Ezra 6:14
And the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built, 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.—This verse includes all the agents in the great work with which the book deals: from Cyrus to Artaxerxes; the elders, that is, the heads of the Jews; the prophets (see Ezra 5:1); but all is from the God of Israel, whose commandment Cyrus and all others fulfilled.

Artaxerxes king of Persia.—Evidently the Artaxerxes Longimanus of the sequel, whose contributions and help did so much toward the perfecting of the general design, though the “finishing” here mentioned took place fifty years before his reign. Observe that he alone is called “king of Persia,” which shows that Ezra is writing in his time, and adds his name to the original record. Just as the later Artaxerxes is introduced, so the earlier Cyrus is, in this comprehensive review.

Ezra

THE NEW TEMPLE AND ITS WORSHIP

Ezra 6:14 - Ezra 6:22
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There are three events recorded in this passage,-the completion of the Temple, its dedication, and the keeping of the passover some weeks thereafter. Four years intervene between the resumption of building and its successful finish, much of which time had been occupied by the interference of the Persian governor, which compelled a reference to Darius, and resulted in his confirmation of Cyrus’ charter. The king’s stringent orders silenced opposition, and seem to have been loyally, however unwillingly, obeyed. About twenty-three years passed between the return of the exiles and the completion of the Temple.

I. The prosperous close of the long task {Ezra 6:14 - Ezra 6:15}. The narrative enumerates three points in reference to the completion of the Temple which are very significant, and, taken together, set forth the stimulus and law and helps of work for God.

It is expressive of deep truth that first in order is named, as the cause of success, ‘the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah.’ ‘Practical men,’ no doubt, then as always, set little store by the two prophets’ fiery words, and thought that a couple of masons would have done more for the building than they did. The contempt for ‘ideas’ is the mark of shallow and vulgar minds. Nothing is more practical than principles and motives which underlie and inform work, and these two prophets did more for building the Temple by their words than an army of labourers with their hands. ‘There are diversities of operations,’ and it is not given to every man to handle a trowel; but no good work will be prosperously accomplished unless there be engaged in it prophets who rouse and rebuke and hearten, and toilers who by their words are encouraged and saved from forgetting the sacred motives and great ends of their work in the monotony and multiplicity of details.

Still more important is the next point mentioned. The work was done ‘according to the commandment of the God of Israel.’ There is peculiar beauty and pathos in that name, which is common in Ezra. It speaks of the sense of unity in the nation, though but a fragment of it had come back. There was still an Israel, after all the dreary years, and in spite of present separation. God was still its God, though He had hidden His face for so long. An inextinguishable faith, wistful but assured, in His unalterable promise, throbs in that name, so little warranted by a superficial view of circumstances, but so amply vindicated by a deeper insight. His ‘commandment’ is at once the warrant and the standard for the work of building. In His service we are to be sure that He bids, and then to carry out His will whoever opposes.

We are to make certain that our building is ‘according to the pattern showed in the mount,’ and, if so, to stick to it in every point. There is no room for more than one architect in rearing the temple. The working drawings must come from Him. We are only His workmen. And though we may know no more of the general plan of the structure than the day-labourer who carries a hod does, we must be sure that we have His orders for our little bit of work, and then we may be at rest even while we toil. They who build according to His commandment build for eternity, and their work shall stand the trial by fire. That motive turns what without it were but ‘wood, hay, stubble,’ into ‘gold and silver and precious stones.’

The last point is that the work was done according to the commandment of the heathen kings. We need not discuss the chronological difficulty arising from the mention of Artaxerxes here. The only king of that name who can be meant reigned fifty years after the events here narrated. The mention of him here has been explained by ‘the consideration that he contributed to the maintenance, though not to the building, of the Temple.’ Whatever is the solution, the intention of the mention of the names of the friendly monarchs is plain. ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the watercourses; He turneth it whithersoever He will.’ The wonderful providence, surpassing all hopes, which gave the people ‘favour in the eyes of them that carried them captive,’ animates the writer’s thankfulness, while he recounts that miracle that the commandment of God was re-echoed by such lips. The repetition of the word in both clauses underscores, as it were, the remarkable concurrence.

II. The dedication of the Temple {Ezra 6:16 - Ezra 6:18}. How long the dedication was after the completion is not specified. The month Adar was the last of the Jewish year, and corresponded nearly with our March. Probably the ceremonial of dedication followed immediately on the completion of the building. Probably few, if any, of the aged men, who had wept at the founding, survived to see the completion of the Temple. A new generation had no such sad contrasts of present lowliness and former glory to shade their gladness. So many dangers surmounted, so many long years of toil interrupted and hope deferred, gave keener edge to joy in the fair result of them all.

We may cherish the expectation that our long tasks, and often disappointments, will have like ending if they have been met and done in like spirit, having been stimulated by prophets and commanded by God. It is not wholesome nor grateful to depreciate present blessings by contrasting them with vanished good. Let us take what God gives to-day, and not embitter it by remembering yesterday with vain regret. There is a remembrance of the former more splendid Temple in the name of the new one, which is thrice repeated in the passage,-’this house.’ But that phrase expresses gratitude quite as much as, or more than, regret. The former house is gone, but there is still ‘this house,’ and it is as truly God’s as the other was. Let us grasp the blessings we have, and be sure that in them is continued the substance of those we have lost.

The offerings were poor, if compared with Solomon’s ‘two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep’ {1 Kings 8:63}, and no doubt the despisers of the ‘day of small things,’ whom Zechariah had rebuked, would be at their depreciating work again. But ‘if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ The thankfulness of the offerers, not the number of their bullocks and rams, made the sacrifice well pleasing. But it would not have been so if the exiles’ resources had been equal to the great King’ s. How many cattle had they in their stalls at home, not how many they brought to the Temple, was the important question. The man who says, ‘Oh! God accepts small offerings,’ and gives a mite while he keeps talents, might as well keep his mite too; for certainly God will not have it.

A significant part of the offerings was the ‘twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.’ These spoke of the same confidence as we have already noticed as being expressed by the designation of ‘the God of Israel.’ Possibly scattered members of all the tribes had come back, and so there was a kind of skeleton framework of the nation present at the dedication; but, whether that be so or not, that handful of people was not Israel. Thousands of their brethren still lingered in exile, and the hope of their return must have been faint. Yet God’s promise remained, and Israel was immortal. The tribes were still twelve, and the sacrifices were still theirs. A thrill of emotion must have touched many hearts as the twelve goats were led up to the altar. So an Englishman feels as he looks at the crosses on the Union Jack.

But there was more than patriotism in that sacrifice. It witnessed to unshaken faith. And there was still more expressed in it than the offerers dreamed; for it prophesied of that transformation of the national into the spiritual Israel, in virtue of which the promises remain true, and are inherited by the Church of Christ in all lands.

The re-establishment of the Temple worship with the appointment of priests and Levites, according to the ancient ordinance, naturally followed on the dedication.

III. The celebration of the Passover {Ezra 6:19 - Ezra 6:22}. It took place on the fourteenth day of the first month, and probably, therefore, very soon after the dedication. They ‘kept the feast, . . . for the priests and Levites were purified together.’ The zeal of the sacerdotal class in attending to the prescriptions for ceremonial purity made it possible that the feast should be observed. How much of real devotion, and how much of mere eagerness to secure their official position, mingled with this zeal, cannot be determined. Probably there was a touch of both. Scrupulous observance of ritual is easy religion, especially if one’s position is improved by it. But the connection pointed out by the writer is capable of wide applications. The true purity and earnestness of preachers and teachers of all degrees has much to do with their hearers’ and scholars’ participation in the blessings of the Gospel. If priests are not pure, they cannot kill the passover. Earnest teachers make earnest scholars. Foul hands cannot dispense the bread of life.

There is a slight deviation from the law in the ritual as here stated, since it was prescribed that each householder should kill the passover lamb for his house. But from the time of Hezekiah the Levites seem to have done it for the congregation {2 Chronicles 30:17}, and afterwards for the priests also {2 Chronicles 35:11, 2 Chronicles 35:14}.

Ezra 6:21 tells that not only the returned exiles, but also ‘all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel,’ ate the passover. It may be questioned whether these latter were Israelites, the descendants of the residue who had not been deported, but who had fallen into idolatry during the exile, or heathens of the mixed populations who had been settled in the vacant country. The emphasis put on their turning to Israel and Israel’s God seems to favour the latter supposition. But in any case, the fact presents us with an illustration of the proper effect of the presence anywhere of a company of God’s true worshippers. If we purify ourselves, and keep the feast of the true passover with joy as well as purity, we shall not want for outsiders who will separate themselves from the more subtle and not less dangerous idolatries of modern life, to seek the Lord God of Israel. If His Israel is what it ought to be, it will attract. A bit of scrap-iron in contact with a magnet is a magnet. They who live in touch with Him who said, ‘I will draw all men unto Me’ will share His attractive power in the measure of their union with Him.

The week after the passover feast was, according to the ritual, observed as the feast of unleavened bread. The narrative touches lightly on the ceremonial, and dwells in conclusion on the joy of the worshippers and its cause. They do well to be glad whom God makes glad. All other joy bears in it the seeds of death. It is, in one aspect, the end of God’s dealings, that we should be glad in Him. Wise men will not regard that as a less noble end than making us pure; in fact, the two are united. The ‘blessed God’ is glad in our gladness when it is His gladness.

Notice the exulting wonder with which God’s miracle of mercy is reported in its source and its glorious result. The heart of the king was turned to them, and no power but God’s could have done that. The issue of that divine intervention was the completed Temple, in which once more the God of that Israel which He had so marvellously restored dwelt in the midst of His people.Ezra 6:14. They prospered through the prophesying of Haggai, &c. — This is a seasonable intimation that this great and unexpected success was not to be ascribed to chance, or to the kindness or good-humour of Darius, but unto God only, who, by his prophets, had required and encouraged them to proceed in the work, and by his mighty power disposed Darius’s heart to such kind and noble purposes. And Artaxerxes — That is, Artaxerxes Longimanus, who is here joined with Cyrus and Darius; because, though the temple was built before he came to the throne, in Darius’s reign, (Ezra 6:15,) yet it was afterward beautified and adorned in consequence of the commission he gave Ezra and Nehemiah for that purpose, the latter of whom was invested with full power to take measures for the building of the city, and also the ordering of all other things that concerned the Jewish nation and religion.6:13-22 The gospel church, that spiritual temple, is long in the building, but it will be finished at last, when the mystical body is completed. Every believer is a living temple, building up himself in his most holy faith: much opposition is given to this work by Satan and our own corruptions. We trifle, and proceed in it with many stops and pauses; but He that has begun the good work, will see it performed. Then spirits of just men will be made perfect. By getting their sins taken away, the Jews would free themselves from the sting of their late troubles. Their service was with joy. Let us welcome holy ordinances with joy, and serve the Lord with gladness.Artaxerxes - The Artaxerxes of marginal reference seems to be meant (i. e., Longimanus); he was one of those who together with Cyrus and Darius helped forward the completion of the work. Ezr 6:13-15. The Temple Finished.

13-15. Then Tatnai … did speedily—A concurrence of favorable events is mentioned as accelerating the restoration of the temple and infusing a new spirit and energy into the workmen, who now labored with unabating assiduity till it was brought to a completion. Its foundation was laid in April, 536 B.C. (Ezr 3:8-10), and it was completed on February 21, 515 B.C., being twenty-one years after it was begun [Lightfoot].

They prospered through the prophesying of Haggai: this is a seasonable intimation that this great and unexpected success was not to be ascribed to chance, nor to the kindness or good humour of Darius; but unto God only, who by his prophets had required and encouraged them to proceed in the work, and by his mighty power disposed Darius’s heart to such kind and noble purposes and actions.

Artaxerxes; who is thought to be either,

1. Xerxes, Darius’s son and successor, who is called also Artaxerxes, and Ahasuerus, who is here joined with his father Darius, possibly because he favoured the Jews, and promoted their cause with his father, and saw to the execution of his father’s decree, and was his father’s viceroy, if not made co-emperor with his father in his lifetime, which was not unusual. Or,

2. Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son of Xerxes, who was best known by the name of Artaxerxes; who is here joined with Cyrus and Darius, because though the temple was finished, as to the substance of the work, in Darius’s reign, Ezra 6:15, yet it was afterwards more fully completed and adorned by Artaxerxes, as is evident from Ezra 7:20,27, by whom Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem with a large commission and full power to take care about the building of the city, and all other things concerning the Jewish nation and religion. And the elders of the Jews builded,.... Went on with the building of the temple:

and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo; or grandson, as before; being animated and encouraged by them; and as they foretold and promised it would, be, so it was; they had success in their work, the Lord overruling the heart of Darius the king and his council in their favour:

and they builded and finished it; that is, the temple:

according to the commandment of the God of Israel; by the above prophets, who spoke to them, and prophesied in his name:

and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia; the commandment of Cyrus is in Ezra 1:1 that of Darius in this, Ezra 6:8, but who Artaxerxes is, and his commandment, is not easy to say; he cannot be the Artaxerxes between Cyrus and Darius, but one that followed the latter; besides, he was a hinderer of the building, Ezra 4:21, some think this was Xerxes the son and successor of Darius, and who might be partner with his father in the empire at this time, and so is joined with him in this commandment; which is more probable than that he should be his grandson Artaxerxes Longimamus, in whose reign the temple, it is supposed, was beautified and ornamented, though the exterior building of it was before finished; and so he is spoken of by anticipation; and still more plausible than that he should be, with others, Artaxerxes Mnemon, the son of Darius Nothus; but, after all, I am most inclined to think, with Aben Ezra, that he is Darius himself; and the words to be read, Darius, that is, Artaxerxes, king of Persia; Artaxerxes being, as he observes, a common name of the kings of Persia, as Pharaoh was of the kings of Egypt; though this is by some rejected (h); and who goes by this name in the continuance of this history, in whose seventh year, the year after this, Ezra went up to Jerusalem, and, in the twentieth of his reign, Nehemiah, Ezra 7:1, and I find Dr. Lightfoot (i) was of the same mind; and, according to Diodorus Siculus (k), the kings of Persia were called by the name of Artaxerxes after Mnemon; and so they might before; Cambyses is so called in Ezra 4:7. Herodotus (l) says the name signifies "a mighty warrior".

(h) Vid. Rainold de Lib. Apocryph. praelect. 31. p. 271. (i) Works, vol. 1. p. 139. (k) Bibliothec. l. 15. p. 400. (l) Erato, sive, l. 6. c. 98.

And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of {f} 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.

(f) Whom God stirs up to assure them that he would give their work good success.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. the elders of the Jews] cf. Ezra 5:5.

and they prospered] R.V. and prospered. Cf. Ezra 5:8.

through the prophesying] i.e. the success of the work was due in great measure to the encouragement and support rendered by the two prophets. The LXX. and 1 Esd. render as if the meaning were ‘in the time of the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah.’ The Vulgate gives ‘in accordance with the prophesying’ (juxta prophetiam).

Haggai … Zechariah] see on Ezra 5:1.

and according to the commandment of Cyrus, &c.] R.V. the decree of Cyrus, &c. The word in the original differs slightly from that in the previous clause. The R.V. preserves the distinction drawn between the Divine ‘commandment’ and the human ‘decree’.

Cyrus … Darius … Artaxerxes] The decrees of Cyrus and Darius have been given by the author (chap. Ezra 1:2-4, Ezra 6:3-12). The mention of a decree of Artaxerxes occasions a difficulty. (1) The decree of Artaxerxes quoted in Ezra 4:18-22 is hostile to the Jews and could not be intended in this verse. (2) How does Artaxerxes’ name occur in this passage, which is concerned with the reign of Darius? Certainly the context would lead us to expect the mention of only Cyrus and Darius. Some in consequence have supposed that the name of Artaxerxes has been inserted as a gloss, either in ignorance of the true chronology or for the sake of bringing together the names of the three great Persians, who were benefactors of the Jewish race. But the reading is attested by the LXX. version, and by 1Es 7:4. We must therefore suppose hat the Compiler has in this passage as well as in Ezra 4:6-23 disregarded the chronology of the context and anticipated later history.Verse 14. - And the elders of the Jews builded. See above, Ezra 5:5, 9. Probably the same as "the chief of the fathers" of Ezra 2:68, and Ezra 3:12. While the younger men were those who actually laboured, the elders superintended the work. Zerubbabel and Jeshua are no doubt included among them. And they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai... and Zechariah. It can well be understood that Haggai's earnest exhortations, his warnings, his threats, his sarcastic reproaches (Haggai 1:4, 9), his prophecies of a coming glory to the house greater than any known previously (Haggai 2:9), would rouse the spirit of the people, and make them labour diligently and perseveringly; but the visions of Zechariah seem less calculated to stir popular feeling. Still the knowledge that the angels of God were interesting themselves in the restoration of the temple (Zechariah 1:9-21; Zechariah 2:3, etc.), and the many promises that God would "comfort Zion," and "choose Jerusalem" (Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2), and that the temple should assuredly be brought to completion (Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 4:9), helped no doubt to strengthen the hands of Zerubbabel, and to keep up the zeal of the people. According to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. The commandments of Cyrus and of Darius have been set forth by the writer (see Ezra 1:3; Ezra 6:3-5, 7); but nothing has been said as yet of any commandment given by any Artaxerxes to "build" or "finish" the house. On the contrary, the only Arta-xerxes mentioned has been declared to have expressly forbidden the work to proceed (Ezra 4:7-22). The Artaxerxes of that place, moreover, reigned between Cyrus and Darius, whereas this Artaxerxes should, by the position of his name, be one of the successors of Darius. It has been suggested that Xerxes is intended, and that he may have been associated with his father during the building of the temple. But as Xerxes was the son of Atossa, whom Darius did not marry until he had ascended the throne (Herod., 3:88), he cannot have been more than five years old when the temple was finished. Nor was he ever associated on the throne by his father. Xerxes, therefore, cannot be meant. The next king to Xerxes, however, who really bore the name of Artaxerxes was a favourer of the Jews, and did give commandment to "beautify," and in that sense "finish," the house of the Lord (see Ezra 7:20, 27). We must suppose, therefore, that he is the person intended. The objection that the name is not spelt the same, but has a samech in one place instead of a schin, is too minute to require consideration. The Persians themselves spelt the name of Artaxerxes in more ways than one (Rawlinson, 'Cuneiform Inscriptions of Persia,' vol. 1. p. 348). "And a decree is (hereby) made by me, what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews, i.e., how you shall behave towards them (עם עבד equals עם עשׂה, Genesis 24:12.), to build this house, i.e., that this house may be built: namely, (ו expl.) of the royal moneys, of the custom (מדּה, see remarks on Ezra 4:13) on this side the river, let expenses (the cost of building) be punctually given to these men, that there be no hindrance." לבטּלא דּי־לא, that there be no cessation or leisure from work, i.e., that the work is not to be discontinued. On the construction of the לא with the following infinitive, comp. Daniel 6:9. The Vulgate renders the sense correctly by ne impediatur opus.
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