EZRA CHAPTER 5.
The Building of the Temple Resumed.
THE ZEAL OF THE PEOPLE AROUSED. — V. 1. Then the prophets, Haggai, the prophet, and Zechariah, the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. It seems that the Jews, after their first attempt to rebuild the Temple had been hindered, had lost most of their interest and zeal for the task, and needed an emphatic admonition to arouse them to action again, Hag. 1, 2-11. V. 2. Then rose up Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of the returned exiles in Judah, and Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, the high priest, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and with them, encouraging and inspiring them, were the prophets of God, helping them. V. 3. At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, satrap, or viceroy, of the Persian king who governed the larger province, or satrapy, west of the Euphrates, including Syria, Palestine, Phenicia, and Cyprus, under whose jurisdiction were the smaller governors of the nations and tribes in his entire territory, and Shethar-boznai and their companions, minor officials accompanying the viceroy and his secretary, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house and to make up this wall? The Samaritans had evidently complained also to the viceroy, and so he came to investigate the matter, not being content with hearing only one side of the matter. V. 4. Then said we, the Persian officials being meant, unto them, the Jews, after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? They inquired for the men in authority among the Jews, those upon whom the responsibility rested. V. 5. But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, who might naturally have been overawed by the coming of these high officials and been inclined to give up their project in sheer terror, that they could not cause them to cease till the matter came to Darius, the Jews were permitted to go on with their work until the king himself had handed down a decision in the matter; and then they, the investigators, returned answer by letter concerning this matter. Because the Jews had informed Tatnai that they were acting by permission and upon a decree issued by Cyrus himself, the viceroy thought best to refer the case to the king for adjustment. God Himself holds His sheltering hand over the work done in His honor, and therefore it can never fail.
THE LETTER OF INQUIRY DIRECTED TO DARIUS — V. 6. The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, on the western side of the Euphrates, and Shetharboznai and his companions, the Apharsachites, the lower officials, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king; v. 7. they sent a letter unto him, they made a report of their investigation as carried on till then, wherein was written thus: Unto Darius the king, all peace! V.8. Be it known unto the king that we went into the province of Judea, the smaller subdivision of Tatnai’s satrapy, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, literally, “with stones of rolling,” since they were so large that they had to be rolled or dragged along the ground, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on and prospereth in their hands, the Jews were making fine headway in the construction of their Temple. V. 9. Then asked we those elders and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house and to make up these walls? Cp. v. 4. V. 10. We asked their names also to certify thee, to give all the information which the king might desire, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them. V. 11. And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, the one whom they considered not only the highest, but the only true God, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, rebuilding the Temple of Solomon, which a great king of Israel builded and set up, 1 Kings 6, 1. V. 12. But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, as it is so abundantly shown in the Books of the Kings and of Chronicles, 2 Chron. 36, 16. 17, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried the people away into Babylon, 2 Kings 24,2; 25, 8-11. V. 13. But in the first year of Cyrus, the king of Babylon, the same King Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God, chap. 1, 1. V.14. And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the Temple that was in Jerusalem and brought them into the Temple of Babylon, 2 Chron. 36, 7. 18, those did Cyrus the king take out of the Temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor, rather, deputy; v. 15. and said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the Temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place. So the fact that Cyrus himself had expressly ordered the building of the Temple was strongly brought out. V. 16. Then came the same Sheshbazzar and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished. Tatnai probably included this in his report from the appearance of things in Jerusalem, since the Temple area had been in use all these years, even though actual building operations had ceased. V. 17. Now, therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure-house, which is there at Babylon, for the royal archives, where important state documents were kept, were a part of this treasure-house, whether it be so that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter, render his opinion or decision. The mighty God of heaven and earth has also the powerful ones of the earth in His hand, guiding their hearts as the rivers of water and causing them to grant such liberties to the Church that it may continue its work of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.