Ezra 5


God Overcomes Opposition (4:24 – 6:22) Continued

The Rebuilding Resumes (Continued)

      • At that time the prophet Haggai, and the prophet Zechariah, who was Iddo’s grandson, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel, and Jozadak’s son Jeshua, began to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “Very little progress had been made in the years since the foundation of the temple was first laid. But beginning on Aug. 29, 520 BC (Hag 1:1), and continuing until Dec. 18 (Hag 2:1-9, 20-23), the prophet Haggai delivered a series of messages to stir the people to begin work on the temple. Two months after Haggai’s first speech, Zechariah joined him (Zec 1:1). Hag 1:6 describes the deplorable situation: housing shortages, disappointing harvests, lack of clothing and jobs, and inadequate funds- perhaps as a result of inflation. Money went into ‘a purse with holes in it.’ The people were concerned more about their own houses than about the Lord’s house…Zerubbabel [is] a Babylonian name referring to his birth in exile, probably before 570 BC. Here (see also Ezr 3:2; Neh 12:1; Hag 1:1) he is described as the ‘son of Shealtiel.’ Shealtiel [was the] son of Jehoiachin, second-to-last king of Judah (1 Chr 3:17). Though he was replaced by Zedekiah, Jehoiachin was regarded as the last legitimate king of Judah. Zerubbabel was the last of the Davidic line to be entrusted with political authority by the occupying powers.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, are also known from their books, which contain prophecies made in the second year of King Darius, 520 BC (Hag 1:1; 2:1; Zech 1:1, 7;…)Haggai proclaims that the people were in trouble because they had lost sight of their top priority of rebuilding the temple (Hag 1:4-6). Verses 1-2 of Ezra 5 bring out the connection between the prophetic work and the renewed action, following the discouragement recorded in 4:4-5, 24. In beginning again, Zerubbabel and Jeshua are simply reimplementing Cyrus’s decree, recognizing it as the will and purpose of God.”

      • At the same time, Tattenai, who was the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-Bozenai, and their associates, came to the Jews and asked, “Who authorized you to build this house and to finish it?” They also asked, “What are the names of the men who are constructing this building?” But their God was watching over the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped until a report was sent to Darius and his written reply was received.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “The officials Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai are much more neutral than the officials in 4:8-10. Clearly they have no knowledge of Cyrus’s decree, probably because the work had long been stopped. They are interested only in the proper authorization for this work and do not interfere with its progress. We know that the satrap of ‘Beyond the River’ appointed by Darius I in 520 BC was Ushtani, who lived in Babylon and was satrap of of Babylon and ‘Beyond the River’ concurrently. It was once believed that Ushtani and Tattenai were the same person, but a cuneiform document naming ‘Tattenai, governor of Eber-nari,’ has been found. It is evident, then, that Tattenai was the deputy of Ushtani for the satrapy of ‘Beyond the River’ between 520 and 502 BC. Scripture calls Tattenai a pakhat, or governor, the same word designating Tattenai in the aforementioned cuneiform inscription.”

Tattenai’s Letter to King Darius

      • This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-Bozenai, as well as their associates, who were officials of Beyond the River, sent to King Darius. The report they sent to him was written as follows:

        • To King Darius: All greetings. The king should know that we went to the house of the great God in the province of Judah. It is being rebuilt with huge stones and its beams are being set in the walls. The work is going forward diligently and is prospering in their hands. We questioned the elders, asking, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this house and finish it?’ We also asked them for their names so that we could write down their leaders’ names for your information. Their response was as follows: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built and completed many years ago by a great king of Israel. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, He handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, the king of Babylon, who destroyed this house and deported the people to Babylon. However, in the first year of Babylon’s King Cyrus, he issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. King Cyrus even removed from the temple in Babylon the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. King Cyrus brought those from the temple in Babylon and gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed as governor. He told him, “Take these vessels and go put them in the temple in Jerusalem, and rebuild the house of God on its site.” Then this same Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations for the house of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it isn’t finished yet.’ Therefore, if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning the matter.”

          • The following sources include clarifying remarks:

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible on the title “the great God” being applied to Israel’s God in verse 8, “This title was a Persian way of referring to an important deity; it does not indicate that the provincial authorities believed in Israel’s God…”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible on the Jews designating their God as “the God of heaven and earth” in verse 11, “This title would be understood by the Persians: He was the universal high God, not an insignificant local deity.” The “great king of Israel” referenced is Solomon.

          • HCSB on verse 12, “People cannot live any way they choose without consequences. The judgment of God is a reality. His judgment may come immediately, or He may choose to delay His judgment, but no one should think that God is indifferent to sin. God’s people are held to this standard as well. In fact, it is likely that God expects more from His people who have been given the truth of His will (see Heb 6:4-8; 10:31; 1 Pt 4:17-18).”

          • NET Bible on the reference to Cyrus as the king of Babylon in verse 13, “Cyrus was actually a Persian king, but when he conquered Babylon in 539 b.c. he apparently appropriated to himself the additional title ‘king of Babylon.’ The Syriac Peshitta substitutes ‘Persia’ for ‘Babylon’ here, but this is probably a hyper-correction.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible on verses 14-15, “The Jews provided detailed information that the Persians could check for accuracy (see 1:7-11).”

          • ESV Study Bible on the attribution to Sheshbazzar for the foundations in verses 16-17, “The period when building had ceased was irrelevant both to the information Tattenai was giving and to the request he was making. The author therefore omits here the specific work of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, and Zechariah (though their names were no doubt among those asked for by the governor, and sent with the letter; see v. 10). Tattenai, following the Jews on account, wants to make a link between the original authorization and the present building activity, and so portrays Sheshbazzar as having laid the foundations of the temple, since it was done under his authority, though that achievement is attributed to the work initiated by Zerubbabel and Jeshua in 3:8-10.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “That such inquiries were sent directly to the king has been vividly confirmed by the Elamite texts from Persepolis, where in 1933-1934 several thousand tablets and fragments were found in the fortification wall. Some 2,000 fortification tablets, dated from the 13th to the 28th year of Darius (509-494 BC), deal with the transfer and payment of food products. In 1936-1938, over 100 additional Elamite texts were discovered in the treasury area of Persepolis, dating from the 30th year of Darius to the 7th year of Artaxerxes I (492-458 BC). In addition to the payment in kind, they include supplementary payment in silver coins, an innovation introduced around 493 BC.”

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