Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled…
God rules. His throne is the centre of history. His sovereignty is the key of all the mysteries in providence and grace. We look behind and speak of history; before and speak of prophecy; but He looks neither behind nor before. Yesterday and to-morrow are alike to Him. One glance sweeps the whole horizon. Does ii seem wonderful that Cyrus should have been called and commissioned two centuries before his birth? We forget that telling and foretelling are the same with God. The map of eternity and the universe has always been spread out before Him.
I. THE CAPTIVITY. It was in the year 604 B.C. that Nebuchadnezzar reduced Jerusalem and returned with his first deportation of captives. The date is important because it furnishes the prime factor in all calculations respecting the deliverance from Babylon. The captivity was for an appointed time, seventy years. There was a special reason why it should be precisely seventy years. The Lord had required of Israel the observance of every seventh year as a season of Sabbatic rest; for a period of four hundred and ninety years this injunction had been practically ignored. Seventy Sabbatic years have been desecrated, seventy years of Babylonish" chastisement shall expiate the sin. So true is retribution. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. But the captivity was not mere retribution, it was discipline. Its purpose was not so much to punish as to reform. Bearing a filial relation to God, the chosen people experienced the children's portion of chastisement (Hebrews 12:6-11). The Jews had a mission. God had called them from among the nations to take charge of His oracles. Monotheism must be kept until Christ. For this Abram was chosen out of Ur of the Chaldees. However superior to other tribes and nations in many particulars, they had not been loyal to their trust. They needed chastening. God had no alternative but to inflict it. Hence the captivity. Nor was the discipline vain. It will be profitable to note some of the lessons which they learned in captivity.
1. They were cured of idolatry. They had previously been unable to resist the imposing rites and ceremonies of their pagan neighbours. Familiarity with the abominations of the Babylonish gods nauseated them. They longed for the living God, saying, "When shall we return and appear before God?"
2. They con-calved a new devotion to the Lord's sanctuary. Its holy ordinances had once been a weariness; but now they were homesick for Zion. The institution of the synagogue is traced to this period.
3. They learned the value of the Scriptures (Nehemiah 8.)
4. The stock of Israel was culled and improved. Only the choicest and best joined the restoration.
5. They were greatly knit together during the captivity. "One touch of nature make the whole world kin." A common sorrow will erase the enmity of years. Pain is a mighty solvent. The Jews of to-day scattered abroad over the earth are a living witness to the unifying power of adversity.
6. The heart and intellect of the nation were broadened. This widening of vision is manifest in all their subsequent history. Thus it appears that the captivity was an essential part of the Divine plan.
II. THE PROCLAMATION OF CYRUS. This also was in pursuance of the Divine plan. The clock struck at precisely the right moment. Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C. The proclamation was issued 586 B.C., leaving time for the beginning of the second temple in May of the year 534 B.C. The intervening period was just seventy years. Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyprus. How?
1. By the voice of His Spirit in the inner man.
2. Probably Daniel brought the matter to his attention. He may have read to him the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10) and the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 44:24-28; Isaiah 45:1-4).
3. It may have shaped itself in his mind as a suggestion of policy,
4. Or possibly there was a religious motive. He was a monotheist. He may have received the message and commission from Jehovah as from his own Ormuzd.
III. THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM. It was a voluntary movement. None were compelled to go. All were encouraged. They set forth prayerful and hopeful. In the 126th Psalm we have one of the songs of this pilgrimage.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
WEB: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying,