Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 5

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-22

Resumption of Work on the Temple (5:1-6:22)

Here we are once again in the reign of Darius (as at Ezra 4:5). The story reopens with "the house of God which is in Jerusalem" and is concerned with the efforts of Zerubbabel and Jeshua to rebuild. Having been frustrated in the first attempt (by the Samaritans), and having turned in the meantime to other pressing concerns, the Jews were slow to resume work on the Temple. The preaching of Haggai and Zachariah, however, bore fruit and led to a renewed effort on the part of leaders and people. Zechariah, who is here designated "the son of Iddo," is called in his own prophecy "the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo." We know that there was a "prophet Iddo" (2 Chronicles 13:22), and it is possible that his name became attached to the entire genealogy of his descendants.

Although verse 2, taken alone, sounds as if the historian thought of this effort as the initial work on the Temple, verse 16 makes it clear that this was not the case, for there Sheshbazzar and his work are mentioned. The help of the prophets to which reference is made is probably the encouragement they offered (for example, Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 3:1-10).

Once again opposition developed, a reminder of the prospects that must be faced when men set themselves to do the will of God. This time it is the officials of the Persian satrapy: Tattenai, the "governor" (probably a subordinate rather than the highest official), and Shethar-bozenai, probably a scribe.

Verses 6-17

The Letter of Tattenai (5:6-17)

The historian again breaks into the story to incorporate material from the collection of correspondence he was using. The term "the governors" in verse 6 is uncertain. Some translations and interpreters treat it as a proper name ("the Apharsachites"), but most regard it as a reference to a group of minor officials.

The letter gives in greater detail the reason for the Persian officials’ concern. They have found in Jerusalem that work on the Temple is proceeding rapidly. The term "huge stones" probably refers to an unusual type of stone rather than to size; "timber" may be the beams which served as support for the roof.

Although in the historian’s account the original question asked by the officials had been left unanswered (Ezra 5:3-4), here the answer is given in full. It is interesting for a number of reasons but especially in that it identifies the reason for the Exile as infidelity on the part of the Jews. In verse 15 there is an apparent contradiction, assuming on the one hand the existence of a Temple in which the sacred objects could be stored and, on the other hand, recording the command that "the house of God be rebuilt on its site." Once again the original undertaking is associated with the name of Sheshbazzar (see 1:8), implying that he and Zerubbabel were different persons and that in the time of Cyrus an actual beginning was made in the work of rebuilding the Temple.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 5". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezra-5.html.
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