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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Ezra 6

 

 

Verses 1-22

B.—THE ANSWER OF DARIUS, THE COMPLETION OF THE TEMPLE, AND THE FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE PASSOVER

Ezra 6:1-22

I. Darius’ Answer. Ezra 6:1-12

1Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon 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: 3In 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 three-score cubits, and the breadth thereof three-score 4 cubits; With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house: 5And 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 6 of God. Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: 7Let 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 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 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: 10That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons 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 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.

II. the completion and dedication of the temple. Ezra 6:13-18

13Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily 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 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 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 17 And offered at the dedication of this house of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve Hebrews -goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel 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.

III. celebration of the first passover-feast. Ezra 6:19-22

19And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month 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 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 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.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Ezra 6:1-12. The answer of Darius. Notwithstanding the great importance of the decision that Darius gave in reply to the letter of his officers and the greatness of its results, in that after so long a waiting it finally introduced a new and significant turn of affairs, its introduction is quite brief.—Then Darius the king made a decree.—These words seem to refer only to the command to make an investigation; but in reality they serve as an introduction to the decree which was promulgated to Tatnai, etc.; comp. V:6. It is as if the subsequent narrative: and search was made, were taken up merely as an explanation of the decree following in Ezra 6:6 sq. Without doubt it was contained in the decree of Darius to Tatnai, as its basis or introduction.—The house of writings.—Comp. Ezra 5:17.[FN1] Here the treasures likewise were laid up. מְהַחֲתִין is participle Aphel of נחת. Comp. Ezra 5:15.

Ezra 6:2. And there was found at Achmetha.—Search was made for the writing in Babylon; but it was found in Achmetha, after that there was probably found in the archives at Babylon a reference to the archives of Achmetha for the documents of the time of Cyrus. The letters אחם engraved on coins seem to designate this city. Comp. Mordtmann, D. M. Zeitschrift, VIII, S14, In ancient Persian, however, Achmetha probably was Hagamatha.—[Rawlinson in loco: “in the Behistun inscription Hagmatana.”—Tr.]—In Greek it is ’Αγβάτανα (Herod. I:98) or ’Eκβάτανα ( Judith 1:14), the summer-residence of the Persian and Parthian kings, built by Deiokes, the capital of Media the great, in the vicinity of the present Hamadan.—In the palace.—The archives were especially in the citadel, בִּירָה=ἡ βάρις, which embraced the palace and likewise the other prominent buildings.—A roll and therein was a record.[FN2]—We should expect directly after בְּגַוַּהּ (there is less authority for a kametz in the last syll.) the contents of the writing; indeed דְּכְרוֹנָה (st. emph. of דִּכְרוֹן) may have been a superscription in the writing itself about equivalent to: memorandum; nevertheless it is here connected with the previous clause as a memorandum was written therein. The contents do not follow until Ezra 6:3-5.

Ezra 6:3 contains first probably stereotype introductory forms; at first the date: In the first year of king Cyrus (as in Ezra 5:13); then the short preamble: Cyrus the king made a decree; then a statement of the contents; then the following words: the house of God at Jerusalem, stand alone by themselves, and constitute to a certain extent a title. Then the command: Let the house be built as a place where offerings are brought and whose foundations are capable of supporting (namely, the structure).—אֲתַר is placed before the relative clause in stat. constr. as מְקוֹם, Hosea 2:1, etc. יְאֻשּׁוֹהִי מְסוֹבְלִין is hardly to be explained as: “its foundation they may set up” (Keil), or “may be erected (Ges. in his Thesaurus). In this sense the additional clause would be superfluous. We would expect an optative instead of a participle. It is made co-ordinate with the previous relative clause by the participle, and not with the principal clause “let the house of God be built.” סבל, which only in very detached passages is like the Heb. נשׂא, in the Targum of Deuteronomy 24:15 and in the Samaritan translation of Genesis 13:10, means, as in Hebrew, without doubt also in Chald, first and chiefly, to drag, bear a burden. Accordingly we regard as the safest explanation: whose foundations are burden-bearing, that Isaiah, capable of carrying, durable for the buildings erected upon them. Cyrus might have been present to state briefly in his own way the very reason why the house of God in Jerusalem was to be built. It is a place wherein they from ancient times offer offerings, thus a place long ago sanctified, and besides the foundations are still present and in a condition capable of bearing a building upon them. The two participles, thus viewed, are used without regard to tense. The Vulgate and the Rabbins likewise let this conception betray itself since they render: ponant fundamenta supportantia. Although it is more natural to suppose that this second relative clause should be synonymous with the first, yet there is no change in the text that could be at all proposed (e.g., אִשִּׁין for אֻשִּׁין) that would throw any light. Whilst indeed Esdras had διὰ πυρὸς ἐνδελεχοῦς, the Sept. seems, although rendering very freely (κὰι ἔθηκαν ἔπαρμα) to have followed our text.

In order that the house might be large and elevated enough, Cyrus at once fixed ’its height and breadth (comp. Daniel 3:1 for פְּתָיֵהּ), and indeed both, sixty cubits, double that of the temple of Solomon. Comp. 1 Kings 6:2. Even if in this passage the cubit of commerce of the exile times were meant, whilst in 1 Kings 6:2, on the other hand, the ancient Mosaic or holy cubit ( 2 Chronicles 3:3), which according to Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 43:13, was a hand’s breadth longer than the former, namely, eighteen and a half Rhenish inches, the difference would still be significant enough. But it is probable that the reference here is to the Mosaic cubit. The measurements for the new temple appear, since they were just double, to have been chosen with reference to those of the old temple, and on their basis. It is probable that Cyrus thought he could not make the matter of the temple his own affair without at least surpassing Solomon to the extent of double. Perhaps this explains why he fixes nothing at all respecting the length. Probably he knew that a greater length than that of the temple of Solomon was not desirable, since otherwise the temple buildings would have taken relatively too much space, and the extent of the courts, which needed much space, be too limited. Since now he could not well go beyond Solomon in this respect, he rather makes no standard at all. The building of Solomon’s temple had a length of sixty cubits, twenty for the most holy place, forty for the holy place, and besides a vestibule of ten cubits. This was besides surrounded on the two long sides and in the rear, by wings of five cubits breadth. The length of the temple of Herod was limited to essentially the same measurements. But if they did not wish to exceed these measurements, the sixty cubits breadth could only be applied to measure the outer breadth, embracing likewise the wings, unless they would entirely abandon the relations rendered sacred by the tabernacle, and almost throughout retained by the temple of Solomon. The holiest of all had been a cube in both the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon and the holy place again had had double the length of this cube, and this arrangement of the parts seems to have been regarded as the most essential. The internal breadth of the second temple could not well amount to more than that of the first temple, or than that which it subsequently had in the temple of Herod, namely, twenty cubits (with Keil and against Merx in Herz’s Real-Enc. XV. S 513 and Berth.) Thus there remained to the side buildings a considerable space. If we reckon ten cubits for each side, whilst in the temple of Solomon only five cubits had been applied to that purpose, since the breadth in that case would have amounted to twenty cubits in the clear, in all thirty cubits, there still remain twenty cubits for the four walls, which in the temple of Herod likewise took up the same amount of space. Whether accordingly the internal height was likewise limited, whether it at least in the holiest of all was diminished to the measure of the length and breadth, as it were, by the addition of upper chambers, such as had been in the temple of Solomon likewise, these taking up ten cubits in height, we know not. In the temple of Herod there was assigned to the holiest of all, as well as to the holy place, an internal height of sixty cubits, whilst still forty to sixty cubits in height were applied to the upper chambers. And it is possible that Zerubbabel and Jeshua likewise already acted with more freedom with reference to the height, an internal height of only twenty cubits in connection with an external height of sixty cubits, would have been almost too much out of proportion. That they really carried the external height to sixty cubits, seems to follow from Josephus Arch. xv11, 1.[FN3]

Ezra 6:4 gives still further directions, but it is difficult to understand them.—Three rows of great stones.—נִדְבָךְ is used in the Targ. for the Hebrew טוּר, which is from טוּר =circumire, and means the surrounding wall or walls ( Ezekiel 46:23), but also the rows ( Exodus 28:17, etc.; so also indeed 1 Kings 7:3-4). Fritzsche on Esdras6:25, Keil and Merx (l. c.), regard its meaning as row or course, and accordingly understand it to be = the walls, whether of the temple (Fritzsche) or of the inner porch (Keil and Merx)—of the latter it is very appropriately said in 1 Kings 6:36, that Solomon built them: שְׁלשָׁה טוּרֵי נָּזִית וְטוּר כְּרֻתֹת אֲרָזים, they should have below three layers of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams. But that the walls of the temple building itself, of which alone we can think according to Ezra 6:3, should be built of four such courses is highly improbable, for such an unfinished massive method of building has no where been found in the Orient. But if the walls of the inner court were meant, these would certainly have been mentioned, or if something had been left out that was originally contained in the edict of Cyrus for explanation (Merx), these words would most suitably have been omitted likewise. Moreover טּוּר in the above mentioned passage, 1 Kings 6:36, very probably has a different meaning. It is very worthy of remark, that טּוּר as well here as also immediately afterwards, 1 Kings 7:2, so also in Ezekiel 46:23, occurs with reference to four-sided rooms, which were enclosed round about, just as נִדְבָּכִים is used in our passage. Nothing is more appropriate then than to understand thereby the four side enclosures which enclosed the room; whether walls, as in the inner court, 1 Kings 6:36; Ezekiel 46:23, or side buildings that surrounded a four-cornered room, as 1 Kings 7:2. The sense of 1 Kings 7:36, Isaiah, then, that Solomon provided the inner court on three sides with walls of quarried stone, on the one other side, without doubt the front side, where the chief entrance was, where then there was probably a larger door, with an enclosure of hewn cedar. Our passage, however, then says that three of the temple walls—for it can only refer to these according to Ezra 6:3—were of hewn stone, the other, namely, the front, which must for the most part be composed of a large entrance, was to be made of wood. In confirmation of this view it is sufficient that in the temple of Herod also, the entrance side of the holy place was still composed of one great folding door, sixteen cubits broad. In the same manner then, moreover, was the inner court enclosed, as we conclude from 1 Kings 6:36.[FN4]And a row of now timber.—Instead of חֲדַת = new after אָע = timber, it is appropriate to read חֲדָה=one, as then the Sept, already renders εἶς, yet this numeral is absent also in 1 Kings 6:36.—And let the expenses.—נִפְקְּתָא from נְפַק (in Aphel = to give out) is the expense, and indeed here that which was caused by the building of the temple.—From the house of the king is according to Ezra 6:8 sq. = from the royal revenues on this side of the river.

Ezra 6:5 adds the order for the restoration of the temple vessels, that was so important. The sing. יְהַךְ (respecting the form vid.V:5) is explained after the previous plural from the conception of the different vessels as one sum total. תַּחֵת, thus written and pointed, Isaiah 2 d pers. imperf. Aph. with transitive meaning = cause to be delivered, comp. Ezra 5:15. If this meaning is to be retained, we must suppose that the edict of Cyrus was addressed to some individual, perhaps Zerubbabel himself, and that Cyrus now turns immediately to him. Yet the transition to the direct address is here somewhat singular and abrupt, and it seems best to take תַּחֵת as 3 d pers. fem. imperf. Kal, which indeed should be pointed תֵּחוֹת or at least תֵּחֹת with the indefinite subject.

Ezra 6:6. The previous edict of Cyrus is now followed by the order of Darius, so favorable and careful in its provisions for the Jews, that it is as if the latter would not only confirm the former’s action out of reverence, but even surpass him. If it should be difficult for the little congregation of Jews to conduct the worship in Jerusalem in accordance with the prescriptions of the law, in that a great expense was especially necessary for the offerings, Darius helped them to bear the burden by his great liberality. He at first in Ezra 6:6-7 arranged that his governor should not hinder the work.—Now therefore Tatnai, etc.—For the connection with previous context see notes on Ezra 6:1.—And your companions, your Apharsachites = those who are your companions, etc. For an explanation of the terms comp. Ezra 5:3; Ezra 5:6.—Be (or keep yourself) far from thence, e. g., interfere not with the imposition of burdens or hindrances.

Ezra 6:7. Let alone.—שְׁבַקc.accus. = to give way to or permit something.—The work of this house of God, namely, that brought in question by you.—Let the governor—and the elders build.—וּלְשָׂבֵי is here after פַּחַת clearly a second subject to לְ ּיִבְנוֹן is hence used here to introduce a subject which is quite unusual. Comp. perchance Isaiah 32:1. and Daniel 4:33, and indeed without exactly making שָׂבֵי more prominent than פַּחַת.

Ezra 6:8. Then Darius directs his officers to defray the cost of the building.—Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do.—Comp. Ezra 4:19; לְמָא = in reference to that which ye are to do, comp.אֶל־ with צִוָּה, Isaiah 23:11; Psalm 91:11; 2 Kings 20:1. עִם is used here with עֲבַד in no other way than with עָשָׂה in Hebrews, comp. Genesis 24:12 sq. It corresponds to some extent with the German “an,” but expresses still further “infavor of.”—For the building.—לְמִבְנֵא = in order that they may build. The second half of the verse: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute, contains the principal thing that the royal officers were to do, so that ו=and indeed—With expenses—that they be not hindered.—אָסְפַּרְנָה as in Ezra 6:8. דִּי־לָא לְבַטָּלָא cannot well mean that there be no stopping, or that it may not come to a stopping of the work (Keil after the Vulgate: ne impediatur opus), since no object such as work is mentioned here as in Ezra 4:21; Ezra 4:23; but it means: which (prescribed action) is not to be brought to I an end, or discontinued (Bertheau). Comp. Daniel 6:9. This additional clause Is to sharpen the previous one.

In Ezra 6:9-10 Darius further adds: that his officers shall provide the material of the offerings in order that prayer may be offered for him, and the welfare of his empire in the Jewish manner, in Jerusalem likewise.—And whatever is necessary—חַשְׁחָן is fem. pl. (necessary things) from חָשֵׁחַ for חָשְׁחָן, comp. חַשְׁחִין, Daniel 3:16, and פַּרְסִין, Daniel 5:25, according to Winer’s Gr., § 34, 3. [Riggs’ Gr., § 32—Tr.], the vocalization varies.—Both young bullocks and.—The following וְ—וְ is properly = as well—as, or also, whether—or. Darius names here various animals and other materials, which may in any way come into consideration, since he leaves the more particular designation of what would be required to the priests at Jerusalem.—Let it be given them without fail.—The singular לֶחֱוִאִ מִתְיְחֵב (comp. להוא4:12) is explained perhaps from the fact that Darius goes back upon מָה and embraces every individual in an indefinite “it.” דִּי־לָא שָׁלוּ means: that there be no interruption, namely, in providing what is necessary, or indeed in the worship. In the translation of the LXX: ἑὰν ἀιτήσουσι, which overlooks the לָא and in that of the Vulgate ne sit in aliquo quærimonia, שָׁלוּ seems to have been derived from שְׁאֵל.

Ezra 6:10. In order that they may be offering (continually) sacrifices of sweet savour for the life of the king and his sons.—נִיחוֹחִין are (comp. Daniel 2:46) sacrifices which afford God a רֵיחַ נִיהוֹחַ ( Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13, etc.), and thereby gain his good will, comp. Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Maccabees 7:37; 1 Maccabees 12:11, etc.; Josephus, Arch. XII:2, 5; c. Ap. II:5. Darius thereby indicates the same recognition of the Lord to be worshipped in Jerusalem, as Cyrus, without doubt, from the same stand–point. Comp. Ezra 1:2.

Ezra 6:11-12. Darius here shows as an additional sign, how earnest ho was that his will should be carried out, sealing what has been said with a penalty.—Whosoever shall alter this word.—The nom. absol. represents a protasis: if any man whatever יְהַשְׁנֵא as in Ezra 6:12; Daniel 6:9; Daniel 6:16, change by transgression or also (comp. Ezra 6:12) by doing away with it.—Let a timber (beam) be torn from his house, let him be fastened thereon and crucified.—זְקַף in itself = raise on high, can just as well mean “empale” or “pierce through,” as also, like the Syriac “crucify.” Empalement or the piercing through of delinquents on a pointed wooden stake, was the usual punishment among the Assyrians and Persians, comp. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p355, and Nineveh and its remains, p379, with the plate fig58[FN5] Of Darius it is said ἀνεσκολόπισε (Herod3159). Yet the fastening on a cross likewise occurred among the Persians, yet so that the head of the one to be crucified was first cut off. Vid. the passages of Herodotus in Brisonii de regni Persarum princip., ii, c215.—And let his house be made a dunghill for this, that Isaiah, let it be torn down and changed into a common sewer, comp. 2 Kings 10:27, and Hävernick, Com. on Daniel 2:5. נְוָלוּ as נְוָלִי Daniel 2:5[FN6]

Ezra 6:12. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there, destroy all kings,etc.—יְמַגַּר corresponds with the Heb. מִגֵּר, Psalm 89:45. The expression, who has caused His name to dwell there, is so decidedly Hebrew in style (comp. Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:14; Deuteronomy 12:23; Jeremiah 7:12; Nehemiah 1:9), that we must suppose the author does not impart the decree verbally, or that Darius made use of Jewish help in this entire affair. Even the entire conception that God confined His especial presence to a temple building was entirely unlike the Persian conception, so that the entire proceedings toward the Jews with reference to the temple on the part of Darius, and already on the part of Cyrus, must be referred back to an accommodation of views.—Who stretches forth his hand to change, to destroy.—לְהַשְׁנַיָּא for which we would expect לְהַשְׁנָיָא is explained by לְהַבָּלָה, which indicates what kind of change of the decree is here thought of. The threat itself, as we have it here, is genuine Persian; it reminds us of the conclusion of the inscription of Darius at Behistun, where the punishment of Ahuramazada is desired to descend upon him who ventures to violate the image and inscription, his blessing on the one who holds them in honor (Berth.). [Rawlinson in loco. See Beh. Ins., col. vi, part17—Tr.]

Ezra 6:13. This happy turn of affairs is followed by the completion of the work, on which, as a matter of course, all depended. It is characteristic of the book that this fact should also be narrated in the Chaldee. It is as if the continued use of this language should express the accompanying fact of their dependence upon Persia, which still continued. Yet this was not so depressing in its influence as encouraging, for, according to divine providence, even the mighty princes of Persia co-operated on their part and in their way in the worship of Jehovah. The author first lets the Persian officers take part in the recognition of Jehovah: According to that which Darius the king had sent so they did speedily.—כְּנֵמָא, according to the word (of the king) comp. Ezra 4:18, in consequence of the fact that Darius had sent, namely, answer and command, לָקֳבֵל דִּי properly, over against the fact that = considering that, as usually, כָּל־קְבֵל־דִּי.

Ezra 6:14. The author here reminds us of all those to whom the congregation were especially indebted for the new temple. They were encouraged by (בְּ) the prophesying of the prophets; but it was the command of God, and then that of Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, that had been the source or origin (מִן) of all that happened. God is mentioned here, and indeed before Cyrus and Darius, since the author goes forth from the fact, that there would have been no command of Cyrus and Darius without God’s command. If we had here a simple account of the final completion of the building, it would seem strange that here the author should go back even to Cyrus, still more that the much later Artaxerxes is taken into consideration, who had nothing to do with the building here under consideration. The author, however, instead of giving a simple narrative, would rather express recognition and thanks, and hence could forget none who were deserving of mention. Artaxerxes came into consideration only on account of the gifts which he caused to be brought to Jerusalem by Ezra 7:15; Ezra 7:19.

Ezra 6:15. For a work of such importance the date is properly given.שֵׁיצִיא, for which the Qeri gives שֵׁיצִי, is the Shaphel of יְצָא [so Luzatto, Gram, § 45.—Tr.]; in the Targum שֵׁיצִי has mostly an active sense, yet at times also an intransitive sense, so that it corresponds with our “end;” now transitive and then intransitive. Thus it is hardly necessary to regard שֵׁיצִיא as a Hebraistic passive formation of the Shaphel (Berth. and Keil). By the third day of the month Adar, that is the last month of the year, was the temple finished, since it is probable that they made haste to have time left in this year for a worthy dedication; whilst the Sept. agrees with our text in respect to the third day, Ezra 7:5 has instead of it the twenty–third day, but probably, only because the author held that the dedication immediately followed the completion, and that it lasted eight days, after the example of the temple of Song of Solomon, 1 Kings 8:60, and 2 Chronicles 29:18, and filled up the last eight days of the year. [The sixth year of Darius, according to Rawlinson, was B. C516–515.—Tr.]

Ezra 6:16-17. The great significance of that which had been attained, and the consciousness of it in the congregation at the time, the author very beautifully shows by what he says respecting the dedication. All observed it (עֲבַד as עָשָׁה with חֲנֻכָּה), 2 Chronicles 7:9), with joy, and indeed with the offering of a number of sacrifices which, whilst small in comparison with the multitude in Solomon’s time ( 1 Kings 8:5; 1 Kings 8:63), thus in accordance with the limited relations of the time, yet might ever be regarded as a glad beginning, showing by the twelve goats for sin-offerings, that they would act in the name of entire Israel, and regain the divine grace for the whole body of the people. Comp. Ezra 2:2; Ezra 8:35. Whether then already remnants of the northern tribes had returned and settled themselves in Juda, or whether there were from former times representatives of these tribes, scattered about in the land, does not come properly into consideration here. The principal thing Isaiah, that the new congregation, without doubt in consequence of former prophecies, had no other thought than that those so long separated from them had retained their privilege of being the people of God, and would realize it in some way or other as in olden times. Besides, the offerings prescribed in Numbers 7:11 sq. were here offered in the manner of the law. Comp. 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 29:20 sq.

Ezra 6:18. Thus there was again a legal worship, so likewise a legal body of persons to conduct the worship.—They set up.—וַהֲקִימוּ as וַיַּעֲמִידוּ. Ezra 3:8, namely, to perform the business of the divine worship.—The priests in their classes, and the Levites in their divisions (comp. 2 Chronicles 35:5; 2 Chronicles 35:12; 1 Chronicles 27:4), since every class and division had its week. Comp. 2 Kings 11:9, and 2 Chronicles 23:4. That it is expressly added, as it is written in the book of Moses (comp. Numbers 3:6; Numbers 8:14), may be in accordance with the legal disposition, which became very soon characteristic of these times, comp. Ezra 3:2; 2 Chronicles 23:18; but at the same time this likewise might well come into consideration, that it was so important, that, whilst still so many other things might be dispensed with, yet at least they should again have a worship in accordance with the law.

Ezra 6:19-22. It is very significant that the author here at the close of this entire section adds an account of the first celebration of the passover after the completion of the temple. This came into consideration certainly not merely as an evidence that in the new temple the divine worship had its regular course with the cycle of feasts (Keil), but before all as a feast, by which the congregation might again show itself so appropriately as the redeemed and favored people of the covenant of the Lord, also again more and more assure itself of the covenant relation, as a conclusion, which at the same time was a beginning assuring a new and glorious continuance and progress. This is quite clear from the confirmation given in Ezra 6:22, by which nothing less than the proper end of the entire previous period of affliction itself is designated as the foundation of this Passover feast. So then the circumstance that the author now returns to the Hebrew language is likewise appropriate—one might say very significant. If the Chaldee language has been used because Chaldee documents had to be placed in order—that Isaiah, because the restoration depended first of all on the world power, and that by it the covenant people had been deprived for a while of their covenant jewels, the temple, and divine worship—so now, when the congregation was again constituted as such, and also provided with their temple and their divine worship, and where the narrative might be occupied with this exclusively, there was at least nothing in the way of a return to the Hebrew tongue.

Ezra 6:20. For the priests and Levites had purified themselves as one man (without exception, comp. Ezra 3:9), they were all clean.—This has reference not to the cause of the celebration, but its possibility. Priests and Levites had sufficiently prepared themselves, and were now in the condition to fulfil the duties devolved upon them. Defilements, as Leviticus 22:4 sq. makes them especially prominent with reference to the priests, occurred again and again, and had been certainly more frequent under previous circumstances, where the priests as such had come but little into consideration, but they must now be put aside ere they could fulfil their priestly functions. At any rate, the author means to point out a noble readiness, yea, a holy zeal, on their part. The subjects of יִשְׁחֲטוּ are, as is clear from the following context, those who were to do the slaughtering, e.g. of the Levites. Properly, it is true, every father of a family had himself to slay the Paschal lamb, Exodus 12:6 sq.; but after the time of Hezekiah, when the Levites had undertaken the slaying for all who had not purified themselves ( 2 Chronicles 30:11), it seems to have been more and more the custom for the Levites to do the slaughtering for all (comp. 2 Chronicles 35:4; 2 Chronicles 35:14)—for the priests, because they were so busy elsewhere; and for the rest of the people, because it was so easy for a defilement to happen to them. As in 2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 35:15, the priests are designated as their = the Levites’ brethren, probably in connection with the increasing importance of the Levites. וְלָהֶם = “and for themselves,” as in 2 Chronicles 35:14.

Ezra 6:21. This fair conclusion of the previous times of trial, and this promising beginning of the new congregation was all the grander that the returned did not eat the Passover alone, but also such persons united with them who would separate themselves from the impurities of the people of the land, and seized with a new and holy zeal, would henceforth hold to the Lord.—And all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land.—גויִיִ הָאָרֶץ, as עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:11, are the heathen nations dwelling in Palestine, whilst the heathen in neighboring lands belong to the עַמֵּי הָאֲרָצוֹת9:1, Ezra 9:2; Ezra 3:3. Those Who separated themselves from these heathen are not proselytes from heathenism (Aben Ezra, Raschi, Clericus. et al.), but descendants of the Jews and Israelites who had remained in the land when the rest of the nation had been carried captive, as all the parallel passages show, comp. Ezra 9:1; Ezra 9:10; Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 9:2; Nehemiah 10:29. They had without doubt intermarried with the heathen, and the more they had entered into communion with them, the less were they in a position to observe the Mosaic laws respecting food and purification. To Separate themselves from the impurities of the heathen meant for them to forsake altogether communion with the heathen, and seek communion with the Jewish congregation. For לִדְרשׁ comp. Ezra 4:2.

Ezra 6:22. If eating the passover (namely, in the narrow sense, not in the broader sense, which means to eat the festival offerings in general, comp. Deuteronomy 16:3) as a means of appropriating the covenant grace, closely combines seriousness and joy, so the eating of the unleavened bread ministered exclusively to joy and gave full expression to their joyous and elevated feelings. The concluding clause—for then had the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them—means to say: for after all the hard sufferings of the exile, and after all the severe trials which had come upon them since the time of Cyrus, the Lord had now, by the Revelation -establishment of the temple, exactly seventy years after its destruction, caused a real and great change of affairs to take place. There was now a new foundation for the celebration of redemption, a second redemption, which was hardly less than the previous one out of Egypt, a redemption out of the firm bonds of Assyria. Darius, the king of Persia, is here called king of Assyria, not only “as ruler of the territory of the previous Persian empire (Keil), or because Assyria from ancient time had been the usual name for all that region (Clericus),[FN7] which cannot be proved from Judith 2:1; but above all, likewise, because Darius, as head of the great empire of the world, properly took the same relative position over against the people of God as the Assyrian and Chaldean kings had once had, because it was properly only a continuation or renewal of the same, and because the thought was now to be expressed that finally that very enemy who had once so fearfully and destructively oppressed the people of God had been changed by the grace of God into a friend, so that he had even himself strengthened the hands of the congregation in Revelation -establishing the destroyed temple (as I have already shown in my article, Studien und Kritiken, 1858, S51). [FN8]הִזֵק יַד with בּ as 1 Samuel 23:6.

thoughts upon the history of redemption

Ezra 6:1 to Ezra 5:1) It was not alone Cyrus who had previously determined and established in documents the-restoration of the temple and its worship, even to the details of the limits of its measurements, the kind of material that should be employed, but also before all God the Lord Himself, as the great prophecy of Ezekiel respecting the new temple ( Ezekiel 40:47.) shows. Cyrus was only an instrument of the Lord, and had only given expression to His sovereign will. Thus the congregation, however many hindrances might be placed in their way, although the circumstances might appear different to them, yet having the eye of faith, they had no sufficient reason for despondency, but only the more confidently to look upon the wonderful providence of God, which makes even opposing forces to serve His purpose. Is there not then also with respect to the building of the Christian Church or of the kingdom of God such a divine predestination, which has provided beforehand even to details all and everything that is adapted to the honor of the Lord and the salvation of men; and which in spite of temporary gloom and struggles and apparent defeat, must yet more and more prevail, and be carried out more and more decidedly by princes and peoples whether they be Christian or not? The prophecy of Ezekiel and even the edict of Cyrus are evidences to us that there is such a predestination, and that likewise there has been prepared, so to say, a document which can never be lost or destroyed; for they prove that the temple of God can suffer only temporal, properly only apparent losses, that it must grow and increase and gain one victory after another.

2) It is not enough for the Lord to restore His kingdom and glory when sin and judgments have come in between to disturb them; He causes His kingdom to grow, increase, advance. Where there is life, there is also development, appropriation, struggle and victory. Here is the highest and most powerful, here is the divine life. Cyrus must even surpass a Song of Solomon, with respect to the size of the temple, in order to show that the cause and kingdom of God advances victoriously from century to century through the history of mankind, and ever achieves a higher stage towards the highest and most glorious end. It is true He more and more deprives His Church of external power and pomp; it is to become more and more internal and spiritual, and thus to work. But even this change is a great advance. If the walls which the worldly power has drawn around the Church fall, then we need comfort ourselves with the words of the Lord through Zechariah ( Ezra 4:6) in these very times of Darius “not by might and not by power (namely, on the side of men), but by my Spirit,” and as an open country shall Jerusalem lie on account of crowds of men and cattle in her. I myself will be to her a wall of fire round about and for glory I will be in her ( Ezra 2:8).

Ezra 6:1-12. The worldly authorities have often lower motives or interests in the steps that they take; it is often merely to increase their authority and their power. Thus the Persian officials when they made inquiry in Jerusalem and reported to Darius would merely prove their watchfulness. The emperor Augustus, when he gave the command Luke 2, would merely accomplish a census of Israel. But the consequences that followed their steps were yet, by God’s will, the advancement of His kingdom. The Persian governor here must give the occasion thereto in that the ancient decree of Cyrus is again brought to light, and the new and still more favorable one of Darius in addition is carried into effect.

Ezra 6:6-12. Earthly kingdoms must perish to make room and prepare the way for the kingdom of God. Thus had the Lord spoken in the second year of Darius, accordingly four years before the completion of the temple, through Haggai 2:20 sq. I will shake the heavens and the earth, and overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen, and overthrow the chariots and those that ride in them, that the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother—and indeed all this in order to erect the promised kingdom of the Messiah. And the angel of the Lord who stood between the myrtle trees ( Zechariah 1:11-12), when his messenger announced to him that the whole earth sitteth still, and is at rest, cried out in intercession: Jehovah Sabaoth, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which Thou hast had indignation these seventy years, imploring the shaking and destroying of the heathen kingdoms. But these latter must perish only in so far as they stand entirely in the way of the kingdom of God, and will not let that kingdom come at all. At the bottom the interests of the earthly powers and rulers agree very well with those of the kingdom of God. Darius rightly laid great value upon the execution of his edict with reference to the furtherance and support of the worship in Jerusalem. His wish that they should offer sacrifices of sweet savor to the God of heaven in Jerusalem, and pray for his life and the life of his Song of Solomon, not only might, but indeed must be fulfilled, so sure as the congregation of the true God must be grateful, and indeed sincerely and heartily. Comp. Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Maccabees 12:11; 1 Timothy 2:2. The congregation could be in his way only if it sought again for earthly power and freedom, if it thus had forgotten its proper nature and its true calling. Let the church then earnestly examine itself when it enters into conflict with the State whether it is not going astray from its proper ways. Woe to it if instead of permeating the State more and more with divine thoughts, it itself gives more and more place for human thoughts and human nature; if it regards flesh for its arm and seeks to appropriate to itself that which belongs to the State. If the salt itself has lost its savor, wherewith shall we season? The responsibility of Rome, which would bow the States not under the kingdom of God, but under its own rule which is still so carnal, is great, the greater that thereby so easily the false view is awakened, as if State and Church could not avoid in any way being in conflict with one another.—Already through Cyrus and Darius there was a fulfillment of those great and noble words of Isaiah 49:23 : “Kings shall be thy foster-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet.” But already now it is manifest that the true fulfillment involves neither on the part of kings a determining influence on the mode of worship, nor on the side of the congregation an external sovereignty over kings.

Ezra 6:13-15. Much was required, and very many different things must come together from different sides, in order that the building of the house of God might be undertaken, and could be actually finished. Above all it was necessary that it should be in accordance with the will of God the Lord Himself, and then that the rulers of the world should likewise be willing thereunto. The congregation had brought about this dependence on the world by their own sins, and they were now obliged to be satisfied with it. So also it was necessary that the congregation itself should be aroused to true readiness, and be strengthened when wearied by the hindrances that placed themselves in their way. It was therefore necessary that suitable prophetic organs should be found, who might work upon the congregation through the divine word and in the power of the divine Spirit. But much more than this was still, if not exactly necessary, yet highly important, Song of Solomon, for example, that the nearest authorities in Palestine should be distinguished by righteousness or impartiality. And so it finally came to pass, and at last all things worked well together in correspondence with the divine purpose of redemption. We say “finally” and “at last;” but it was now for the first the exactly right time. The temple was ready just seventy years after its destruction, so that the prophecy of the seventy years was now fulfilled exactly thereby. Would that the congregation, the Church, might have like patience with respect to the accomplishment of greater work, the revival of faith in the unbelieving community, or the Christianizing of the heathen world. Would that they might never be over-hasty or attempt to use violence in accomplishing that which can come to pass only when it has been sufficiently prepared, and so to say, is ripe; when likewise it has a real value. Would that they might never regard the time that elapses too long, but rather think that the building of the house of God is the highest and most glorious, and on this very account the most difficult work on earth, which can only be the final result of all other works, arrangements and developments.

Ezra 6:16-18. 1) The congregation dedicated the house of God with joy. They might have held a fast day instead of a fast day instead of a feast of joy. Even now when the work, after many years of effort, stood before them finished, lofty and broad enough, it is true, but far from reaching the magnificence of the old temple, and besides accomplished only through the permission, and indeed the assistance of a foreign heathen king, they might have had a specially vivid realization of the entire wretchedness of their situation according to external appearance. How easily there comes over us men, at the very time when we reach the aim of long-cherished hopes and strivings, dissatisfaction, ill-humor, dejection, instead of joy, because it does not correspond with our ideas! But it is a matter of humility and faith, under all circumstances, to recognize with internal thankfulness that that which has been gained is much more than we could in any way expect, that it is super-abundant grace and mercy; a child-like heart with reference to what is still denied us waits patiently on the Lord, and says to itself that it is perhaps unable to judge correctly respecting what at present does not at all please it. With humble, believing, childlike hearts shall we be able again and again to ascend from the vale of tears to the bright peaks of joy, shall again and again be able to celebrate feasts of dedication and really enjoy the times of refreshment and grace which the Lord gives as the very thing that should be. It is notable and edifying for us to see that those poets of the Psalter, who probably belong to this period, had sufficient joy of faith to comfort and encourage above all their people, the poets of Psalm 135, 136, in that they called upon them to praise the Lord on account of His revelation of Himself in nature, but especially for his revelation in history; the poet of Psalm 146, in that he strikes up,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,”

which is sweetly Revelation -echoed in our

“Lobe den Herrn, O meine Seele, ich will ihn loben bis in den Tod.”

Without doubt the congregation then sung Psalm 118 with the inmost accord of the heart, although it was really composed somewhat earlier, and especially did they appropriate with greatly agitated hearts the shout of triumph: “The right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly—open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go in, and I will praise the Lord—the stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner.” The poet of Psalm 137 whose heart swells with patriotism and religion, at the same time with freshness and power, yea, almost with passion, cannot but recall, with the most bitter experience, the abode in exile: “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea we wept,” and wish Babylon a just recompense, thus regarding his present situation as so much better. But already the Lord likewise came to the help of their faith, as is clear from this very Psalm, in that even now, when He turned the heart of the king of Assyria towards Israel, and thus brought the period of exile to an end, He delivered over the ancient enemy Babylon to the destroying judgment. Already the same Darius, to whom the restoration is very properly ascribed, had so severely chastised Babylon, that the poet of Psalm 137 can designate it in Ezra 6:8 as overthrown or laid waste.

2) It was still the highest thing for the congregation of the old covenant to dedicate a temple, in which the Lord would dwell in their midst, yet separated from them, and indeed in the midst of a priesthood, which must still stand to mediate between them and the Lord. To us, the New Testament congregation, much more is granted. On the peaks that we Christians may ascend in humility and faith, we should dedicate temples to the Lord, since He will dwell among us, moreover also internally within us, namely, in our hearts, we should accordingly rejoice in an entirely immediate communion with Him, and all the peace and blessing that are involved therein, and exercise ourselves in a holy priesthood, that Isaiah, offer sacrifices of praise through our Lord Jesus Christ, to show forth, etc. 1 Peter 2:9.

3) Ezra 6:19-22. The Feast of Passover and unleavened bread constituted the conclusion of the old and the beginning of the new period. Through the offering of the Paschal Lamb and the partaking of the Passover meal connected therewith, the congregation of the old Covenant appropriated to itself the forgiveness of God as the God of the covenant, which forgiveness they ever needed, and the preservation conditioned thereon. But through the feast of unleavened bread they vowed, in that the strict abstinence from all leaven was connected therewith, to walk not in the old leaven of wickedness and wantonness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Well for us that we also, where we are truly conscious of our redemption, can celebrate ever anew the feast of passover and unleavened bread, since we also have a paschal lamb, yea, that we can do this in a different way from the Old Testament congregation, since our paschal offering and the sacred meal connected therewith, imparts in a much more powerful manner forgiveness and preservation, since we thus have far more cogent motives to rise into the new and pure life of sincerity and truth.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Ezra 6:1-12. That which threatens to become a hindrance must serve for our advantage1) When,—if in our undertakings, looking at the final aim, it is to be done for the cause and glory of God2) Why,—because the advancement of the cause of God, long in advance and to the minutest detail has been once for all provided for and ordained3) How,—the example of predecessors, who have previously taken part in this work, comes into mind and gives their successors a favorable disposition towards the work.—Starke: It is easy to conceive, moreover, how it must have grieved the Samaritans that they were not only obliged to let the temple be entirely brought to completion, but that also their tribute should be applied to the promotion of the building, and the observation of the divine service with sacrifices.—How important and thankworthy the favorable conduct of even heathen princes has been toward the people of God1) That of Cyrus—a, He gave to the congregation again their liberty to worship the Lord, and ordered the restoration of the temple; b, he thereby gave an example, which determined the conduct of his successors.—Starke: Great lords should be diligent in the practice of virtue, in order that their successors after their death may have a good example, and that they thereby may gain an everlasting name. Ecclesiastes 7:1; Proverbs 22:1. The richest persons should be the first to open their liberal hands when something is to be given for the building of churches and the support of the ministry.—God has the heart of kings also in His hand and can incline them so that they are obliged to have good-will to His children, Daniel 2:48. 2) The favorable conduct of Darius: a) he lets himself be guided by a noble example, yea seeks to surpass it; b) he desires the prayers of the congregation; c) he used his power in a good and proper manner to help the pious and threaten the wicked.—Starke: Respecting the duty of subjects to pray for their rulers, even if they are heathen, see 1 Timothy 2:2; comp. Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Maccabees 12:11. Magistrates should act in their government so as to comfort themselves with the general prayers of their subjects. Regents should make arrangements that prayers should be made to God for their welfare and successful government; for the devil lays many snares for them, but a devout prayer will help them much. The sword, intrusted by God to magistrates, must afford protection to the pious, Romans 13:4.

Ezra 6:13-15. The building of the temple or kingdom of God is the final result of all the divine guidance: 1) It needs the willingness of the congregation, and on this account also the activity of prophets and preachers; 2) it needs, moreover, kings and their representatives, and on this account also a direction of history, by which God works on their hearts; 3) it needs above all the good and gracious will of God.—Starke: The Lord has a kingdom and He rules among the heathen, Psalm 22:29. He brings the counsel of the heathen to nought, and turns the thoughts of the nations, He disposes their hearts. Psalm 33:10; Psalm 33:15.

Ezra 6:16-18. The true joy of dedication1) Upon what it is founded: Starke: My Christian friend, has the spiritual building of the house of God been established in thy soul, then forget not to praise and give thanks2) How it is established,—by our taking to ourselves, with humility and gratitude, what the Lord grants, as truly good and salutary, and putting our trust in Him with respect to all that is still lacking3) How it expresses itself by true sacrifices, thus by setting to work in the universal priesthood.—Starke: Our redemption from the kingdom of the devil and the deliverance of the church is the work of God alone; for His hand helps powerfully, Psalm 20:7. And then for the first will our mouth be full of laughter, and our tongue full with singing, Psalm 126:2.

Ezra 6:19-22. The life of him who has consecrated his heart to be a temple of the Lord is a continual passover feast, for he feels himself compelled, 1) ever to take anew grace for grace, fleeing from the death of the curse; 2) ever anew to let himself be sanctified unto sincerity and truth, so that he rises from the death of sin; 3) to rejoice with the holy passover joy of redemption, which God has accomplished in Jesus Christ, and which He will likewise fulfil in Him at last.—[Henry: Let not the greatest princes despise the prayers of the meanest saints; ’tis desirable to have them for us, and dreadful to have them against us.—Whatever we dedicate to God, let it be done with joy, that He will please to accept of it.—The purity of ministers adds much to the beauty of their ministrations, so doth their unity.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Rawlinson in loco: “A house of writings was discovered as Koyunjik the ancient Nineveh by Mr. Layard in the year1850—a set of chambers, i. e. in the palace devoted exclusively to the storing of public documents. These were in baked clay, and covered the floors to the depth of more than a foot.” Many of these writings were removed to the British Museum, where they have been partially arranged and translated by Rawlinson, Smith, Talbot and others. The library was again visited, and many of its treasures removed by Smith in 1873 and ’4and again in1876. See Assyrian Discoveries of Geo. Smith, New York, 1875.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Rawlinson in loco: “The ancient Persians used parchment for their records as appears from Ctesias (cap. Diod, Sec. II:32).”—Tr.]

FN#3 - When Josephus here lets Herod say that the second temple fell sixty cubits in height below the temple of Song of Solomon, he accords to the second a height of sixty cubits, and to that of Solomon of one hundred and twenty cubits, the latter without doubt on the basis of 2 Chronicles 3:4, where in consequence of an error or copyist’s mistake there is given to the hall of the temple of Solomon a height of one hundred and twenty cubits.

FN#4 - Ferguson accepts the Sept. δόμος, and understands three stories of stone, with a fourth story of wood-work on the summit. Rawlinson thinks that Cyrus would limit the thickness of the walls to three rows of stone with an inner wooden wainscotting.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Rawlinson says, that crucifixion was the most common form of punishment among the Persians, Vid. Com. in loco and Ancient Monarchies IV, p208; Herod iii159; iv53. Beh. Ins., Colossians 2, par14, etc.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Houbigant and Dathe prefer the Vulgate rendering: domus ejus publicetur, “let his house be confiscated.” But the balance of authority is in favor of the translation given above. Rawlinson, in loco.—Tr.].

FN#7 - Rawlinson in loco mentions as a corresponding fact that Herodotus, with similar inexactness, calls Cyrus the king of the Medes (I:206).—Tr.]

FN#8 - This was in accordance with the constant usage of prophecy in representing all the enemies of the kingdom of God by the most prominent enemy of the prophets’ time. This enemy having been the Assyrian in the times of the prophets, it was natural that in thinking of the fulfilment of prophecy, the author should use the prophetic term.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezra 6:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ezra-6.html. 1857-84.

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