hitting the gavel September 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ezra 4:6-23; Psalm 106; Ezra 7:1- 8:14


Sometimes neighbors or relatives make trouble for us. Boundary disputes are common between neighbors. Other times people are hauled into Small Claims Court over frivolous family matters. Wouldn’t it be nice for the judge to say to the plaintiff, your accuser, “your complaints or lawsuits against the defendant [you] are overruled”? What does that mean? That basically means a higher authority (the judge in this case) has decided to annul or reverse the claim or judgment of the plaintiff against the defendant. This what God did for Israel, and that is what God sometimes does for us.

Many Israelites were allowed to return to their land by Cyrus, king of Persia. The people of the land were to provide the Jews with any funding they needed for the rebuilding of their temple, and animals for sacrifices to their God. The occupants of the land and their neighbors, however, did not want the Jews to be their neighbors. Because of this they gave the Jews a lot of grief.

First, the Jews were threatened, and so the work on rebuilding Solomon’s temple stopped. Then Haggai and Zechariah prophesied and encouraged the people to repent and return to their work, which they did.

Second, a personal letter was sent to King Darius just after he took the throne. The leaders of the Trans-Euphrates area (Judea and Samaria) questioned the legality of the rebuilding project. Darius searched the archives. To their humiliation, he not only found the edict written by King Cyrus but supported it. Israel’s neighbors were told to supply them whatever they needed and then leave them alone so the work would not be hindered.

Third, shortly after King Xerxes obtained the throne, the troublesome neighbors launched another accusation against the Jews (Ezra 4:6). We have no record that any action was taken at that time. However, later, under the persuasion of Haman, his chief nobleman, he was convinced that the Jews were a menace and therefore gave authority to Haman to order their genocide. God, however, was silently at work, providentially protecting his people. Through Esther and Mordecai, the tables were turned back upon Haman and all Jewish enemies.

Twenty –one years later the leaders of the Trans-Euphrates still tried to hamper the Jewish settlement. The new king of Persia, Artaxerxes, was informed that the Jews, having completed their temple, were now rebuilding their city. If the Jews established a foothold in the Trans-Euphrates, they might become a forceful nation, and the king would have no more tax revenue from their region. So, once again, the work was stopped. What did the Israelites do then? Psalm 106 may have been written at this time. They got discouraged and fell away from the LORD. When opposition and trouble come our way when we are obeying the LORD, we need to be careful to encourage ourselves in the LORD and not fall away.

God was once again, however, working on Israel’s behalf. God began to overrule the will of Israel’s neighbors and King Artaxerxes. He used Ezra, a priest and teacher of the law of God, to do it. The king was so impressed with his teaching and the fact that God was with him that that he allowed Ezra to return to Jerusalem. He even allowed as many Jews as wanted to leave Babylon to return with him. Eighteen heads of families, 1,496 other Israelite men, 220 Temple servants, and thirty-eight Levitical priests returned with Ezra. Ezra was also accompanied by seven of the king’s advisors to go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and to learn God’s laws. In addition, women and children likely accompanied the men, making the total possibly 4,000-5,000 (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 667).

Ezra’s official assignment was to appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates and to teach them to live by God’s law. This added insult to injury to the leaders of the surrounding nations of Israel. Not only were they to help the Jews with supplies they needed for worship, but now they would also have to endure the sight of more Jews, be taught God’s law, and live by it or suffer dire consequences. God was overruling their insolence! Later, under the prophet Nehemiah’s leadership, even the walls around Jerusalem would be rebuilt.

Ezra praised God that he put it in the king’s heart to honor the house of God in Jerusalem and to show him favor. King Artaxerxes highly respected the leadership of Ezra. Under his leadership Artaxerxes did not think there would be a rebellion. What is your character like? Is it above reproach, just and fair? Is it consistent? Would the ungodly trust you and desire you to teach them from God’s Word on how to live?

Lessons to live by:

  • God often acts on behalf of his people. He protects them and sometimes even over-rules those in authority so that his will is accomplished.
  • God’s mighty acts in the past give us courage to ask the LORD to defend us today. Do you know him? (more...)
  • Be godly and trustworthy. God may use you in your society to accomplish his will.

Today’s Bible memory verses: Psalm 106:1-4

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?

Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, (NIV).

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