The Book of Ezra was originally combined with the Book of Nehemiah in a single book of Ezra / Nehemiah. The two books became separated in the early centuries of the Christian era.
In the restoration from the Babylonian captivity, three successive leaderships carried out three different missions;
The First Part: of the book of Ezra, is about the return of the first group of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great (536 BC) and Joshua and Zerubbabel rebuilding the Temple and dedicating it in the sixth year of Darius (c516 BC);
The Second Part: of the book of Ezra beginning in Ezra 8, concerns the command of Artaxerxes Longimanus to Build the CITY of Jerusalem in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7) and Ezra restoring sound doctrine and creating a system of educating all the people in the Word of God;
Nehemiah is about continuing the building of the CITY of Jerusalem and continued work on restoring true religion.
The first decree was to go and build the Temple.
Cyrus issued the decree to build the Temple to the Jews as a part of his accommodating all religions in his empire to gain the devotion of the people.
539-538 BC—Babylon was conquered by Cyrus’ general Darius, who defeated Nabonidus at Babylon.
536 BC—Cyrus, comes to Babylon and declares himself king of the empire.
This was a dual kingdom or alliance of; Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian.
In 539 BC there was a revolt in Southern Babylonia, and the Babylonian king, the son of Nebuchadnezzar went south with his army to put down the rebellion; leaving his own son in charge of Babylon.
Taking advantage of this occupation of the Babylonian army with the southern rebellion at Uruk; the army of Cyrus invaded Babylon from the north.
In June the Babylonian garrison was completely defeated by Darius at Opis, and immediately afterwards Sippara opened its gates to the conqueror. Gobryas [Darius]; the governor of Media [king of the Medes] was then sent to Babylon 539 BC, which was taken in a night with almost no fight, (Dan 5), and the daily pagan services in the temples continued without a break.
Belshazzar the son of Nabonidus, the son of [the dead] Nebuchadnezzar; could make Daniel only the “third” in his father’s kingdom, because he himself was only the second after Nabonidus his father the king. Jeremiah 27:7 And all nations shall serve him [Nebuchadnezzar], and his son [Nabonidus], and his son’s son [Belshazzar], until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.
Thus began the first year of Darius in which Daniel fasted.
In October 538, Cyrus himself arrived, and proclaimed a general amnesty, which was communicated by Gobryas [Darius] to “all the province of Babylon,” of which he had been made governor.
Meanwhile, Belshazzar had died in the fall of Babylon, and later when Nabonidus’ wife died, Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus, conducted the funeral.
Then with the death of the Chaldean ruling family of Babylon, Cyrus assumed the title of “king of Babylon” in 536, claiming to be the descendant of the ancient kings, and made rich offerings to all the temples and religions, to maintain the peace of the population by gaining the support of the religions leaders; in a continuation of the “church state” system of Babylon.
In celebration he decreed that the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylon could return to their old homes, carrying with them the images of their gods; and restore their national religions. Among these populations were certain Jews, who, as they had no images, took with them the sacred vessels of the temple and some 50,000 went back to Judea to rebuild the Temple.
The calling of Cyrus by God is made explicit by Isaiah:
Isaiah 45:1-3 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he has taken by his right hand to subdue nations before him and strip the loins of kings, to force gateways before him that their gates be closed no more: I will go before you levelling the heights. I will shatter the bronze gateways, smash the iron bars. I will give you the hidden treasures, the secret hoards, that you may know that I am the Lord.
1. The decree of Cyrus recorded in Ezra 1:1-4.
In Jeremiah 29:10, God had promised, “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”
Ezra 1:1 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom….”
Two centuries earlier, God had appointed Cyrus for this task: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” (Isaiah 44:28).
Recognizing in Isaiah’s prophecy a personal directive, Cyrus began his decree with these words, “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (Ezra 1:2).
Cyrus continued, “Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3).
This first decree authorized the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Ezra chapter 3 tells us that those who returned to Judea gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month, and the following spring, “in the second month,” they “set forward the work of the house of the Lord” (verses 1, 4, 8).
After the foundation of the temple had been laid, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin,” “the people of the land,” being prohibited from participating in the project, “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:1-5).
“Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Ezra 4:24.
When, under the inspiration of Haggai and Zechariah, the work on the temple was finally resumed, the governor of the region, with a group of other officials, came and asked the workers, “Who hath commanded you to build this house?” (Ezra 5:3).
They replied, “In the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.” (Ezra 5:13).
So the governor and his officials wrote a letter to King Darius I, saying, “If it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.” (Ezra 5:17).
2. The decree of Darius I recorded in Ezra 6:1-12.
Because of the letter Darius received from the governor of the area west of the Euphrates, a search was made, and Cyrus’ original decree was found. Darius then issued his own decree, saying, “Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.” Darius instructed his governor to supply the Jews with money or whatever else they needed, that “the building of this house of God . . . be not hindered.” (Ezra 6:7, 8).
Based on Ezra 4:24, this decree was probably issued about 520 B.C., the second year of the reign of Darius. With the hinderances now removed, the temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius (516 B.C.) on the third day of the twelfth month, and in the following month they kept the passover. Ezra 6:15, 19.
3. The decree of Artaxerxes I [Longimanus] Ahasuerus recorded in Ezra 7:12-26.
King Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign (457 B.C.), authorized Ezra the priest and scribe, and all who wished to join him, to go to Jerusalem, revive and restore the religion and build the city. It was Ezra’s desire to instruct the Jews in the laws of God. Artaxerxes granted him large amounts of silver and gold to furnish the temple, and gave instruction that his treasurers on that side of the river should provide whatever was needed to beautify the Lord’s house.
In the decree, Artaxerxes [Ahasuerus, Longimanus] commanded Ezra to “set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.” (Ezra 7:25, 26).
Ezra left Babylon on the first day of the first month of Artaxerxes’ [Ahasuerus] seventh year, and arrived in Jerusalem exactly four months later on the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:7-9). Three days later the gifts brought from Babylon were registered in the temple treasury, and sacrifices were offered to God. Ezra 8:32-35. Either at that time or shortly thereafter, “they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river.” (Ezra 8:36).
It was during the 49 year period from 457 B.C. when the original decree was given to build the city, that the city was built under extremely trying circumstances, being completed as the angel had foretold to Daniel in 49 years in 408 B.C. After which another 62 weeks (434 years) would pass before the revealing of the Christ.
Some time later, officials from the surrounding nations wrote a letter of skepticism to Artaxerxes, saying, “Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.” (Ezra 4:12). They went on to say that if the king would check the history of Jerusalem, he would find that it was a rebellious city which would not submit to Babylonian rule, and that is why it was destroyed. If it were allowed to be rebuilt, the king would have the same problems again. (Ezra 4:13-16).
Artaxerxes checked the records, and discovered that old time Jerusalem had indeed made insurrection, rebellion and sedition against kings. So he issued a new command that the work of building should stop until he gave further word (Ezra 4:17-22).
4. The decree of Artaxerxes [Ahasuerus, Longimanus] mentioned in Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2.
The story of Nehemiah begins in the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign. Nehemiah, was the king’s cupbearer. One day some of his brethren from Judah arrived in Shushan where king’s palace was. Nehemiah inquired of them about the condition of things in Jerusalem.
“The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach,” they replied. “The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”
Nehemiah sat down and wept. For several days he mourned and fasted and prayed. His prayer is remarkably similar to that of Daniel in Daniel 9. He prayed that somehow God would “grant him mercy in the sight of” the king.
Four months later, Nehemiah was serving wine to the king, and Artaxerxes noticed a sadness on Nehemiah’s countenance. “Why is thy countenance sad?” the king asked.
Nehemiah explained that Jerusalem was still in ruins, the wall and the gates were still not repaired. When the king asked what he would like to do, Nehemiah answered, “If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.”
Artaxerxes consented, and sent with him letters for the governors of the region, authorizing to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
This commission to BUILD THE CITY, was issued to Ezra in 457 B.C. and Nehemiah was authorized to help in the task in 444 B.C., in the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ [Ahasuerus, Longimanus] reign.
The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel reveals that it was the decree to build the City of Jerusalem, and not a decree to build the Temple, which began the countdown to the revealing of Messiah.
Daniel 9:25 says, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem [the CITY, not the temple] unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”
NOTE: Ezra is recording this, but Ezra did NOT go to Judea at this time! He went years later beginning in Ezra 7! It was “the chief of the fathers [Elders and family leaders] of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites” who went to Judea at this time to build the Temple, NOT Ezra!
The Decree of Cyrus
Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus [c536 B.C.] king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
1:2Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 1:3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
1:4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
Then the sincerely repentant in the captivity arose to return to Judea. In spite of there numbers they were only a very small portion of those in captivity, the vast majority remaining in Babylon.
1:5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. 1:6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.
Cyrus also returned the things taken from the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar.
1:7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; 1:8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
The things returned by Cyrus
1:9 And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty [sacrificial] knives, 1:10 Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. 1:11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
The number of those who returned to Judea, totaled about 49,697. These people returned to the land given to each of their forefather’s and families by their genealogy. Later they were called to build the temple as we shall see.
Ezra 2:1 Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;
2:2 Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 2:3 The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.
2:4 The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.
2:5 The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.
2:6 The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve.
2:7 The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
2:8 The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five.
2:9 The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.
2:10 The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two.
2:11 The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three.
2:12 The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two.
2:13 The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six.
2:14 The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six.
2:15 The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four.
2:16 The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.
2:17 The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three.
2:18 The children of Jorah, an hundred and twelve.
2:19 The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three.
2:20 The children of Gibbar, ninety and five.
2:21 The children of Bethlehem, an hundred twenty and three.
2:22 The men of Netophah, fifty and six.
2:23 The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.
2:24 The children of Azmaveth, forty and two.
2:25 The children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three.
2:26 The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one.
2:27 The men of Michmas, an hundred twenty and two.
2:28 The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three.
2:29 The children of Nebo, fifty and two.
2:30 The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty and six.
2:31 The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
2:32 The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.
2:33 The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five.
2:34 The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five.
2:35 The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty.
2:36 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three.
2:37 The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.
2:38 The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.
2:39 The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.
2:40 The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four.
2:41 The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred twenty and eight.
2:42 The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all an hundred thirty and nine.
2:43 The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 2:44 The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon, 2:45 The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub, 2:46 The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan, 2:47 The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, 2:48 The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam, 2:49 The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, 2:50 The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim, 2:51 The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 2:52 The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 2:53 The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah,2:54 The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.
2:55 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda, 2:56 The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 2:57 The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami.
2:58 All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred ninety and two.
2:59 And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel: 2:60 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.
2:61 And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name:2:62 These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.
2:63 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.
2:64 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, 2:65 Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.
2:66 Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; 2:67 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.
2:68 And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: 2:69 They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.
2:70 So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims [Temple helpers; Gibeonites], dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
Ezra 3:1 And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.
The term “when the seventh month was come” indicates the New Moon beginning the month which is the Feast of Trumpets. Just before the Feast the altar was rebuilt and dedicated so that the sacrifices could be made, but the whole Temple was not yet completed.
At that time they set up the altar and began the daily morning and evening sacrifice.
3:2 Then stood up Jeshua [Hebrew: Yeshua, also called Joshua the high priest] the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.
3:3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening [referring to the Daily Sacrifice].
They then kept the Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; and began to keep the new moons as God had commanded; and a spiritual revival began.
3:4 They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number [each day to total 70 for the 70 families of humanity], according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 3:5 And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.
Here we are told that they kept the High Day of the first day of the month the new moon of the Feast of Trumpets.
3:6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.
The laborer is worthy of his wages.
3:7 They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.
After having set up the altar and taken money and organized the labor; the building began in the second month of the next year.
3:8 Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.
Then Joshua the high priest began the work which was supervised by the priests and carried out by the Levites and Judah.
3:9 Then stood Jeshua [the high priest] with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.
The foundation of the physical Temple was laid with great rejoicing; just as we should rejoice greatly to love and to learn and to keep the foundation of the spiritual Temple; which is the whole Word of God as written by the prophets and first century apostles, as inspired by Jesus Christ the chief of stone of the foundation.
If we stand on the whole Word of God and not the words of men; then we are a dwelling place of God’s Spirit, a spiritual Temple of God and we are the brethren of the saints of old.
And if we turn away from zeal to keep the Word of God and idolize men to follow them; we have become the brethren of all idolaters and evil doers.
Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Ezra records that the foundation of the Temple was laid with music, singing and rejoicing.
Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. 3:11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel.
All the people shouted with a great shout and praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
The people REJOICED when the foundation of the Temple was laid! Let us remember that the foundation of the spiritual Temple of the faithful has already been laid; and it is the whole Word of God!
We are to rejoice in the Word of Almighty God!
These physical temples and their building are allegories of the spiritual Temple of God’s Spirit; whose foundation is the Word of God and NOT the words of men.
3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient [old men] men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept [wept for joy that they were seeing the Temple of God being rebuilt] with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: 3:13 So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
There was a great rejoicing over laying the foundation of the Temple.
The whole Word of God is the building stones of the spiritual Temple; with Jesus Christ being the Chief of the corner! We should cherish and rejoice over the whole Word of God, much more than they rejoiced over the stones of the foundation of the physical Temple!
Then adversaries tried to infiltrate the builders so as to sabotage the work. This is typical of the very many unconverted tares who have flooded the Ekklesia today and have turned the brethren aside from their zeal to build and cleanse today’s spiritual Temple; teaching a zeal to idolize men and their false traditions instead of a true passionate zeal to learn and to keep the whole Word of God.
Ezra 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
These were the Samaritans [those who later converted to Islam or Catholicism are now called Palestinians] which the Assyrians brought to people the land of Samaria after the exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel, 2 Kings 17.
4:3 But Zerubbabel [the governor], and Jeshua [Yeshua, English Joshua], and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
This was Satan’s first attempt to insert his tares into the people during the Ezra revival.
This is the same old con; “I am your friend, I will help you,” as they slowly entice into compromise and laxity.
That is the same error that many have fallen into today, seeking to bring in people with little understanding for the sake of numbers and income to help the cause, in doing this we have diluted the zeal of the saints into a lukewarm thing, a foul odor to our Lord.
When we mix ourselves with the unconverted; we are undone by them and by their focus on idolizing physical leaders instead of exalting the Eternal, and their focus on the physical, instead of the spiritual which they cannot understand, and away from true sound doctrine and an intense practical application of God’s Word.
Then the adversaries sought other ways to prevent the building of the Temple of God.
Brethren this is an allegory of how Satan and those he influences work against today’s Spiritual Temple of God; to turn us away from our zeal for God and his Word and to prevent us from internalizing the very nature of God and becoming ONE in complete unity with God!
If we are not very careful to test every word of men by the Word of God, Satan will sow the most talented dedicated men among us, who quickly rise to the top in the church of God.
Then they will try to quench any zeal for the Word of God, to lead the brethren to zealously follow themselves, saying in so many words: “We are God’s leaders and to disobey us is to disobey God, while to follow us is to follow God.” Thus they seek to come between God and the brethren, and to replace the Word of God with their own words!
4:4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 4:5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
4:6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 4:7 And in the days of Artaxerxes [a title of the kings, this king being Smerdis] wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. 4:8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
These people are the Samaritans brought in to populate Samaria after the exile of Israel by the Assyrians, 2 Kings 17. This history is why a few hundred years later in Christ’s day, the Jews had such contempt for the Samaritans.
4:9 Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, 4:10 And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper [Shalmanesar king of Assyria] of brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.
The struggle over the building of the Temple
4:11 This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.
4:12 Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.
4:13 Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.
4:14 Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; 4:15 That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.
4:16 We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
Ezra 4:17 Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.
The king’s answer
4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. 4:19 And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.
4:20 There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.
4:21 Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.
4:22 Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? 4:23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
Ezra 4:24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
The adversary succeeded in delaying the building of the physical Temple for a short space; just as the adversary has succeeded in delaying the building of the spiritual Temple of the Ekklesia for a short time today.
Yet, the building of that physical temple was resumed, and that temple was completed; as an allegory that no matter how bleak the situation in today’s Spiritual Ekklesia looks, the Spiritual Temple will also be completed.
Today it will take a severe correction to save the called out, just like it took a captivity to bring the called out from physical Egypt back to God in the days of ancient Babylon; yet God’s will, will be fulfilled; and his Spiritual Temple and bride will be perfected!
Today the building and cleansing of the Spiritual Temple to prepare the bride for the resurrection and marriage to the Lamb, has restarted; and Jesus Christ the Master Builder is hard at work to complete his Father’s Temple and perfect his collective spiritual bride.
Here enters the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The people had been discouraged by the difficulties in building the Temple. God’s spiritual faithful get discouraged at times and we can encourage one another, but we must always find our primary inspiration, in prayer and the Word of God.
Ezra 5:1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.
Then Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor encouraged and inspired the people to continue the building of the Temple. Before Zerubbabel, Sheshbazzar had been governor (Ezra 5:16).
5:2 Then rose up Zerubbabel [the governor] the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua [the high priest] the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.
Then the Samaritans and surrounding nations worked hard to discourage the building work.
5:3 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 5:4 Then said we [they demanded to know the names of the head builders, v 10] unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?
Judah was encouraged in the LORD to do the work. Even so, today’s Spiritual Called Out must take their courage from God to do his will.
5:5 But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.
Then the opposition sent a message to Darius the king in Babylon.
5:6 The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king: 5:7 They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus;
Unto Darius the king, all peace.
This is about building the Temple and is NOT about building the city.
5:8 Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands.
5:9 Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls? 5:10 We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.
5:11 And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.
5:12 But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.
5:13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.
Here the leader who brought the willing Jews and Levites to Jerusalem to build the Temple and their first governor is named: he was Sheshbazzar.
King Cyrus of Persia had appointed Sheshbazzar to build the physical Temple. He started to build the Temple (Ezra 5:16 ), but got no farther than the foundation when he was replaced by Zerubbabel.
5:14 And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 5:15 And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.
5:16 Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.
5:17 Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
The decree of Cyrus is found and re-issued
Ezra 6:1 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. 6:2 And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:
The 70 Weeks Prophecy of Daniel uses the decree to build the City Jerusalem as its starting point, This Decree of Cyrus was about building the Temple only.
6:3 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 offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; 6:4 With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house:
6:5 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, 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.
Darius orders the surrounding peoples NOT to interfere with the king’s command. The king then orders these people to support the work by paying tribute for its furtherance.
God the great King will intervene to help his people who are building themselves into a fit Spiritual Temple for God and his Spirit, by internalizing the whole Word of God!
6:6 Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:
6:7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. 6:8 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, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.
Darius then commands these people to supply animals for sacrifice on the altar.
6:9 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, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: 6:10 That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
The king adds the pain of death for any disobedience.
6:11 Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.
Then Darius goes even further and curses anyone who interferes with the Temple construction with destruction. Spiritually, if we are faithful to internalize and keep the whole Word of God; things many seem difficult; but the Eternal goes before us!
6:12 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. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.
This is an allegory that we, as we are working to make ourselves a Spiritual Temple of God, need to go to the Great King of the Universe for our help and our defense, so that we may internalize the nature of God and become a perfect Temple for his Spirit.
6:13 Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
Then the building of the physical Temple prospered under the prophetic encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah
6:14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
6:15 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.
6:16 And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.
A Feast of the Dedication [Consecration] of the Temple is held. This is the consecration of the temple; and is not to be confused with the Feast of Dedication [Hanukka] which began as a memorial of the cleansing of the Temple by the Maccabee’s on 25 Kislev.
6:17 And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 6:18 And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.
All the priests, Levites and people were cleansed and purified before the dedication [consecration] of the Temple, and they kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month after the Temple was consecrated.
6:19 And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. 6:20 For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.
6:21 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, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat [the Passover],
6:22 And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.