EZRA CHAPTER 6.
Completion and Dedication of the Temple.
THE FAVORABLE DECREE OF DARIUS. — V. 1. Then Darius the king made a decree, he issued an edict or command for this special occasion, and search was made in the house of the rolls, in the royal archives, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon, where all official records and state papers were kept. V. 2. And there was found at Achmetha, the ancient capital of Northern Media and a favorite place of residence with Cyrus, in the palace, that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, apparently one of parchment, which the ancient Persians seem to have used, though it is certain that the Assyrians used tablets and cylinders of baked clay, and therein was a record thus written: v. 3. In 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, the Jews, offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid, capable of supporting the great and heavy structure resting upon them; the height thereof threescore cubits and the breadth thereof threescore cubits, the measurements being given in a general manner to conform to those of Solomon’s Temple, v. 4. with three rows of great stones, the two side-walls and the rear wall being laid up in hewn stones, and a row of new timber, of which the front wall was constructed; and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house, from the royal revenues of the Persian empire, in the territory west of the Euphrates; v. 5. and 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, 2 Chron. 36, 7. 18, be restored, and brought again unto the Temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God. This was the edict of Cyrus as found in the records. To this Darius added his own comments and commands. V.6. Now, therefore, Tatnal, governor beyond the river, satrap of the entire territory extending from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea, Shethar-boznai, and your companions, the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence, they should in no way interfere with the building of the Temple nor lay any hindrances in the .way of the Jews; v.7. let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews, Zerubbabel, who had been designated deputy for the province of Judea alone, chap. 1, 8, and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. V. 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, of the revenue in taxes and other duties in the entire satrapy under the jurisdiction of Tatnai, forthwith expenses be given unto these men that they be not hindered, the special payments out of the king’s treasury were not to be discontinued until the work had been completed. V. 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, various animals and materials being mentioned without exhausting the list, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail, v. 10. that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors unto the God of heaven, well-pleasing to Him, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons. This was said, not merely out of deference to, and admiration of, Cyrus, who was the father-in-law of Darius, but in recognition of the true God, the Lord of heaven, with whom Darius had become acquainted through the work of Daniel. V. 11. Also I have made a decree, hereby proclaimed, that whosoever shall alter this word, by setting aside the command it contained, let timber be pulled down from his house, some great rafter or beam, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon, either by being impaled or by being crucified; and let his house be made a dunghill for this, torn down and changed into a public sewer, for an everlasting disgrace upon his name. V. 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, the Temple should be inviolate forever. I, Darius, have made a decree; let it be done with speed. So the formal and solemn edict went forth which protected the Jews in the building of their Temple. God has His servants also among the kings and the mighty ones of the earth, who obey Him and further the cause of His kingdom.
THE SECOND TEMPLE DEDICATED. — V. 13. Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, the officials assisting them, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. V. 14. And the elders of the Jews builded, they continued work on the Temple, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai, the prophet, and Zechariah, the son of Iddo. Not only did these two prophets awaken a proper enthusiasm in the people, but the Lord laid His signal blessing upon the undertaking, so that it progressed without hindrances. And they builded and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, as still recorded in the first chapter of Haggai, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes, king of Persia, this successor of Darius being mentioned on account of the gifts which he caused to be brought to Jerusalem by Ezra, chap.7,15.19. V. 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. According to one careful investigator the foundation had been completed in April, 536 B. C., and the entire building was finished on February 21, 515 B. C. V. 16. And the children of Israel, the entire congregation of the returned exiles, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, even as they had celebrated the completion of the foundation, v. 17. and offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, these being burnt offerings, and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, as at the dedication of the Tabernacle, the present congregation rightly considering itself the representative of the entire ancient people of Israel. V. 18. And they set the priests in their divisions, as David had arranged for, 1 Chron. 24, 1, and the Levites in their courses, 1 Chron. 23, 6, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem, every division being entrusted with a special part of the work pertaining to the service of the Lord, as it is written in the book of Moses, Num. 3, 8; 8, 14, the entire worship thus being once more instituted and ordered in accordance with the Law and ancient usage. V. 19. And the children of the captivity kept the Passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month, very shortly after the dedication of the Temple, which may have taken place before the end of the previous month, at the end of the church-year, as soon as the Temple was finished. V. 20. For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, having taken care to perform the rites of consecration, Ex. 19, 10, and to be cleansed from all Levitical defilement, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, for it gradually became the custom for the Levites to do the slaughtering of all the Passover lambs, since it was so easy for defilement to rest upon the average person in the congregation, and for their brethren, the priests, who were busy at the altar of burnt offering, and for themselves. V. 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, not only by renouncing idolatry, but also by being formally received into the congregation by the usual rites of washings and by circumcision, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat, v. 22. and kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for this festival was merely a continuation of the Passover Feast; for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria, of the Chaldean king, unto them to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. They were enjoying peace and prosperity and were duly grateful to the Lord, the Giver of all good gifts, for His rich blessings. It is ever a source of joy for the children of God to be privileged to sacrifice prayer and thanksgiving to God, this attitude of mind being further stimulated when they see that God establishes the work of their hands, that the building of His kingdom is carried on successfully.