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Return From Babylonian Captivity

INTRODUCTION: The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the restoration of the Jewish nation after the Babylonian Captivity. Nehemiah finished what the book of Ezra began. The beauty of the story is that the road to restoration pictured in these two books can be applied to a nation, church, family, or individual. This story shows how to rebuild that which has fallen.

  1. THE FIRST RETURN (Ezra 1-6; 536 BC)
    1. The Seventy Years (Jeremiah 25:11-12)
      1. Jeremiah prophesied by the word of the Lord that the people of God would serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11).
      2. At the end of the seventy years, the Lord would turn His judgment upon the nation and king of Babylon (Jeremiah 25:12; see 2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
    2. The Decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4)
      1. The time of the decree - The first year of the reign of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1)
      2. The origin of the decree (Ezra 1:1)
        1. From the mouth of the Lord to the spirit of Cyrus
        2. From the spirit of Cyrus to a spoken proclamation
        3. From a spoken proclamation to a written decree
        4. Note: It is interesting to note that this is very much in line with the way God gave scripture to mankind (see 2 Peter 1:21; Jeremiah 36:4).
      3. The contents of the decree (Ezra 1:2-4)
        1. The praise of the decree (Ezra 1:2) of the LORD God of heaven
        2. The plan of the decree (Ezra 1:2) the Lord charged Cyrus with building Him an house at Jerusalem.
        3. The plea of the decree (Ezra 1:3) the call for Jews to return to Jerusalem
        4. The provision of the decree (Ezra 1:4) silver, gold, goods, and beasts for sacrifice
    3. The Leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1-2; Haggai 1:1; Matthew 1:12); almost 50,000 people returned.
      1. The one leading the return to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:1-2)
      2. The recipient of the Lords message to Haggai (Haggai 1:1)
    4. The Building of the Temple
      1. Began (Ezra 3:8)
      2. Halted (Ezra 4:24)
      3. Completed (Ezra 6:15); 20 years after it was started
    5. The Prophets of the Time
      1. Haggai (Haggai 1:1)
      2. Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1)
    6. The Focus of the Return Rebuilding the temple
  2. THE STORY OF ESTHER (Esther 1-10)
    1. Between the First and Second Returns
      1. The story of Esther occurs in Persia in the royal city of Shushan.
      2. The king of Persia at the time was Ahasuerus, historically known as Xerxes.
      3. The third year of Ahasuerus (Esther 1:3) would have been about
        1. 34 years after the restoration temple was finished (Ezra 6)
        2. 25 years before Ezras return to Jerusalem (Ezra 7)
    2. Occurred Among the Jews Remaining in Persia
  3. THE SECOND RETURN (Ezra 7-10; 457 BC, 58 years after the completion of the temple)
    1. The Leadership of Ezra (Ezra 7:1, 6-10); around 1,500 Jews returned at this time.
      1. He rose up during the days of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1).
      2. He rose up from Babylon (Ezra 7:6).
      3. He rose up to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:6-10).
    2. The Problem of Intermarriage (Ezra 9:1-15)
      1. The leaders of Israel informed Ezra that the people had intermarried with the heathen contrary to the word of God (Ezra 9:1-2).
      2. Ezra moved with great fervency to rectify the situation and restore the purity of the people (Ezra 9:3-15).
    3. The Focus of the Return Rebuilding the spirituality of the nation
  4. THE THIRD RETURN (Nehemiah 1-13; 444 BC)
    1. The Leadership of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1; Nehemiah 2:9-11); the number of people with Nehemiah is unknown.
      1. Nehemiah was in Shushan (Nehemiah 1:1).
      2. The Lord put it in the heart of Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and help his people (Nehemiah 1:4-11).
      3. Nehemiah arrived to find no small disputation (Nehemiah 2:9-11).
    2. The Building of the Wall (Nehemiah 2:17-18; Nehemiah 4:6)
      1. The need presented (Nehemiah 2:17)
      2. The hand of God on the work (Nehemiah 2:18)
      3. The willingness of the people (Nehemiah 2:18)
      4. The continual opposition (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; Nehemiah 4:1-3, 7-8; Nehemiah 6:1-6)
      5. The completion of the task at hand (Nehemiah 4:6)
    3. The Last Old Testament Prophet Came after This Time Malachi.
      1. Beginning with an admonition to the religious leaders concerning their worship of God
      2. Ending with a promise of future and greater restoration
    4. The Focus of the Return Rebuilding the walls
  5. AN ILLUSTRATION OF TIME: Consider the ages of an imaginary child born during the first return to Jerusalem:
First Return (Zerubbabel) Infant 536
Work on Temple Stopped

(Preaching of Haggai & Zechariah)
1 535
Work on Temple Renewed 16 520
Temple Completed 20 516
Esther Became Queen of Persia 58 478
Second Return (Ezra) 79 457
Third Return (Nehemiah)
Wall Rebuilt

Followed by Preaching of Malachi
92 444

CONCLUSION: This lesson previews the future lessons on these passages. The entire section is a story of restoration and rebuilding. It is a story of renewal and revival. Have you been taken captive? Have you fallen away from where you should be with the Lord? Do you need to rebuild and restore? Then come to the Lord and seek His help right now.