Ezra 6

EZRA CHAPTER 6

Darius’ Search

      • Then King Darius issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury in Babylon. But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, which is in the province of Media, that a scroll was found, and it was inscribed as follows:

          • ESV Study Bible explains, “The search for Cyrus’s decree is made first in Babylonia, where Cyrus had declared himself king in 539 BC, and where many exiled Jews lived. But the scroll containing the record of the decree was found in Ecbatana (v. 2), the summer residence of the Persian kings, where Cyrus may have gone soon after his triumph over Babylon. The province of Media (v. 2) was formerly the seat of an empire itself, but Cyrus had made it part of the Persian realm…”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Ecbatana [was] the capital of Media. Its ancient name is still preserved in the name of the modern Hamadan in northwestern Iran. This is the sole OT reference to the site, though there are numerous references in the Apocryphal books.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Media was a mountainous area north of Persia and east of Assyria. This area is now inhabited by the Kurds (descendants of the Medes).”

        • Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus, he issued a decree concerning the house of God in Jerusalem: Let the house be rebuilt as a place for offering sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be 90 feet high and 90 feet wide, with 3 layers of huge stones and one layer of timber. The royal treasury is to pay all the expenses. Furthermore, let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be returned to the house of God.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Texts introduced by the term Memorandum tended to be summaries that listed the main facts of an event for the royal archives (cp 1:9-10).”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds the following details:

          • This record is not identical with the decree recorded in 1:2-4. It gives new specifications about the building and its location, size, and materials. Perhaps a copy of the original decree had been found and instructions added to it. Also, different copies of Cyrus’s original decree may have been made for different purposes; the one in 1:2-4 included wording for public proclamation, while this version in 6:3-5 was for the royal archives. The size of the temple might be specified in order to limit it, since public funds were being used to pay for it. The absence of a length of dimension is odd, and the greater breadth than Solomon’s temple is unexpected (cf 1 Kgs 6:2), especially in view of Ezra 3:12. A similar cult foundation charter written in Greek, Lycian, and Aramaic was found in Xanthos in Lycia dated to the mid-fourth century BC, when the area was controlled by a Persian satrap. As does Ezra, this foundation charter specifies the frequency of sacrifices, the names of specific priests, and their responsibilities for maintaining the temple worship.”

          • On the term used for “foundations,” “This is an Akkadian architectural term used in building inscriptions of the time.”

          • On the description of the construction, “Not only does this follow the construction of the older temple (1 Kgs 6:36; 7:12), but it also characterizes the way a public building found in Megiddo from the time of Solomon was constructed (with cedar). Such construction has also been found in Hittite Carchemish and Alalakh and Tell Tayinat in northern Syria.”

Darius’ Decree

      • Therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-Bozenai, and your associates, the officials of the region- all of you stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this house of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Darius now instructs Tattenai and his fellow officials to allow the work to continue. Governor of the Jews refers to Zerubbabel (Hag 1:1). Nothing is known of what happened to the first governor, Sheshbazzar.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “When Babylonian kings such as Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus rebuilt temples, they searched carefully to discover the exact outlines of the former buildings. An inscription of Nabonidus reads: ‘I discovered its [i.e., the Ebabbara in Sippar] ancient foundation, which Sargon, a former king, had made. I laid its brick foundations solidly on the foundation that Sargon had made, neither protruding nor receding an inch.’…”

      • Moreover, I hereby issue a decree concerning what you must do for those Jewish elders for the rebuilding of this house of God. Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the tribute of the province Beyond the River. The complete costs are to be given so that there is no interruption of the work. Whatever is needed: bulls, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine, and oil as required by the priests in Jerusalem. These must be given to them daily without fail so that they may be offering sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven, and may be praying for the life of the king and his sons.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Darius confirms Cyrus’s decree (and so places himself in continuity with the founder of the empire) and also provides for the costs from taxes raised in the province (v. 8). He also provides materials for sacrifices (v. 9), with the political condition that the Jews would pray for the life of the king and his sons (v.10). Darius’s generosity was part of his plan for maintaining Persian power. Other instances where kings assisted subjects in temple rebuilding and sacrifices- besides the example of Cyrus II already mentioned in the famous Cyrus Cylinder… include Cambyses II, Cyrus’s son, with the temple of Neith at Sais; Darius I at Hibis in the Khargah Oasis, as well as the temple of Ptah; and even Antiochus the Great with the Jewish temple in Jerusalem early in his reign (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.129-44; cf 1 Macc 7:33).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “In the Cyrus Cylinder the king asks, ‘May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me.’”

      • Furthermore, I hereby issue a decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled out of his house, and he is to be impaled on it. Also, for this crime, his house is to be made a pile of garbage. May the God who caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or nation who lifts a hand to change this decree or destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have decreed it. Let it be carried out diligently.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “Darius makes in effect a further decree, backed up with a typical threatened sanction (v. 11). The final warning borrows language from the Jews’ on way of speaking about God’s presence in Jerusalem (the God who has caused his name to dwell there, v. 12; cf Deut 12:5); Darius strikingly acknowledges the efficacy of the God of Jerusalem in his own place (although, like Cyrus in Ezra 1:3, he might not be claiming that there is only one true God).”

Completion and Dedication of the Temple

      • Then Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-Bozenai, and their associates diligently carried out what the king had decreed. The Jewish elders continued building and prospering, while at the same time the prophet Haggai, and the prophet Zechariah, who was Iddo’s son, continued prophesying. They finished the building in accordance with the command of the God of Israel, and the decrees of the kings of Persia- Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. They completed the house on the 3rd day of the month of Adar, in the 6th year of the reign of King Darius.

        • Regarding how v. 14 is to be properly understood (in place of the rendering above, some translations render in such a way that the sentence reads that the Jewish elders prospered “through” the prophesying of the prophets) NET Bible’s textual note clarifies that it’s, “’in’ or ‘by,’ in the sense of accompaniment.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The inclusion of Artaxerxes I, who ruled after the events of this chapter, anticipates his decree in support of Ezra’s mission (7:11-26). By the time of Ezra, all three kings had issued decrees. The later decree of Artaxerxes (7:27) was to beautify the temple.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “The temple was finished on Mar 12, 515 BC, a little over 70 years after its destruction. As the renewed work on the temple had begun in September, 520 BC (see Hag 1:4-15), sustained effort had continued for over four years. According to Hag 2:3, the older members, who could remember the splendor of Solomon’s temple, were disappointed when they saw the smaller size of Zerubbabel’s temple. Nonetheless, the second temple, though not as grand as the first, lasted much longer.”

      • Then the people of Israel- the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles- celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. For the dedication of this house of God they offered 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and, as a sin offering for all Israel, 12 male goats, one for each tribe of Israel. They installed the priests by their divisions and the Levites by their divisions, over the service of God at Jerusalem, in accordance with what is written in the Book of Moses.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “The priests and Levites are set in their divisions, i.e., according to the roster for duty in the temple, as King David had once done (1 Chronicles 23-27). The phrase as it is written in the Book of Moses applies to the general assignment of the priests and Levites to their respective duties (Numbers 3; 8) rather than to the system of divisions outlined in Chronicles.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “As there were more priests than necessary for services in the Jerusalem temple, they were divided into rotations. There are 21 rotations mentioned in Ne 10:3-9; 1 Ch 24:1-19. Since the priests served a week at a time, they normally served at Jerusalem twice a year.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “This verse concludes the Aramaic section that began in Ezra 4:8.”

Passover Celebrated

      • The exiles observed the Passover on the 14th day of the first month. All of the priests and the Levites had purified themselves, so they were ceremonially clean. They slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. The Israelites who had returned from exile ate it, together with all of those who had joined them in separating themselves from the uncleanness of the nations of the lands in order to seek Yahweh, the God of Israel. They joyfully observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread for 7 days, because Yahweh had made them joyful by turning the heart of the Assyrian king toward them so that he supported them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The Passover is kept on its appointed date, followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread…which lasts for seven days (Lev 23:5-6). The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were clean…i.e., they had made the necessary ritual preparations. The participants are the people of Israel, the returned exiles again representing the whole, and the people of the land who joined them.” On “the Lord had made them joyful,” the same source continues, “He had fulfilled his prophecies and answered his people’s prayers. There is spontaneous joy when God’s people see evidence that he is working in the world. The reference to the king of Assyria (v. 22) at first seems odd because the kings of Persia have supported the Jews in Ezra. The reference here, however, is based on the continuity of the various empires. The king of Persia now ruled over the territorial empire of the Assyrians, and thus he could be called ‘king of Assyria’ (cf Herodotus, History 1.178, in a discussion of Cyrus’s conquests, where Babylon is called the strongest city in ‘Assyria’). This wording emphasizes the turn in fortunes, under God, since the Assyrians had been used as God’s agent of punishment centuries before (Neh 9:32; Isa 10:5-11).”

Zerubbabel’s Temple via Bibleq.net

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