Tattenai’s Letter to Darius


This chapter introduces us to Haggai and Zechariah two of the prophets of that era.  Zerubbabel the Governor of Judea re-starts the building project which had been stopped years earlier.  However, Tattenai (a regional Governor of Trans-Euphrates in the Persian empire {there was 20 such Governors which had control over the 127 provinces of the empire} also called Satraps.)  This regional Governor and his staff pay a visit to Jerusalem and did not like what they saw.  Their regional report was sent to Darius with a request to look up the original decree and issue a ruling to block all efforts to rebuild the temple.  A full examination of the letter is reserved for the commentary.


Tattenai’s Letter to Darius

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.

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were as hopeful as a new vacuum cleaner salesman.  They were as optimistic as an unrepentant sinner’s plan to get to heaven.  The people respond in faith and action follows.

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.

Zerubbabel and Jeshua put their nose to the grindstone and work like a galley slave to accomplish the building project that had been on hold.  All that Governor Zerubbabel needed was the excitement of an ecstatic prophet.

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?”

Regional governor Tattenai and his staff on this side the Euphrates river pays them a visit and wants’ to know who gave them the authority to restart the building of the temple. Governor Zerubbabel who ruled over a small territory was under the regional Governor Tattenai.  Now that the building had resumed they will run into resistance.

4 They also asked, “What are the names of the men constructing this building?”

Governor Tattenai needed the names of the men behind this illegal move to rebuild so that he can report them to the king and have them prosecuted.  If Tattenai can get the manes of the construction workers he can have them prosecuted.

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.

Psa. 33:18 “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,”

They continued the work and would not shut the project down till official orders arrived from the king.  The eye of God is on our dollar bill.  The founding fathers believed that God was looking with favor on their undertaking so they used the Latin words (Annuit Coeptis) which means “God has favored our undertaking”.  Under the pyramid on the dollar bill is another Latin phrase (Novus Ordo Seclorum) which means “A new order has begun.”

6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius.

These gifted liars were like a meddlesome squirrel eating bird seed.  Tattenai and his staff will draft a letter as a last straw effort to stop these Jews from building.

7 The report they sent him read as follows:
       To King Darius:
       Cordial greetings.

This letter was sent to Darius the king in which Tattenai thought their case was as strong as a plumber’s prize pipe joint.  Tattenai realized that he had considerable power but must act under due process of the Persian law.

8 The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.

Tattenai sets forth the following facts.  A. We are doing our job.  B.  The work is going on at a fast pace.  C.  Therefore we need an urgent reply.

9 We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?

Comments for verses nine, and ten are found after verse eleven.

 10 We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

11 This is the answer they gave us:
       “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.

The answer that Nehemiah gave to Tattenai was that their God had so authorized it and he did not tell them the names of any of the project engineers.

12 But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.

Nehemiah was forthright in giving the exact reason why Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple.  Tattenai tells the king Nehemiah’s reply in his letter.

13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.

Up to this point Nehemiah’s case looked as hopeless as happiness in Hell, but Tattenai makes the terrible blunder of telling the king that the Jews claim there was an original decree authorizing this project.  Tattenai further urges the king to check the records for such a decree.  Tattenai feels that Zerubbabels story about the decree is as fishy as a phony pedigree and as soon as the king see’s what the Jews are up to he will come down hard on them.

14 He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple  in Babylon.
“Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor,

15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’

We learned in chapter one about the articles being returned back to Jerusalem

16 So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”

Tattenai’s letter was as frail as tissue paper—he urges the king to look for such a document knowing full well that it didn’t exist.

17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.

Tatiana’s letter was like bailing out a boat with a sieve.  His arguments will turn out to be as light as a load of helium.  His argument’s was as overworked and as futile as a conversation with a stone.