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Ezr 5:1 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.
Ver. 1. Then the prophets ] He that is now called a prophet was previously called a seer, 1 Samuel 9:9 , because his eyes were enlightened, Numbers 24:3 , and he saw visions of God, Eze 1:1 Daniel 1:17 , prophets they were afterwards called, that is, interpreters of God’s will by his command: Exodus 7:1 , "Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet," that is, thine interpreter. By the mouth of these holy prophets God spake to his people in all ages, Luke 1:70 . Yet not without some intermissions of prophecy, as the Church complaineth, Psalms 74:9 , till that Cathimath Chazon (as the Jews call it), the sealing up of prophecy, which they place between the prophet Malachi and John Baptist, who was more than a prophet. The original word, Nabi, signifieth one that, from the inward counsel of God, uttereth oracles.
Haggai the prophet ] Who was not an angel incarnate, as Origen and Jerome held; but a young saint (as Epiphanius describeth him), and might therefore well be an old angel, if he lived to be old: Iuvenis admodum ex Babylone profectus est Hierosolymam, &c. An exceedingly young man left from Babylon for Jerusalem. (Epiph. lib. de Proph. Vit.). See more of him, Haggai 1:1 . See Trapp on " Hag 1:1 "
And Zechariah the son of Iddo ] That is, of "Berechiah the son of Iddo," Zechariah 1:1 , See Trapp on " Zec 1:1 " These two God sent within two months of each other, in the eighteenth year of the people’s return out of Babylon; which happened to be in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystaspes, in 520 BC. according to Ussher’s Chronology. Christ usually sent his prophets and apostles by couples, for mutual comfort, and greater confirmation.
Prophesied unto the Jews ] Who had brought a judgment of sore famine upon themselves by their slackness and backwardness to rebuild the house of God, Haggai 1:4 ; Haggai 1:6 ; See Trapp on " Hag 1:4 " See Trapp on " Hag 1:6 " and learn, of the heathen historian, to prefer God’s interest before thine own, or else to look for his curse, τα του Yεου πρεσβυτερα η τα των ανθρωπων (Herodot.). For he is a great King, and stands upon his seniority, Malachi 1:14 ; he will have us first to seek his kingdom, Matthew 6:33 , and to give unto God the things that are God’s, or we shall hear of him, to our small comfort, Matthew 22:21 .
In the name of the God of Israel ] Who both authorized and enabled them. God sendeth none whom he gifteth not. The apostles also were ambassadors in the same name, 2 Corinthians 5:20 , and so colleagues to the prophets, Luke 10:16 , see 1 Peter 1:12 ; angels admiring the matter of their embassy, and their happy harmony.
Even unto them ] Who yet were very little amended by their seventy years’ captivity. Afflictions (God’s hammers) had but beaten upon cold iron (as it were), as appears by this history, and by the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; whom, for his labour and love to their souls, they afterwards slew between the temple and the altar, Matthew 23:35 , serving him as Hercules did his tutor Linus, whom, for a few sharp words given him, he knocked on the head, Hoc ictu ceu didactro accepto Linus mortuus est (Buchol.). Or, as their ancestors did the prophet Isaiah, whom they sawed asunder (saith Jerome out of the Rabbis), because he had called them princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:10 . This is the world’s wages to faithful ministers.
Ezr 5:2 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.
Ver. 2. Then rose up Zerubbabel ] Called before Sheshbazzar, the Tirshata. Philo calleth him Barachias. Men in those days had sundry names; which must be noted, or else confusion will not be avoided; according to the notation of Zerubbabel’s name, Alienus a confusione, ut quidam perhibent. It is said of him, that he brought back some of the people in the seventeenth year of his age; that he continued governor fifty-eight years (some say many more), and that he began to make use of the ministry of these prophets in the thirty-fourth year of his life. His rising up here implieth his forwardness, speed, and diligence in the work.
And Jeshua the son of Jozadak ] Colleague to Zerubbabel and συμπαραστατης , as Aaron was to Moses. This Johoshua or Jeshua began his office of high priest in 536 BC, and held it thirty-six years, eight whereof were spent in an embassage to Darius, king of Persia, say historians.
And began to build the house of God ] i. e. They went on with the building begun before, Ezra 3:10 , and not forbidden by the king of Persia to be finished; only he commanded them to desist from building the city, Ezra 4:12 ; Ezra 4:21 . It was therefore the people’s sloth and self-seeking that kept back the work. See the notes on Haggai 1:2 ; Haggai 1:4 . See Trapp on " Hag 1:2 " See Trapp on " Hag 1:4 "
And with them were the prophets of God helping them ] Verbo et opere, saith Junius; both by word and deed. "The words of the wise are as goads," Ecclesiastes 12:11 , pricking men forward to duty; and especially when themselves set sides and shoulders to the work, as haply these prophets did, for the people’s greater encouragement, Exemplis sciola hac aetate magis aedificant ministri, quam concionibus.
Ezr 5:3 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?
Ver. 3. At the same time ] So soon as ever they began but to build God’s house they meet with opposition; which is still Evangelii Genius, guardian spirit of the truth, saith Calvin, the bad angel that haunts the cause of God, and dogs it at the heels. Satan, out of his inveterate envy and enmity, can in no wise brook the propagation of the truth and dilatation of Christ’s curtains. No sooner is Israel out of Egypt, but Pharaoh pursueth them. No sooner had Hezekiah kept that solemn passover, but Sennacherib comes up against him. Esau began to jostle Jacob in the womb, that no time might be lost; and when he set his face homewards, Laban follows him with one troop, Esau meets him with another; both with hostile intentions. Dream not of a delicacy in God’s ways, but suffer hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
And their companions ] Cum collegio suo (Junius), a company of captives combined to do mischief. See Ezra 4:9 . See Trapp on " Ezr 4:9 "
Who hath commanded you to build this house? ] Their own houses they built, and were never once questioned. All the while our Saviour lay in his father’s shop, and meddled only with carpenter’s chips, the devil and his imps never troubled him; but when he was entering upon his ministry he is sharply assaulted in the wilderness. And when he took upon him to purge the temple, and better inform the people, presently the leaders came upon him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" Matthew 21:23 . Like unto these were the questions put by the Papists to those noble reformers, Luther, Zuinglius, &c. Farellus was at his first coming to Geneva more harshly handled, and by the bishop and his clerks thus accosted: Quid tu, diabole nequissime, ad hanc civitatem perturbandam accessisti? What a devil makest thou here to make this disturbance &c., and so was driven out of the city, where afterwards he wrought a glorious reformation (Scultet. Annal.).
Ezr 5:4 Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?
Ver. 4. Then said we unto them ] We (Tatnai, Shetherboznai, and their companions) thus said, and thus inquired; see Ezra 5:16 , and be sensible how wicked men conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity, "and their belly prepareth deceit," Job 15:35 . Not their heads only are hammering it, but their bellies are hatching it; they take a kind of contemplative kind of pleasure in their wily projects, as the epicure doth in his dainties; he delights to be acting them over beforehand.
What are the names of the men ] They that are minded to do mischief unto others will do what they can to know their names. I have heard of one (saith Master Fox) who being sent to the Christian congregation in Queen Mary’s days in London to take their names, and to espy their doings, yet in being among them was converted, and cried them all mercy (Acts and Mon. fol. 1881). Tremellius readeth this text otherwise. Then answered we them thus, and [told them] what were the names of the men who built this building. He means, as I conceive, We were not ashamed or afraid to make them around and ready answer; and to give them the names of our chieftains, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, Zechariah, &c. This was better than that of those cold friends to religion, 1 Kings 18:11 , who (when the prophet had said, If the Lord be God, follow him) held their peace, and thought it good policy to reserve themselves. Better also than that of the bondslaves of Antichrist, who receive his mark in their hand, the which they may, as occasion serveth, cover or discover, Revelation 13:16 . The servants of the God of heaven and earth (such as were these in this chapter, Ezr 5:11 ) receive his mark in their foreheads, where it may be seen and read of all, Revelation 7:3 . The primitive Christians were called in derision Confitentes; and Chrysostom saith of them, that they would not be kept from visiting the martyrs in prison, tametsi multis terroribus, &c., though they were much threatened, and punished for so doing (Hom. Deu 2:1-37 Martyr.).
Ezr 5:5 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].
Ver. 5. But the eye of their God was upon the elders ] Not the eye of his general providence only (which like unto a well drawn picture vieweth every one that cometh into a room), but the eye of his special grace and favour, Psalms 34:15 . He looked upon them; as afterwards the Son of man stood and looked upon St Stephen combating with his cruel persecutors, and clapt him on the shoulders, as it were, saying, Cheer up, Vincenti dabo, &c., Acts 7:56 . They also looked up to him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed, Psalms 34:5 . Yea, they were steeled, as it were, and made more mettleful; like as Moses and Micaiah, when they had once seen God in his favour, they cared not for the menaces of angry monarchs.
That they could not cause them to cease ] Saints dare undertake and undergo anything for the glory of their God. The heavens shall sooner fall than I will go against my conscience, said that martyr. In nothing be terrified by your adversaries, Philippians 1:28 .
Till the matter came to Darius ] Nor then neither; for he encouraged and furthered them, Ezra 6:1-15
And then they returned answer ] Or, Then answer was returned from the court, and the Jews had a sufficient authority for what they did.
Ezr 5:6 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:
Ver. 6. The Apharsachites ] That is, Persians, sent as deputies by the king of Persia, to see the peace kept, and good orders observed.
Ezr 5:7 They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.
Ver. 7. All peace ] See Trapp on " Ezr 4:17 " Peace is a complexive mercy - Pacem te poscimus omnes. It is well with bees when they make a noise in their hive; but with men when they are at quiet in their hearts, in their houses, and in the public.
Ezr 5:8 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.
Ver. 8. To the house of the great God ] So they style him, because the Pews called and counted him so. The Lord your God, saith Moses, is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, &c., Deuteronomy 10:17 . He is Fortissimus Maximus, Most strong and most great. as Tremelius there renders it: yea, he is a degree above the superlative. Not only is God great, as here; greater, Job 33:12 ; greatest, Psalms 95:3 ; but greatness itself, Psalms 145:3 , and to him all other gods (whether deputed or reputed) are but deastri, deunculi, dii minorum gentium, petty deities, poor businesses.
Ezr 5:9 Then asked we those elders, [and] said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?
Ver. 9. Who commanded you? ] Chaldee, Who hath made you a decree? See Trapp on " Ezr 5:3 "
Ezr 5:10 We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that [were] the chief of them.
Ver. 10. We asked their names also ] See Ezra 5:4 .
That were the chief of them ] For the rude multitude follow as they are led. And as in a beast, the whole body goeth after the head, so do most people after their rulers and ringleaders; hence that severity of God, Numbers 25:4 , "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun."
Ezr 5:11 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.
Ver. 11. We are the servants of the God of heaven ] And in that respect, higher than all the kings on the earth, Psalms 89:27 (for all his servants are sons, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, Rom 8:17 ), who have held it no small honour to be called his vassals. See how bold these brave men bear themselves upon this relation to the God of heaven and earth, and how courageously they stand to their work, and stout it out with their adversaries. See Trapp on " Pro 28:1 "
These many years ago ] Five hundred at least.
Ezr 5:12 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.
Ver. 12. But after that our fathers had provoked ] Sin is the breeder of dissention that sets heaven and earth at odds, and hurleth confusion over the whole creation, Isa 59:2 Numbers 11:31 . There were more remarkable expressions of God’s anger upon man’s sin in the dead body of a man than of a beast: one made unclean but till the evening; the other, for seven days.
He gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar ] This is still the property of sin unpardoned, to raise the Posse comitatus, all the armies of God against the sinner.
Ezr 5:13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon [the same] king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.
Ver. 13. But in the first year of Cyrus ] See Trapp on " Ezr 1:1 "
Ezr 5:14 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;
Ver. 14. The temple of Babylon ] For there also was a temple built for Bel. Faciunt et vespae favos: simiae imitantur homines. The devil will needs be God’s ape, and affects to be semblably worshipped.
Ezr 5:15 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.
Ver. 15. Take these vessels, go, carry them ] Go thyself in person, and see that all things be well carried there. This pleased Zerubbabel well; it confined him to live in that element where he would live; as if one should be confined to paradise.
Ezr 5:16 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.
Ver. 16. Then came the same Sheshbazzar ] All this is truly and fairly related (as was likewise that of Doeg to Saul, against Ahimelech), but with no good intent. Now to speak the truth not for any love to the truth, nor for respect to justice, nor for the bettering of the hearer or of the offender, but only to incense the one and prejudice the other, this is plain slandering.
And yet it is not finished ] And all by reason of such ill conditioned persons as yourselves, who retarded it.
Ezr 5:17 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.
Ver. 17. Now, therefore, if it seem good ] Verba byssina. Flaxen words.
Whether it be so ] They supposed it was nothing so, and hoped that these Jews would he found falsaries, but it fell out far otherwise; like as St Paul’s persecutions at Rome fell out "rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" than else, Philippians 1:12 .
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezra 5". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27