King Cyrus (Dan 14:1-14:1)

“When King Astyages

Was laid to rest

With his ancestors,

Cyrus the Persian

Succeeded to his kingdom.”

This last chapter of the Book of Daniel is often referred to as the story of Bel, the god, and the dragon. Daniel will show how each one was useless. Once again, this chapter is only in the Greek Septuagint, so that it is often called apocryphal. This story takes place at the later part of the life of Daniel, since Cyrus the Persian (598-530 BCE) was the King. His rule in Persia began in 559 BCE and lasted about 30 years. Here, he is still only the king of Persia that he received from his father, King Astyages (585-550 BCE). The sister of King Astyages was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus, you can see the connection, as Cyprus would have been the nephew of the Babylonian king. Eventually, Cyrus took over Babylon in 539 BCE.

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Punishment for Egypt (Jer 46:25-46:26)

“Yahweh of hosts,

The God of Israel,

Said.

‘See!

I am bringing punishment

Upon Amon of Thebes,

Egypt,

Her gods,

As well as her kings.

I am bringing punishment

Upon Pharaoh,

As well as those

Who trust in him.

I will hand them over

To those who seek their life.

I will hand them over

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

And his officers.

Afterward Egypt

Shall be inhabited

As in the days of old.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel said that he was going to bring punishment to Thebes, a large ancient city on the lower Nile River. Yahweh was going to punish Amon, a major god in Egypt with one of the world’s largest temples. Besides that, the punishment would extend to all of Egypt with its gods and kings. Even those who trusted in the Pharaoh would be punished. Yahweh was going to hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his officers, who were after their lives. Finally, Egypt would be restored like in the old days.

The leaders who left Babylon with Zerubbabel (Neh 7:6-7:7)

“I found the following written in it. These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.”

This is very similar to Ezra, chapter 2. Most of the 12 people named, that is 7, are exactly the same people as in the beginning of chapter 2 of Ezra, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Bigvai, and Baanah. These exiles were lead by Zerubbabel. Jeshua was the head of the priests. This Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah writing this book. Mordecai played a major role in the Book of Esther, so that it is hard to believe that this is the same person here. Bilshan is only mentioned in these listings. The family of Bigvai will sign a covenant. It is hard to tell the role of Baanah. The other 4 named may be variations of the same name. Azariah may be the same as Seraiah. Raamiah may be Reelaiah. Mispereth may be Mispar, and Nehum may be Rehum. That leaves only Nahamani as a new person. These exiles supposedly returned to their own towns. According to 2 Kings, the poor people were not taken into captivity.

The reply of the elders at Jerusalem (Ezra 5:11-5:16)

“This was their reply to us. ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. However, King Cyrus of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. Moreover, the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which King Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem and had brought into the temple of Babylon, these King Cyrus took out of the temple of Babylon. They were delivered to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. He said to him. ‘Take these vessels! Go and put them in the temple in Jerusalem! Let the house of God be rebuilt on its site!’ Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that time until now it has been under construction. It is not yet finished.’”

Governor Tattenai gave the Jewish side of the story, explaining why they were doing such a thing as building a house of God. They were rebuilding the house of God on the same spot where the Temple used to be. Their ancestors had angered God, so that the Chaldeans with King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and took the people into captivity. Then King Cyrus issued a decree that the Temple be built again. In fact, he gave the gold and silver vessels that originally came from Jerusalem that were in the Babylonian temple to Sheshbazzar, who was the governor in Jerusalem. Thus for the last few years, they have been building this unfinished Temple.

The leaders of the exiles (Ezra 2:1-2:2)

“Now these were the people of the province who came from those captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.”

These people were captured by King Nebuchadnezzar around 582 BCE. This return is around 537 BCE so that some of these people may have still been living. Although the prophet Jeremiah had predicted 70 years, that might include the years of the first attack. These exiles supposedly returned to their own towns. According to 2 Kings, the poor people had stayed there. These exiles were lead by Zerubbabel. There is a dispute about whether he is the same person named earlier Sheshbazzar. More likely, they were 2 different people. He might have been the governor later under King Darius. Jeshua was the head of the priests, even though he was born in Babylon. This Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah mentioned in the book with this name. There were 10 other people with the name of Seraiah. This is the only mention of Reelaiah, Bilshan, and Mispar. Mordecai played a major role in the Book of Esther, so that it is hard to believe that this is the same person. The family of Bigvai will sign a covenant. Rehum may have been some kind of lieutenant governor. It is hard to tell the role of Baanah.

The reign of King Zedekiah (2 Chr 36:10-36:13)

“King Nebuchadnezzar made the brother of King Jehoiachin Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. King Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh his God. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh, the God of Israel.”

There are some major differences from this story as in 2 Kings, chapter 24. Instead of being succeeded by his uncle, here King Zedekiah is the brother of King Jehoiachin. There is nothing about the mother of King Zedekiah. He would be older than King Jehoiachin, either 3 or 13 years older. Here it does not say that the king of Babylon established him as king and gave him a new name, King Zedekiah. Both accounts agree that he ruled for 11 years in Jerusalem and he walked in evil ways. However, he did rebel against the king of Babylon, which was not always a good idea at this time. There is also an insertion about the prophet Jeremiah that was not in 2 Kings.

The reign of King Jehoiachin (2 Chr 36:8-36:10)

His son Jehoiachin succeeded King Jehoiakim. He was eight years old when he began to reign. He reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Yahweh. In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with the precious vessels of the house of the Yahweh.”

King Jehoiachin, the son of King Jehoiakim took over from his father. He had practically the same name as his father. How is that for names being almost alike except for the endings of ‘kim” and “chin.” There is a question as to whether he was 8 years old as here, or 18 years old as in 2 Kings, chapter 24. Both accounts agree that he only reigned 3 months, but here there is an additional 10 days. There is no mention of his mother as there was in 2 Kings. Of course, he was evil like his father instead of being good like his grandfather, King Josiah. It is hard to figure out what he might have done so badly in just 3 months. Never the less, King Nebuchadnezzar brought him to Babylon with the precious vessels of the house of the Yahweh, just as he had done with his father. Maybe this was some kind of family reunion. He had already taken the sacred vessels with his father, so why take them again?