Rise Up and Build”
King Cyrus allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
Ezra leads another group of Jews back to Jerusalem.
Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem and leads the people in rebuilding the walls
to protect the city.
The people rejoice as Ezra reads the scriptures to them.
A study of this lesson will encourage us to help build Zion and to show
Christlike love to those who oppose the work of the Lord.
Scripture references for study: Ezra 1–8;
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 47 Handout (PDF
The Jews Return To Jerusalem - Ezra 1-6
EZRA 1:1-3. Cyrus and the temple at Jerusalem.
721 B.C. - The kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom or the ten tribes)
taken captive by the Assyrians.
At this time the Assyrian empire was the greatest in the world.
621 B.C. - By this year, the Assyrian empire had been destroyed by
Under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians conquered most of the
lands that had been ruled by the Assyrians.
605 B.C. - The Babylonians conquered Jewish kingdom (Judah or the Southern
Many of the Jews were taken captive at this time.
587 B.C. - Babylonians destroy Jerusalem.
562 B.C. - Nebuchadnezzar dies. The decline of the Babylonian empire
539 B.C. - Babylon falls to the Medes and the Persians who had been united
under the leadership of Cyrus.
"Cyrus (580-529 BC) was the first Achaemenian
Emperor. He founded Persia by uniting the two original Iranian Tribes-
the Medes and the Persians. Although he was known to be a great conqueror,
who at one point controlled one of the greatest Empires ever seen, he is
best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude
towards those he defeated.
"Upon his victory
over the Medes, he founded a government for his new kingdom, incorporating
both Median and Persian nobles as civilian officials. The conquest of Asia
Minor completed, he led his armies to the eastern frontiers. Hyrcania and
Parthia were already part of the Median Kingdom. Further east, he conquered
Drangiana, Arachosia, Margiana and Bactria. After crossing the Oxus, he
reached the Jaxartes, where he built fortified towns with the object of
defending the farthest frontier of his kingdom against nomadic tribes of
Central Asia. The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded
the hour for attack on Babylon and Egypt. When he conquered Babylon, he
did so to cheers from the Jewish Community, who welcomed him as a liberator-
he allowed the Jews to return to the promised Land. He showed great forbearance
and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other
races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people
over whom he ruled." (www.oznet.net/cyrus)
The return to Jerusalem.
Shortly after conquering Babylon, Cyrus decreed that the temple in Jerusalem
should be rebuilt. He invited the Jews in his empire to return to
Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, and he returned the vessels of gold and
silver that Nebuchadnezzar’s troops had stolen from the temple.
WHY DID CYRUS DECREE THAT A TEMPLE SHOULD BE BUILT AGAIN IN JERUSALEM?
It appears that Cyrus had seen the prophecies and was moved by the Spirit
to fulfill these prophecies.
Isaiah wrote, "That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd,
and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt
be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah
44:28, see also Isaiah 45:1-5). It should be noted that Isaiah lived
about 150 years before Cyrus.
The ancient historian Josephus wrote: "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 Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction
of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar 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 Jerusalem, in the
country of Judea.'
"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 Jews 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 Jerusalem, 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." (Antiquities of
the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 1)
In 520 B.C. two prophets rose up and provided the inspiration needed to
get construction going again
The first company of exiles returned under the direction of Zerubbabel
and ten other leaders. Zerubbabel was of the royal lineage, a grandson
of Jehoiachin (see Ezra 2).
The Jews found upon their return that the Samaritans had occupied the land. The Samaritans were descendants of Israelites who had escaped at the time
of captivity and had intermarried with Assyrian and Babylonian colonists
whom the kings had sent to occupy the land.
The Samaritans desired to assist in the rebuilding of the temple.
"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin
heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD
God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers,
and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye
do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of
Assur, which brought us up hither." (Ezra 4:1-2)
The leaders of the Jews responded to the Samaritans, "Ye
have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves
together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king
of Persia hath commanded us" (Ezra 4:3).
As a consequence of this refusal the Samaritans took revenge and hindered
the work of building.
"Then the people of the land weakened the hands
of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors
against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of
Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign
of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation
against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem." (Ezra 4:4-6)
Work on the temple ceased because of the Samaritan efforts at hindering
Andrew Skinner: "The phrase used in Ezra
4:4, which says the Samaritans 'weakened the hands' of Judah, reflects
a Hebrew idiom which means to cause someone to lose heart and become discouraged.
The phrase was used in a nonbiblical source, a Hebrew ostracon from Lachish,
in which a prophet was accused of lowering the morale of the country at
a critical moment. Thus, in their spiritually and emotionally weak state,
the Jews, having little resolve, allowed harassment from the Samaritans
to hinder their work on the new temple for several years." (Studies
In Scripture, 4:342-343)
Work on the temple remained dormant for many years.
As construction on the temple resumed, there was additional resistance
from Tatnai, the Persian governor over the region west of the Euphrates.
and by leaders of Samaria.
"Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah
the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem
in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel
the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build
the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets
of God helping them." (Ezra 5:1-2)
HAGGAI 1:1-7. The Lord speaks to the Jews
about building the temple.
WHAT ATTITUDES KEPT THE JEWS FROM BUILDING THE TEMPLE?
Procrastination: "The time is not come" (v2).
Caught up in temporal matters: "Ye have sown much, and bring in little;
ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink;
ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth
wages to put it into a bag with holes" (v6).
As noted above, they were easily discouraged.
WHAT ATTITUDES HINDER US FROM REGULAR WORSHIP AND SERVICE IN THE TEMPLE?
The Jews were more tenacious this time around. They responded to Tatnai that they had been commissioned by God to build the temple and they
requested that a search of the Persian archives be made to find the original
decree from Cyrus. Darius issued a decree that the search be made. When the decree of Cyrus was found, Darius issued another proclamation
not only to permit the continuation of construction, but also to assist
financially. All this was made effective by penalty of death for those
who tried to alter the king's declaration. So work on the Lord's house
continued until the second temple was finally finished in 515 B.C. (see
When the temple was completed, a celebration and dedication ceremony was
Ezra & Nehemiah Go To Jerusalem
In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes (458 B.C.), Ezra led a second
colony of Jews back to Jerusalem. Artaxerxes was probably Longimanus,
who reigned for forty years (464-425 B.C.) and was the grandson of Darius.
Ezra, a scribe and priest, apparently found favor in the eyes of the king
of Persia and returned to Judah armed with royal authority to enforce strict
observance of the Law of Moses and to strengthen the small Jewish community.
Ezra gave thanks to the Lord for the king's support: "Blessed
be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in
the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and
before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand
of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief
men to go up with me." (Ezra 7:27-28)
As spoken by Ezra in his prayer, the heart of the king had been changed
by the Lord. Ezra had found favor in the eyes of the king and this
must have been instrumental in the king supporting Ezra's journey back
The way in which we live our lives and the prayers we make can change the
hearts of leaders. President Monson tells the remarkable story of
the changes that came to East Germany because the hearts of the country's
leaders were changed. See
Be To God," Ensign - May 1989.
Nehemiah Goes To Jerusalem - Leads the People In Rebuilding
As with Ezra, Nehemiah also found favor in the eyes of the king of Persia,
While serving in the court of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah learned that the Jews
in Palestine were not faring well and that Jerusalem still lay in ruins.
Nehemiah had served as the cupbearer of Artaxerxes (see
Nehemiah 1:11-2:1). The cupbearer served the king's drink and sampled it to ensure that it
had not been poisoned before it was given to the king. This was a
practice common at that time to prevent the assassination of the king.
To avoid the opposition of the enemies of the Jews, Nehemiah inspected
the walls of Jerusalem at night. Once Nehemiah's mission was known, Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others, accused Nehemiah of sedition
"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."
Nehemiah then pleaded with the Lord on behalf of the Jews.
He says that when he heard of the plight of his fellow Jews, "I
sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before
the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:4; see also
When Nehemiah went before the king as his cupbearer, Antaxerxes noticed
his sad countenance. "Why is thy countenance
sad, seeing thou art not sick?" (Nehemiah 2:2)
After explaining the reason for his sadness, Nehemiah made a request of
the king: "If it please the king, and if
thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me
unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it"
The king granted Nehemiah's request and an armed escort accompanied him
to Jerusalem in 445 B.C.
It appears that in addition to having authority to rebuild Jerusalem, Nehemiah
was made governor of the province of Judah as well.
The threats of Sanballat fell on deaf ears. The Jews were enthusiastic and soon a good portion of the wall had been
"But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the
servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us
to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will
ye rebel against the king?" (Nehemiah 2:19)
Though they knew the charge was false, they were making every effort to
frustrate Nehemiah's plans.
Nehemiah knew his mission and responded without fear: "The
God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise
and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem."
This success enraged Sanballat and Tobiah, who made
threats about attacking the Jews. Nehemiah responded by placing half of the
Jews on guard duty during the day and by having the workers stay in Jerusalem at
night to protect themselves and the walls (see
As the work continued, Sanballat and Geshem requested
a meeting with Nehemiah away from Jerusalem, where they planned to kill
Nehemiah wisely refused the meeting. They then
accused Nehemiah of planning a revolt against the king. They threatened
to send a letter to Antaxerxes unless Nehemiah met with them.
Nehemiah responded, "Then I sent unto him, saying,
There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out
of thine own heart. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall
be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen
my hands" (Nehemiah 6:8-9)
Despite the attempts to slow and stop the work, it continued and the rebuilding
of the wall was completed.
Nehemiah was a capable leader with great faith in the Lord. His strength
and faith inspired the Jews to continue the work in spite of great opposition.
I am reminded of the building of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. At times the Saints faced opposition, but the work continued until they
were completed. At times, guards were necessary to protect the Kirtland
Temple. The enemies of the Church assassinated the Prophet Joseph
and harassed the Twelve, but the work on the Nauvoo Temple continued and
the work of the enemies of the Church came to naught.
Nehemiah and the early Saints remind us of the importance of doing the
work of the Lord. Though we may face great opposition, the Lord will
be with us and his work will go forward. How are we doing at following
the example of Nehemiah?
Elder Marvin J. Ashton: "Certain people
and organizations are trying to provoke us into contention with slander,
innuendos, and improper classifications. How unwise we are in today's society
to allow ourselves to become irritated, dismayed, or offended because others
seem to enjoy the role of misstating our position or involvement. Our principles
or standards will not be less than they are because of the statements of
the contentious. Ours is to explain our position through reason, friendly
persuasion, and accurate facts. Ours is to stand firm and unyielding on
the moral issues of the day and the eternal principles of the gospel, but
to contend with no man or organization. … Ours is to be heard and teach.
Ours is not only to avoid contention, but to see that such things are done
away." (Ensign, May 1978, p8)
Ezra Reads The Scriptures To The People
After the walls of the city had been rebuilt, the people requested Ezra
to read "the book of the law of Moses, which the
LORD had commanded to Israel" (Nehemiah 8:1).
The Jews had been in captivity so long that they had never heard or read
the scriptures. The Jews were not keeping the law and that they were
ignorant of many of its commandments, such as those concerning the Sabbath
"And Ezra the priest brought the law before the
congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding,
upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the
street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before
the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of
all the people were attentive unto the book of the law." (Nehemiah 8:2-3)
Ezra continued his reading for two days. Ezra's reading, and the
explanations made by him and the Levite priests, caused the people to confess
their sins and iniquities, to worship the Lord, and to covenant to obey
They "entered into a ... an oath, to walk in God's
law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do
all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes"
Again we see the power of the scriptures to motivate men to follow the
Lord and keep his commandments. This account should serve as a reminder
of the important of immersing ourselves in the scriptures. Normally,
we don't need to read the scriptures for two days straight, but we do need
to do more than read a few verses daily.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested a pattern for scripture study:
Study the scriptures daily. Drink directly from holy
writ. Learn the word as it is found in the scriptures.
Mark a new set of the standard works. Learn to use
the footnotes and teaching aids in our new editions of the scriptures.
Pay particular attention to the inspired changes made by the Prophet Joseph
Smith in the Bible. Be sure any quotations you make include the new textual
Apply what you learn to your life and to your administrative
assignments in the Church. Act and live as the scriptures decree.
Use the scriptures in all your sermons and teaching.
Rely on the scriptures. Quote the scriptures. Believe the scriptures. Choose
your illustrations from them.
Ponder the revealed word in your hearts. Pray about
its deep and hidden meanings. Let the things of eternity be your constant
Expound the scriptures. Explain their meanings. Let
others know what you know. Raise your voice in testimony.
Get others to go and do likewise with reference to
all of these things. (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie,
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- Record your thoughts on the efforts of the Jews to rebuild the temple.
What does the temple mean to you? What importance does regular scripture
reading have in your life? How can you improve?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus.
Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie.
Studies In Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi
edited by Kent P. Jackson.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding
The Promised Messiah by Bruce R. McConkie.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
24 November 2014