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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 6

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verses 1-5


“Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the archives, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a roll, and therein was thus written for a record: in the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king made a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be builded, the place where they offer sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; with three courses of great stones, a course of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house. And also let the gold and silver vessels 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 its place; and thou shalt put them in the house of God.”

“In the house of the archives where the treasures were stored up” This verse is another example of scholarly tampering with the sacred text in order to make it say what the scholars suppose it SHOULD have said. The RSV renders this line, “in the house of the archives where the documents were stored”; but Bowman rejects this as “unnecessary,”(F1) because archaeological discoveries have proved that such decrees were kept in the same vaults where the treasures were also kept.

It is to Darius’ great credit that when Cyrus’ decree was not found in Babylon, he did not abandon the search, which he might well have done unless he had been motivated by a favorable inclination toward the Jews. Also, he might well have heard about that decree and thus had personal knowledge that it certainly existed.

“And there (it) was found at Achmetha (Echbatana)” “This was in Media, the summer residence of Persian kings.”(F2) “Echbatana is the Persian name for this place, as it came to light in the discovery of the Behistun Inscription.”(F3)

“The Behistun Inscription was discovered in 1835 by Sir Henry Rawlinson, a British army officer. On Behistun mountain, 200 miles northeast of Babylon, there was a great isolated rock rising 1700 feet out of the plain; and on the face of that rock, on a perpendicular cliff, 400 feet above the road, Rawlinson noticed a large smoothed surface upon which there were carvings and inscriptions. These had been inscribed there by Darius I (Hystaspes) in the yearr 516 B.C., the very year that the Second Temple was finished in Jerusalem. These inscriptions were written in the Persian, Elamitc, and Babylonian languages; and Rawlinson, standing on a narrow 1-foot ledge at the base of these writings, made squeezes of them. The inscriptions were an account, the same account, of the conquests of Darius, written in three languages; and Sir Henry Rawlinson had found the key to the ancient Babylonian language, which unlocked for the world the vast treasures of the ancient Babylonian literature.”(F4)

Regarding this edict of Cyrus, “The old (critical) objections against the authenticity of this edict, on the supposition that Cyrus would not have concerned himself with the details and size of the temple, can no longer be sustained.”(F5)

“The variations between this decree of Cyrus and that report of it in Ezra 1 is due to the fact that this one was an official document relating to the expenditure of public money, and that one was an oral, public proclamation.”(F6)

There is no disharmony whatever between them!

The dimensions for the temple listed by Cyrus are a problem. There are different accounts of the size of Solomon’s temple, in 2 Chronicles 3 and in 1 Kings 6; and, “It it is difficult to reconcile the dimensions given here with the statements made in Zechariah 4:10 and Haggai 2:3, implying that the second temple was smaller than the first. Perhaps the dimensions here are those which Cyrus required the Jews not to exceed.”(F7) Keil solved the problem with the suggestion that Cyrus’ dimensions included the external structures,(F8) and others have suggested that the smaller size of the second temple was due to the fact that it was the largest the returnees could afford, due to their impoverished condition.

Verses 6-7


“Now therefore, Tettanai, governor beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your companions the Apharsachites, who are beyond the River, be ye far from thence: 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 its place.”

“This order must have stunned Tettanai and his companions.”(F9) Not only did Darius confirm the existence of the decree of Cyrus, he added his own authority and power to back it up, and even commanded the expenses of the project to be borne by the tax revenues which Tattenai controlled; and that probably meant that some of the expense would come out of Tattenai’s own pockets.

“Be ye far from thence” This should not be interpreted to mean that the governor was not to go near the temple for purposes of inspection; but, “It meant: Do not interfere with or impede the work on the building.”(F10) Matthew Henry commented that, “The manner of Darius’ expression here indicates that he knew that Tattenai and his companions had a mind to hinder the work.”(F11)

Verses 8-10


“Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the River, expenses be given with all diligence to these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for burnt-offerings to the God of heaven; and also wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests that are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail; that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savor unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.”

“And pray for the life of the king, and of his sons” “Jeremiah’s admonition for the Jews to seek the peace of Babylon during their residence there in the captivity (Jeremiah 29:7), was interpreted as a requirement that they should pray for their civil rulers, which the Jews do even until this day. In view of the kindness to them of the Persian kings, they would not have neglected to do this.”(F12) Furthermore this has come down even into Christianity as an apostolic order (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

“Offerings to the God of heaven” Many able commentators have warned us that actions and words as we find here should not be construed as meaning that men like Darius were genuine believers in the one true God. “Such acknowledgements as this we find here by Persian kings they could make without any renunciation of their polytheism. They could honor Jahve as a mighty god, yea, even as the mightiest god, without being unfaithful to the pagan gods of their fathers.”(F13)

Verses 11-12


“Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let a beam be pulled out from his house, and let him be lifted up and fastened thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this: and the God that hath caused his name to dwell there overthrow all kings and peoples that shall put forth their hand to alter the same, to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

There are two parts of this penalty: (1) the crufixion of the offender, and (2) an invocation that the God of heaven would also execute divine justice upon him.

“The extremely favorable impact of Darius’ decree upon the temple project was no doubt due, in part, to the influence of Cyrus, two of whose daughters Darius had married; but it also came, no doubt, from the deep impressions made upon the idolatrous peoples of that age with regard to the being and providence of the God of Israel.”(F14)

“Let him be hanged thereon” This, of course, was crucifixion, a punishment widely used by the Persians. “Keil cites a word from Herodotus as saying that Darius impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took their city. Therefore, this was no idle threat.”(F15) Cook added that, “Crucifixion was the most common form of punishment among the Persians.”(F16)

Verses 13-15


“Then Tattenai the governor beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their companions, because that Darius the king had sent, did accordingly with all diligence. And the elders of the Jews builded and prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they budded and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the decree of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of Darius the king.”

“And Artaxerxes king of Persia” There was a lapse of 82 years between the end of Darius’ reign (486 B.C.) and the beginning of that of Artaxerxes (404 B.C.) (See p. 25, above); and some have wondered just why his name should have been mentioned along with that of Cyrus and Darius. “He was probably included here because he, at a later date, contributed to the beautifying of the temple (Ezra 7:21-28).”(F17)

“The third day of the month Adar” “This was March 12, 515 B.C., four and one half years after work had begun in earnest.”(F18) It will be remembered that it required over seven years in the building of Solomon’s temple.

Verses 16-18


“And the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered at the dedication of this house a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.”

Critical scholars are very sensitive about any mention of the book of Moses, and their usual knee-jerk reaction is to challenge the passage as being from a different editor or some later hand. However, there is no reason whatever to believe such challenges. They are not scientific, they are founded upon scholarly imagination, and not upon any fact. The silly reason for such a challenge, according to Hamrick, was that the word Jews was the author’s usual term for Israel; but here he referred to them as the children of Israel.(F19) What a foolish assumption it must be that Ezra was not familiar with both expressions and that he would never have used both. At this glorious moment when God’s people had been returned from captivity and their temple restored, the more formal term children of Israel, was not only appropriate, it was required.

As Hamrick noted, “This story indicates that there was a conscious attempt to imitate the ceremony associated with the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8, and 2 Chronicles 5-7).”(F20) However, the relative poverty of the people made it impossible to duplicate it. “Solomon offered over two hundred times as many oxen and sheep at the dedication of his temple as were offered on this occasion (1 Kings 8:63).”(F21)

Verses 19-22


“And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure: and they killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel that were come again out of the captivity, and all such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the nations of the land, to seek Jehovah, the God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for Jehovah had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”

“With Ezra 6:19, the writer resumes the Hebrew language, which he had discarded for the Chaldee, beginning at Ezra 4:8. With the exception of the letter of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12-26), the remainder of the book is in Hebrew.”(F22)

“All of them were pure” It is not exactly clear, as the translation reads, but Cook assures us that a contrast is drawn between the universal purity of the Levites and the more general purity of the priests. “This made it fitting that the Levites should slaughter all the consume.”(F23)

“And all such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the nations of the land” Here, these are contrasted with the returnees from captivity. “These were those who were left in Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar and had become mixed with the heathen population.”(F24)

“Jehovah… turned the heart of the king of Assyria” This is a reference, of course, to Darius I the king of Persia. However it is definitely not “a scribal error”(F25) as charged by Cundall. Darius was king of Persia and also king of Babylon, but as the ruler of the former Assyrian Empire, he was also “King of Assur,”(F26) as Keil stated it.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezra 6". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezra-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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