Bible Commentaries
Ezra 5

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5

Ezra - Chapter 5

Prophetic Exhortation, verses 1-5

Two of the prophets of the returned remnant are introduced in this passage. They were writing prophets, whose. inspired messages are recorded in the Old Testament. God used the ministry of these two preachers to spur the remnant to resume the construction of the temple. Haggai’s short prophecy very graphically presents the situation in Jerusalem at the time. The people were reluctant, perhaps afraid, to resume the building, and he showed that they were losing God’s blessings by their procrastination (Haggai 1:2-11).

Zechariah uses a number of vivid visions from the Lord to portray the situation, encouraging the remnant to rise up and build the temple. In his apocalyptical visions (chapters 9-14) Zechariah gives a number of prophecies relating to both the first and second advent of the Lord. These things were meant to give confidence and encouragement to the depressed remnant in Jerusalem. They seemed to face opposition every way they turned, but God had not forgot them, and would give them success at last.

Zerubbabel and Jesua acted upon the word of the Lord by these two prophets and called the people back to the work of building. At the same time the opposition reappeared, this time in a new set of rulers.

Tatnai was the new governor, joined by another high official named Shethar-boznai. Their inquiry of the Jews’ business does not seem, however, to be done as belligerently as was that of their predecessors. The people had repented of their ways under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and the Lord had softened attitudes toward them, to give them the ultimate victory the prophets had promised if they would believe.

Tatnai inquired by what authority they were rebuilding the temple and wall. Here the wall evidently refers to the wall enclosing the temple itself. The English translation of verse 4, in the King James Version, is somewhat confusing, making it seem that the Jews ask the Persian officials the names of those doing the building. Other versions seem to give the more accurate translation, "Then we told them accordingly what the names of the men were who were reconstructing this building" (New American Standard), thus making the verse a statement rather than a question. Tatnai’s report to the new king, Darius, appears to be less antagonistic than had been that of Rehum. Because of God’s favor on the Jews they were not compelled to cease the work while they waited an answer to Tatnai’s report to Darius.

Verses 6-17

More letters, Verses 6-17

Tatnai’s letter to king Darius was informative and much more fair than had been that sent by Rehum at the earlier time, although he was still associated with some of the Samaritan people in the inquiry. He told the king of his trip to Judea and to "the house of the great God." The Jew’s building must have been well along, for he referred to the temple as being built with great stones and timber "laid in the walls." The work, he reported, was advancing rapidly. Tatnai had inquired as to the Jews’ authority for building and the names of the elders who were in the leadership.

The Jews had told the story of their temple to the Persian officers. The house, they said, was for "the God of heaven and earth," whose servants they were. It had been first built many years ago by a great king of Israel (Solomon, of course). They quite honestly admitted that their sins had provoked their God’s wrath, and He had allowed Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to destroy the house and to carry them into captivity. However, they had received permission from king Cyrus in the first year of his reign over Babylon to return and restore the house of God. Since Cyrus had conquered Babylon, though he was Persian, the Jews thought of him primarily as the king of Babylon.

Continuing, Darius was informed how Cyrus had taken the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple at Jerusalem and returned them to Jerusalem with the returning Jews.

They had been conveyed under the hand of Shesh-bazzar, the governor of the Jews. So they had come to Jerusalem, and the foundation of the temple had been laid. The long delay due to the interruption of Cambyses and Artaxerxes Smerdis in not mentioned, but is implied in the statement that the temple had been building since the Jews’ early return, "and yet it is not finished."

Tatnai advises that Darius should make search of the records to see if there is actually a decree of Cyrus for this building in Jerusalem. When a determination has been made he asks that he be enlightened as to the king’s pleasure in the matter. There is a marked difference in the spirit of the two informers against the Jews. Again it can be contributed to the hand of the Lord, following the renewed faith of the Jews, when Haggai and Zechariah had preached to them.

More observations: 1). The Lord always has those to comfort His people; 2) God’s purposes cannot be successfully resisted; 3) truthfulness is always the right policy for God’s children, whomever they are dealing with; 4) things go well for the obedient children of God.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 5". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.