|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1,2 The building of the temple was stopped about fifteen years. Then they had two good ministers, who urged them to go on with the work. It is a sign that God has mercy in store for a people, when he raises up prophets to be helpers in the way and work of God, as guides, overseers, and rulers. In Haggai, we see what great things God does by his word, which he magnifies above all his name, and by his Spirit working with it.
Verse 2. - Then rose up Zerubbabel... and Jeshua. Haggai's preaching was especially addressed to these two leaders (Haggai 1:1), and their spirit was especially "stirred up" (ibid. ver. 14) by his preaching. The prophets of God - Haggai and Zechariah - were with them, throughout their work, helping them; and that in various ways.
1. By direct command to the people - "Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house" (Haggai 1:8);
2. By warnings - "Because of mine house that is waste... therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit" (ibid. vers. 9, 10);
3. By exhortations - "Be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be ye strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work" (Haggai 2:4); and
4. By encouraging prophecy - "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it" (Zechariah 4:9); and "the glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Haggai 2:9). By these and similar means the two prophets aroused a spirit of enthusiasm, which caused the work to make rapid progress, and was an invaluable assistance.
CHAPTER 5:3-17 RENEWAL OF OPPOSITION ON THE PART OF THE NEIGHBOURING HEATHEN. LETTER WRITTEN BY THEM AND SENT TO DARIUS (vers. 3-17). Once more opposition showed itself. Tatnai, a high officer, called "governor on this side the river" (ver. 3), perhaps satrap of Syria, and Shethar-boznai, or Sitrabarzanes, a Persian noble probably, at this time took the lead, and learning that the building was making progress, came in person to Jerusalem, and demanded to know by what authority the temple and city were being restored. Zerubbabel seems to have answered, "By the authority of a decree of Cyrus, issued in the year that he became king of Babylon" (ver. 13); whereupon a second question was asked, "What are the names of the men responsible for carrying on the work?" Zerubbabel answered that he was alone responsible, giving his name as Sheshbazzar, and declaring himself to be acting under a commission received from Cyrus (ver. 15), and never revoked. Thereupon Tatnai and Shethar-boznai seem to have proposed a cessation of the building until reference could be made to Darius and his pleasure learnt (ver. 5); but Zerubbabel declined to agree to this, and the work proceeded without intermission (ibid.). Meanwhile, a letter was written to Darius, not unfairly stating the case, and suggesting that the state archives should be searched for the decree ascribed to Cyrus, that it might be seen what exactly it was that the decree sanctioned, and further that the king should expressly declare what his own pleasure was in the matter (ver. 17). This letter Tatnai, in his capacity of satrap, despatched to the court by special messenger, and so left the business to the decision of Darius and his counsellors, without further seeking to influence him. Remark the strong contrast between this despatch and that of the Samaritans. In the Samaritan letter private pique and enmity show themselves - Jerusalem is "the rebellious and the bad city" (Ezra 4:12), "hurtful unto kings and provinces" (ibid. ver. 15); its intention to revolt is assumed (ver. 13); the king is warned that his dominion and revenue are in danger (ver. 16); no hint is given of there having ever been any such document as the decree of Cyrus; no reference is made to Sheshbazzar or the royal commission that he had received; altogether, the case is stated as strongly as possible against the Jews, with great and manifest unfairness. Here, on the contrary, where the person who takes up the matter is the Persian governor, a dispassionate tone prevails; no charges are made; no abuse uttered; the letter is confined to a statement of facts and an inquiry; the Jews are allowed to give their own account of their proceedings, nearly half the letter being their statement of their own case (vers. 11-15); the decree of Cyrus is brought into prominence, asserted on the one hand, not denied on the other; that it should be searched for is suggested; and finally there is a simple request that the king will declare his will in respect of the building.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak,.... Whose spirits were stirred up and quickened by the ministry of the prophets, the Lord accompanying it by his Spirit, Haggai 1:12,
and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem; to go on with the building of it; for they had laid the foundation before, and perhaps had carried it up to some little height, at least, before they ceased from it, Ezra 3:10
and with them were the prophets of God helping them; with words of counsel, comfort, and exhortation, directing and encouraging them, and promising them protection and success: these are the prophets before named.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Then rose up Zerubbabel … and Jeshua … began to build the house of God—The strong appeals and animating exhortations of these prophets gave a new impulse to the building of the temple. It was in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystaspes that the work, after a long interruption, was resumed.
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