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Saturday, January 28 2012
A History Of Jerusalem: Ezra And Nehemiah
The united kingdom of Israel divided into two separate and independent kingdoms after the reign of King Solomon (see A History Of Jerusalem: The Glory Of Solomon and A History Of Jerusalem: The Capital Of Judah).
After existing as an independent country for about 300 years, when the people of The Northern Kingdom of "Israel" became corrupt before the LORD, He had them conquered and taken away to Assyria (see Ancient Empires - Assyria and The Galilee Captivity). "Israel" never returned - they are still known today as the "lost ten tribes."
"17:20 And the LORD [see The Rock Of The Church] rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight. 17:21 For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin. 17:22 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; 17:23 Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day." (2 Kings 17:20-23 KJV)
About 130 years after the fall of Israel to Assyria, when the people of The Southern Kingdom of "Judah" also became corrupt before the LORD, He had them conquered and taken away to Babylon (see Ancient Empires - Babylon), which by then had conquered and taken over the territory held by the Assyrian Empire. Unlike the people of Israel ("the lost ten tribes"), the people of Judah were allowed to return to their homeland, after a prescribed and prophesied seventy years (see Jeremiah's Field). The return was permitted by the Persian Empire (Persia is known today as Iran; see Ancient Empires - Persia), which by then had conquered and taken over the territory held by the Babylonian (or "Chaldean") Empire.
"36:15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers [see The Prophets: North and South], rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 36:16 But they mocked the messengers of God [see The Mocker's Folly], and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. 36:17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 36:18 And all the vessels of the house of God [see The Temple Vessel Prophecies Today], great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 36:19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire [see Jerusalem In Flames], and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.
The return of the people of Judah would be accomplished under the leadership responsibility of Ezra, a Levite, and Nehemiah, who would be the first governor of the restored land of Judah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a detailed history of that return.
"1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
The first to return found the city of Jerusalem to be little more than a heap of ash and rubble - left desolate exactly as prophesied ("for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years"). We first read of Nehemiah when, while he was yet only the cupbearer of the Persian king, he heard the reports of the state of Jerusalem: "the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire."
"1:1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 1:2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 1:3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. 1:4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:1-4 KJV)
Nehemiah was sent, by the LORD, to restore Jerusalem as a city. The LORD provided the means to do so by the Persian king, who then held Judea and Jerusalem within the territory of his empire (he would continue to do so until his Persian Empire fell to the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great over a century later - as prophesied by the prophet Daniel who was still back in Persia, after his years in Babylon; see also The Prophets: Daniel).
"2:1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. 2:2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, 2:3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
Upon his arrival, Nehemiah surveyed the ruins - and then immediately mustered the people to work.
"2:11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 2:12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
The rebuilding was not an easy task. Just removing the massive amount of rubble, by sheer human labor, was itself a monumental effort. Other occupants of the land opposed and threatened them most of the time. But by sheer tenacity the city of Jerusalem and the Temple rose from the dust.
"6:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. 6:16 And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God." (Nehemiah 6:15-16 KJV)
With the city and the Temple restored, or at least existing again, Ezra then read the Law of God, as a reminder that it was the reason that their ancestors were given Jerusalem, and why they had lost everything when they had forsaken the LORD.
"8:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.
Through the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, Jerusalem was re-established as the capital city of the people, if not the nation, of the people of Judah. Neither the city, nor the Temple, was restored to their magnificence in the time of Solomon, but that was for the good - it was vanity that had gotten the city, the Temple, and the nation, destroyed.
Fact Finder: Did the Pharisees and Sadducees originate in the time after the people of Judah returned from the Baylonian exile? What did they add to the actual Law of God that was taught by Ezra and Nehemiah?
This Day In History, January 28
98: Trajan became the 13th Emperor of the Roman Empire (see Pax Romana: The Birth Of The Roman Empire). He reigned 98-117.
814: Charlemagne ("Charles the Great"), German king and Holy Roman emperor (the The Holy Roman Empire was officially known as The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation), died at age 71 (see also Emperors and Popes and Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy).
1547: King Henry VIII of England died at age 55. England broke away from the Church of Rome during Henry's reign.
1561: In France, the Edict of Orleans outlawed the persecution of Huguenots (French Protestants) by Catholics.
1581: In Scotland, King James VI signed the Second Confession of Faith.
1596: British explorer and naval officer Sir Francis Drake died at age 50. Drake and his crew were the first Englishmen to sail around the world (1577-1580). Later, in 1588, Drake was one of the commanders of the British fleet that defended Britain from the Spanish Armada (sent by the pope to invade and occupy Britain).
1725: Peter the Great, czar of Russia (czar is the Russian form of Caesar, as is the German Kaiser), died at age 52 after reigning from 1682.
1788: The first British penal colony was established at Botany Bay in New South Wales, Australia.
1807: Pall Mall ("parallel to the mall") in London became the first street to be illuminated by gaslight.
1871: During the Franco-Prussian War (France and Germany), Prussian forces captured Paris.
1918: Dr. John McCrae, the Canadian military doctor who wrote In Flanders Fields, died.
1921: Albert Einstein proposed the possibility that the size of the universe could be calculated (see also Parabolic Prophecies).
1932: In the lead-up to the Pacific theater of the Second World War, the Japanese army occupied Shanghai to force an end to a Chinese boycott of Japanese goods.
1935: Iceland became the first country to "legalize" (in man's eyes, not God's) abortion on medical or "social" (i.e. commit fornication or adultery, then commit murder to get rid of the "problem") excuses.
1943: During the Second World War (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars), Adolf Hitler (see Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion) mobilized the entire German adult population for the war effort.
1950: The French Assembly ratified their proclamation under which Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos became "independent" colonies within the French union. After France retreated from the region due to the civil wars that their imperialism created, the U.S. became involved in the Vietnam War (which was actually a civil war between the Vietnamese people whose single country had been partitioned in 1954, by the French at the end of the First Indochina War, into North and South Vietnam).
1973: The Vietnam War (see the entry for 1950, above) cease-fire was signed by the U.S. and North Vietnam in Paris.
1980: During the Iranian hostage crisis, 6 U.S. "diplomats" (most of whom were later admitted to be CIA agents), who missed being taken captive when the U.S. Embassy was invaded by Iranian militants, escaped out of Tehran in what became known as "The Canadian Caper." The U.S. agents were secretly given refuge by Canadian diplomats in the Canadian Embassy for over 2 months before leaving Iran by using Canadian identities and passports provided by the Canadian government.
1986: Seven astronauts died after the Challenger space shuttle exploded 72 seconds after launch - Francis "Dick" Scobee, 46; Michael Smith, 40; Judith Resnik, 36; Ellison Onizuka, 39; Ronald McNair, 35; Gregory Jarvis, 41; Christa McAuliffe, 37.