Be it known to the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is built with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goes fast on, and prospers in their hands.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)To the house of the great God.—A solemn tribute to the God of the Jews, which, however, the decree of Cyrus enables us to understand in this official document. Tatnai probably dwelt at Damascus, and when he went to Jerusalem was deeply impressed. But he only gives a statement of the progress which he observed in the Temple. “The walls here are the walls within the Temple, not the city walls.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.The great God; whom the Jews account the great God, the God of gods, esteeming all others to be but little and false gods. Ezra 4:12 that we went into the province of Judea; which from a kingdom was reduced to a province, and was become a part of the Babylonian, now Persian, monarchy, see Ezra 2:1 to the house of the great God; as the Jews called the Lord their God; and even the Heathens had a notion that there was one supreme God, though they worshipped inferior ones; and some had a notion that Jehovah the God of the Jews was he:
which is builded with great stones; marble stones; as Jarchi (q), stones of rolling, as it may be rendered; which, according to Aben Ezra, were so large and heavy, that they could not be carried, but were obliged to roll them:
and timber is laid in the walls, cedar wood, as Aben Ezra interprets it, for beams, for flooring and raftering; or rather, is put upon the walls, for the lining and wainscoting of them, which was done with cedar wood:
and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands; and, unless timely prevented, will soon be finished.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. the province of Judea] R.V. the province of Judah. On ‘the province’ see Ezra 2:1. The A.V. gives the title ‘Judea’, which belongs to a later time, as the name of a country inhabited by the Jews. It occurs first in the Apocrypha (Tob 1:18; 1Ma 3:34; 2Ma 1:10, &c.). ‘Judah’ occurs frequently in Ezra, e.g. Ezra 4:6, Ezra 5:1. The LXX. gives εἰς τὴν Ἰονδαίαν χώραν: the Vulgate ‘ad Judæam provinciam’.
to the house of the great God] The governor uses terms of great reverence towards the God of the Jews. In consequence some have called in question the genuineness of this letter. But there is in reality nothing unusual in the use of such expressions by Eastern potentates with reference to the gods of a conquered or subject country.
with great stones] Literally ‘stones of rolling’. Stone, that is to say, too large for ordinary transport and requiring to be moved on rollers. The immense size of the stones used in the construction of the temples in early days is an unending source of amazement, e.g. Baalbec.
The LXX. renders by ‘chosen stones’ 1Es 6:9, by ‘polished stones very precious’: misunderstanding the original. Such adjectives applied to the foundations of the Temple were perhaps before the mind of the Apostle when he employs the metaphor of the building, cf. 1 Peter 2:4-7 (Isaiah 28:16). Vulg. ‘lapide impolito’.
timber is laid in the walls] i.e. beams or joists for supporting floor or roof. Some suggest party-walls, for the division of chambers.
goeth fast on] R.V. goeth on with diligence. ‘With diligence’, a Persian word ‘osparna’ (used also Ezra 6:8; Ezra 6:12-13, Ezra 7:17; Ezra 7:21; Ezra 7:26) which denotes care and attention as well as energy.
in their hands] referring to the Jews, implied in the words ‘the province of Judah’.Verse 8. - We went into the province of Judaea. It has been supposed (Pusey's 'Daniel,' p. 571), on the strength of a doubtful passage in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:7), that Tatnai ordinarily resided at Jernsalem. But this expression indicates the contrary. Most probably the satrap of Syria held his court at Damascus. The house of the great God is a remarkable expression in the mouth of a heathen. It has some parallels, e.g. the expressions of Cyrus in Ezra 1:2, 3, and of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:47 and Daniel 3:29; but they were persons who had been brought to the knowledge that Jehovah was the one true God, under very peculiar and miraculous circumstances. Tatnai, on the other hand, represents the mere ordinary Persian official; and his acknowledgment of the God of the Jews as "the great God" must be held to indicate the general belief of the Persians on the subject (see the comment on Ezra 1:2). Which is builded. Rather, "being builded." With great stones. Literally, "stones of rolling," which is commonly explained as stones so large that they had to be rolled along the ground. But the squared stones used in building neither were, nor could be, rolled; they are always represented as dragged, generally on a rough sledge. And it is not at all probable that in the "day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10) the Jews were building with very large stones. The LXX. translate "choice stones;" the Vulgate "unpolished" or "rough stone." Some of the Jewish expositors suggest "marble." And timber is laid. A good deal of timber had been employed in the old temple, but chiefly for the floors of chambers (1 Kings 6:10), for the internal lining of the walls (ibid. vers. 9, 15), and probably for the roofing. In the new temple, timber seems to have been employed also as the main material of the party-walls. Here again we have a trace of the economy necessary in the "day of small things." Ezra 3:6, etc.) the commencement of the building properly so called, upon the foundations laid, Ezra 3:10; for what was done after this foundation-laying till a stop was put to the work, was so unimportant that no further notice is taken of it. The "prophets of God" are those mentioned Ezra 5:1, viz., Haggai, and Zechariah the son, i.e., grandson, of Iddo, for his father's name was Berechiah (see Introd. to Zechariah). Haggai entered upon his work on the first day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius; and his first address made such an impression, that Zerubbabel and Joshua with the people set about the intermitted work of building as early as the twenty-fourth day of the same month (comp. Haggai 1:1 and Haggai 1:14.). Two months later, viz., in the eighth month of the same year, Zechariah began to exhort the people to turn sincerely to the Lord their God, and not to relapse into the sins of their fathers.
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