At the command of Darius, search is made after the edict of Cyrus; which edict Darius confirms. The temple is finished in the sixth year of Darius; the dedication of which is celebrated by the Jews.
Before Christ 519.
Ver. 1. Darius the king— As Darius, the better to fortify his title to the crown, had married two of the daughters of Cyrus, he thought himself bound to do every thing which might tend to the honour of that great prince; and therefore more readily confirmed the decree which he had granted to the Jews. Instead of were laid up in Babylon, Houbigant reads, had been laid up in Babylon.
Ver. 10. And pray for the life of the king, and of his sons— Though the Jews were not allowed to desire the heathens to pray to their deities for their prosperity, because they were forbidden to acknowledge any other gods than one; yet the Heathens might, if they thought fit, worship their God; nor did the Jews deny them that privilege, or refuse the offerings which they brought for that purpose, till, in the time of their wars with the Romans, the faction of the zealots grew to be predominant: "For then," as Josephus tells us, "one Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high-priest, a desperate daring young man, and the military officer then in command, pressed some of his friends among the priests to receive no offering or sacrifice but from the Jews only; by which means it came to pass, that the very offerings of Caesar, which were used constantly to be made for the welfare of the Roman people, came to be rejected, and this proved the very ground and foundation of the war with that nation. The high-priest however, and the men of best quality, declared themselves extremely dissatisfied with the novelty of this prohibition; and with great importunities desired the continuance of so pious a custom as offering up prayers for princes and governors;" but all in vain: though this place in Ezra, one would think, sets the duty in a clear light.
Ver. 14. And Artaxerxes king of Persia— Houbigant omits the word Artaxerxes here.
Ver. 22. The king of Assyria— Darius is called the king of Assyria, as now reigning over all the kingdoms which were formerly under the power of the Assyrians. And from hence Archbishop Usher infers, that Babylon, which in the beginning of his reign had revolted, must necessarily have been reduced by Darius before this time; otherwise he thinks he could not have been styled king of Assyria, whereof Babylon was the metropolis. Dr. Prideaux gives this character of Darius: "He was a prince of great wisdom, clemency, and justice; and has the honour to be recorded in holy writ for a favourer of God's people, a restorer of his temple at Jerusalem, and a promoter of his worship therein. For all this God was pleased to make him his instrument; and with respect to this, I doubt not, it was, that he blessed him with a numerous issue, a long reign, and great prosperity."
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have in this chapter,
1. Search made, in consequence of the application, after the original record in the house of the rolls; and it was found in Achmetha, thought to be Ecbatana, the summer residence of the kings of Babylon; and it contained not only a commission for building the house, but a command to the governors to furnish out of the revenue all necessary materials; which privilege, it seems, the Jews either generously waved, or the change of affairs at court prevented their receiving the benefit of this order. Note; (1.) Diligent inquiry after truth is necessary, in order to administer impartial justice. (2.) It is often prudent to decline making use of those offers which the generosity of our friends may put in our power.
2. Darius, hereupon perfectly satisfied, confirms the edict in its full extent. As, probably, the interruption the work had met with from the malice of the former governors now appeared, he charges them to give the Jews no hindrance or molestation; commands them to furnish all necessary materials for the building, and the sacrifices and offerings which they needed, out of the revenues; speaks with deep respect of Israel's God, and puts a high value on the prayers of this favoured people, low as they were now reduced. He enforces the decree with the penalty of death on any man who dared counteract it; "Let him be hanged on the beams of his own house, and let it be made a dunghill to perpetuate the infamy:" and, as highly zealous for the honour of that glorious God, whose presence had formerly so distinguished this house, and he supposes would again, he denounces a curse on the king or people who should ever after attempt to alter the worship, or destroy the temple. He concludes with commanding immediate execution of his orders. Note. (1.) The Lord can over-rule the malice of the church's enemies, and bring good out of their evil designs. (2.) They are, through God's good providence, often made instrumental in carrying on the work of God, who have themselves neither part nor lot in the matter. (3.) While we are enabled to trust all our concerns with God, he has the hearts of the greatest in his power, and will over-rule them for the purposes of his own glory. (4.) If kings knew the efficacy of the prayers of God's people, they would be careful to secure an interest in them. (5.) Those whom God has set in authority over us, we are bound to pray for, though heathens or oppressors; and how much more, when truly defenders of the faith, and really nursing fathers to the church! (6.) The curse denounced will surely fall on all the enemies of God's spiritual temple. They who fight against that, destroy their own souls.
2nd, When the obstacles were removed, and the encouragements to labour so many, the work went on briskly. We have here,
1. The finishing of the temple. The governors dared no longer obstruct the work; but, though it may be with reluctance, were immediately obliged to comply with the king's orders; while the prophets Haggai and Zechariah pleaded those mercies which they enjoyed as an argument of God's blessing, and an obligation diligently to improve them; so that in four years the temple was completely finished. Note; (1.) Every mercy that we enjoy should be improved, as an argument for increasing diligence in God's service. (2.) The grand means which God makes use of for the perfecting of the saints, is the ministry of the word.
2. The solemn dedication of it. The priests and Levites, being set in their several courses, according to the law of Moses, offered liberal sacrifices to God on the occasion. As there were many, not only of Benjamin and Judah, but of other tribes joined with them, a sin-offering of twelve he-goats was offered for the congregation; and now, having through the blood of atonement obtained reconciliation, though some marks of bondage still continued upon them, yet with great gladness they rejoiced to see the long discontinued temple-worship once more happily revived. Note; (1.) The great concern of the returning sinner is, to obtain remission of sin. (2.) When the atoning blood is sprinkled on the conscience, the soul is filled with peace and joy in believing. (3.) Revivals of God's blessed worship and service are the heart-felt rejoicing of every faithful Israelite.
3. The next month they kept the passover with great solemnity and exactness; as a memorial of their escape from Egypt, and now of their repeated deliverance from Babylon, the second house of their bondage. The priests and Levites, unanimous to purify themselves, to a man were ready for their functions, and killed the passover for their brethren, as well as themselves. Not only the people who had returned from Babylon, but many proselytes from the heathen, who had renounced their idolatry, and were circumcised, joined with them; and seven days with universal gladness they kept the feast of unleavened bread; God comforting their hearts, and making them happy in the protection and encouragement which they received from the king. Note; (1.) All true converts to Christ fail not to feed upon him in the feast that he has instituted in memory of the deliverance wrought for them by his dying love. (2.) Purity in the ministers of God's ordinances is most conducive to the comfort and profiting of them: under such ministrations a blessing may be expected. (3.) When we draw near to God, we are called to put off all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness; to separate ourselves from the ways of a wicked world; to renounce our former company, and join ourselves to God's people. (4.) Those who wait upon God in his ways, he causes to rejoice: He is the well-spring of all spiritual comfort, and out of his fulness we shall receive. (5.) When God becomes our portion, he can make those whom we feared as enemies our fast friends.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent