Scripture reading – Ezra 5; Ezra 6


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We continue our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With King Cyrus’s decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the king’s affirmation, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (Ezra 1:4-11).

Fifty thousand responded to the prospect of going home (Ezra 2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people built an altar (Ezra 3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (Ezra 3:5-11). However, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow when the last stone was set in its place (Ezra 3:11). Enemies arose who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (Ezra 4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (Ezra 4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, then ordered a search of the kings’ archives (Ezra 4:17-22). When he found that the Jews had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands, the king decreed the work on the Temple cease (Ezra 4:23-24). The LORD, however, had an answer for discouragement. Sixteen years would pass until the LORD sent His prophets.


Ezra 5


Renewed Vision (Ezra 5:1-2)

So, we read, “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” (Ezra 5:1). Haggai’s messages were powerful and convicting, (Haggai 1:5, 7, 9-11). At the same time, Zechariah preached messages of comfort and exhortation [dreams and visions]. Stirred by the words of the prophets, Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned to the work and “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (Ezra 5:2).

Renewed Vision

Renewed Opposition (Ezra 5:3-17)

No sooner had the work on the Temple begun than the adversaries returned and demanded: “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?” (Ezra 5:3).

Recognizing there was nothing they could do or say to appease their enemies, the men working on the Temple answered the question with a question: “What are the names of the men that make this building?” (Ezra 5:4) Stated in another way: What business is it of yours, who has commanded us to build? We do not see your name on the list of contractors! Again, the enemies of God’s people rose to oppose them and appealed to the king (Ezra 5:3-17).


Closing thoughts

Yet, the LORD had not forsaken His people, and we read,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” (Ezra 5:5). 

Once again, their enemies accused the Jews before the king (Ezra 5:4-5) and unwittingly gave him cause to search the historical records of the kings of Persia, remembering the decree of a Persian king could not be rescinded (Ezra 5:6-17).

As we will see, the tide turned in Ezra 6 when the enemies opposed to rebuilding the Temple were forced to finance it with their offerings!


Ezra 6


A Search and Reissuance of Cyrus’ Decree (Ezra 6:1-5)

King Darius ordered a search of the kings’ archives, and it was discovered that Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded that the Temple be built (Ezra 6:1-3). The king also made provisions for sacrifices and gave the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (Ezra 6:3-5).

Celebration of the Temple

The Enforcement of Cyrus’ Decree (Ezra 6:6-12)

In a twist of humor and serving as a testimony to God’s sovereignty, the enemies’ attempt to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. Darius not only commanded the enemies of the Jews to support their work on the Temple financially, but he also decreed they supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (Ezra 6:6-10).

Giving warning to any who might oppose God’s work, the king proclaimed, “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” (Ezra 6:11).


The Completion, Dedication, and Celebration of the Temple (Ezra 6:13-22)

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (Ezra 6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (Ezra 6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (Ezra 6:19-22).


Closing thoughts –

What an incredible, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing that a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. King Darius was bound to Cyrus’ edict and ensured it was fulfilled.

God’s work in and through His people did not go unopposed; however, they persevered, and their faithfulness was rewarded. Undoubtedly, the Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was cherished in the people’s hearts (Ezra 6:19-22). The years of captivity were passed, and the Temple was rebuilt. Unlike other nations (Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines), Israel was restored to her homeland.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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