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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 6

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 1-12

The Answer of Darius (6:1-12)

Ecbatana was the site of the summer palace of Cyrus, and here search was made. The original decree was found in the "archives," doubtless similar to repositories recently discovered in Persia.

Verses 3-5 are virtually the same as (Ezra 5:13-15), at least close enough to indicate that they are both versions of the original document giving the actual form of Cyrus’ decree. This would have been a document elaborating the simple permission to return (Ezra 1:2-4) and may have included provisions for other like undertakings in the Persian Empire. The translation "and burnt offerings are brought" is probably in error; the original seems to indicate some further architectural expression, possibly a reference to the fashion in which the foundations were to be laid.

Only two dimensions are supplied, and these are at variance with the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple, which was described as "sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high" (1 Kings 6:2). These were also probably the specifications in Cyrus’ decree. A "cubit" approximates the forearm length. The term "courses" refers to a section, or a series of rows of bricks or stones in the wall.

Verses 6-12 resume the matter which was raised by Tattenai. Darius expressed his intent to further the edict of Cyrus and, furthermore, charged the Persian officials to support the work. As an indication of his own support he directs that the undertaking be financed from the royal treasury. The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, contemporary to these events, do not encourage us to believe that such a grant was ever actually received, for the work seems to have been carried on at great sacrifice. The possibility is that although the grant was made — and historical records outside the Bible confirm similar grants — the officials simply did not carry out the direct charge of the king.

There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the provision for regular financial support of the sacrificial worship in the restored Temple. It was quite in keeping with the practice of the Persian kings to make such provisions, possibly as political expedients and possibly as religious acts of appeasement (vs. 10). The fact that such support was not given may be explained again by the failure of subordinate officials to cany out the king’s decree, or by the unwillingness of the Jewish community to utilize such help.

Verses 11 and 12 detail the punishment to be meted out to anyone altering the decree in word or practice. In verse 12 the term "name" is used in the sense of "person" or "self."

Verses 13-22

The Completion of the Temple (6:13-22)

The meaning of the historical events just recited is now apparent as the historian tells of the climax, when the Temple is finally completed. Against all opposition it is done. And it is done always by the power of God’s command, which takes precedence over the political decrees of the Persian kings. This building stands completed as a witness to the power of God’s word to perform the thing he purposes.

It is also a symbol for a new, restored, and re-created Israel. The twelve tribes are present at the rededication ceremonies, and the Temple stands at the center of their national life. The new beginning is, moreover, fittingly celebrated by a Passover observance, emphasizing the similarity between this new exodus and conquest of the land and the one centuries before. The new beginning includes a purification of the religious leaders (vs. 20) and a purification of the people themselves in the community which is made up of both returned exiles and the other dwellers in the land (vs. 21).

Over all there is sounded the constant note of "joy." It was more than a political celebration, more than a displaced person’s gladness at his return home. This was a deeply religious joy, "for the Lord had made them joyful." It was a joy over the power of God’s word, over the grace which gave them a new beginning, over the presence of the Lord in the Temple and community, and over the future blessing which awaited them as the people of the Covenant. In telling his story the historian let it be clear that the same joy awaits those who venture in faith in response to the word of God’s promise.

The reference to "the king of Assyria" is, of course, out of place, unless "Assyria" be understood to mean "Persia." It should be noted also that the language shifts from Aramaic back to Hebrew after Ezra 6:18 (see Ezra 4:7-8).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 6". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezra-6.html.
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