(1-15) The favourable decree of Darius, and its effect.
(1) Made a decree.—Rather, gave an order.
Were laid up.—In the original, laid down, in a chamber for the storing of documents and other treasures.
(2) At Achmetha.—That is, Ecbatana, the Median capital of Cyrus. It is probable that the original roll of parchment had been destroyed at Babylon by Smerdis, but a copy of it was found here, probably in a Chaldean transcript.
(3) Strongly laid.—“Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:28). The decree adds a word that signifies “with sufficient support.”
(5) And also let the golden and silver vessels . . . be restored.—The desecration of these vessels by Belshazzar (Daniel 5:2-3) was thus to be expiated. Every word, including the twice repeated “house of God,” is most emphatic.
(6) Now therefore, Tatnai.—Here there is an abrupt transition to the decree of Darius itself, the terms of which were either drawn up by Jewish help, or are freely rendered into the national phraseology by the historian.
Be ye far from thence.—That is, keep aloof from any kind of interference.
(8) Moreover.—I also make my decree.
Of the king’s goods.—From the tribute collected to be sent to Persia sums were previously to be deducted.
(9) Both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs.—An accurate account of the provision required for the sacrifices and meat-offerings of the daily service of the Temple: how accurate will be seen by consulting Exodus 29 and Leviticus 2.
Appointment here is simply the word: that is, of direction.
(10) That they may offer sacrifices . . . and pray for the life of the king.—Two ends are to be answered: the God of heaven is to be honoured, and the dynasty of Darius interceded for by the Jews. (Comp. Jeremiah 29:7.)
Of sweet savours.—The word occurs again only in Daniel 2:46, and there is translated “sweet odours,” meaning incense. The connection of this with the prayer following justifies the same translation here, and, moreover, indicates under what good instruction the decree was drawn up.
(11) Alter this word seems to mean “violate this command,” since the alteration of a decree was a thing unheard of.
Hanged is literally crucified. Among the Persians crucifixion was generally the nailing of a body to a cross after decapitation; among the Assyrians it was transfixion or impalement. Here the “being set up” refers of course to the man, and not to the beam.
(14) Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.—This verse includes all the agents in the great work with which the book deals: from Cyrus to Artaxerxes; the elders, that is, the heads of the Jews; the prophets (see Ezra 5:1); but all is from the God of Israel, whose commandment Cyrus and all others fulfilled.
Artaxerxes king of Persia.—Evidently the Artaxerxes Longimanus of the sequel, whose contributions and help did so much toward the perfecting of the general design, though the “finishing” here mentioned took place fifty years before his reign. Observe that he alone is called “king of Persia,” which shows that Ezra is writing in his time, and adds his name to the original record. Just as the later Artaxerxes is introduced, so the earlier Cyrus is, in this comprehensive review.
(15) The third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year.—The event around which this part of the history revolves is dated with due care; it was on the third day of the last month of the ecclesiastical year, B.C. 516-515. Haggai (Haggai 1:15) gives the exact date of the re-commencement: the time therefore was four years five months and ten days. But, dating from the first foundation (Ezra 3:10), no less than twenty-one years had elapsed.
(16) Children of the captivity.—This designation is peculiarly appropriate here, as in Ezra 6:20. “All Israel” soon follows.
(16-22) The dedication of the second Temple.
(17) Twelve he goats.—The people are not now “Judah” or “Judah and Benjamin,” but “all Israel.” On the Day of Atonement, on the new moons, and on all the great feasts the kid was the sin-offering for the people. But only here is one offered for each tribe.
(18) In the book of Moses.—The general arrangements only were given in the Pentateuch. The “courses” were of David’s time; and their restoration must have been imperfect, as neither were the twenty-four courses of priests complete nor were the Levites in full force.
(19) Upon the fourteenth day of the first month.—Recording the special celebration of the Passover—after the precedent of Hezekiah and Josiah—Ezra returns to the Hebrew language. The occasion was, as it were, a renewal of the redemption from Egypt, and another wilderness had been passed.
(20) Purified together.—This verse should be translated as follows, contrary to the present accentuation: “The priests were purified; and the Levites were purified as one man: all were pure; and killed.” In this fact the present Levitical and official purity of both orders surpassed that of Hezekiah’s celebration (2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 30:3). It had come to be the practice that the Levites slaughtered all the paschal lambs.
(21) Separated themselves . . .—Not proselytes from the heathen are intended, but the remnant of the Jews in the land who had consorted with the foreign populations introduced by the conquerors. Their intermarriages and other acts of conformity are constantly referred to throughout Ezra and Nehemiah.
(22) And kept the feast.—The Mazzoth, or week of unleavened bread, was the symbol of entire separation from evil, to the service of that God whom on the Passover they accepted as their God. The special joy of this feast was the feeling that the Lord had “turned the heart of the king of Assyria.” The king of Persia is so called as a remembrancer of their oppression by his forerunners.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ezra 6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent