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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 6

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-12

Ezra - Chapter 6

Hindrance Forbidden, Verses 1-12

It appears that king Darius acted promptly and diligently on the correspondence from Tatnai. He set those to work to search for the decree which Cyrus had made for the building of the temple in the first year of his reign. It was located in Achmetha, the palace of the kings in the land of Media, not in Babylon nor the Persian palace of Shushan.

Had not Darius been moved of the Lord with a sincere desire to restore the temple he might not have persisted so far in his search. Media is north of Elam, which borders the Persian Gulf, and south of the great inland Caspian Sea, in the modern nation of Iran. Achmetha is better known in history as Ecbatana, one of the royal cities of the old Persian empire.

In replying to Tatnai Darius copied the decree of Cyrus as it had been given, and it was found to contain exactly the provisions claimed for it, by the Jews, to Tatnai. Dated in Cyrus’ first year it provided that the house be built for the making of sacrifices; its foundations were to be substantial, according to set dimensions, with three rows of stone and one of new timber. The new expense of the building was to be from the king’s treasury; the gold and silver vessels taken away by Nebuchadnezzar were to be restored. ’

Tatnai and Shethar-boznai, with the Apharsachites, were strictly ordered to keep away from the builders and to hinder them in no way. On the contrary they were to provide from the king’s revenue and tribute in that country many other things which should be useful in their restoration of the temple. Everything needful was to be supplied that the work might be no more delayed. They were to be furnished with bullocks, rams, and lambs for the sacrifices, along with wheat, oil, salt, and wine for the use of the priests. This was to be supplied daily as needed. Darius had a selfish interest in this, for he desired sacrifices and prayers on the part of the priests for his own welfare and that of his sons.

Darius put teeth in his decree, that no one would dare hinder its process. Any attempt at alteration was to be punished by pulling timbers from the offender’s house, erecting a scaffold from it, and hanging him on it. His house was to be turned into a dunghill, or a public latrine. The king prayed that the God whose name was on the temple of Jerusalem would destroy all kings and people who would undertake to change or destroy the house the Jews were building in Jerusalem. He closed by saying, "I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed."

With this decree of Darius the fortunes of the Jews had made a dramatic turn about. It is a great lesson in the power of the Lord to change the intent of wicked rulers when His people have aligned themselves aright in His service (1 Peter 3:13).

Verses 13-18

Temple Completed Verses 13-18

Tatnai and his fellow officers acted with the urgency required by the decree of Darius. And why would they not, with the awful penalty for failure attached to it? Thus outside interference with the building was curbed, and internal encouragement was continued, through the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It was built in accord with the original proclamation of Cyrus issued more than fifteen years earlier, and with the most recent decree of Darius. The reference to Artaxerxes, also in verse 14, is probably not pertaining to the king so called in Ezra 4:7, but rather to the Artaxerxes of Ezra’s time (Ezra 7:1 ff), under whom Ezra completed the organization of the temple service. Since Ezra probably wrote the book, he may well have added the name of Artaxerxes, who permitted his return to Jerusalem.

The reconstructed temple was completed in the third month (about June of the modern calendar), in the sixth year of Darius’ reign. This would mean the Jews completed the work about four years after it was recommenced (see Ezra 4:24). It was celebrated with great joy on the part of priests, Levites and everyone concerned. A great number of sacrifices were offered, though not as many as were offered at the ded­ication of the first temple, in the time of Solomon, when tens of thou­sands of animals were sacrificed (1 Kings 8:62 ff). The small remnant of Jews contributed a total of seven hundred animals only, but this may have been proportionately as great as was that of the first temple. In addition twelve goats were offered for sin offering one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The priests functioned in their regular divisions and the Levites in their courses, as specified in the law of Moses. In all ages the Lord desires decency and order in His worship (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Verses 19-22

Passover, Verses 19-22

There does not seem to be any evidence that the Jews were able to observe the passover while in captivity, although they may have. Now, however, they are able to observe this most significant of all their feasts again in their own land. What an impressive experience it must have been! The sincerity of the people in their worship and devotion to God is demonstrated in the statement in verse 20 that every one of the priests and Levites had purified themselves to officiate in and observe the passover. This had not always been true in past times (2 Chronicles 29:3).

The 21st verse indicates that the returned Jews from the captivity were ceremonially cleansed for the passover, but that some of those who were already in the land before the return, had to separate themselves from filthiness acquired by association with the heathen people dwelling in the land. So the passover was observed, then succeeded by the week of unleavened bread as provided in the law (Exodus 12:14 ff). The Scripture says the people were happy because the Lord made them joyful, for He 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." Here Darius is called the king of Assyria, though Persia was the dominant nation at that time. Assyria had been the first of the great Gentile kingdoms to overrun Israel, and is often used to stand for the heathen power opposed to God’s people.

The joyful experience of these returned Jews is in keeping with God’s promises to all who serve Him. Jesus stated to His disciples, "Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." (John 16:20).

Some practical points: 1) There are no obstacles too great for the Lord to accomplish His will; 2) God will supply all that is needful for the work of His people; 3) terrible is the judgment on those who would oppose God’s work; 4) the Lord’s work goes smoothly forward when people are in accord; 5) there is a "morning of joy" for God’s people (Psalms 30:5).

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 6". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezra-6.html. 1985.
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