Author: Ron Graham
Remnant Returns and Rebuilds
—And Zerubbabel leads them
Time ~ 8. Return of the Remnant
Span ~ 140 years
Books ~ Ezr, Neh, Est, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Figures ~ Ezra Nehemiah
Begins with ~ The decree to rebuild Jerusalem
Ascendant empire ~ Medopersia
We now come in our studies to the eighth of the Times of Israel —the Return of the Remnant— which commenced after seventy years of exile under the Babylonians.
Some of the Jews were able to return to Judah in order to begin rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. This remnant of a once-great nation was still greatly oppressed, and it was only with distress that they rebuilt the city over several decades.
In this lesson, we concentrate on Zerubbabel and the Jews' first return and attempt at rebuilding.
1 Jews Return to Judah
Cyrus issued a decree that exiles should return and rebuild, just as Isaiah had prophesied two centuries earlier (Isaiah 44:28). The three main leaders of this time were Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Zerubbabel led the people in the reigns of the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius.
Ezra and Nehemiah were leaders in the reign of Artaxerxes.
The return of the exiles to Judah, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, was accomplished in three main stages.
- The first and main party returns with Zerubbabel 538 BC.
They rebuild the temple.
- A second party returns with Ezra about 80 years later.
They make spiritual and religious restoration and reform.
- A third wave returns with Nehemiah in 445 BC.
They rebuild the city walls and gates but not many houses.
When Zerubbabel led the first party of exiles back to Jerusalem, the first thing they rebuilt was the altar so that worship and sacrifice could begin again. They also managed to lay the foundations for a new temple.
There were mixed feelings. Some sang for joy at this beginning, but the old men who had seen the former temple wept loudly.
2 A Lesson in This Story
This story illustrates the fact that trying to make progress in God's work is not always easy. However, we should try to do something, and make sure of two things:
- (1) It is something of first importance,
- (2) We give it our very best shot.
3 Bible Summary (Ezra 1-6)
- Cyrus issues a decree to let the exiles of Judah return and rebuild Jerusalem (1) [Compare 2Chron 36:22-23]
- Details and genealogies of those who returned (2)
- The altar erected and the temple foundation laid (3)
- Opposition from the foreigners whom the Assyrians had earlier settled in Israel (4)
- The rebuilding comes to a standstill (4)
Note: verses 6-23 are parenthetical, giving an account of similar opposition and stopping of the rebuilding work, right through to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Verse 24 resumes where verse 5 left off.
- Rebuilding of the temple resumes, supported by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (5)
- Opposition is unsuccessful. Darius reads the decree Cyrus had made, and confirms it with his own decree (6)
- The rebuilding of the temple is completed (6)
- The Passover is observed again (6)
4 A few facts about Zerubbabel
- Of royal lineage, a descendant of David (Matthew 1:6,12).
- Ancestor of Christ (Matthew 1:12).
- Called Zorobabel in KJV New Testament.
- His name [Zerub-Babel] means "Born in Babylon".
- His Persian name was Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8, 5:14).
- Cyrus appointed him governer [prince] of Judah.
- Zechariah had a vision about him (Zechariah 4).;
- Haggai prophesied to him (Haggai 1 and 2).
- Zerubbabel led the first party of exiles back to Jerusalem after Cyrus decreed that Jerusalem should be rebuilt.
5 The Kings of Persia
in the period covered by the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Cyrus (559-530 BC) [Foretold by Isaiah]
Cyrus reigned in the latter part of Daniel's life. During Cyrus's rule, Zerubbabel led the exiles back to Jerusalem to rebuild the altar and temple foundations (Ezra 3:2-3,10).
Cambyses (530-522 BC) [Not mentioned in the Bible]
No rebuilding work was able to be done in this period (Ezra 4:25).
Darius (522-486 BC) [Not the earlier Darius the Mede]
In the reign of Darius, the temple was rebuilt. Haggai and Zechariah were prophets.
Xerxes (486-465 BC) [Also known as Ahasuerus]
This was the time of Esther and Mordecai.
Artaxerxes (464-423 BC) [Also known as Longimanus]
More return and rebuilding led by Ezra, and Nehemiah. This was the time of Malachi the prophet.