treasure’ adopted from the Persian. The Ethiopian Eunuch, chamberlain to queen Candace, was ‘over all her treasure’, ἐπὶ πάσης τῆς γάζης αὐτῆς (Acts 8:27). The word for ‘the treasury’, used in the gospels, means “the place for keeping the ‘gaza’,” γαζοφυλάκιον (cf. Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1; John 8:20).

and numbered them] so A.V. R.V. Better, and he numbered them. The king made the gift; his officer had the charge of its disposition and valuation.

unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah] There seems to be no good reason to doubt that the Sheshbazzar mentioned here and in Ezra 5:14; Ezra 5:16 is the same as Zerubbabel. For although Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8, Ezra 4:3, Ezra 5:2) is not designated by any official title in our book, still (1) the manner in which he is regarded as the representative of the Jewish returned exiles in Ezra 4:2, (2) the fact that his name, as that of the chief layman and of the head of the Davidic line, is associated with that of the High-priest Jeshua in the general administration, Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8, Ezra 4:3, Ezra 5:2; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 3:4, (3) the title of ‘governor (pekhah) of Judah’ given him by the prophet Haggai (Ezra 1:1, Ezra 2:2; Ezra 2:21), and given also to Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14) make it reasonable to suppose that Sheshbazzar was another name of Zerubbabel, just as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were the names given in the Captivity to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6-7). To this view the objection has fairly been raised that in Daniel we find a Babylonish by the side of a Hebrew name, but that in this case both Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are considered to be Babylonish names, and that it is very strange to find the same man called in a Jewish book by two foreign names. This objection may possibly be met by regarding Zerubbabel as the name, though of foreign origin, which he took as prince among his own people, Sheshbazzar as the name by which he was known at the court of the Persian king. At any rate Sheshbazzar is here called ‘the prince of Judah’ and in Ezra 5:14 he is mentioned as conveying the sacred vessels and laying the foundation of the Temple. See also the Introduction, § 6.

the prince of Judah] The ‘nasi’ of Judah. In two passages he is given the title of ‘Tirshatha’, the Persian equivalent of the Assyrian ‘pekhah’ (Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70). He is called ‘pekhah’ or ‘Tirshatha” in relation to the Persian government. In relation to his own people, he is called ‘nasi’ or prince either as head of the great tribe of Judah (cf. the title ‘nasi’ of the ‘princes’ of the tribes in Numbers 7, Numbers 34:22-28), or as the representative of the royal house of David (cf. especially the frequent use of this term in Ezekiel, chaps. 45, 46, 48). In later days this title was taken by Simon, the brother of Judas the Maccabee, whose coins contain the legend ‘Simon the prince (nasi) of Israel’. Sheshbazzar is mentioned here alone. The prominence of the High-priest seems to date from the arrival at Jerusalem.Verse 8. - Mithredath the treasurer. Not "Mithridates, the son of Gazabar," as the Vulgate renders. The Hebrew gizbar represents a Persian word, gazabara or ganzabara, which had no doubt the meaning of "treasurer," literally "treasure-bearer. We have here the first occurrence of the famous name, borne by so many great kings, of Mithridates. The name is thoroughly Persian, and is excellently rendered by the Hebrew מִתְיְדָת. It means either "given by Mithra" or "dedicated to Mithra," and is distinct evidence of the worship of Mithra by the Persians as early as the time of Cyrus. Mithra was the sun, and was venerated as Mitra by the early Vedic Indians. His worship in later Persia is clearly established; but, except for the name of Mithredath in this place, it would have been doubtful whether he was as yet an object of religious veneration to the Iranians. Sheshbazzar. It is generally allowed that this was the Chaldaean or court name of Zerubbabel. (The chief evidence of this is to be found in Ezra 5:16 compared with Ezra 3:8.) What the name signified is uncertain. The prince of Judah. Zerubbabel was the son of Pedaiah, brother of Salathiel, who was the legal heir of Jehoiachin, king of Judah. He appears to have been adopted by Salathiel as his son, and to have been recognized as the legitimate heir to the throne of David. Thus he did not owe his appointment to the mere favour of Cyrus, but was the natural leader of the people. The proclamation - "Jahve the 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" - corresponds with the edicts of the great kings of Persia preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions, inasmuch as these, too, usually begin with the acknowledgment that they owe their power to the god Ahuramazd (Ormuzd), the creator of heaven and earth.

(Note: Comp. e.g., the inscription of Elvend in three languages, explained in Joach. Mnant, Expos des lments de la grammaire assyrienne, Paris 1868, p. 302, whose Aryan text begins thus: Deus magnus Auramazd, qui maximus deorum, qui hanc terram creavit, qui hoc coelum creavit, qui homines creavit, qui potentiam (?) dedit hominibus, qui Xerxem regem fecit, etc. An inscription of Xerxes begins in a similar manner, according to Lassen, in Die altperisischen Keilinschriften, Bonn 1836, p. 172.)

In this edict, however, Cyrus expressly calls the God of heaven by His Israelitish name Jahve, and speaks of a commission from this God to build Him a temple at Jerusalem. Hence it is manifest that Cyrus consciously entered into the purposes of Jahve, and sought, as far as he was concerned, to fulfil them. Bertheau thinks, on the contrary, that it is impossible to dismiss the conjecture that our historian, guided by an uncertain tradition, and induced by his own historical prepossessions, remodelled the edict of Cyrus. There is, however, no sufficient foundation for such a conjecture. If the first part of the book of Ezra is founded upon contemporary records of the events, this forbids an priori assertion that the matter of the proclamation of Cyrus rests upon an uncertain tradition, and, on the contrary, presupposes that the historian had accurate knowledge of its contents. Hence, even if the thoroughly Israelitish stamp presented by these verses can afford no support to the view that they faithfully report the contents of the royal edict, it certainly offers as little proof for the opinion that the Israelite historian remodelled the edict of Cyrus after an uncertain tradition, and from historical prepossessions. Even Bertheau finds the fact that Cyrus should have publicly made known by a written edict the permission given to the Jews to depart, probable in itself, and corroborated by the reference to such an edict in Ezra 5:17 and Ezra 6:3. This edict of Cyrus, which was deposited in the house of the rolls in the fortress of Achmetha, and still existed there in the reign of Darius Hystaspis, contained, however, not merely the permission for the return of the Jews to their native land, but, according to Ezra 6:3, the command of Cyrus to build the house of God at Jerusalem; and Bertheau himself remarks on Ezra 6:3, etc.: "There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the statement that Cyrus, at the time he gave permission for the re-settlement of the community, also commanded the expenses of rebuilding the temple to be defrayed from the public treasury." To say this, however, is to admit the historical accuracy of the actual contents of the edict, since it is hence manifest that Cyrus, of his own free will, not only granted to the Jews permission to return to the land of their fathers, but also commanded the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. Although, then, this edict was composed, not in Hebrew, but in the current language of the realm, and is reproduced in this book only in a Hebrew translation, and although the occurrence of the name Jahve therein is not corroborated by Ezra 6:3, yet these two circumstances by no means justify Bertheau's conclusion, that "if Cyrus in this edict called the universal dominion of which he boasted a gift of the god whom he worshipped as the creator of heaven and earth, the Israelite translator, who could not designate this god by his Persian name, and who was persuaded that the God of Israel had given the kingdom to Cyrus, must have bestowed upon the supreme God, whom Cyrus mocked, the name of Jahve, the God of heaven. When, then, it might further have been said in the document, that Cyrus had resolved, not without the consent of the supreme God, to provide for the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, - and such a reference to the supreme God might well occur in the announcement of a royal resolution in a decree of Cyrus, - the Israelite translator could not again but conclude that Cyrus referred to Jahve, and that Jahve had commanded him to provide for the building of the temple." For if Cyrus found himself impelled to the resolution of building a temple to the God of heaven in Jerusalem, i.e., of causing the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar to be rebuilt, he must have been acquainted with this God, have conceived a high respect for Him, and have honoured Him as the God of heaven. It was not possible that he should arrive at such a resolution by faith in Ahuramazd, but only by means of facts which had inspired him with reverence for the God of Israel. It is this consideration which bestows upon the statement of Josephus, Antt. xi. 1. 1, - that Cyrus was, by means of the predictions of Isaiah, Isaiah 41:25., Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1., who had prophesied of him by name 200 years before, brought to the conviction that the God of the Jews was the Most High God, and was on this account impelled to this resolution, - so high a degree of probability that we cannot but esteem its essence as historical.

For when we consider the position held by Daniel at the court of Darius the Mede, the father-in-law of Cyrus, - that he was there elevated to the rank of one of the three presidents set over the 120 satraps of the realm, placed in the closest relation with the king, and highly esteemed by him (Daniel 6), - we are perfectly justified in adopting the opinion that Cyrus had been made acquainted with the God of the Jews, and with the prophecies of Isaiah concerning Coresh, by Daniel.

(Note: Hence not only ancient expositors, but also in very recent times Pressel (Herzog's Realencycl. iii. p. 232), and A. Koehler, Haggai, p. 9, etc., defend the statement of Josephus, l.c., ταῖτ ̓ (viz., the previously quoted prophecy, Isaiah 44:28) οὖν ἀναγνόντα καὶ θαυμάσαντα τὸ θεῖον ὁρμή τις ἔλαβε καὶ φιλοτιμία ποιῆσαι τὰ γεγραμμένα, as historically authentic. Pressel remarks, "that Holy Scripture shows what it was that made so favourable an impression upon Cyrus, by relating the rle played by Daniel at the overthrow of the Babylonian monarchy, Daniel 5:28, Daniel 5:30. What wonder was it that the fulfiller of this prediction should have felt himself attracted towards the prophet who uttered it, and should willingly restore the vessels which Belshazzar had that night committed the sin of polluting?" etc. The remark of Bertheau, on the contrary, "that history knows of no Cyrus who consciously and voluntarily honours Jahve the God of Israel, and consciously and voluntarily receives and executes the commands of this God," is one of the arbitrary dicta of neological criticism.)

Granting, then, that the edict of Cyrus may have been composed in the current language of the realm, and not rendered word for word in Hebrew by the biblical author of the present narrative, its essential contents are nevertheless faithfully reproduced; and there are not sufficient grounds even for the view that the God who had inspired Cyrus with this resolution was in the royal edict designated only as the God of heaven, and not expressly called Jahve. Why may not Cyrus have designated the God of heaven, to whom as the God of the Jews he had resolved to build a temple in Jerusalem, also by His name Jahve? According to polytheistic notions, the worship of this God might be combined with the worship of Ahuramazd as the supreme God of the Persians. - On וגו עלי פּקד, J. H. Mich. well remarks: Mandavit mihi, nimirum dudum ante per Jesajam Isaiah 44:24-28, Isaiah 45:1-13, forte etiam per Danielem, qui annum hunc Cyri primum vivendo attigit (Daniel 1:21; Daniel 7:1) et Susis in Perside vixit Daniel 8:2 (in saying which, he only infers too much from the last passage; see on Daniel 8:2).

Ezra 1:3

In conformity with the command of God, Cyrus not only invites the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple, but also requires all his subjects to assist the returning Jews, and to give free-will offerings for the temple. מי בכם, who among you of all his people, refers to all those subjects of his realm to whom the decree was to be made known; and all the people of Jahve is the whole nation of Israel, and not Judah only, although, according to Ezra 1:5, it was mainly those only who belonged to Judah that availed themselves of this royal permission. עמּו אלהיו יהי, his God be with him, is a wish for a blessing: comp. Joshua 1:17; 1 Esdras 2:5, ἔστω; while in 2 Chronicles 36:23 we find, on the other hand, יהוה for יהי. This wish is followed by the summons to go up to Jerusalem and to build the temple, the reason for which is then expressed by the sentence, "He is the God which is in Jerusalem."

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