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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 5

 

 

Verses 1-17

WORK RESUMED AND OPPOSITION RESUMED

(vv. 1-5)

The initiative for resuming the work had come from the Lord who moved the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to speak in His name to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. Haggai's prophecy is recorded in the book bearing his name, which begins, "In the second year of King Darius on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to Haggai the prophet, to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest" (Haggai 1:1).

The Lord ignored the decree of Artaxerxes that the building must not take place before he had given permission. Whose word was to be obeyed, that of Artaxerxes or that of the Lord? The people were saying, "the time has not come, that the Lord's house should be built" (Haggai 1:2). No doubt they would appeal to the fact that Artaxerxes had not given them permission. But the Lord asks them, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to be in ruins?" (Haggai 1:4).Haggai prophesied concerning the house of God, while Zechariah emphasized the city of Jerusalem. Here in Ezra we are told that Zerubbabel and Jeshua began to build the house, but with the help of the prophets (v. 2).The city was only to surround the house, but the house was God's center.

But the work of God will always be opposed by Satan, and the adversaries of Judah came to question them as to their having authority to build the temple and to repair the wall (v. 3).These were different men than had opposed them before, so that evidently a good deal of time had elapsed since the work had been stopped.

Judah had nothing to hide, and told them the names of the men who were supervising the work. They told them more than this also, as is reported in the letter that Tattenai sent to the king of Persia (vv. 7-16). At this time Tattenai could not make them cease working because "the eye of God was upon the elders of the Jews" (v. 5). God had commanded them to build and He would restrain any effort of the enemy to resist them.

A LETTER TO DARIUS

(vv.6-17)

Tattenai then wrote a letter to King Darius, not in the same hostile strain as Rehum and his companions hadwritten to Artaxerxes (ch. 4:12-16), but simply inquiring as to the truthof what the Jews had told him. The message was sent as from the governor of the region beyond the river (Tattenai), Shether Boznai and their companions, the Persians beyond the River. These were Persians therefore, not the men of the captivity, as in the case of chapter4:14.

Their letter to Darius begins in reporting that work was progressing rapidly in the building of the temple of the great God at Jerusalem (v. 8). They did not consider the God of Israel as similar to one of the idols of the nations, but recognized Him as the great God. Their presentation of the whole matter was restrained and fair, not demanding that the work be stopped, but inquiring as to its being permitted by the king of Persia.

They reported asking the elders of Judah as to who gave them authority to build, and they replied that they were the servants of the God of heaven and earth and were rebuilding the temple built by a great king (Solomon) many years before. Thus their authority was primarily from God.

However, they told that the reason for the destruction of the temple, that their fathers had provoked the God of heaven to anger, so that He had delivered them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, under whose authority the temple was destroyed and the Jews carried into captivity (v. 12). This was thoroughly accurate.

But they appealed also to an earthly authority, Cyrus king of Babylon. Actually he was king of Persia (ch.1:1), but since Persia had captured Babylon, Cyrus was king over Babylon too. In his first year (they affirmed) Cyrus had issued a decree to build this house of God (v. 13), giving orders too that the gold and silver articles of the house of God should be taken from Nebuchadnezzar's temple in Babylon and restored to Jerusalem. These things were placed under the authority of one named Sheshbazzar whom Cyrus had made governor, and this governor had come to Jerusalem and laid the foundation of the temple (v. 14).

Tattenai appeared to have been quite fair in the way he reported what the Jews had said, ending with their assertion that Sheshbazzar had come to Jerusalem and had laid the foundation of the house of God, but though it had been long under construction, it was not yet finished.

Their request to the king then was, not that he should find out if Jerusalem was a rebellious city, as was the charge of Rehum and Shimshi before (ch. 4:12-16), but rather that he should find if the records showed a command of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, and that the king would express his own mind to them as regards this matter (v. 17).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 5:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/ezra-5.html. 1897-1910.

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