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 and Zechariah — Concerning these prophets, see the books which bear their names. They are both thought to have been born at Babylon during the captivity, and both with united zeal encouraged the people to go on with the work of the temple. Upon the accession of Darius to the throne, Haggai, in particular, by reproaching the people with their indolence and insensibility; by telling them that they were careful enough to lodge themselves very commodiously, while the house of the Lord lay buried in its ruins; and by putting them in mind that the calamities of drought and famine, wherewith God had afflicted them since their return, were owing to their neglect in repairing the temple, prevailed with them to set about the work in good earnest; so that, by virtue of these reproofs, as well as some encouragements which God occasionally authorized him to give them, they brought the whole to a conclusion in a short time. The son of Iddo — That is, the grandson; for Zechariah was the son of Barachiah. Prophesied unto the Jews — Commanding them from God to return to building the temple, with a promise of his favour and assistance.
Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua 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.Ezra 5:2. Then rose up Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and began to build the house — It had been begun to be built long before, but from the first had gone on very slowly, and afterward had been quite intermitted, till those great men, excited by the prophets, set the work forward again. With them were the prophets of God helping them — Encouraging them by their presence, and by assuring them that God would be with them to protect them from their enemies, and give them success. It is supposed the work had been stopped about fifteen years. The first chapter of Haggai is the best comment on these two verses.
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?Ezra 5:3-4. Tatnai and Shethar-boznai — These were probably new governors, or prefects, whom Darius had sent; for it was usual with new kings to change the governors of provinces. Who hath commanded you to build this house? — No sooner did the Spirit of God stir up the friends of the temple to appear for it, but the evil spirit stirred up its enemies to appear against it. While the people builded and ceiled their own houses, their enemies gave them no molestation, (Haggai 1:4,) though the king’s order was to put a stop to the building of the city, Ezra 4:21. But when they fell to work again at the temple, then the alarm was taken, and all heads were at work to hinder it. Then said we unto them — We Jews; What are the names, &c. — Certainly there ought to be no interrogation in this verse, but the words should be rendered, Then we told them accordingly (that is, according to what they asked) what were the names of the men that made this building; that is, who were the chief undertakers and encouragers of the work. For it appears, from Ezra 5:10, that Tatnai and his companions inquired who were the chief promoters of the work, to which a true answer was immediately given.
Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?
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. But the eye of God was upon the elders, &c. — The peculiar favour, watchful providence, and powerful protection of God, giving them courage and resolution to go on with the work, notwithstanding the threats of their enemies; and so overruling the hearts and hands of their enemies, that they did not hinder them by force, as they might have done. While we are employed in God’s work, we are taken under his special protection, and his eye is upon us for good.
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:
They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.
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.Ezra 5:8. To the house of the great God — Whom the Jews account the great God, the God of gods, esteeming all others to be but little, or rather false gods. And, indeed, thus far the greater part of the Samaritans agreed with them.
Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?
We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.
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.Ezra 5:11. We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth — The God we worship is not a local deity; and therefore we cannot be charged with making a faction, or forming a sect in building this temple to his honour. But we pay our homage to the God on whom the whole creation depends, and therefore ought to be protected and assisted by all, and hindered by none. It is the wisdom as well as duty of kings to countenance the servants of the God of heaven. And build the house that was builded — Or rather, rebuild the house that was first built many years ago.
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.Ezra 5:12-14. After that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven — It was to punish us for our sins, that we were, for a time, put out of the possession of this house, and not because the gods of the nations had prevailed against our God. But in the first year of Cyrus, &c. — We have the royal decree of Cyrus to justify us, and bear us out in what we do. And he not only permitted, but charged and commanded us, to build this house, and to build it in its place, (Ezra 5:15,) the same place where it had stood before. And the vessels also, &c. — These also he delivered to one whom he intrusted with the care of them, and commanded him to restore them to their ancient place and use. And these we have to show in confirmation of what we allege.
But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.
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;
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.
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.Ezra 5:16. Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation, &c. — The building was begun according to this order, as soon as ever we were returned, so that we have not forfeited the benefit of the order, for want of pursuing it in time; still it has been in building; but because we have met with opposition, it is not finished. But observe, they mention not the falsehood and malice of the former governors, nor make any complaint of that, (though they had cause enough,) to teach us not to render bitterness for bitterness; nor the most just reproach for that which is most unjust; but to think it enough if we can obtain fair treatment for the future, without an invidious repetition of former injuries. Let us learn hence, with meekness and fear to give a reason of the hope that is within us, 1 Peter 3:15; rightly to understand, and then readily to declare what we do in God’s service, and why we do it.
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.Ezra 5:17. Now therefore, let there be search made, &c. — So they properly propose, that the real facts might be ascertained; in the king’s treasure-house — The house or place where the records of the kingdom were preserved very carefully, as rich treasures are wont to be. Thus these Samaritans seem to have given a fair representation of the cause of the Jews to the king, telling him only what was done namely, that they were rearing the temple, as persons that intended to worship, and not what was not done, that they were fortifying the city, as if they intended war; as those Samaritans that had written to Artaxerxes had falsely represented. It is probable, if their case had been as fairly stated to the former king (see the foregoing chapter) as it was now to Darius: he would not have ordered the work to be hindered. God’s people could not be persecuted if they were not belied. Let but the cause of God and truth be fairly stated and heard, and it will keep its ground.