Ezra 6 . DISCOVERING THE ORIGINAL DECREE.

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INTRODUCTION TO EZRA 6

At Ecbatana in the fortress a copy of the original decree was found in the archives.  All the specs were in the original decree including height and width.  It was to be built on the original site and the royal treasury of Persia was to pay all expenses and the museum pieces were to be returned.  So, Darius sent the following official letter to Tattenai:  Stay away—Do not disturb—keep your mouth shut—allow the work to proceed.  You must pay all construction costs from taxes collected in your province, supply all sacrifices plus wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil fro daily needs.  Any violations of my decree will result in beatings, and confiscation of property.  Darius issued the decree and it must be obeyed with all diligence.  This commentary will illuminate the text and move you to be an Ezra to someone.

EXPOSITION OF EZRA 6

The Decree of Darius

1 King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon.

Orders from the king to pull the files on the supposed decree were in the works.   This decree would have been rolled up on parchment and sealed with the king’s seal and placed in an elongated clay cylinder and sealed with a label on the end of the cylinder and filed on a shelf for future reference.  Search is under way in the city of Babylon.

2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:

The search moves from Babylon to Ecbatana in Persia which was the summer palace of the king.  It appears that the only people aware of such a decree were the Jews.  Discovery of this document was a fly in the buttermilk of Tattenai.

3 In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:
       Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide,

The king replies by citing the original decree of his predecessor

4 with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury.

Authorization for the cost of the construction was to be paid by the royal treasury

5 Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.

This is an exact quote from the original decree.  Cyrus’s public proclamation can be found in chapter 1:2-4.  The 3 rows of stones and the timber that Tattenai saw at Jerusalem are the ones named in the decree.  Cyrus realizes that his regional Governor Tattenai is filled with envy and a lust for power.  No Persian decree can be ignored altered or rescinded.

Esther 1:19  “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.

The Persians were as infallible as the Popes.

6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there.

Up to this point the king has been quoting from the previous decree but now he makes his own decree that they are to stay away from there and not hinder the work.

7 Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.

The King is hot under the collar for he realizes that the Jews are legal in rebuilding the temple so he issues a decree of his own ordering the regional government to stop opposing them.  The king has some strong words for Tattenai he tells them not to interfere and to aid them in their work.

8 Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:

When this order reaches Tattenai and his cohorts they will be as overworked as a circus sweeper when the elephants have a digestive problem.  They must supply the Jews all the necessary material and pay all cost for the product from taxes collected by Tattenai for the King.  He not only can’t stop the project but must fund it. 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.

9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail,

Judah’s jealous enemies are as shocked at the reply as a sheik with a dry oil well.  Now they must supply even the sacrifices.  Tattenai must have been infuriated at furnishing sacrifices day by day.

10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.

The king further issues a decree that they pray for the life of the king and his sons.  Tattenai must by now be bristling with rage.  He is probably as steaming as a pressure cooker.

11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble.

The king issues a warning to anyone who would alter his word in this matter.  Any disobedience would be a capital crime and would carry a death penalty.  He would be sent blindfolded to the gallows and his property confiscated and his house turned into a public restroom.

12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.
       I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.

The king further places a curse upon anyone who would alter or destroy the house of God that bore the name of God.  He mandates that this order be carried out without haste.  Any delay would be considered rebellion and would meet with stern measures.

Completion and Dedication of the Temple

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.

Tattenai and his group of wind bags will now turn into a hand of hope.  These enemies are as finished as a polished parquet floor.

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.

The elders went after the project like a meat cutter with a meat cleaver. The Prophets Haggai and Zechariah are the cheer leaders.  Three kings are associated with this work.  Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes all are kings of Persia.  This is not a complete list of the Persian kings but the temple is started and completed under the commandment of these three kings.

15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

Early spring in the year of BC 515 the temple is completed.

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.

Psalm 147

1 Praise the LORD. 
       How good it is to sing praises to our God,
       how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
       he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted
       and binds up their wounds.

4 He determines the number of the stars
       and calls them each by name.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
       his understanding has no limit.

6 The LORD sustains the humble
       but casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
       make music to our God on the harp.

8 He covers the sky with clouds;
       he supplies the earth with rain
       and makes grass grow on the hills.

9 He provides food for the cattle
       and for the young ravens when they call.

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
       nor his delight in the legs of a man;

11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,
       who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Extol the LORD, O Jerusalem;
       praise your God, O Zion,

13 for he strengthens the bars of your gates
       and blesses your people within you.

14 He grants peace to your borders
       and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends his command to the earth;
       his word runs swiftly.

16 He spreads the snow like wool
       and scatters the frost like ashes.

17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
       Who can withstand his icy blast?

18 He sends his word and melts them;
       he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
       his laws and decrees to Israel.

20 He has done this for no other nation;
       they do not know his laws.
       Praise the LORD.

17 For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the trib1es of Israel.

Like the dedication of Solomon’s temple sacrifices was offered for all 12 tribes.

18 And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses.

The duties of priests are found in Num18 while the divisions occurred under David.

The Passover

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover.

What a celebration—the temple is completed—priests are sanctified—Sacrifices are offered and now it is time for a seven day Passover observance with trumpets and fanfare, singing and festivity.  It was a renown and time honored occasion.

20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

The priests and their assistants the Levites kill the Passover lamb not only for themselves but for all present.

21 So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel.

The foreign people among them ceased their heathen practices and are seeking the God of Israel.  They too are partaking of the sacrifice.

22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

Cyrus is here called the king of Assyria because that was the former name of the area over which Cyrus is now ruling.

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Ezra 1 GOD STIRS THE HEART OF CYRUS

Cyrus allows the exiles to return—this kingdom stretched all the way from India to Ethiopia. The first year of his reign was BC 538. The Lord fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah and stirred the heart of Cyrus to issue a public notice and it was posted in all 127 provinces. The notice begins by saying that God was behind the project and that he was acting in his behalf. He empties the museum and crates up the entire artifact and lets Ezra take it back to its rightful owner. Then God stirred the hearts of priests, Levites, and tribal leaders to pack for moving. Cyrus was a “hands on king” and orders his treasurer to turn over to Sheshbazzar (the new governor appointed by the king) all 5400 items. Keep reading for more details as I explore this book verse by verse chapter by chapter.

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Ezra 2 RETURNING TO THEIR HOMELAND.

This chapter will list the family names of the exiles who returned from Babylon. Remember that they were slaves in Babylon and after the war were taken to Persia and now are allowed to return to the land of their ancestors.
Three families had lost their genealogical records so until they had God’s approval was not allowed to officiate in priestly duties. A total of 49,897 people, including servants and singers return to their homeland of Israel. You are now invited to join with me in a verse by verse exposition.

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Ezra 3 DREAMS THAT FUELED THEIR PASSION.

It was the dreams that fueled the passion of the exiles.  This book shows us that God will supply the desire as he moves in our heart.  This chapter begins with building an altar according to the instruction in the Law of Moses.  It was built on the old site and sacrifices were offered.  They also observed the festival of tabernacles.  All of this occurred before the foundation of the temple was laid.  They hired masons and carpenters from Tyre to help in preparing and transporting materials for the temple.  The work force had supervisors which were under the direction of Jeshua the General Foreman.  They dug the footers and laid the foundation stones and upon completion of the foundation a religious gathering occurred and a band played music—singers sang—it was a joyous occasion—and shouting could be heard in a far distance.

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Ezra 4 SHUTTING THE TEMPLE BUILDING PROJECT DOWN.

As the exiles rebuild they were approached by their enemies who volunteered to help them with their project. But Zerubbabel and the leaders told them that they had neither part nor lot in the matter. These same people did everything possible to stop the work. First they tried to frighten them and then tried bribery. This went on during the administration of Cyrus and Darius. Later after Cyrus is dead and Xerxes came to the throne the enemies tried to get the new king to shut the project down. We are told that the letter was in Aramaic language and the king responded by shutting the job down. The work had stopped and would not resume for the next sixteen years.

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Ezra 5 A DECREE TO STOP BUILDING THE TEMPLE

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.

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Ezra 6 . DISCOVERING THE ORIGINAL DECREE.

At Ecbatana in the fortress a copy of the original decree was found in the archives. All the specs were in the original decree including height and width. It was to be built on the original site and the royal treasury of Persia was to pay all expenses and the museum pieces were to be returned. So, Darius sent the following official letter to Tattenai: Stay away—Do not disturb—keep your mouth shut—allow the work to proceed. You must pay all construction costs from taxes collected in your province, supply all sacrifices plus wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil fro daily needs. Any violations of my decree will result in beatings, and confiscation of property. Darius issued the decree and it must be obeyed with all diligence. This commentary will illuminate the text and move you to be an Ezra to someone.

Read Online »

Ezra 7 A NATIONAL PASSION FOR THE WORD

Dramatic change is about to occur—the crowd is electrified—Ezra is weeping—confessing their national sins and begging for forgiveness. The fire of revival can be felt from priest to peasant. They had never heard such a passionate preacher. He loses no time in getting to the point. He opens the old book and the sweet flow of the love of God and his word flows like a river. There was a passion for God and a hunger for getting right with the Lord. May God stir our hearts today for a national response to have the fervor and emotion that would transport us into a spiritual ecstasy and rapture like that of the Protestant Reformation. May God lift us out of our apathy, indifference and coldness. Pray for God to awake us.

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Ezra 8 CAMPING AT THE AHAVA CANAL

They are on their 900 mile journey to the homeland of their fathers when the roster was looked at and Ezra saw that no Levites were among them. Ezra realized that the worship would be hamstrung without these men. So, they remained camping at Ahava Canal for 3 days while Ezra sent some of his staff to Iddo in Casiphia to help find some Levites. They prayed and fasted for a safe journey which would take a little more than 3 months. God heard their prayer. Twelve leaders from among the priests were in charge of the safe arrival of silver and gold etc. They were to guard it with their life. On the 8th. of April BC 458 they broke camp and started the long journey from the Ahava Canal, upon arrival they rested 3 days and on the 4th. day deposited the valuables in the temple and entrusted it with those in charge. The exiles sacrificed burnt offerings and a copy of the king’s decrees was delivered to Governors in Trans-Euphrates, upon reading the decree these Governors then cooperated by supplying the aforementioned materials. The commentary section will provide additional information.

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Ezra’s 9 EZRA LAYS THE SCRIPTURES ON THEM

Some of the Israelites had intermarried with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. So the holy race was being polluted with the detestable practices of the heathen and to make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders. Ezra flies into a rage, he is appalled, enraged, incensed, furious and irate. Ezra realized that these priests and leaders are not fit to associate with the common folk. He lays the scripture on them and then sat down appalled till the evening sacrifice. At 3 O’clock he stood up, his clothes were torn and he lifted his hands in prayer and said he was ashamed, he said that their sins were piled higher than their heads that their guilt had reached to heaven. Ezra recounts God’s grace in their history and claims that they have polluted the land. He claims that they are an escaped remnant and that none of them could face God in such a condition. He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess. The answer to Ezra’s prayer will come in the next chapter.

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Ezra 10 BOILING WITH INDIGNATION.

Ezra prayed, wept, confessed and was in an ecstasy of rage.  He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess.  Boiling with indignation he threw himself on the ground and a group came and wept with him.  Shecaniah suggested the following plan:  Make a covenant with God and then divorce the heathen women.  He encourages Ezra to take courage and that all is not lost.  So Ezra stood up and made them swear with a solemn oath that they would keep the law of God.  A proclamation was issued for all exiles to come to Jerusalem.  Three days later on the 19th. Of December sitting or standing in a soaking rain they confessed their sins and promised to separate themselves from the pagan women.  However, this required some time for the judicial system to hear the cases and issue judgment.  The plan was followed and beginning on December 29th. Court was in session and concluded by March 27th. Priests were named—gatekeepers were named—everyone guilty had his name published.  Without an Ezra the nation would have repeated their sinful excesses.  Pray that God will send us an Ezra!

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