Ezra (the book)

The ten chapters of Ezra switch frequently between overview narrative and detailed lists.

Historically, the events begin in the first year of Persia’s king Cyrus. As prophesied by Jeremiah, {Jer 25:11-12; 29:10-14}, Cyrus was prompted by God to support the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. His decree is cited as follows:

  • The LORD, the God of Heaven, gave me all the kingdoms of the earth.
  • He appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem, in Judah.
  • Those of you who belong to Him, go build His temple, your God be with you.
  • Neighbors, give these people some of your silver, gold, goods, and livestock.
  • Send them on their way with offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.

Those who God prompted got ready to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Among them were the family heads of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and other Levites. Their neighbors gave them silver, gold, goods, and livestock, valuable gifts, and additional offerings. Cyrus gave back the things that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple when he took the Jews captive into Babylon.

Cyrus ordered them brought to the treasurer, Mithredath, and delivered to the head of the tribe of Judah, Sheshbazzar. The inventory is recorded, 5,400 items of gold and silver, which Sheshbazzar carried back to Jerusalem.

Nearly 50,000 people travelled from Babylon to Jerusalem. A census document is recorded, listing family leaders and the sizes of the families from the tribes of Israel who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. There are a few families who arrived from other territories, but these could not verify their lineage, so they settled as outsiders until the matter could be decided with the help of a priest bearing the Urim and Thummim. (These were stones of decision, as established in Exodus, that God manipulated to give a clear answer to the Israelites through their priesthood.)

The people gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the temple – each as they could – and the total was about 1,100 pounds of gold and 3 tons of silver.

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Genesis 23-25, Settling Accounts

At the end of chapter 22, Abraham gets an update on his family back home. His brother Nahor has twelve sons, eight by his wife and four by his concubine.  One of the eight, Bethuel, will later have a daughter named Rebekah (she marries Isaac).

Chapter 23 covers the passing of Sarah at age 127, and Abraham’s intense negotiations to buy some land to bury her on.  Continue reading

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Genesis 22: Surrender Isaac

Isaac was born in chapter 21, when Abraham was 100 years old. Hagar and Ishmael, the Egyptian servant and her son by Abraham (at Sarah’s prompting) were sent away.   Years went by, and God came to Abraham and asked him to give up, as a burnt offering, this miracle son through whom He had promised to bless the world.

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12 Gems and a Pearl

Exo 28:17-20, Rev 21:19-21

In Exodus, God gives instructions for the priests’ garments & accessories.  One in particular is the breastpiece with 12 stones in 4 rows to indicate the 12 tribes of Israel: Continue reading

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Genesis 17-21: Covenants

At 99 years of age, Abram (meaning ‘exalted father’) was renamed Abraham (meaning ‘father of nations’), and his wife Sarai was renamed Sarah – both of these changes made by God.  God repeated His promise, clarifying that the covenant people would be born of Sarah (Isaac), and laid out the terms of Abraham’s obedience (and that of his descendants forever).   This began the practice of circumcising males at 8 days of age, a symbol of surrendering to God the very essence of self & generations to follow.  (The Apostle Paul later writes of the importance of circumcising the heart – a metaphor for surrendering self-will to participate in the promise of God).

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Anthony Burger

For those who cannot hear the music, let me assure you that this is played back at actual speed and he didn’t miss a note.  I rather believe, though I couldn’t keep up, that he didn’t miss hitting any of the piano’s 88 keys at least twice.   Continue reading

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Genesis 1-3: Creation to Fall

God exists outside of time.  At some point, He decided to make people and, of course, a place for them to live.  These chapters provide an account, in varying degrees of detail, of how He set about doing just that.

He spoke into existence all that is… then He reached down to the surface of the planet to scoop up some dirt and hand-craft a man, who He called Adam.  He bent forward and breathed into this creature something that no other plant, animal, or object on this world has: a living soul, an essence of God Himself.

Next, He gave this man one directive, one opportunity to choose obedience or self-will: Don’t eat from that one tree, all others are freely yours. (Relationships aren’t real if there’s no opportunity to not be in them – it’s the difference between love and captivity.)

This man needed a companion suitable to himself, so God again reached down to the surface, and from the man’s side created a separate but equal, different but same, human female.  She also carried her own living soul, and these two, God declared to be one.

A conversation with an outsider, an opposing spirit with a slick lie, led to the first act of rebellion and the willing corruption of the world, humanity, and all that would follow.  The couple was sent away from the garden to do things for themselves – this is what they had chosen.

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