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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 6

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Ezra Chapter 6

Ezra 6:1 “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.”

This is saying, that Darius sent orders for the records to be searched to see if such a decree had been made by Cyrus. They searched first in Babylon, but there was more than one place for the records to kept. The record, in Babylon, was destroyed, if there was one.

Ezra 6:2 "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:"

This was a place in the province of the Medes. It was, possibly, an extra copy of the decree that Cyrus had made. He was aware that one might be destroyed, probably. Achmetha was the capital of northern Media. Cyrus the 2nd held his court here.

Ezra 6:3 "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;"

In this decree, we see more details than we had in the first chapter, where we read of Cyrus wanting to re-build the temple. They not only found the decree, but it spelled out exactly what was to be done.

Ezra 6:4 "[With] three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house:"

Cyrus had given from his own treasury toward this building. The Jews had put money in on this themselves, as well. It appears, from this, however, that all expenses were to be paid for by Persia.

Ezra 6:5 "And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, [every one] to his place, and place [them] in the house of God."

This, also, had been done with all of the vessels found that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem, when Zerubbabel led the first group back to Judah.

Ezra 6:6 "Now [therefore], Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which [are] beyond the river, be ye far from thence:"

Tatnai was not to have anything to do with stopping the work. Darius sent him word to leave them alone. The message, in short was, "leave them alone"

Ezra 6:7 "Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place."

Darius warned Tatnai not to interfere in any way with the building of this temple. They were to be left alone to build the temple to God.

Ezra 6:8 "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 expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered."

Darius commanded Tatnai to give the tribute money to them to pay their men for the work on the temple. They must not be hindered in this work. Darius would make sure they did everything that Cyrus promised to do.

Ezra 6:9 "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:"

Somehow, he had to know which animals they used in sacrifice. These were to be given to them in abundance, so they would have enough for their sacrifices. They were to be fed of the king’s supplies. This was to be seen after every single day.

Ezra 6:10 "That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons."

Darius wanted them to pray for him and his sons. He believed the power of their God was the true power.

Ezra 6:11 "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."

There would be no more opposition, because of the punishment to be inflicted on those who opposed the building of the temple.

Ezra 6:12 "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."

The decree of Darius went even further than the decree of Cyrus. He was speaking of the One True God here. He called for God to destroy any king, or people, who came against the building of the temple.

Ezra 6:13 "Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily."

Tatnai did exactly as the king had commanded him to do.

Ezra 6:14 "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."

Haggai prophesied of a day when the house of the Lord would be far greater than anything in the past. His prophecies encouraged the people so greatly, that they worked diligently on the temple to complete it. There was no shortage of funds, because Darius had agreed to pay for the services of the people in this work. The chiefs of the fathers, and the priests, and high priests, and even Zerubbabel, were to oversee the work. All the young men 20 years old, and older, did the actual labor. Haggai and Zechariah preached and kept them with the desire to do this according to the will of God. Cyrus had written instructions that the LORD had given him, and Darius and Artaxerxes gave orders of how it was to be finished, too.

Ezra 6:15 "And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king."

We find that from the time the foundation was laid, until its completion, the temple was 21 years in the building. After God sent Haggai and Zechariah to them, it took 4 years and 5 months. Many of the 21 years there was nothing done on it all. Adar was the twelfth month on their calendar. It would be equivalent to our March.

Ezra 6:16 "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,"

This dedication was on the order of the dedication that Solomon did, when he and the people dedicated the temple the first time. This was a time of great joy, because they were re-united in fellowship with their God. They suddenly had a place of worship. At this point, the people were really home.

Ezra 6:17 "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".

This number of animals offered were many less than was offered by Solomon at his dedication, and fewer even than those offered by Hezekiah. We must remember, however, that there were not nearly as many people living in Judah now as there were then. In Solomon’s time, all 12 tribes were included.

Ezra 6:18 "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."

Everything was done as it was prescribed in the book of Moses. We remember, that the priests were Levites, too. Not all Levites were priests, however. Some were keepers of the doors. Some were singers and musicians. All Levites were set aside for the service of the Lord. Just a few were priests.

Ezra 6:19 "And the children of the captivity kept the Passover upon the fourteenth [day] of the first month."

The returned exiles were spoken of as Israel. Not all who returned were of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Some were from the other 10 tribes, and all of the people of the various tribes, who came back into the land, kept the Passover. This day is approximately the 14th day of April by our calendar. Passover was a remembrance of the night in Egypt, when death passed over the Hebrew houses that had the blood of the lamb over and around their doors. This was the 10th plague God sent on Egypt to free the children of Israel.

Ezra 6:20 "For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them [were] pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves."

The priests were anointed to the LORD, while they were in the temple for service. In this case, it seems that all of the Levites, for all of the various services were anointed with the anointing oil for service.

Ezra 6:21 "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,"

The passover lamb was eaten by all of the people sacrificing. Each family had a lamb the size their family could eat in one night. This Passover is very similar to communion that the Christians partake of. The lamb the Hebrews ate was symbolic of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb. The unleavened bread that we take at communion, also, symbolizes the body of our Lord Jesus.

Ezra 6:22 "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."

The celebration of Unleavened Bread overlaps Passover. We mentioned that the unleavened bread symbolizes the LORD Jesus Christ who is the Bread of life. It must be unleavened, because He was without sin. We partake of His righteousness. "Seven" means spiritually complete. The king of Assyria recognizes the Lord as God.

Ezra 6 Questions

1. What did Darius do to find Cyrus’ decree?

2. Where did they search first?

3. Where were they found?

4. What was on the roll?

5. What were the dimensions of the temple to be built?

6. Quote Ezra 6:4?

7. What was to be done with the gold and silver vessels, that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple?

8. Who had led the first group back to Judah from captivity?

9. What message did Tatnai receive from Darius?

10. The funds to build the temple would come from where?

11. In Ezra 6:9, we read of what being given to the Hebrews?

12. Why did Darius want to be sure they sacrificed to their God?

13. What decree did Darius make about anyone who changed the word?

14. What did he decree that would happen to anyone who tried to destroy the temple?

15. How did Tatnai take the orders from Darius?

16. Who supervised the building?

17. What three kings were in on the building of the temple?

18. How did Haggai encourage them?

19. What other prophet was helpful to the building of the temple.

20. Who did the actual work on the temple?

21. How long did it take to build the temple from the time the foundation was laid?

22. How many of those years were after the prophets came?

23. What was the example for the dedication.

24. Why were there fewer animals sacrificed here, than in Solomon’s dedication?

25. When was the house finished?

26. Who kept the dedication?

27. When did they keep the Pasover?

28. Who were purified for service for the Passover?

29. Who ate the passover lamb?

30. What did the passover lamb symbolize?

31. What does Passover celebrate?

32. When is Unleavened Bread celebrated?

33. Who is the Unleavened Bread?

Verses 1-5

Ezr 6:1-5

Ezra 6:1-5

THE SECOND TEMPLE WAS COMPLETED AND DEDICATED

"Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the archives, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a roll, and therein was thus written for a record: in the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king made a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be builded, the place where they offer sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; with three courses of great stones, a course of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to its place; and thou shalt put them in the house of God."

"In the house of the archives where the treasures were stored up" (Ezra 6:1). This verse is another example of scholarly tampering with the sacred text in order to make it say what the scholars suppose it SHOULD have said. The RSV renders this line, "in the house of the archives where the documents were stored"; but Bowman rejects this as "unnecessary," because archaeological discoveries have proved that such decrees were kept in the same vaults where the treasures were also kept.

It is to Darius’ great credit that when Cyrus’ decree was not found in Babylon, he did not abandon the search, which he might well have done unless he had been motivated by a favorable inclination toward the Jews. Also, he might well have heard about that decree and thus had personal knowledge that it certainly existed.

"And there (it) was found at Achmetha (Echbatana)" (Ezra 6:2). "This was in Media, the summer residence of Persian kings." "Echbatana is the Persian name for this place, as it came to light in the discovery of the Behistun Inscription."

"The Behistun Inscription was discovered in 1835 by Sir Henry Rawlinson, a British army officer. On Behistun mountain, 200 miles northeast of Babylon, there was a great isolated rock rising 1700 feet out of the plain; and on the face of that rock, on a perpendicular cliff, 400 feet above the road, Rawlinson noticed a large smoothed surface upon which there were carvings and inscriptions. These had been inscribed there by Darius I (Hystaspes) in the yearr 516 B.C., the very year that the Second Temple was finished in Jerusalem. These inscriptions were written in the Persian, Elamitc, and Babylonian languages; and Rawlinson, standing on a narrow 1-foot ledge at the base of these writings, made squeezes of them. The inscriptions were an account, the same account, of the conquests of Darius, written in three languages; and Sir Henry Rawlinson had found the key to the ancient Babylonian language, which unlocked for the world the vast treasures of the ancient Babylonian literature."

Regarding this edict of Cyrus, "The old (critical) objections against the authenticity of this edict, on the supposition that Cyrus would not have concerned himself with the details and size of the temple, can no longer be sustained."

"The variations between this decree of Cyrus and that report of it in Ezra 1 is due to the fact that this one was an official document relating to the expenditure of public money, and that one was an oral, public proclamation."

There is no disharmony whatever between them!

The dimensions for the temple listed by Cyrus area problem. There are different accounts of the size of Solomon’s temple, in 2 Chronicles 3 and in 1 Kings 6; and, "It it is difficult to reconcile the dimensions given here with the statements made in Zechariah 4:10 and Haggai 2:3, implying that the second temple was smaller than the first. Perhaps the dimensions here are those which Cyrus required the Jews not to exceed." Keil solved the problem with the suggestion that Cyrus’ dimensions included the external structures, and others have suggested that the smaller size of the second temple was due to the fact that it was the largest the returnees could afford, due to their impoverished condition.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:1. Acting on the request of Tatnai, Darius ordered a search to be made for the account of the decree of Cyrus. It is significant that the royal records were kept in the same house where the treasury was, which indicates they were valuable.

Ezra 6:2. Not all of the records were kept in one city. After looking through the ones in Babylon, they went to Achmetha, otherwise called Ecbatana, where they found a record. Strong says that this city was a summer capital of Persia. The verse says, however, that it was in the province of the Medea. The mention of this will call for some explanation, and it will require some secular history to get the subject clarified. The full title for the government we are now considering is the MedoPersian, or, as it is more familiarly spoken, the Medea and the Persians. It will now be useful to quote some history. "Kinship of the Medes and Persians.--It was in very remote times that some Aryan tribes, separating themselves from the other members of the Aryan family, sought new abodes on the plateau of Iran. The tribes that settled in the south became known as the Persians; while those that took possession of the northwest were called Medes. The names of the two peoples were always closely associated, as in the familiar legend, "The law of the Medea and Persians, which altereth not.’ " Myers’ Ancient History, p. 88. See also, Herodotus, 1-130. "The leadership of the Median chieftains was of short duration. A certain Cyrus, king of Anshan, in Elam, overthrew their power, and assumed the headship of both Medes and Persians." Myers’ Ancient History, p. 88. In the light of these historical facts, we should understand why some of the royal papers of the Persian Empire would be found in a city of the Medes.

Ezra 6:3. Sure enough, they found the report of the Jews to be true. The record said that Cyrus had issued a decree in his first year in Babylon, favoring the rebuilding of the house of God in Jerusalem. The decree even specified the size of the building that was authorized to be built, with some other details.

Ezra 6:4. This verse stipulates some of the materials to be used, and au-thorizes the king’s treasurer to furnish money for the house, out of the royal resources.

Ezra 6:5. This decree agrees with Ezra 1:7-11, which is a statement of what Cyrus did regarding the vessels belonging to the house of God. The present verse shows that the king had good foresight in providing against future misunderstandings. He was not satisfied just to have the work done while he lived and could personally enforce his orders, but had the decree made a part of the official record for the protection of future generations. We can see the wisdom of his acts now that Darius is called upon to settle the dispute. Had the adversaries who first opposed the work been as fair as Tatnai and his aides, the work would have been completed long ago.

Verses 6-7

Ezr 6:6-7

Ezra 6:6-7

DARIUS’ REPLY TO TATTENAI; GOVERNOR BEYOND THE RIVER

"Now therefore, Tettanai, governor beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your companions the Apharsachites, who are beyond the River, be ye far from thence: let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in its place."

"This order must have stunned Tettanai and his companions." Not only did Darius confirm the existence of the decree of Cyrus, he added his own authority and power to back it up, and even commanded the expenses of the project to be borne by the tax revenues which Tattenai controlled; and that probably meant that some of the expense would come out of Tattenai’s own pockets.

"Be ye far from thence" (Ezra 6:6). This should not be interpreted to mean that the governor was not to go near the temple for purposes of inspection; but, "It meant: Do not interfere with or impede the work on the building." Matthew Henry commented that, "The manner of Darius’ expression here indicates that he knew that Tattenai and his companions had a mind to hinder the work."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:6. Up to this point in the return letter, the king has been relating what he found in the official records; that it was in harmony with the claim of the Jews. From this on the letter will contain his own decree in the matter. It is directed to the officials who sent the letter of inquiry. In order that no hindrance be had in executing the decree, the officers are mentioned by name. Beyond the river means the same river as this side of the river. The difference is in the point from where the expression is made. The former is now made from the east side of the Euphrates, while the latter was from the west side. Be ye far from thence is a nice way of telling them to get out of the way of the work.

Ezra 6:7. They not only must get away from the work as far as being objectors, but must not hinder it in any indirect manner; they must let the work of this house of God alone. They were not even to insist on participating in the work as did the adversaries in Ezra 4:2, but let the Jews do it.

Verses 8-10

Ezr 6:8-10

Ezra 6:8-10

DARIUS’ ORDERS THAT EXPENSES WERE TO BE PAID OUT OF TAX REVENUES

"Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the River, expenses be given with all diligence to these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for burnt-offerings to the God of heaven; and also wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests that are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail; that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savor unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons."

"And pray for the life of the king, and of his sons" (Ezra 6:10). "Jeremiah’s admonition for the Jews to seek the peace of Babylon during their residence there in the captivity (Jeremiah 29:7), was interpreted as a requirement that they should pray for their rulers, which the Jews do even until this day. In view of the kindness to them of the Persian kings, they would not have neglected to do this." Furthermore this has come down even into Christianity as an apostolic order (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

"Offerings to the God of heaven" (Ezra 6:9-10). Many able commentators have warned us that actions and words as we find here should not be construed as meaning that men like Darius were genuine believers in the one true God. "Such acknowledgements as this we find here by Persian kings they could make without any renunciation of their polytheism. They could honor Jahve as a mighty god, yea, even as the mightiest god, without being unfaithful to the pagan gods of their fathers."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:8. While his officers were not to dabble in the work, they were ordered to furnish support in the way of materials. Not out of their personal property, but to draw on the treasury of that part of the realm beyond the river for expense money, and give it to the leaders of the work among the Jews.

Ezra 6:9-10. Great empires always keep accurate accounts of the things going on in their realms. We have seen that a record was’ kept of the Jews and the treatment done to them. That would necessarily include the account of their captivity and the occasion for it. And after being brought into the land now being ruled by the Persians, those people had been prevented from practicing their religious services of sacrifices and offerings. But God had opened the hearts of the heathen kings and caused them to see the righteousness of restoring the temple to the unfortunate Jews. It was appropriate, therefore, that the services belonging thereto be restored also. For the purposes of their temple service, the decree of Darius was extended to the order for animals for the altar, and other things needed in their congregational activities. Darius did not dictate what animals were to be selected, but left it to the priests at Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that the king requested prayer to be offered for him. That was a lawful request. In Jeremiah 29:7 the Jews were instructed to pray in behalf of the city of their captivity, and in 1 Timothy 2:2 is the command for Christians to pray for temporal rulers. This is all in keeping with other teaching regarding God’s interest in secular governments. Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:17 says that God takes a hand in governments of the world. It is proper, therefore, that the people of God should pray for those rulers.

Verses 11-12

Ezr 6:11-12

Ezra 6:11-12

CRUCIFIXION WAS SET AS THE PENALTY FOR VIOLATORS

"Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let a beam be pulled out from his house, and let him be lifted up and fastened thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this: and the God that hath caused his name to dwell there overthrow all kings and peoples that shall put forth their hand to alter the same, to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with all diligence."

There are two parts of this penalty: (1) the crufixion of the offender, and (2) an invocation that the God of heaven would also execute divine justice upon him.

"The extremely favorable impact of Darius’ decree upon the temple project was no doubt due, in part, to the influence of Cyrus, two of whose daughters Darius had married; but it also came, no doubt, from the deep impressions made upon the idolatrous peoples of that age with regard to the being and providence of the God of Israel."

"Let him be hanged thereon" (Ezra 6:11). This, of course, was crucifixion, a punishment widely used by the Persians. "Keil cites a word from Herodotus as saying that Darius impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took their city. Therefore, this was no idle threat." Cook added that, "Crucifixion was the most common form of punishment among the Persians."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:11. It is an established prin. ciple that a law without a penalty is, in reality, no law at all. On that basis it was consistent for the king of Persia to attach a penalty for the violation of his decree. And it was in a very impressive form in which the offender was to be punished. He not only was to be executed by hanging, but was to furnish the material for his own gallows. House be made a dunghill means that the place where his house had stood was to be used as a place for refuse.

Ezra 6:12. Caused his name to dwell there. The last word refers to the temple that was to be rebuilt by order of the king. He thus is offering an indirect prayer to God, asking him to support the Persian decree by punishing all persons who try to violate it. The whole document was made binding by the signature of Darius.

Verses 13-15

Ezr 6:13-15

Ezra 6:13-15

THE TEMPLE WAS FINISHED WITHIN ABOUT FOUR YEARS

"Then Tattenai the governor beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their companions, because that Darius the king had sent, did accordingly with all diligence. And the elders of the Jews builded and prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they budded and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the decree of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of Darius the king."

"And Artaxerxes king of Persia" (Ezra 6:14). There was a lapse of 82 years between the end of Darius’ reign (486 B.C.) and the beginning of that of Artaxerxes (404 B.C.) (See p. 25, above); and some have wondered just why his name should have been mentioned along with that of Cyrus and Darius. "He was probably included here because he, at a later date, contributed to the beautifying of the temple (Ezra 7:21-28)."

"The third day of the month Adar" (Ezra 6:15). "This was March 12,515 B.C., four and one half years after work had begun in earnest." It will be remembered that it required over seven years in the building of Solomon’s temple.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:13. Upon receipt of the letter from the king, Tatnai, who was governor of the territory west of the Euphrates, and his aides, proceeded to obey the decree. It is worthy of note that they did so speedily.

Ezra 6:14. This verse is a grand summary of the progress made in the rebuilding of the temple. In one paragraph all the factors are grouped that contributed to the final completion of the work. That took in the exhortations of the prophets, the commandments of God, and the various decrees of the Persian rulers who were friendly toward the Jews. The Artaxerxes mentioned is the one at the head of the 6th column of the chart. Thus far in our story he has not figured in the case, and will not for 58 years. But since the verse is a general statement of the fortunes of the Jews, the inspired writer could include the part this Persian will play in their affairs, for he will prove to be an important person in the matter.

Ezra 6:15. This verse is short but very informative. The house was completed in the 6th year of this king Darius. The work on it was resumed in his 2nd year (Ch. 4:24; 5:1, 2). Hence the work on the body of the house was done during 4 years of the reign of Darius I. Here is the place to make another notation on the chart. In the 4th column write, "6th year, the temple was completed." While at the business of marking the chart, make the following notation in the 5th column: "The Ahasuerus of the book of Esther according to most authors." Some comments will be offered on this subject when we get to the book of Nehemiah or Esther.

Verses 16-18

Ezr 6:16-18

Ezra 6:16-18

THE DEDICATION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE

"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. And they offered at the dedication of this house a 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. 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."

Critical scholars are very sensitive about any mention of the book of Moses, and their usual knee-jerk reaction is to challenge the passage as being from a different editor or some later hand. However, there is no reason whatever to believe such challenges. They are not scientific, they are founded upon scholarly imagination, and not upon any fact. The silly reason for such a challenge, according to Hamrick, was that the word Jews was the author’s usual term for Israel; but here he referred to them as the children of Israel. What a foolish assumption it must be that Ezra was not familiar with both expressions and that he would never have used both. At this glorious moment when God’s people had been returned from captivity and their temple restored, the more formal term children of Israel, was not only appropriate, it was required.

As Hamrick noted, "This story indicates that there was a conscious attempt to imitate the ceremony associated with the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8, and 2 Chronicles 5-7)." However, the relative poverty of the people made it impossible to duplicate it. "Solomon offered over two hundred times as many oxen and sheep at the dedication of his temple as were offered on this occasion (1 Kings 8:63)."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:16. Four classes of persons are named as taking part in this dedication or setting apart of the temple. The first is a general class; children of Israel. The priests, meaning the part of the tribe of Levi that descended from Aaron, in the second class. The third is the tribe of Levi as a whole, and fourth, any individuals left out in the ones mentioned above, but designated as being among the captivity literally. Some Jews were permitted to remain in Palestine during the 70 years. These people, of course, were enslaved under the Babylonians, but not actually taken into the land possessed by their captors.

Ezra 6:17. The offering of sin offerings was not especially an acknowledgement of sin, although they had enough sins charged up against them to call for such sacrifices; but certain offerings were thus designated, regardless of the purpose for which they were given. Special attention is called to the word twelve in connection with the tribes of Israel. There is a doctrine in the world to the effect that the 10 tribes were lost in the captivity, and as yet have never been found. Well, the services that went on at this dedication, were under the supervision of the priests. They certainly would have known it, had these tribes been lost. And if so, they would have had no occasion for counting them when providing the sacrifices according to the number of the tribes.

Ezra 6:18. There is no practical difference between divisions and courses as used here. There was some, work that the priests only could do, being of the family of Aaron. The other Levites had a more general line of duty, yet could perform some things that no other tribe could lawfully do. Also, the number of eligible men in both kinds had grown so numerous, that it became necessary to have them serve in turns and sections. A part of the arrangement for the courses or turns of the priests had been fixed by David (1 Chronicles 24:1-19), which was far this side of Moses, yet with the approval of God. Therefore, as it is written in the book of Moses refers only to the service, not to the turns or courses. The outstanding thought we should get out of this paragraph is that of good order or system. That is taught in the New Testament. (Colossians 2:5.)

Verses 19-22

Ezr 6:19-22

Ezra 6:19-22

THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL KEPT THE PASSOVER

"And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure: and they killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel that were come again out of the captivity, and all such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the nations of the land, to seek Jehovah, the God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for Jehovah had made them joyful, and 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."

"With Ezra 6:19, the writer resumes the Hebrew language, which he had discarded for the Chaldee, beginning at Ezra 4:8. With the exception of the letter of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12-26), the remainder of the book is in Hebrew."

"All of them were pure" (Ezra 6:20). It is not exactly clear, as the translation reads, but Cook assures us that a contrast is drawn between the universal purity of the Levites and the more general purity of the priests. "This made it fitting that the Levites should slaughter all the consume."

"And all such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the nations of the land" (Ezra 6:21). Here, these are contrasted with the returnees from captivity. "These were those who were left in Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar and had become mixed with the heathen population."

"Jehovah ... turned the heart of the king of Assyria" (Ezra 6:22). This is a reference, of course, to Darius I the king of Persia. However it is definitely not "a scribal error" as charged by Cundall. Darius was king of Persia and also king of Babylon, but as the ruler of the former Assyrian Empire, he was also "King of Assur," as Keil stated it.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 6:19. Children of the captivity means the children of Israel that had just come back from the land of the captivity, having been released by Cyrus.

Ezra 6:20. Purified together refers to the law of Moses that required all persons to be clean, both actually and ceremonially, before they were permitted to partake of the feasts. See Numbers 9:6-11 and Numbers 19:11-22. These passages give the general requirements as to uncleanness, all conditions coming under the rule must comply with the law for ceremonial cleansing. These members of the tribe of Levi had attended to the demands of the law, thereby qualifying them to prepare the passover for the others as well as for partaking of it themselves.

Ezra 6:21. The children of Israel who had come up from Babylon had to be purified according to the law. There were others who had been living in the land of Palestine and thus in connection with the heathen of the land. These last named persons had separated themselves unto them. This means the ones who had been living in Palestine in the midst of the idolaters of the country, complied with the law of purification, then joined themselves to the ones lately come in from Babylon. All of them together took part in the great feast, mutually rejoicing in the favorable situation.

Ezra 6:22. The feast of unleavened bread was kept immediately following the passover. (Exodus 12:18-20; Exodus 13:7-9; Deuteronomy 16:3.) Politically speaking, the "land of the captivity" was a Persian territory and ruled by Persian kings. But from a geographical standpoint it was the old country of Assyria. That is why we have the expression king of Assyria, really meaning the Persian king. He had strengthened their hands as we have seen in this chapter, by furnishing them materials, and it was a time of great rejoicing among the people of God. Not only because their term of exile had been terminated, but the former oppressors were in power no more.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 6". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/ezra-6.html.
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