Book of Ezra Chapter Six Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
It Is Done!
God is utterly good and He always keeps His word. Just as He said through His prophets (Isaiah 44:28), the Lord miraculously used a pagan king, Cyrus, to bring the Jews back to Jerusalem, caused rebuilding of the Temple to commence, and when local groups interferred with its construction, He made the work start once more. Chapter 5 contained a letter from local officials to Cyrus' successor, Darius, about these matters, and this Chapter has the answer of King Darius to their concerns. Note as you read this earthly king's reply, it is God's answer expressed through a human being. And it's true for today: All that is
in this world, no matter how bad it may seem, ultimately works for the good for us because our good God makes it so (Romans 8:28).
Verse 1: "Then King Darius issued a decree, and search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon." The city of Babylon, its ruins located in modern day Iraq, is where the records of King Cyrus' decree for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem were expected to be found, but after a careful search was made, they weren't there. Blessedly, the Persians assigned to the task of finding it also looked in other places. The decree wasn't in Babylon at all, but in Ecbatana, a city some distance to the north and east. It was a royal city, built by the ancient Medes, but later occupied by Persian monarchs such as Cyrus. You can feel the excitement of Ezra as he shared the words beginning in Verse 2: "In Ecbatana in the fortress, which is in the province of Media, a scroll was found and there was written in it as follows: 'Memorandum—"
The memorandum was the edict of King Cyrus, seen previously in Chapter 1 and also here in Verses 3-4: "In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: 'Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained, its height being 60 cubits and its width 60 cubits; 4 with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury." The width and height of this rebuilt temple of the Lord was to be 60 cubits, which was 90 feet wide and 90 feet high. The building would be substantial, consisting of "huge stones" and timbers that were likely cedar trees purchased in Lebanon. The Persian Empire was to pay 100% of the cost of the materials and labor in its construction. What we have lost in life is often not returned, but God makes all things possible. In Verse 5, "Also let the gold and silver utensils of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned and brought to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; and you shall put them in the house of God." The precious items of the Temple were to be returned.
What if the monarch or president or perhaps a supreme court judge of your country addressed you by name and threatened you, telling you to stop doing something—or else? Your great fear would become reality. That's what happened to the local leaders of the territories surrounding the city of Jerusalem, as seen in Verses 6-7: "Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and your colleagues, the officials of the provinces beyond the River, keep away from there. 7 Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site." Governor Tattenai and the others would have been astonished at the king's response, and to add insult to injury for them, we have Verses 8-10: "Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River, and that without delay. 9 Whatever is needed, both young bulls, rams, and lambs for a burnt offering to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem request, it is to be given to them daily without fail, 10 that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons." God's people would get whatever they needed—without cost! The taxes from Tattenai's province would pay for it all.
The Persians would not only pay for the Temple's reconstruction, but also provide whatever supplies were needed for its operation and maintenance. And if Tattenai and the others didn't get the point, King Darius added, in Verses 11-12: "And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this. 12 May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!" The local governor must have shuddered as he read those words, for the kings of that time, including his master, King Darius, were known for their violent solutions to disobedience any kind.
And sure enough, Tattenai and the others completely changed their minds and wholeheartedly supported the Jews, as in Verse 13: "Then Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues carried out the decree with all diligence, just as King Darius had sent." It's amazing how effective threats can be, but behind the scenes of all human words and actions is God Almighty, which the Bible speaks about in Proverbs 21:1—"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. Like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes." God's Word is greater than any threat from an earthly ruler.
We catch a glimpse of God's power in Verse 14: "And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia." God spoke, through His prophets, through earthly kings, and it all happened just as He said, which is not so different from Genesis Chapter 1, where we find that God spoke and all creation came into being.
Verse 15: "This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius." From the laying of the temple foundation in Ezra 3:10 to the time of this verse, 21 years had passed, and now it was complete! At some point, the purpose of your life will be revealed and it is more than you have imagined. You will be like the "sons of Israel" in Verse 16: "And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy." A great sacrifice has been offered on our behalf—"the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and every day is a cause for rejoicing. He has done it! It is done! And we share in His victory.
Verse 17: "They offered for the dedication of this temple of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel." All of these perfect animals were innocent creatures, each one a parable pointing ahead in time to the Innocent Messiah, the Christ who paid the price we could not pay. And we are saved not only for ourselves (though it is wonderful we have been rescued from sin and death), but even more, we saved for service to others, sharing with them the wonders of God. As written in Verse 18, "Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses." By grace, through faith in the Lord, we are all God's priests, as revealed in 1 Peter 2:5,9. We are saved to serve.
More time passed and now in Verses 19-22, "The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. 21 The sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek the Lord God of Israel, ate the Passover. 22 And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel." Our celebrations are to be times of joy. Our baptisms, communions, services and events are to celebrate the death of Jesus for our sins, His resurrection, and the LIFE He gives to those willing to trust in Him. He has done it! It is done! We are saved—in Him!
Dear Lord, I believe in You. I am Yours. I celebrate that You have done it! All that I need has been done in Jesus Christ. I freely confess my sin and trust in You for my forgiveness. I am right with God. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.