Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.CHAPTER 5
1. The prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1)
2. The result of their ministry (Ezra 5:2)
3. Tatnai’s interference (Ezra 5:3-5)
4. The letter to Darius (Ezra 5:6-17)
Ezra 5:1. At that critical time when the enemy seemed to have triumphed, and they were losing their interest, God graciously intervened by sending them His two messengers the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Their great prophetic messages will be more fully taken up in our annotations on the books which contain their prophecies. The voice of prophecy is always heard when the people of God are in decline. The greatest prophets appeared at the darkest period of Israel--Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Two months before Zechariah began his prophetic ministry Haggai lifted up his voice and addressed Zerubbabel and Joshua (Jeshua). It was the Word of the LORD which he communicated to the princely and priestly leaders of the people. This first message gives an interesting light upon the situation of the remnant. (Read Haggai 1.) The people were saying “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.” This they must have said on account of their enemies; they were waiting for a more providential time, when they could pursue the building of the house. The next words of Haggai reveal the moral condition of the people: “is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?” Then the exhortation, “Consider your ways.” From these words we learn that they had settled down in comfort and were more occupied with building themselves houses than with finishing the house of the Lord. And God had dealt with them for this neglect; they had suffered on account of it (Haggai 1:6-11).
Ezra 5:2. When the burning message of Haggai was delivered the LORD revived them again. They arose from their state of apathy and began to build the house of the LORD, the prophets of God helping them. The book of Haggai tells us that they all obeyed the voice of the LORD their God ... and the people did fear before the LORD. No sooner had they obeyed and feared the LORD than another message came through the prophet: “I am with you, saith the LORD.” They no longer feared their enemies, nor the King’s command, but they feared the LORD, and at once the work was vigorously resumed and the house finished (6:15). The Word of the LORD was used in their revival. Every true and genuine revival always started and always will start with the Word of God, hearing and believing what God has spoken.
Ezra 5:3-5. This new start attracted at once the attention of their enemies. Tatnai, governor on this side of the river and Shethar-boznai with their companions appeared on the scene. (In cuneiform tablets of the first and third years of Darius Hystaspis, a governor Ustnai is mentioned. He is described in Assyrian as the governor of the province.) They asked the questions, “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up the wall? What are the names of the men that make this building?” (“We” in verse 4 is “they,” Tatnai and his companions, See verse 10.) Thus the enemy made another effort to hinder the work. He never fails to attack that which is done to the glory of God. But these enemies did not reckon with the Keeper of Israel who neither sleeps nor slumbers. Little did they know that what they were doing would lead to victory for God’s people and would result in finishing the house of God. The eye of God was upon the elders of the Jews. He gave them strength, courage and assurance, so that they could persevere in the work. God was with them, and who then could be against them? God restrained Tatnai from giving order to suspend the work, so that they worked right on. Blessed are all the servants of the LORD who toil in the fear of the LORD, knowing that His eye is upon them and that He sustains all who put their trust in Him.
Ezra 5:6-17. Then Tatnai and his associates sent a letter to King Darius, which gives the unreported details of their visit to Jerusalem. The letter tells us that the house was built with great stones and timber in the walls, and that all prospered in their hands. Zerubbabel and his companions had answered the inquiries to Tatnai as follows: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” Thus they gave a witness of themselves and then related what had taken place, and how Cyrus had made the decree to build the house of God. The letter stated that Sheshbazzar (Zerubbabel) had laid the foundation and that the house was still unfinished. Then follows the request: “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 the matter.” The builders must have had perfect peace about this letter, knowing that the LORD was with them.