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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 6

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.

Darius the king. This was Darius Hystaspes. Great and interesting light has been thrown on the history of this monarch and the transactions of his reign by the decipherment of the cuneitic inscriptions on the rocks at Behistun.

In the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon [ bªbeeyt (H1005) ciprayaa'

(H5609), in the house of books; Septuagint, en tais bibliotheekais, in the libraries]. An idea of the form of this Babylonian register house, as well as the manner of preserving public records within its repositories, can be obtained from the recent discoveries at Nineveh. Two small chambers were discovered in the palace of Kouyunjik, which, from the fragments found in them, Mr. Layard considers as a "house of the rolls." After reminding his readers, that the historical records and public documents of the Assyrians were kept on terra cotta tablets and cylinders of baked clay, many specimens of which have been brought to this country, he goes on to say, 'The chambers I am describing appear to have been a depository in the palace of Nineveh for such documents. To the height of a foot or more from the floor they were completely filled with them; some entire, but the greater part broken into many fragments probably by the falling in of the upper part of the building. They were of different sizes; the largest tablets were flat, and measured about 9 inches by 6 1/2 inches; the smaller were slightly convex, and some were not more than an inch long, with but one or two lines of writing. The cuneiform characters on most of them were singularly sharp and well defined, but so minute in some instances as to be almost illegible without a magnifying-glass. These documents appear to be of various kinds. The documents that have thus been discovered "in the house of rolls" at Nineveh probably exceed all that have yet been afforded by the monuments of Egypt, and when the innumerable fragments are put together and transcribed, the publication of these records will be of the greatest importance to the history of the ancient world' ('Nineveh and Babylon,' appendix, 344, 345: cf. 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 185).

The record referred to in this passage at Ecbatana was probably written on similar materials; and that a character employed for cursive purposes was in use under the Achaemenidae, there is clear and abundant evidence (see 'Royal Asiatic Journal,' vol. 10:, p. 42; also 'Primeval Language,' part 3:, p. 63, note).

Verse 2

And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:

There was found at Achmetha, [ bª-'Achmaªtaa' (H307). The margin of our English Bible has 'in a coffer.' But it is expressly said by the Septuagint, en polei, in a city] - the Ecbatana, or Agbatana, of classical, the Hamadan of modern times, at the foot of mount Orontes, the Elwend range of hills, where, for its coolness and salubrity, Cyrus and his successors on the Persian throne established their summer residence. It was an unwalled town (Polybius, b.

x., ch. 27:, sec. 10), like most of the towns of the Medea and Persians, which were clustered round a citadel, instead of being surrounded by walls. Ecbatana, besides a magnificent palace, said to have been built by Semiramis, had an "akra", a tower (Polybius, b. 10:, ch. 27:, sec. 6) of vast strength.

There was another city, however, of this name, the Ecbatana of Atropatene, and the most ancient capital of northern Media, and recently identified by Colonel Rawlinson in the remarkable ruins of Takht-i-Soleiman. Yet as everything tends to show the attachment of Cyrus to his native city, the Atropatenian Ecbatana, rather than to the stronger capital of Greater Media, Colonel Rawlinson is inclined to think that he deposited there, in his var or fortress, the famous decree relating to the Jews, along with the other records and treasures of his empire ('Nineveh and Persepolis'). [This conjecture is confirmed by the Septuagint, which has: en tee barei, in the citadel.]

Verses 3-7

In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God 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, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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 expences be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.

Of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river ... expences be given. The decree granted them the privilege of drawing from his provincial treasury of Syria, to the amount of whatever they required for the furthering of the work, and providing sacrifice for the service of the temple, that the priests might daily pray for the health of the king and the prosperity of the empire.

Verses 9-10

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 which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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 for this.

Whosoever shall alter this word. The warning was specially directed against the turbulent and fanatical Samaritans. The extremely favourable purport of this edict, which was issued about 16 or 17 years after that of Cyrus, was no doubt owing in some measure to the influence of Cyrus, of whom Darius entertained a high admiration, and whose two daughters he had married. But it proceeded still more from the deep impressions made even on the idolatrous people of that country and that age, as to the Being and Providence of the God of Israel.

It may tend to throw additional light and illustration on the motives that influenced Darius, to mention what is asserted by Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 11: ch. 3:, secs. 1-9), that Darius, who was warmly attached to the Jews, had made a vow that if ever he became king, as he had a legitimate claim to that dignity, he would restore the sacred vessels and rebuild the house of Yahweh at Jerusalem; that Zerubbabel, who had been his familiar friend in private life, on learning of Darius' elevation to the throne, set out expressly to remind the king of his vow, and obtained from his majesty the most liberal grants. He sent letters to those rulers who were in Syria and Phoenicia, to cut down and carry cedar trees from Lebanon to Jerusalem, and to assist him in building the city. He further commanded all captives to be made free; no king's taxes to be levied upon the Jews; no tribute to be exacted upon any land they should possess; and fifty talents to be given for the building of the temple, and in connection with those acts which had for their object to restore the services of the temple.

Verse 12

And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.

Then Tatnai ... did speedily. A concurrence of favourable events is mentioned as accelerating the restoration of the temple, and infusing a new spirit and energy into the workmen, who now laboured with unabating assiduity until it was brought to a completion. Its foundation was laid in April, 536 BC (Ezra 3:8-10), and it was completed on 21st February, 515 BC, being 21 years after it was begun (Lightfoot). The building having been stopped, was resumed on the 24th day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, and finished on the third day of the twelfth month, in the sixth year of his reign. Four years and a quarter were occupied from the recommencement to the completion of the work.

Verses 14-15

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

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,

The children of Israel ... kept the dedication ... with joy. The ceremonial was gone through with demonstrations of the liveliest joy. The aged, who had wept at the laying of the foundation, were most, if not all of them, now dead; and all rejoiced at the completion of this national undertaking.

Verse 17

And offered at the dedication of this house of God an 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.

Twelve he-goats - as at the dedication of the tabernacle (Numbers 8:17).

According to the number of the tribes of Israel. Although the returned exiles belonged chiefly to Judah and Benjamin, some connected with the other tribes joined the caravan of travelers to Jerusalem, and these few considered themselves as representing the whole Jewish nation.

Verse 18

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.

They set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses ... as it is written in the book of Moses. Although David arranged the priests and Levites in courses according to their families, it was Moses who assigned to the priests and Levites their rights and privileges, their station and several duties.

Verses 19-20

And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,

All such as had separated themselves ... from the filthiness of the pagan - i:e., who had given satisfactory evidence of being true proselytes by not only renouncing the impure worship of idolatry, but by undergoing the rite of circumcision-a condition indispensable to a participation of the Passover.

Verse 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 in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

Kept the feast ... with joy: for the Lord ... turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them - i:e., king of the Persian empire, which now included the possessions, and had surpassed the glory, of Assyria as well as of Babylon and Media (D'Herbelot, 'Bibliotheque Orientale,' sub voce 'Noah'). The three great ancient empires were frequently viewed and spoken of as the same under different dynasties. The use of this title has been accounted for on a different ground-namely, that this chapter, along with the preceding five, was written by Haggai or Zechariah, who, in common with the older Jewish exiles, were accustomed to apply it to the kings that carried them captive (Hervey, 'Genealogy,' p. 318; see Introduction to Ezra).

The favourable disposition which Darius had evinced toward the Jews secured them peace and prosperity, and the privileges of their own religion during the rest of his reign. The religious joy that so remarkably characterized the celebration of this feast was testified by expressions of lively gratitude to God, whose overruling power and converting grace had produced so marvelous a change on the hearts of the mighty potentates, and disposed them, pagans though they were, to aid the cause and provide for the worship of the true God.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezra 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/ezra-6.html. 1871-8.
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