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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Ezra 6

Verses 1-12

The decision of Darius. - Ezra 6:1-5. At the command of Darius, search was made in the archives of the royal treasury; and in the fortress of Achmetha in Media, was found the roll in which was recorded the edict published by Cyrus, concerning the building of the temple at Jerusalem.

Ezra 6:1

Search was made in the house of the books where also the treasures were deposited in Babylon. מהחתין , partic. Aphel of נחת ; see Ezra 5:15.

Ezra 6:2-4

“And there was found at Achmetha, in the fortress that is in the land of Media, a roll; and thus was it recorded therein.” In Babylon itself the document sought for was not found; though, probably the search there made, led to the discovery of a statement that documents pertaining to the time of Cyrus were preserved in the fortress of Achmetha, where the record in question was subsequently discovered. אחמתא , the capital of Great Media - τὰ Εκβάτανα , Judith 1:1, 14, or Ἀγβάτανα (Herod. i. 98) - built by Dejokes, was the summer residence of the Persian and Parthian kings, and situate in the neighbourhood of the modern Hamadan. Achmetha is probably the Old-Median or Old-Persian pronunciation of the name, the letters אחם on Sassanidian coins being explained as denoting this city (Mordtmann in the Zeitschrift der deutsch morgenl. Gesellschaft, viii. p. 14). The citadel of Ecbatana probably contained also the royal palace and the official buildings. For בּגוּהּ is found in some MSS and editions בּגוּהּ ; but Norzi and J. H. Mich. have Pathach under ו as the better authorized reading. דּכרונה , stat. emph. of דּכרון , memorandum, ὑπόμνημα , a record of anything memorable. The contents of this document follow, Ezra 6:3-5. First, the proclamation of King Cyrus in the first year of his reign: “The house of God at Jerusalem, let this house be built as a place where sacrifices are offered.” The meaning of the words following is doubtful. We translate מסובלין ואשּׁוחי : and let them raise up its foundations, i.e., its foundations are to be again raised up, restored. אשּׁין , foundations ( Ezra 4:12); מסובלין , part. Poel of סבל , to carry, to raise (not to be raised). סבל often stands for the Hebrew נשׂא , to carry, to raise up, to erect; compare the Samaritan translation of Genesis 13:10: וסבל את עגין , he lifted up his eyes. סובל אשּׁין analogous with מוסדי ד קומם , Isaiah 58:12, and signifies to erect buildings upon the foundations.

“And also let the vessels ... be restored, and brought again to the temple at Jerusalem, to their place, and (thou) shalt place them in the house of God.” On the matter of this verse, comp. Ezra 1:7 and Ezra 5:14. The sing. יהך (comp. Ezra 5:5) is distributive: it (each vessel) to its place. ותחת (comp. אחת Ezra 5:15) cannot, according to the sense, be third pers. fem. (neutr.), but only second pers. imperf. Aphel: thou shalt place. None but Sheshbazzar can be addressed (Ezra 5:15), though he is not named in Ezra 6:3. The historian is evidently not giving the contents of the document word for word, but only its essential matter; hence he infers the address to Sheshbazzar from the answer of the Jewish elders (Ezra 5:15). Perhaps it was also remarked in the document, that Coresh caused the sacred vessels to be delivered to Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8).

Ezra 6:6-12

Acting upon the discovered edict, Darius warned the governor and royal officials on this side the Euphrates, not to hinder the building of the house of God at Jerusalem. On the contrary, they were to promote it by furnishing what was necessary for the work, and paying the expenses of the building out of the royal revenues to the elders of the Jews (Ezra 6:6-8). They were also to provide for the worship of God in this temple such animals as the priests should require for sacrifice (Ezra 6:9, Ezra 6:10), under pain of severe punishment for transgressing this command as also for any injury done to the temple (Ezra 6:11, Ezra 6:12). This decree was undoubtedly communicated to the governor in the form of a written answer to his inquiries (Ezra 6:13). Without, however, expressly stating this to be the case, as Ezra 6:1 and Ezra 4:17 would lead us to expect, the historian gives us in Ezra 6:6. the actual contents of the royal edict, and that in the form of a direct injunction to the governor and his associates on this side the river: “Now Tatnai, governor, ... be ye far from thence.” The suffix וּכנותהון , and their associates, is indeed unsuitable to the form of an address, of which Tatnai and Shethar-Boznai are the subjects; the narrator, however, in using it, had in mind the title or introduction of the royal letter. On this matter, comp. Ezra 5:6. רחק and רחיק , to be far from, figuratively to keep from anything, e.g., from good, Psalms 53:2. מן־תּמּה , from thence, from Jerusalem; in other words, trouble yourselves no longer, as, according to Ezra 5:3, you have done about what is being done there.

Ezra 6:7

“Let the work of the house of God alone.” שׁבק with an accusative, to leave anything, to let it go on without hindrance. “Let the Pechah of the Jews (Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel) and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in its place.” The ל to לשׂבי introduces a second subject with special emphasis: And as far as regards the elders of the Jews, i.e., the Pechah, and especially the elders.

Ezra 6:8

“And a decree is (hereby) made by me, what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews, i.e., how you shall behave towards them ( &#עם עבד עם עשׂה , Genesis 24:12.), to build this house, i.e., that this house may be built: namely, ( ו expl.) of the royal moneys, of the custom ( מדּה , see remarks on Ezra 4:13) on this side the river, let expenses (the cost of building) be punctually given to these men, that there be no hindrance.” לבטּלא דּי־לא , that there be no cessation or leisure from work, i.e., that the work is not to be discontinued. On the construction of the לא with the following infinitive, comp. Daniel 6:9. The Vulgate renders the sense correctly by ne impediatur opus.

Ezra 6:9

“And what is needful, both young bullocks and rams and lambs, for the burnt-offerings of the God of leaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests at Jerusalem (i.e., as the priests shall require for the service of God), let it be given them day by day without fail.” מה is joined with the plur. fem. of the partic. חשׁחן , and is defined by the enumeration which follows. משׁח , properly the anointing, then oil as the means of anointing. On להוא and להון , see remarks on Ezra 4:12. שׁלוּ דּי־לא , that there be no failure.

Ezra 6:10

The end the king had in view in all this follows: “That they (the priests) may offer sacrifices well-pleasing to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons.” ניחוחין (comp. Daniel 2:46) are sacrifices agreeable to God, ניחוחין ריח (Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, and elsewhere), i.e., sacrifices pleasing to God. Cyrus had commanded the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, because he acknowledged the God of Israel to be the God of heaven, who had given him the kingdoms of the earth (Ezra 1:2). Darius was treading in his footsteps by also owning the God of the Jews as the God of heaven, and desiring that the blessing of this God might rest upon himself and his dynasty. Such an acknowledgment it was possible for the Persian kings to make without a renunciation of their polytheism. They could honour Jahve as a mighty, nay, as the mightiest God of heaven, without being unfaithful to the gods of their fathers; while the Jews could also, in the interest of their own welfare, pray and offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord for the life of the king to whom God had caused them to be subject (comp. Jeremiah 29:7). Accordingly we find that in after times sacrifices were regularly offered for the king on appointed days: comp. 1 Macc. 7:33, 12:11; 2 Macc. 3:35, 13:23; Joseph. Antiq. xii. 2. 5, and elsewhere.

Ezra 6:11

To inculcate obedience to his command, Darius threatens to punish its transgression with death: “If any one alters this command, let a beam be torn from his house, and let him be fastened hanging thereon.” To alter a command means to transgress or abolish it. אע , a piece of wood, a beam. זקיף , raised on high, is in Syriac the usual word for crucified, and is to be so understood here. מחא , to strike, with על , strike upon, fasten to, nail to. This kind of capital punishment was customary among the Assyrians (Diod. Sic. ii. 1), the ancient Persians, and many other nations, but seems to have been executed in different manners among different people. Among the Assyrians it generally consisted in the impalement of the delinquent upon a sharp strong wooden post; comp. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 355, and Nineveh and its Remains, p. 379, with the illustration fig. 58. According to Herod. iii. 159, Darius impaled as many as 3000 Babylonians after the capture of their city ( ἀνεσκολόπισε ). Crucifixion proper, however, i.e., nailing to a cross, also occurred among the Persians; it was, however, practised by nailing the body of the criminal to a cross after decapitation; see the passages from Herodotus in Brissonii de regio Persarum princip. l. ii. c. 215. “And let his house be made a dunghill.” See remarks on Daniel 2:5 and 2 Kings 10:27.

Ezra 6:12

Finally, Darius adds the threat: “The God who has caused His name to dwell there, destroy every king and (every) people that shall stretch forth the hand to alter (this command), to destroy this house of God at Jerusalem.” The expression, “the God who has caused His name to dwell there,” is indeed specifically Israelitish (comp. Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:23; Jeremiah 7:12; Nehemiah 1:9), and therefore undoubtedly originated with the Jewish historian; but the matter itself, the wish that God Himself would destroy him who should injure His temple, recalls the close of the inscription of Bisitun, wherein the judgments of Ahuramazda are imprecated upon him who should dare to injure the image and inscription, and his blessing invoked upon him who should respect them (Berth.).

Verses 13-18

The execution of the royal decree, the completion of the building, and the dedication of the new temple. - Ezra 6:13 Tatnai and his associate diligently executed the commands of Darius. “Because Darius the king sent (i.e., despatched to them the letter, whose contents have just been given, Ezra 6:6), they speedily acted accordingly in the manner stated” ( כּנמא ).

Ezra 6:14

The elders of the Jews, moreover, built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, who thereby effected the resumption of the work, and promised them success. ב is used of the rule by which, or manner in which anything is done. “They built and finished (the building) according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artachshasta, kings of Persia.” The naming of Artachshasta presents some difficulty; for since it is impossible to conceive that a predecessor of Darius is intended by a name which follows the name of that monarch, none but Artaxerxes Longimanus can be meant, and he did not reign till long after the completion of the temple. Cleric. and J. H. Mich. explain the mention of his name by the consideration that Artaxerxes, by his edict (Ezra 7:15, Ezra 7:21), contributed to the maintenance, though not to the building, of the temple.

And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar (the twelfth month), which is the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. שׁיציא , according to the Keri שׁיצי , with the א dropped, is the Shaphel of יצא , to bring a thing to an end, to finish it. The form שׁיציא is not a participle pass. formed from the Shaphel (Gesen.), for this would be משׁיציא , but a Hebraized passive form of the Shaphel in the meaning of the Targumistic Ishtaphal, like חיתיוּ , Daniel 3:13, and חיתית , Daniel 6:18, with the active היתיו , Daniel 6:17. In the Targums שׁיצי has mostly an active, and only in a few passages the intransitive meaning, to end, to be at the end; comp. Levy, chald. Wörterbuch, s.v.

The sons of Israel, more exactly the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the sons of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. חנכּה עבד = the Hebrew חנכּה עשׂה , to celebrate the dedication (2 Chronicles 7:9). בּחדוה , Hebrew בּשׂמחה ; see Nehemiah 8:10. They brought for the dedication a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs as burnt-offerings, and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering for all Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, because the temple was intended for the entire covenant people, whose return to the Lord and to the land of their fathers, according to the predictions of the prophets, was hoped for (comp. e.g., Ezekiel 37:15., Jeremiah 31:27.), not, as older expositors thought, because certain families of the ten tribes, who had before settled in Judah, were also among those who returned (J. H. Mich. ad h. l.).

Ezra 6:18

At the same time, the priests and Levites were appointed, according to their classes and divisions, to the service of the temple, that they might henceforth fulfil their office, each class in its week ( 2 Chronicles 23:4; 2 Kings 11:9). והקימוּ corresponds with the Hebrew ויּעמידוּ , Ezra 3:8, and elsewhere. As Bertheau justly remarks, “The services of public worship, which after the completion of the temple were to be performed by the priests and Levites, according to ancient ordinance, are here spoken of.” With these words the Chaldee section closes.

Verses 19-22

Celebration of the feast of the passover, and of the feast of unleavened bread, in the year following the dedication, as an historical testimony to the fact that the worship of God with its festivals was regularly carried on in the new temple.

Ezra 6:19-20

The feast of the passover, on the fourteenth day of the first month, took place only a few weeks after the dedication of the temple. The reason given in Ezra 6:20 - for the priests and Levites had purified themselves without exception ( כּאחד , like Ezra 3:9); they were all clean, and they killed the passover for all the sons of the captivity (i.e., the laity who had returned from exile), and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves - has in this connection the meaning: Then the congregation celebrated the passover, and they were able to keep and to eat the passover, because the priests had purified themselves that they might be qualified for performing the office incumbent upon them of sprinkling the blood; and the Levites were also clean, that they might be able to kill the lambs for the whole congregation (comp. the remarks on 2 Chronicles 30:17, etc., and 2 Chronicles 35:11, 2 Chronicles 35:14). From the days of Josiah, it seems to have been customary for the Levites to take the place of the heads of families (Exodus 12:6, etc.) in slaughtering the passover lambs for the whole community, both priesthood and laity: for the laity, that no person who was unclean might kill the paschal lamb; for the priests, that their labours might be lightened, the sprinkling of blood and the offering of sacrifices occupying them far into the night (2 Chronicles 35:11, 2 Chronicles 35:14-15). And this custom was followed at this time also. The priests are called אחיהם , brethren of the Levites, as in 2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 35:15.

Ezra 6:21

Thus the sons of Israel who had returned from captivity, and all that had separated themselves unto them from the uncleanness of the heathen of the country to seek Jahve the God of Israel, could eat the passover. &#הארץ גּויי הארץ עמּי , Ezra 10:2, Ezra 10:11, are the heathen races dwelling in Palestine. The expression is not essentially different from הארצות עמּי , Ezra 9:1., Ezra 3:3, and is only distinguishable therefrom, inasmuch as the latter appellation includes not merely the heathen inhabitants of Palestine, but also the heathen of other lands, as the Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians, etc. (Ezra 9:1.). Those who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the heathen to them (the Jews) to seek Jahve, are not proselytes from heathenism (Aben Ezra, Rashi, Clericus, and others), but Israelites, who had till now lived in Palestine, and mingled with the heathen inhabitants of the land. They were descended from those Israelites whom the kings of Assyria and Babylon had not carried away from the realms of Israel and Judah, and who with respect to religion had combined heathenism and the worship of Jahve (2 Kings 17:32, etc.), and thus defiled themselves with heathen impurity, but who now, after the erection of the temple, joined themselves to the new community, for the purpose of worshipping with them the God of their fathers in His temple, according to the law of Moses. For, as Bertheau rightly remarks, “in the days of Ezra the princes of the new community complain that the laity, the priests, and Levites do not separate from the people of the lands (Ezra 9:1); reference is made to the dangers which threaten the Israelites, because they dwell in the holy land among the unclean (Ezra 9:10). To separate from the uncleanness of the nations means to renounce intermarriage and other connection with them. Ezra 10:2, Ezra 10:10. They are Israelites who are summoned, Ezra 10:11, to separate from the peoples of the land; the seed of Israel is, in Nehemiah 9:2, separated from the sons of the stranger, and in Nehemiah 10:29 they who separate from them are evidently Israelites, for, when they bind themselves to walk according to the law of God, they are said to join their brethren, i.e., their fellow-countrymen.” Hence in this passage also we cannot but regard those who separated themselves as Israelites, dissolving their connection with the heathen for the sake of the God of Israel.

Ezra 6:22

Hereupon they kept the feast of unleavened bread for seven days with joy; for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned to them (i.e., had made them joyful by turning to them) the heart of the king of Assyria. With regard to the expression, comp. 2 Chronicles 20:27; Nehemiah 12:43. The king of Assur is the Persian king Darius, who as ruler of the former realm of Assyria is thus designated. The turning of this king's heart to them consisted in this, that their hands were strengthened for the work of the house of God, i.e., that through the goodwill of the king they were enabled to complete the building of their temple, and to restore the worship of the God of Israel. On בּ ידיהם חזּק , comp. 1 Samuel 23:19.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezra 6". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.