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17. Going back to Jerusalem - Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah

My notes for teaching the Old Testament, by Mama Brenda.

Leader’s notes: Lesson 7 - Going back to Jerusalem - Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah

This lesson does not give the students the right answers unless they write them in for themselves, as you will have to do too! I hope by now they are used to sorting information.

Work through sections 1-7 (on page 61 opposite) checking the information in the Bible references.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem - Ezra, Haggai and


God had told of Judah’s captivity in Babylon more than 100 years before it happened,

Isaiah 39:6; Micah 4:10. Jeremiah foretold that it would last for 70 years, Jeremiah 25:11-12.

Have you remembered that in talking to Abraham God had told him that his descendants would go to Egypt, and then be enslaved? Genesis 15:13-14

We saw that come true in Genesis and Exodus. Now we also see Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah’s prophecies coming true.

1. What was the situation for the people of Judah in Babylon?

2 Chronicles 36:20, they worked for the government.

Ezekiel (last lesson 16) - digging canal, own house, relatively free.

2. What was the situation in Jerusalem?

2 Chronicles 36:17-19, treasures from the Temple, and the king, taken away to Babylon.

The Temple was burned and the walls of Jerusalem broken down.

2 Chronicles 36:21 the land regained productiveness, liking its many Sabbath rests.

Compare with Leviticus 26:40-45.

3. What were the terms of the people returning? See Jeremiah 25:11.

Ezra 1:1-4 ‘God has asked me, Cyrus, to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in

Judah. Any Jews living here can go to accomplish this, and those around them,

Jews or people from other backgrounds, shall provide them with silver and gold, and

with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’

4. Who went?

Ezra 2:1-2, 3, 21, 36, 40, 41, 42, 43, 55, 58, plus servants (men and women). The numbers do not reconcile easily - perhaps some wives and children

are not listed - perhaps the specific numbers are those who belonged to the

tribes of Judah and Benjamin, not counting those from other tribes.

So, not quite 50,000 people trekked 900 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem with

camels, horses, mules and donkeys.

5. Cyrus’ edict was issued in 538 B.C. See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.

6. How did the returnees get on?

They arrived in Jerusalem in 537 B.C.

Ezra 2:68-69 Families gave to the funds needed for the rebuilding.

Ezra 2:70 Everyone settled in the places their family had come from before the


Ezra 3:1-6 Three months later they all met in Jerusalem and rebuilt the altar of

the God of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua the priest, and Zerubbabel

the civic leader.

Page 61

Leader's notes: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem.

Introduce Haggai and work through sections 8 – 12 together as a class, checking the references as you go.

The prophecy of Zechariah 2:1-9 also says:

‘“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ’In a little while I will shake all nations, and the desired of nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine.’ declares the Lord Almighty. ’The glory of the present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace, ’declares the Lord Almighty.” Probably a prophecy of the peace we have through the death of Jesus in Jerusalem, and also a prophecy for the last days of the reign of Christ (the desired of nations) and peace throughout the world. This is another glimpse into the future and far future from where they were standing.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem.

Ezra 3:7 They started to organise for the rebuilding of the Temple.

Ezra 3:8-9 Early in 536 B.C. the men supervised by the priests and Levites started

laying the foundations of the Temple.

Ezra 3:10-11 There was great praise to God when the foundations were completed.

Ezra 3:12-13 Mixed emotions in much noise.

7. Opposition.

Ezra 4:1-2 Local enemies came, offering to help. They were people the Assyrians

had brought into the area, after Israel had been exiled to Assyria. They had their

own gods but, like Cyrus, believed in worshipping any god of the area. They did not

realise how big our God is - He is not for one area alone, He is supreme in all the


Ezra 4:3 Zerubbabel and Joshua said ‘No help needed - this is our job.’

8. Haggai – prophecy 1. Haggai was an older man and probably saw the destruction

of Jerusalem before being taken off into exile.

Haggai 1:1-11 520 B.C. God’s message comes to the Jews in Jerusalem.

Verses 7-8.’Think carefully - build the house so that I (God) may be honoured’.

Haggai 1:12-14 The people feared God. They were reassured of His presence with

them. They started working on the Temple again.

9. Haggai – prophecy 2.

Haggai 2:1-9 Two months later. God’s message through Haggai is to Zerbbabel

and Joshua, telling them not to be discouraged thinking that this Temple was not

as grand as that of Solomon. ‘Be strong……and work. For I am with you.’ Verse 4.

10. Zechariah’s ministry started within weeks of Haggai’s second message. He told

the people that God was angry with their forefathers for not obeying. The

people repented saying ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and

practices deserve.’ Zechariah 1:1-6.

11. Haggai – prophecy 3.

A few weeks later Haggai spoke from God again, Haggai 2:10-19.

Being defiled is easier than being holy. Being at the site of the Temple did not

make the people holy. They had to obey in life; get on and build the Temple.

There had been poor harvests since their return from Babylon. Obedience would

bring God’s blessing.

12. Haggai – prophecy 4. Same day.

This was given to the governor of Judah saying that God is in control of all time

and all Empires. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, will be the guarantee that

Messiah will come, descended from David.

Page 62

Leader's notes: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem.

Work through sections 13 – 17 (opposite on page 63).

Teach 13 by getting the ladies to find what Zechariah says about the coming Messiah.

Work as a class.

Teach 14 and 15.

For 16 and 17 get the ladies in pairs, to look up the references and answer the questions.

Student's worksheet: Going back to Jerusalem.

13. Ezra 5 Following Haggai’s and Zechariah’s early ministry, Zerubbabel and

Joshua set to work rebuilding the Temple. Tattenai, governor of Trans-

Euphrates wrote to Darius in 519 B.C. asking him to search the archives and check if

King Cyrus had in fact issued a decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the


Ezra 6 Yes, he had! Darius instructed governor Tattenai not to interfere with

the rebuilding but to provide money, provisions, animals for sacrifice, on penalty of

death for not doing so. The governor complied. The Jews worked.

The Temple was completed in March 516 B.C. - 70 years after its destruction.

The people celebrated the dedication of the Temple, organised the priests and

Levites, and in April celebrated the Passover.

Zechariah’s ministry had continued through the rebuilding. He talked about the

coming Messiah - 6:12-13; 9:10-14; 11:12-13; 13:7; 14:4. He also talked

about events to come 12:1-3,9; 13:1-2; 14:3; 14:16-19; 14:20-21.

The prophecies of Zechariah chapters 9-14 were given well after the completion of

the Temple.

14. Ezra 4:4-5, 24 Sustained, determined efforts to discourage the Jews in their

God-given project through the reigns of Cyrus and Darius. Opposition is not new!

15. Ezra 4:6 486 B.C. When Xerxes came to the throne - 51 years after the people got

back to Jerusalem! 30 years after the Temple was rededicated the walls of

Jerusalem were still in ruins.

Ezra 4:7 465 B.C. When Artazerxes came to the throne - 73 years after they

got back to Judah, the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins. The Jews have

given up because of threats and discouragement.

Ezra 4:7-23 Spying is not a new profession. It is old. Every king, emperor,

conqueror has had people who are his ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ and report back to him

what is happening far from the centre of the Empire. Work stopped again.

16. Ezra 7 Now we meet Ezra. Again these chapters are not in strict chronological

order, but there is plenty of information to dig out! Are you ready?

Ezra 7:11-12 Who was Ezra?

Ezra 7:11-12 Who wrote this decree?

Ezra 7:13-14 Who can go? why are they going?

Ezra 7:15-20 What can the gifts (from?) be used for?

Ezra 7:21-24 What did the king’s local treasurers have to do and not do?

Ezra 7:25 Everyone who lived there had to have knowledge of Jewish laws.

Ezra 7:26 Punishments?

Ezra 7:27-28 Ezra’s summary and action.

So Ezra was being sent to Jerusalem, with provisions, to re-establish the

worship of his God.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem.

Work through the references in section 18 (on page 64).

The children went with their mothers when the marriages were dissolved. In Genesis 21:14 Ishmael went with Hagar. In Babylonia, the community these people were leaving and thus had knowledge of, divorced women kept their children and had to wait for them to grow up before they could remarry. This was according to the Code of Hammurabi, the local civic law.

Basic rule: Don’t get involved with people and groups who do not want to go God’s way.

We need to clarify the marriage issue here in case it is a problem to someone in the class.

A Christian should only marry a Christian. 2 Corinthians 6:14. The verse also applies to business relationships. If someone becomes a Christian after marriage and the partner does not, then the believer has a responsibility to stay, 1 Corinthians 7:13-16.

On a broader front, 2 Corinthians 6:14 says “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers”. Think of two animals yoked together to pull a plough. They have to go in the same direction because they are yoked together. They have to go at the same pace. We are not to put ourselves in a situation where we are yoked to doing the same as someone else if he/she does not have the same beliefs as us. That does not mean we cannot have non-Christian friends or non-Christian contacts. We have to be involved with people to be able to share Jesus with them, but not in a yoke situation like a marriage or business partnerships.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 17 - Going back to Jerusalem.

17. How did he go about it?

Ezra 8:15

Ezra 8:16-20

Ezra 8:21-23

Ezra 8:24-30

Ezra 8:31-32

Ezra 8:33-36

18. An unexpected problem

Ezra 9:1-4

Ezra 9:5-15

Ezra 10:1-6

Ezra 10:7-8

Ezra 10:9-15

Ezra 10:16-17, 44

Ezra had taken those Jews who wanted to go, back to Jerusalem. Not all the Jewish people went back. Some were quite satisfied with the lives they had in Persia. With the authority of Artaxerxes, Ezra taught the laws of God and helped the people to sort out their mixed marriages.

Now what does the issue of Ezra 10:17 - mixed marriages - mean for us?

Deuteronomy 7:1-9 This is at the end of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness before they took the Promised Land. They were told to destroy completely the peoples they drove out. Why? Because the religious practices of these people would lead Israel astray. They did not do this completely, and were plagued with problems from not keeping their beliefs pure, as we have seen. It was their own fault.

Israel was called to be a “people holy to the Lord your God”, Deuteronomy 7:6.

In 1 Peter 2:9 God, through Peter, says that Christians are “a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

Ezekiel 36:36 “then the nations will know that I am the Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes”. (My emphasis).

Basic rule: Don’t get involved with people and groups who do not want to go God’s way.

However: you may need to work alongside them, but live Jesus’ way in front of them.

Or: you may have the opportunity to talk with them about God and Jesus, so learn to keep close to God in the situation.

For next time please look at Nehemiah 2:11-20; 3:1-5, 28-32; 8:9-12: 9:5-12 and Malachi 3:6-18.

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