As the book begins, God inspires King Cyrus of Persia (who has just conquered Babylon) to send out a herald and a written edict throughout his new empire.
The edict tells the people that God has appointed Cyrus the new ruler of this empire, and ordered him to build him a new temple in Jerusalem.
Cyrus orders all the Israelites out of captivity and sends them back to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild the house of their God.
He also says that people should give the Israelites gold, goods, animals, and offerings to God to help them in their mission.
The people of Judah and Benjamin and all the Levites and priests get ready to return.
Their neighbors help them prepare with gifts and aid, like Cyrus commanded.
Also, with the help of his treasurer Mithredath and the Prince of Judah Sheshbazzar, Cyrus releases the treasure and gold and silver vessels the Babylonians had plundered from the temple in Jerusalem, returning them to the Israelites.