Ezra 4-5-6 Working With Confidence in God

Working With Confidence in God
Ezra 4; 5 ; 6             December 10 2006

After this long digression describing the
opposition to Jewish efforts, the writer returns
to his original subject of the rebuilding of the
temple .

1. Discourage People  (Ezra 4: 4-5;24)

Ezra 4:4   Then the peoples around them set out to discourage
the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.
4:5   They hired counselors to work against them and
frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king
of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. 4:24
Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a
standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of
Persia.

After this long digression describing the
opposition to Jewish efforts, the writer returns to his
original subject of the rebuilding of the temple .
SECOND YEAR OF THE REIGN OF DARIUS. According to
Persian reckoning, the second regnal year of Darius I
began on Nisan 1 (Apr. 3), 520 B.C., and lasted until
Feb. 21, 519. In that year the prophet Haggai (Hag 1:1-5)
exhorted Zerubbabel to begin rebuilding the temple on
the first day of the sixth month (Aug. 29). Work began on
the temple on the 24th day of the month, Sept. 21
(Hag 1:15). During his first two years, Darius had to
establish his right to the throne by fighting numerous
rebels, as recounted in his famous Behistun (Bisitun)
inscription. It was only after the stabilization of the
Persian empire that efforts to rebuild the temple could
be permitted.

2. Rebuild And Restore The Temple (Ezra 5:1-5)

Ezra 5:1   Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet,
a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and
Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over
them. 5:2   Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son
of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in
Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping
them. 5:3   At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-
euphrates, and Shethar-bozenai and their associates went
to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this
temple and restore this structure?” 5:4   They also asked,
“What are the names of the men constructing this building?”
5:5   But the eye of their God was watching over the elders
of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could
go to Darius and his written reply be received.

Haggi. . . Zechariah. Beginning on Aug. 29, 520 B.C.
(Hag 1:1), and continuing until Dec. 18 (Hag 2:1,10,20), the
prophet Haggai delivered a series of messages to stir up the
people to resume work on the temple. Two months after
Haggai’s first speech, Zechariah joined him .
Zerubbabe. A Babylonian name meaning “offspring of
Babylon,” referring to his birth in exile. He was the son of
Shealtiel and the grandson of Jehoiachin (1Ch 3:17), the next
-to-last king of Judah. Zerubbabel was the last of the Davidic
line to be entrusted with political authority by the occupying
powers. He was also an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:12-13; Lk 3:27).
Jeshua Eshua. Tattenai. Probably a Babylonian
name. Shetar-BozeniaI. Perhaps a Persian official. Not
Stopped. The Persian governor gave the Jews the benefit of
the doubt by not stopping the work while the inquiry was
proceeding.

3. From The Royal Treasury (Ezra 8,13-16)

Ezra 6:8   Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to
do for these elders of the Jews in the construction
of this house of God: The expenses of these men are
to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the
revenues of Trans-euphrates, so that the work will
not stop. 6:13   Then, because of the decree King
Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-
euphrates, and Shethar-bozenai and their associates
carried it out with diligence. 6:14   So the elders of
the Jews continued to build and prosper under the
preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a
descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple
according to the command of the God of Israel and
the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of
Persia. 6:15   The temple was completed on the third
day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign
of King Darius. 6:16   Then the people of Israel —the
priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles —
celebrated the dedication of the house of God with
joy.

Paid 0ut Of The Royal Treasury. It was a consistent
policy of Persian kings to help restore sanctuaries
in their empire. For example, a memorandum concerning
the rebuilding of the Jewish temple at Elephantine was
written by the Persian governors of Judah and Samaria.
Also from Non-biblical sources we learn that Cyrus
repaired temples at Uruk (Erech) and Ur. Cambyses,
successor to Cyrus, gave funds for the temple at Sais
in Egypt. The temple of Amun in the Khargah Oasis was
rebuilt by order of Darius. Temple was completed . On
Mar. 12, 516 B.C., almost 70 years after its destruction.
The renewed work on the temple had begun on Sept. 21,
520 (Hag 1:15), and sustained effort had continued for
almost three and a half 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 (cf. Ezr 3:12). Yet in
the long run the second temple, though not as grand as the
first, enjoyed a much longer life. The general plan of the
second temple was similar to that of Solomon’s, but the
Most Holy Place was left empty because the ark of the
covenant had been lost through the Babylonian conquest.
According to Josephus, on the Day of Atonement the high
priest placed his censer on the slab of stone that marked
the former location of the ark. The Holy Place was
furnished with a table for the bread of the Presence, the
incense altar, and one lampstand instead of Solomon’s ten
(1Ki 7:49). Exiles. . . Dedication. Cf. the dedication of
Solomon’s temple (1Ki 8). The leaders of those who
returned from exile were responsible for the completion
of the temple. “Dedication” translates the Aramaic word
Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday in December that
celebrates the recapture of the temple from the Seleucids
and its rededication (165 B.C.) is also known as Hanukkah.

Summary:

Work on the temple had made little progress not only
because of opposition but also because of the preoccupation
of the returnees with their own homes (Hag 1:2-9). Because
they had placed their own interests first, God sent them
famine as a judgment (Hag 1:5-6,10-11). Spurred by the
preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership
of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, a new effort was begun
(Hag 1:12-15).

The Persian monarchs were interested in the details of
foreign cults is shown clearly by the ordinances of Cambyses
and Darius 1, regulating the temples and priests in Egypt. On
the authority of Darius II (423-404 B.C.) a letter was written
to the Jews at Elephantine concerning the keeping of the Feast
of Unleavened Bread. If Anyone Changes This EDICT. It was
customary at the end of decrees and treaties to append a long
list of curses against anyone who might disregard them. Darius
I impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took the city of Babylon.