Ezra 5:1-6:22

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Ezra 5


  II.     The Restoration of the Worship of the Lord (continued), 3:1 - 6:22

            A.  The Temple rebuilt (continued), 3:1 - 6:15


The continuation of the work (5:1 - 6:12) (BKC)

Ezra 5:1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo [i.e. Iddo was actually his grandfather], prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.


The work on the temple had been stopped . . ., from 535 to 520 B.C. Now under the influence of two important prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, it was resumed. The preaching of these two men is recorded in the biblical books bearing their respective names. Haggai prophesied from August to December 520 B.C., and Zechariah prophesied for two years beginning in October-November 520. They were helping by exhorting and encouraging (cf. 6:14; Hag. 1:8; 2:4; Zech. 4:7-9). They were vitally concerned with the building of the temple because they realized that their nation could never fulfill the obligations of the Mosaic Covenant till the temple worship was reinstated. Both of these prophets placed the blame for the hard times the nation experienced during this period on the people’s lack of obedience in not rebuilding the temple. However, Ezra did not deal with the question in his book. He stressed the outside opposition which was also a factor in slowing the work. The building process itself was spearheaded by Zerubbabel and Jeshua [i.e. Joshua], the civil and religious leaders, respectively (BKC).


Ezra 6:14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia [This was in 515 B.C.].


Haggai 1:8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house (i.e. the temple); and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.


Haggai 2:4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:


Zechariah 4:7-97 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof [i.e. the headstone (capstone) of the temple, the final stone of the temple] with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.


Ryrie note on Zechariah 4:6-7 – Just as Joshua, the religious leader, was cleansed in the preceding vision, now Zerubbabel, the civil leader, is encouraged by this vision. The Temple would be finished by the power of the Holy Spirit; every mountain (obstacle) would be removed. When the headstone was put in place, the people would beseech God for grace upon the Temple.

Back to Ezra 5:2

Ezra 5:2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God [i.e. the temple] which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God [i.e. Haggai and Zechariah] helping them.


5:2 – (RSB) Zerubbabel. Designated as the son of both Shealtiel and Shealtiel’s brother Pedaiah (1 Chron. 3:17-19), suggesting a case of levirate marriage. . . . An ancestor of Christ (Matt. 1:12-13), he [i.e. Zerubbabel] was the last of the descendants of David to exercise political authority (until Christ returns to rule the world in the Millennium). . . .

Ezra 5:3 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river [i.e. the governor of the province on the west side of the Euphrates River], and Shetharboznai, and their companions [i.e. colleagues, associates], and said thus unto them [i.e. said to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, Zechariah], Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?


5:3 – (RSB) Tattnai. The Persian governor for the territory W of the Euphrates. Shethar-boznai. Apparently his executive aide.

Ezra 5:4 Then said we [i.e. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, Zechariah] unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? [i.e. Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building.]

Ezra 5:5 But the eye of their God [i.e. the eye of the Jews’ God] was upon the elders of the Jews, that they [i.e. Tatnai, Shetharboznai, and their associates] could not cause them to cease [i.e. could not make the Jews stop building the temple], till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter [i.e. a letter from Darius] concerning this matter.


Despite this challenge, the work did not stop because the eye of their God was watching over them. . . . Occurring frequently in Ezra and Nehemiah are the words “the hand of the LORD was on him” and similar expressions. . . . God was providentially caring for them (by His “eye”) and blessing them (by His “hand”). Clearly, God was at work in spite of this opposition because through it the project was eventually given help (BKC).

[Verses 6-17 provide the letter the enemies of Israel sent to Darius. It must have been written somewhere around 520 B.C. after the work on the temple had resumed. In chapter 6 we will see Darius’ answer to their letter in which Darius not only denies their request to stop the construction of the temple, but also orders them to leave the Jews alone and to keep their distance from them. In addition, he directs that expenses be paid to the Jews out of the taxes collected from that territory for whatever they needed including animals for sacrifices.]

Ezra 5:6 The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river [i.e. the governor of the province on the west side of the Euphrates River], and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river [i.e. on the west side of the Euphrates River], sent unto Darius the king:


5:6 – (RSB) the Apharsachites. Possibly settlers or officials who were especially devoted to the king (cf. 4:9).

Ezra 5:7 They [i.e. Tatnai, Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites] sent a letter unto him [i.e. to Darius], wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.

Ezra 5:8 Be it known unto the king, that we [i.e. Tatnai, Shetharboznai, and their companions the Apharsachites] went into the province of Judea, to the house [i.e. to the temple] of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on [i.e. this work goes on diligently], and prospereth in their hands [i.e. and is making progress in the Jews’ hands].


5:8 – (RSB) great stones. Lit., stones of rolling; i.e., stones so large they had to be moved on rollers.

Ezra 5:9 Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?

Ezra 5:10 We asked their names also, to certify thee [i.e. to inform you], that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them [i.e. the names of their leaders].


5:11-15 – (RSB) Quoting the Jews’ answer to Tattnai, the letter relates the history of the Temple from the time of its completion under Solomon (v. 11), through its destruction in 586 (v. 12), and to the decree to rebuild it in 538 B.C. (vv. 13-15).

Ezra 5:11 And thus they [i.e. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, Zechariah] returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel [i.e. Solomon] builded and set up.

Ezra 5:12 But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them [i.e. God gave our fathers] into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon [i.e. God was responsible for giving them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (BKC)].

Ezra 5:13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.

Ezra 5:14 And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar [i.e. Zerubbabel?], whom he had made governor;

Ezra 5:15 And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place [i.e. in its place, on its former site].

Ezra 5:16 Then came the same Sheshbazzar [i.e. Zerubbabel?], and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building [i.e. under construction], and yet it is not finished.


Are Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel the same person? Many think so because Sheshbazzar laid the temple foundations, and so did Zerubbabel (3:8-10). However, this is not absolute proof that the two men were identical. Sheshbazzar could have been responsible, as the king’s representative, to see that the work was begun, and Zerubbabel the Jewish leader who completed the task (BKC).

Ezra 5:17 Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king [i.e. by Cyrus the king] to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure [i.e. his decision] to us concerning this matter.

Ezra 6


  II.     The Restoration of the Worship of the Lord (continued), 3:1 - 6:22

            A.  The Temple rebuilt (continued), 3:1 - 6:15

Ezra 6:1 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls [i.e. in the house of the archives], where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.

Ezra 6:2 And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll [i.e. a scroll], and therein was a record thus written:


6:2 – (RSB) The efficient Persian government kept its records on scrolls of papyrus or leather at Achmetha (modern Hamadan on the road from Baghdad to Teheran). It was a city at 6,000 ft . . . elevation, with a climate conducive to the preservation of scrolls.


Achmetha (Ecbatana) was 300 miles northeast of Babylon and was the capital of Media. This scroll was in Ecbatana, because that is where Cyrus had spent the summer of 538 where he issued the decree. (BKC)


6:3-5 – (RSB) These added details, appropriate to the official memorandum, were not included in the public proclamation of 1:2-4. . . .

Ezra 6:3 In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God [i.e. the temple] at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits [i.e. 90 feet], and the breadth thereof threescore cubits [i.e. 90 feet];

Ezra 6:4 With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house [i.e. paid from the king’s treasury]:

Ezra 6:5 And also let the golden and silver vessels [i.e. articles, utensils] of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place [i.e. each to its own place], and place them in the house of God.

Ezra 6:6 Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence [i.e. keep yourselves far from there, stay away from there]:

Ezra 6:7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place [i.e. on its site].


6:8-10 – (RSB) Darius not only confirmed Cyrus’s previous decree, but added one of his own, which provided for some of the tribute (taxes) to be given to the Jews – a provision that must have shocked Tattnai, since it cut into his share. Animals and foods for the sacrifices in the Temple were also to be supplied.

Ezra 6:8 Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.

Ezra 6:9 And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests [i.e. as requested by the priests] which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day [i.e. daily] without fail:

Ezra 6:10 That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours [i.e. of sweet aroma] unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

Ezra 6:11 Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill [i.e. a refuse heap] for this.

Ezra 6:12 And the God [i.e. and may the God] that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter [i.e. to alter this decree] and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree [i.e. I Darius have issued this decree]; let it be done with speed [i.e. let it be done diligently].


The temple completed (6:13-15) (BKC)

Ezra 6:13 Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river [i.e. on the west side of the Euphrates River], Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily [i.e. they did it diligently, they complied at once].

Ezra 6:14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.


Artaxerxes had nothing to do with building the temple; apparently his name was added to round out the account, for he had decreed the building of Jerusalem’s walls (Neh. 2:1, 8). He also helped provide for sacrifices at the temple (Ezra 7:12-17 ) (BKC).


            B.  The Temple dedicated, 6:16-22

Ezra 6:15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.


6:15 – (RSB) The Temple was completed on March 12, 515 B.C.


The temple was completed in Adar (February-March) of 515 – 21 years after the work started in 536, and 4½ years after Haggai began his prophesying. This was 70½ years after the temple had been destroyed on August 12, 586 (BKC).


The dedication of the temple and the celebration of the Passover (6:16-22) (BKC)


The temple dedicated (6:16-18) (BKC)

Ezra 6:16 And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity [i.e. the rest of the exiles], kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,

Ezra 6:17 And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks [i.e. bulls], two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel [i.e. and as a sin offering for all Israel], twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.


6:17 – (RSB) The offerings were on a much less lavish scale than those at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon, which involved more than 200 times as many oxen and sheep (I Kings 8:63 ). The people were much poorer and fewer in number at this time.


I Kings 8:63 And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.

Ezra 6:18 And they set [i.e. appointed, assigned] the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses [i.e. groups, divisions], for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.


6:18 – (RSB) in their divisions. 24 of them. See note on 1 Chron. 24:4.


Ryrie note on I Chronicles 24:4 Dividing the priests into 24 groups meant that each group would serve for two weeks out of the year. The way the Jewish year was divided meant that their service would gradually move around the calendar. This arrangement was reinstituted after the Exile and continued into NT times.


Beginning with verse 19 the text is again in Hebrew (4:8 - 6:18 are in Aramaic) (BKC).


The Passover celebrated (6:19-22) (BKC)

Ezra 6:19 And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.


This was the first time in 70 years that the people partook of this feast which commemorated their forefather’s release from Egyptian bondage . . . (BKC).

Ezra 6:20 For the priests and the Levites were purified together [i.e. had purified themselves], all of them were pure [i.e. ceremonially clean], and killed the passover [i.e. slaughtered the passover lambs] for all the children of the captivity [i.e. for all the exiles], and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

Ezra 6:21 And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity [i.e. who had returned from the captivity], and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness [i.e. from the filth, from the impurity, from the unclean practices] of the heathen [i.e. of the nations] of the land, to seek [i.e. in order to seek] the LORD God of Israel, did eat,


6:21 – (RSB) Two groups are indicated here: the returnees, and the residents of the land who had remained separate from heathen practices.

Ezra 6:22 And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands [i.e. so that he assisted them] in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.


The reference to Darius as the king of Assyria is not an anachronism (though the Assyrian Empire had ended in 609 B.C.) for the Persian Empire included what was once Assyria. Perhaps this title was a grim reminder that Assyria’s harsh tactics were now ended. She was the first to deport Israelites from their land; but now a contingent of Jews was settled back in their land (BKC).


This sermon is the 4th part of the series, Study of Ezra. Other sermons in this series are: