William Kelly Major Works Commentary
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 Chapter 5
There is another thing, too, of exceeding interest, and that is, that the way that God set this to right was not by the king's authority, opening the door again, but the direct intervention of His own power - the power of the Spirit of God by the prophets (Ezra 5). It is by the prophets, not by the king - not by Darius. "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. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build" (vers. 1, 2). How bold faith is! And God justifies the faith that He gives, for although this looked as though it was a want of deference to the royal authority, the fact is that they had, at least, as good an authority for going on with the work. For, in point of fact, if Artaxerxes here stops the building of the house, Cyrus had previously authorised the building of it. They did what was quite right. They regarded as an accident what Artaxerxes brought in. They regarded it as a thing merely brought about by circumstances. They viewed it as a commandment, not of Persia, but of himself. They go back to what Cyrus had commanded. They knew well that it was one of the great maxims of the Persian kingdom that the laws of the Medes and Persians did not change. It was Artaxerxes that had changed.
Had Artaxerxes forbidden the building of the temple at the beginning, they might have been rather in a difficulty. There would have been the direct claim of God on the one hand, against that of the kingdom on the other, and the principle that we must obey God rather than men. But in point of fact, it was really, you see, between two kings, with this only difference, and a very great one, that the first and the greatest king, the founder of the Persian monarchy - was the very one that had commanded the building of the temple. They were right, therefore in acting upon his edict. The other had merely come in influenced by temporary circumstances, and he had indeed passed away. They were quite justified in falling back upon the word of Cyrus, but the truth of it is, that the grand thing that influenced their souls was that it was the word of God - through the prophets. I point out this to show how beautifully God can give, along with the word of the prophet, the justification of what His people did; and this is the more important because, as you know, this very thing is alluded to in the prophets. The prophet Isaiah particularly names, in connection with Cyrus, the building of the house of Jehovah. It is distinctly connected with him - not only the destruction of Babylon, but the building of Jehovah's house, so that the children of the captivity were amply justified, as God always gives faith His full protection as well as guidance.
So, then, the prophets began to stir up the hearts of the people, and the people went forward according to the word of the Lord, and God took care of the king. God took care that although influence had been brought out against the people through the wickedness of the Samaritan instigators, and Artaxerxes had been influenced to see that Israel, and the Jews, and Jerusalem particularly, had bean a rebellious city, now comes a new search. Darius looks into the matter, and it is a well known fact in history, as we find it exactly in this book, that Darius was always disposed to act upon what Cyrus had done. He had the greatest regard and reverence for Cyrus as the founder of the empire. He had a desire to be a restitutor of all the institutions of Cyrus. Hence, therefore, we can see the beautiful appropriateness, and Darius does not care in the least for Artaxerxes or anybody else. He goes back to Cyrus, and he finds that Cyrus fully authorised what the Jews wished, against their adversaries. Thus God knows how to divert and suit everything. Our business is not to be setting one king against another, but to go forward in the name of the Lord - to take His word as our full warrant, perfectly sure that as we seek to be guided by God, it is God's part to guide all men and all circumstances. That is His work, not ours. Our part, in short, is to go on in faith. He knows how to deal with those that oppose us.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.