The End of the Babylonian Exile and the First Return
The people of Elohim were not oppressed during their exile in Babylon although they wept by the rivers of Babylon (Psa_137:1-6). Many of them followed the advice of the prophet Yirmeyahu and built houses and businesses (Jer_29:3-7). Some of them even arose to positions of distinction in the empire (Dan_2:48; Neh_1:1-11).
On a fateful night, the last night of King Belshazzar of Babylon, while he and his ruling company partied, Dareyavesh, the King of the Medes diverted the Euphrates River and his armies entered into the fortress-palace of Babylon and destroyed it. Dareyavesh reigned only one year, because he was slain in battle, as it is written in the book of Joseph ben Gurion, and they crowned Koresh his son-in-law in the midst of the battle.
With which we come to the end of the seventy years of exile when the land had completed its due rest. With the partial return of Yehudah to the land under Zerubavel the Jubilee count resumed, but this time only for the sake of calculating and implementing the sabbatical year seven times in each 50-year period. Because since much of the land was not resettled and a large part of Israel remained in exile, the Jubilee year could not be possibly observed to the full extent of the Torah, that is why the present author holds the view that the Jubilee count resumed only for the sake of implementing the 50-year jubilee cycle. Nevertheless, a fiftieth year was counted following each seven Sabbath-cycles, so that the Sabbatical years would fall in their proper times. In other words, after the seventh Sabbatical year in year forty-nine, the next seven-year cycle could not begin until after a “theoretical jubilee” was proclaimed.
With the fall of Babylon when the seventy years of exile ended in year 3427, King Koresh of Persia, in his first year (the seventieth of the exile, Antiq 11:1:1) issued his famous declaration (1Es_6:24-28, Ezr_1:1-4), which allowed those desiring to return to Zion to do so and to build the Temple (2Ch_36:19-23, Ezr_6:3-5).
Thus said Koresh king of Persia, Yehovah Elohim of the heavens has given me all the reigns of the earth. And He has commanded me to build Him a house in Yerushalayim which is in Yehudah. Who is among you of all His people? His Elohim be with him! And let him go up to Yerushalayim, which is in Yehudah, and build the House of Yehovah Elohim of Israel – He is Elohim – which is in Yerushalayim. (Ezr 1:2-3)
At that time 42,360 plus 7,337 servants (Ezr_2:64) left Babylon which was the first return of the exile with Zerubavel (grandson of King Yehoyakin, Mat_1:11-12), thus having put the Babylonian exile to an end. Probably, King Koresh was made fully aware of Isaiah’s prophecy by Daniel (Dan_1:21) regarding himself. It should be observed that the same prophecy included both the building of the Temple and the building of the city (Isa_44:24-28). The same is also stated by Josephus in Ant. 11:1:1:
“IN the first year of the reign of Cyrus which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Yirmeyahu the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebukadnetsar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: “Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Yerushalayim, in the country of Judea.” 2. This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: “My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.” This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Yehudim that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Yerushalayim, and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices. 3. When Cyrus had said this to the Israelites, the rulers of the two tribes of Yehudah and Benjamin, with the Levites and priests, went in haste to Yerushalayim; yet did many of them stay at Babylon, as not willing to leave their possessions; and when they were come thither, all the king’s friends assisted them, and brought in, for the building of the temple, some gold, and some silver, and some a great many cattle and horses…
KING CYRUS TO SISINNES AND SATHRABUZANES SENDETH GREETING.
“I have given leave to as many of the Yehudim that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Yerushalayim on the same place where it was before. I have also sent my treasurer Mithridates, and Zorobabel, the governor of the Yehudim, that they may lay the foundations of the temple, and may build it sixty cubits high, and of the same latitude, making three edifices of polished stones, and one of the wood of the country, and the same order extends to the altar whereon they offer sacrifices to God. I require also that the expenses for these things may be given out of my revenues. Moreover, I have also sent the vessels which king Nebukadnetsar pillaged out of the temple, and have given them to Mithridates the treasurer, and to Zorobabel the governor of the Yehudim, that they may have them carried to Yerushalayim, and may restore them to the temple of God. Now their number is as follows: Fifty chargers of gold, and five hundred of silver; forty Thericlean cups of gold, and five hundred of silver; fifty basons of gold, and five hundred of silver; thirty vessels for pouring [the drink-offerings], and three hundred of silver; thirty vials of gold, and two thousand four hundred of silver; with a thousand other large vessels. I permit them to have the same honor which they were used to have from their forefathers, as also for their small cattle, and for wine and oil, two hundred and five thousand and five hundred drachme; and for wheat flour, twenty thousand and five hundred artabae; and I give order that these expenses shall be given them out of the tributes due from Samaria. The priests shall also offer these sacrifices according to the laws of Moses in Yerushalayim; and when they offer them, they shall pray to God for the preservation of the king and of his family, that the kingdom of Persia may continue. But my will is, that those who disobey these injunctions, and make them void, shall be hung upon a cross, and their substance brought into the king’s treasury.”
And such was the import of this epistle. Now the number of those that came out of captivity to Yerushalayim, were forty-two thousand four hundred and sixty-two.”
This leave of King Koresh (Cyrus) to build Yerushalayim is most unfortunately omitted in the Biblical annals and by such omission the famous prophecy of Isaiah regarding the rebuilding of Yerushalayim (Isa_44:28, Isa_45:13) could not be demonstrated to have been completely fulfilled, but only regarding the Temple, whose rebuilding is alone permitted (Ezr_1:2).
We may ask the question as to what source of information Josephus used concerning this commission. Puzzling is the fact that his record in Antiquities of the Yehudim is the only confirmation of Isaiah’s prophecy. Did he use scrolls which the Yehudim brought with them after the exile? And who brought them: Zerubavel, Ezra, or Nehemiah? Why did neither Ezra nor Nehemiah mention anything about King Koresh’s epistle? If the king had issued it, Zerubavel should have had it in his journey back to the land, first for a safe passage but also in order to present it before the local governor for the purpose of resettlement. It is hard to imagine that about 50,000 people would have travelled through the vast empire without a written permission to leave the land of exile. Therefore, we may assume that this epistle of King Koresh, which allowed the Yehudim to return to their country, must have been in existence although omitted in the Scripture.
Soon after their arrival in the land in the seventh month of the Sabbatical year of 3428, we learn from 1Es_5:48 that the altar was built but the foundation of the House was not laid (1Es_5:53, Ezr_3:1-6).
Now, in the days of Koresh, when Zerubavel and Yehoshua the Priest went up from Babylon to Yerushalayim with the permission of the king (Ezr_1:1-3), the adversaries of the exile rose up and sent their letters to Koresh to have him ordain that the Jews stop the construction of the Temple, which they had commenced and he gave the order and stopped it. According to the sages the adversaries of the exile were the ten sons of Haman (Seder Olam, ch. 29): these are the ten who wrote a false accusation against Yehudah and Yerushalayim, as it is written in the Book of Ezr_4:6 in order to stop those who ascended from the exile during the days of Koresh, who had commenced to build the Temple. But according to 1Es_2:16 those who stood against the rebuilding of the Temple were named as Belemus, Mithradates, Tabellius, Rathumus, Beeltethmus, and Samellius the scribe, along with the others that were in commission with them, and they dwelt in Samaria and other places. When King Koresh died, and Ahashverosh, Cambyses, reigned, Haman was promoted. Haman feared that those in Yerushalayim would engage in the construction, and they sent in the name of King Ahashverosh to the local rulers to stop them.
Insert: In 1Sa_15:18 a severe command is given to utterly destroy the Amalekites who attacked the rear guard of the Hebrews in their Exodus from Egypt. Then the Amalekites were defeated by Yehoshua, but a remnant survived to become one the worst enemies of Israel (see also Exo_17:8-16; Num_14:45; Deu_25:17-19; Jdg_6:3-6; 1Sa_15:33). And a descendant of those Amalekites was the most barbarous of all Haman the Agagite, one of the posterity of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, Est_3:1-15. Had King Shaul utterly wiped out every man, woman, and child as he had been instructed, there would have been no Haman (Est_3:10, Est_9:24) to avenge the Amalekites against Israel.
The work of the House of Elohim was stopped for the three years in which Koresh reigned, the fourteen years of Ahashverosh, and the first year of King Dareyavesh his son (Ezr_4:24). In the second year of King Dareyavesh this prophecy was proclaimed to Haggai: to urge them [Yehudah] to resume the building, and that they should not fear, for the heathens would not stop them for YHVH, would grant them success (Hag_1:1). Therefore, the rebuilding of the Temple had been ceased for eighteen years until the second year of King Dareyavesh.
The rebuilding of the Temple did not start until the second year of King Dareyavesh (1Es_5:72-73, 1Es_6:1-2).