Page:A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah.djvu/41

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against a less spectacular view of the matter, derived, not from the prophecies of the Second Isaiah,[1] but from more nearly contemporary sources. 1. In the first place, as has already been suggested, the liberality of which Cyrus gives evidence in his memorial inscription would prompt him to favour the return of the Jews to their country. 2. It would also suit his plans against Egypt to have them reestablish themselves on the western border of his empire under his protection. 3. Again, the decree cited in Ezr. 513 ff., which makes the impression of a genuine document, although there is no mention of the release of the captives, implies that they were by the same instrument, or had been by another, permitted to return to Palestine, since it would have been mockery to order the restoration of the temple without allowing them to go to worship at its altar. 4. Finally, since most, if not quite all, of the better class of inhabitants had been carried into captivity by Nebuchadrezzar, the fact that at the beginning of the reign of Darius there were princes of the house of David as well as priests and prophets resident at Jerusalem[2] shows that a royal edict permitting them to return had then been in operation for some time. Taking these factors into account, and remembering that, according to Ezr. 62, the record of the alleged decree was finally found in Ecbatana, it seems safe to conclude that, after settling the affairs of Babylonia, the king, early in 538 B.C., retired to Ecbatana, whence he issued orders releasing the Jews from captivity and instructing Sheshbazzar to rebuild their temple and restore its sacred vessels; and that from this time onward they could, and did, return, as they were moved so to do, to their native land.[3]

The Chronicler does not say when the Jews started from Babylonia, or when they arrived in Palestine; but in Ezr. 3 he informs the reader that, "when the seventh month was come," they "were in the cities," and that on the first of the month Joshua and Zerubbabel had rebuilt the altar at Jerusalem, so that they could offer

  1. Compare the phraseology of Ezr. 11 ff. with that of Is. 412 and 4428.
  2. Hg. 11 21 f., etc.
  3. Cf. Meyer, EJ., 47f. André (83 ff.) supposes two distinct expeditions to have been organised, the first of which left Babylonia under Sheshbazzar soon after the decree was issued, the second under the twelve elders, among whom were Zerubbabel and Joshua, somewhat later.