Ezra 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?
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(3-17) Tatnai’s appeal to Darius.

(3) Tatnai, governor on this side the river.—Satrap, or Pechah, of the entire province of Syria and Phœnicia, and therefore with a jurisdiction over Judaea, and over Zerubbabel its Pechah or sub-Satrap. What Shimshai was to the Samaritan Pechah, Rehum, Shethar-boznai seems to be to Tatnai—his secretary.

Who hath commanded you?—It is obvious that the overthrow of Smerdis, the Magian hater of Zoroastrianism and destroyer of temples, had encouraged the builders to go on without fearing molestation from the Court of Darius. Moreover, the two prophets had made their duty too plain to be deferred. Still, the decree of the preceding chapter had never been expressly revoked.

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.

5:3-17 While employed in God's work, we are under his special protection; his eye is upon us for good. This should keep us to our duty, and encourage us therein, when difficulties are ever so discouraging. The elders of the Jews gave the Samaritans an account of their proceedings. Let us learn hence, with meekness and fear, to give a reason of the hope that is in us; let us rightly understand, and then readily declare, what we do in God's service, and why we do it. And while in this world, we always shall have to confess, that our sins have provoked the wrath of God. All our sufferings spring from thence, and all our comforts from his unmerited mercy. However the work may seem to be hindered, yet the Lord Jesus Christ is carrying it on, his people are growing unto a holy temple in the Lord, for a habitation of God through the Spirit.Governor on this side the river - Compare Ezra 4:10 note. Tatnai was apparently satrap of Syria, which included the whole tract west of the Euphrates from Cilicia to the borders of Egypt. Zerubbabel must have been, to some extent, under his authority.

Who hath commanded you to build? - There was no doubt a formal illegality in the conduct of Zerubbabel and Jeshua: since all edicts of Persian kings continued in force unless revoked by their successors. But they felt justified in disobeying the decree of the Pseudo-Smerdis (see the Ezra 4:7 note), because the opposition between his religious views and those of his successor was matter of notoriety.

3, 4. At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river—The Persian empire west of the Euphrates included at this time Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Phœnicia, and other provinces subject to Darius. The empire was divided into twenty provinces, called satrapies. Syria formed one satrapy, inclusive of Palestine, Phœnicia, and Cyprus, and furnished an annual revenue of three hundred fifty talents. It was presided over by a satrap or viceroy, who at this time resided at Damascus. Though superior to the native governors of the Jews appointed by the Persian king, he never interfered with their internal government except when there was a threatened disturbance of order and tranquillity. Tatnai, the governor (whether this was a personal name or an official title is unknown), had probably been incited by the complaints and turbulent outrages of the Samaritans against the Jews; but he suspended his judgment, and he prudently resolved to repair to Jerusalem, that he might ascertain the real state of matters by personal inspection and enquiry, in company with another dignified officer and his provincial council. Tatuai and Shethar-boznai; not Rehum and Shimshai &c., who were either dead, or removed from their offices by the new emperor Darius, as is very usual.

At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions,.... These were new governors and officers under the king of Persia in those parts, the old ones, Rehum, Shimshai, &c. being either dead, or removed upon this new king coming to the throne: these came to the Jews:

and said thus unto them, who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? for it seems by this time they had raised up the walls of the temple from its foundation to some height; for of these it must be understood, see Ezra 4:8 for it can hardly be thought they were as yet enclosing it with a wall round about it; now they asked them by what authority they did this? who set them to work? and what were their names? for that this question was asked, though not here expressed, is clear from Ezra 4:10 and to which an answer is given in the next verse.

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?
3–17. The Complaint against the Jews

3. And] Omit R.V. Not in the original.

Tatnai, governor on this side the river] R.V. Tattenai, the governor beyond the river. Tattenai appears as Sisinnes in 1Es 6:3, as Θανθεναὶ in the LXX. The name is not found except in this connexion. He was governor (probably satrap) of the whole district of Syria and Cilicia on the west of the Euphrates. There were twenty satrapies in the Persian kingdom (Herod. III. 89). Tattenai was therefore a man of the greatest eminence in Syria, next to the king himself. The expression ‘governor beyond the river’ is not due to the writer living on the eastern or Babylonian side of the river. It was the technical title of the governor of that satrapy. It appears on the coins of the Persian empire. Thus upon one coin appears the inscription “Maydi who is over the ‘Abhar Nahara’ (country beyond the River) and Cilicia”.

Tattenai was the superior official, to whom Zerubbabel, the pekhah or governor of the small district of Jerusalem and its neighbourhood, would have to give account upon any report being made of treacherous action.

Shethar-boznai] R.V. Shethar-bozenai. 1Es 6:3, ‘Sathrabuzanes’, LXX. Σαθαρβουζαναί, has been conjectured to be the Persian ‘Chitrabarschana’ (cf. a Persian name, ‘Satibarzanes’, in Arrian). His position is not described. Perhaps a ‘secretary’ to Tattenai, as Shimshai to Rehum (Ezra 4:8).

Who hath commanded you] R.V. gave yon a decree. The original requires the more weighty and official ‘decree’. Cf. Ezra 4:21, Ezra 5:13.

to build this house] referring to the Temple: the first subject of complaint: very different from the passage in Ezra 4:8-23.

and to make up this wall] R.V. ‘and to finish this wall’. 1Es 6:4, ‘By whose appointment do ye build this house and this roof, and perform all the other things?

We may assume that complaints from the Samaritans induced the satrap to inquire what authority the Jews had received to undertake the work. Seventeen or eighteen years had elapsed since Cyrus issued his decree. Two other kings had succeeded him. The third, Darius, was only just assuring his position upon the throne after two years of incessant warring. During this interval the affairs of a comparatively unimportant city in Syria may well have been almost forgotten.

Verse 3. - Tatnai, governor on this side the river. The title given to Tatnai is the same which is assigned to Zerubbabel, both in Ezra 6:7 and in Haggai (Haggai 1:1, 14, etc.), viz., pechah, which is a somewhat vague term of authority, translated sometimes "captain" (1 Kings 20:24; Daniel 3:2, 3, etc.), sometimes "deputy (Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3), but generally, as here, "governor." The etymology is uncertain, but seems not to be Semitic (see Pusey's 'Daniel,' pp. 570-572). The respective rank of Tatnai and Zerub-babel is indicated, not by this term, but by what follows it. Tatnai was pechah "beyond the river," i.e. governor of the whole tract west of the Euphrates; Zerubbabel was pechah of Judah only. A Greek writer would have called the one "satrap of Syria," the other "sub-satrap of Judaea." It was the duty of Tatuai to watch the proceedings of his sub-satraps. Ezra 5:3When the building was recommenced, the governor on this side Euphrates, and other royal officials, evidently informed of the undertaking by the adversaries of the Jews, made their appearance for the purpose of investigating matters on the spot. עליהון אתּה, came to them, to the two above-named rulers of the community at Jerusalem. Tatnai (lxx Θανθαναΐ́) was פּחה, viceroy, in the provinces west of Euphrates, i.e., as correctly expanded in 1 Esdras, of Syria and Phoenicia, to which Judaea with its Pecha Zerubbabel was subordinate. With him came Shethar-Boznai, perhaps his secretary, and their companions, their subordinates. The royal officials inquired: "Who has commanded you to build this house, and to finish this wall?" The form לבנא here and Ezra 5:13 is remarkable, the infinitive in Chaldee being not בנא, butמבנא; compare Ezra 5:2, Ezra 5:17, and Ezra 6:8. Norzi has both times לבּנא, as through the Dagesh forte were compensating for an omitted .מ אשּׁרנא which occurs only here and Ezra 5:9, is variously explained. The Vulgate, the Syriac, and also the Rabbins, translate: these walls. This meaning best answers to the context, and is also linguistically the most correct. It can hardly, however, be derived (Gesenius) from אשׁר, but rather from אשׁן, in Chaldee אשׁוּן, firm, strong-walls as the strength or firmness of the building. The form אשּׁרנא has arisen from אשׁנּא, and is analogous to the form בּשׁנה.

(Note: The interpretations of the lxx, τὴν χορηγίαν ταύτην, meaning these building materials, and of 1 Esdr. 6:4, τὴν στέγην ταύτην καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πάντα, this roof and all besides, for which Bertheau decides, without considering that שׁכלל may mean to complete, and not to prepare for anything, are but conjectures.)

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