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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 6

Verse 1

1. House of the rolls… in Babylon Chaldee: House of books; the royal library, or chamber of manuscripts and archives attached to the palace in Babylon. Layard discovered at Nineveh a series of chambers, the floors of which were covered a foot or more deep with documents written in bricks of baked clay. But it seems the desired document could not be found in Babylon. The archives of the empire had been transferred to Ecbatana. See next verse.

Verses 1-12

DARIUS’S LETTER AND DECREE, Ezra 6:1-12.

This whole passage (Ezra 6:1-12) may be regarded as a part of the answer (chap. Ezra 5:5, note) which was returned to the communication of Tatnai and his companions. Comp. Ezra 6:6. The king’s letter may have contained more than is here given, but this was all that suited our historian’s purpose.

Verse 2

2. Achmetha The Chaldee form of the Persian Hagmatana or Hagmatan, and the Ecbatana of the classical writers. Its site is usually identified with the modern Hamadan. Herodotus (i, 98) describes it as a great city, whose walls were built circle within circle, each wall out-topping the one beyond it by the height of its battlements. This was done by means of the conical hill on which the city was built. The circular walls were seven in number, and the royal palace and treasury were within the innermost wall. It was originally the capital of the Medes, and hence its location here noticed as in the province of the Medes, but it was subsequently made the summer residence of the Persian kings. Hither it would seem the royal records had been transferred for greater security. The Behistun inscription shows that Babylon revolted at the beginning of Darius’s reign, but was soon reconquered, and that may have been the occasion of this transfer of the archives, and among them this celebrated roll containing Cyrus’s decree for the restoration of the exiles, and the rebuilding of their temple. Perhaps, however, the record in question had never been deposited at Babylon, but placed originally among the archives kept at Achmetha.

Verse 3

3. Be strongly laid Gesenius and Furst render, be erected, or set up.

Height… breadth… threescore cubits These proportions differ from those of Solomon’s temple, the height of which was thirty cubits, and its breadth twenty, while only its length was threescore, or sixty cubits. See 1 Kings 6:2. But we need not suppose that this record of Cyrus contained the exact measures which were followed in the rebuilding of the temple. Even had he commanded that the building be made of this size, it does not follow that the Jews were careful to observe this part of his orders. Or it may be these numbers are faulty, having been taken down from the indistinct remembrance or careless copying of some Persian scribe, for this record has the appearance of being not a copy of Cyrus’s proclamation to the Jews, but a document prepared by the royal scribe or recorder as a part of the chronicles or annals of Cyrus, to be deposited among the archives of the empire. At any rate, these numbers are not an authoritative guide to estimate the size of the second temple.

Verse 4

4. With three rows of… stones There is no with in the Chaldee, and the passage has the appearance of a fragmentary excerpt. The language, however, reminds us of 1 Kings 6:36, (see note there,) and may, perhaps, be best understood of the platform of the inner court, which, like that of the first temple, was to have three layers of stone and one of new timber.

Verse 5

5. Vessels Compare Ezra 1:7-11.

Verse 6

6. Now therefore, Tatnai Here Darius turns from quoting the record of Cyrus, which forms a part of his letter in answer to the Samaritan governor’s letter, (Ezra 5:5, note,) and proceeds to prohibit all interference with the Jews or hindering of their work.

Be ye far from thence That is, far from Jerusalem. Meddle not at all with their work.

Verse 10

10. Offer sacrifices of sweet savours Or, offer sweet odours.

The God of heaven The same respectful and devout Monotheism appears in this letter of Darius as in the proclamation of Cyrus. See note on Ezra 1:2.

It is interesting to find this same Darius, in his great inscription at Behistun, declaring, “The temples which the Magian had destroyed I rebuilt. The sacred offices of the state, both the religious chants and the worship, I restored to the people which the Magian had deprived them of.” This, doubtless, refers to the state religion of the Persians, which Darius re-established in place of the Magianism which the usurper had sought to revive; but it shows how Darius, like Cyrus, would naturally have a sympathy for the religion of the Jews, and sustain the action of his great predecessor toward them.

Pray for the life of the king The Persian monarch anticipates, by more than five centuries, the exhortations of an apostle of Christ. Comp. 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Verse 11

11. Let him be hanged thereon Or, fastened thereon, that is, crucified, or impaled, a mode of execution common among many ancient nations.

See note on Esther 2:23.

Let his house be made a dunghill A proverbial saying, indicating that the houses were to be reduced to ruinous heaps, and made receptacles for all manner of filth.

Verse 12

12. God… destroy all kings Compare the similar execrations in Darius’s Behistun inscription, especially the following: “if seeing this tablet, and these images, thou injurest them, and preservest them not as long as my seed endures, may Ormazd be thy enemy, and mayest thou have no offspring, and whatever thou doest may Ormazd curse it for thee.”

Verses 13-14

THE TEMPLE FINISHED AND DEDICATED, Ezra 6:13-18.

14. Prospered through the prophesying of Haggai… and Zechariah The extant writings of these prophets give evidence that the Jews needed continual prompting and encouraging in their work, for they had been so long in building that many had become fainthearted and discouraged.

The commandment of… God Given by the prophets. Compare Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12.

Commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes The mention of Artaxerxes is evidently a prolepsis here, for he can be no other than the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7:1, (compare Ezra 6:12; Ezra 6:21-22,) who is generally allowed to be identical with Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes. But because he so greatly assisted Ezra in matters pertaining to the house of God, (Ezra 7:21-27,) it was quite natural for the compiler of this book, who was doubtless Ezra himself, to mention him in this connexion.

Verse 15

15. Month Adar The twelfth, or last month of the Jewish year.

Sixth year of… Darius Having been resumed in the second year of his reign, (Ezra 4:24,) the rebuilding, after that time, took four years.

Verse 16

16. Kept the dedication… with joy It was surely an occasion for joy and thanksgiving, for it marked the close of a long and bitter period of calamity and dangers, of persecution and trouble. Like the vast assembly that had celebrated the dedication of the former house, nearly five hundred years before, they were “joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for Israel.” 1 Kings 8:66.

Verse 17

17. A hundred bullocks Compare the far larger offering of Solomon at the dedication of the first temple. 1 Kings 8:63. But the present offering was large and liberal, according to the circumstances of the worshippers.

According to the number of the tribes The chastisements of the exile had thoroughly subdued these Jews, and the Israelites that had returned with them, and now, at this feast of dedication, they seek to wipe out their ancient schism, making an atonement for it by a sin offering, and, by the offering of twelve he goats, present themselves before Jehovah as the representatives of all the tribes who had been one people and one nation at the dedication five hundred years before. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, (l, 4, 5,) that Judah and Israel should return together, going and weeping, and join themselves in a perpetual covenant.

Verse 18

18. Priests in their divisions As described in 1 Chronicles 24:0.

Levites in their courses As described in 1 Chronicles 23:0.

As it is written in the book of Moses Especially in Numbers 3:4, , Numbers 3:8. See the note on Ezra 3:2.

Verse 19

THE PASSOVER OBSERVED, Ezra 6:19-22.

19. The fourteenth day The day of old appointed for the killing of the paschal lamb. Exodus 12:6.

The first month Nisan, which followed immediately after Adar. Compare Ezra 6:15. The year is not mentioned, but it was, doubtless, the very next month after the feast of dedication, which the writer had just described. As Israel improved the first opportunity after they entered Canaan to celebrate the passover, (Joshua 5:10,) so now they do the same at the earliest opportunity after they have returned from exile and finished the house of God. Then the reproach of Egypt had just been rolled away, (Joshua 5:9,) now the reproach of Babylon had ceased.

Verse 20

20. For This introduces the reason why they were able to celebrate the passover so soon after the dedication they were not obliged to wait for the purifying of the priests and the Levites.

All of them were pure They had already attended to that matter: unlike the time when Hezekiah held the passover in the second month instead of the first, because the priests had not properly sanctified themselves by ceremonial ablutions, according to the law. See 2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 30:2-3; 2 Chronicles 30:15-18, and notes there.

Verse 21

21. Such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen Blackslidden and apostate Israelites who had remained in the land when others went into exile, and had corrupted themselves by idolatry and by intermarriage with the heathen. Also, perhaps, some non-Israelitish dwellers in the land who had adopted the Jewish faith, and had become proselytes of the new community.

Verse 22

22. Turned the heart of the king of Assyria The Persian monarch is here called king of Assyria, because he ruled over all the provinces that were comprised in the former Assyrian empire, and these provinces now constituted the greater part of the Persian empire. For the same or a similar reason, Cyrus is called in Ezra 5:13, and Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 13:6, king of Babylon, whereas they also like Darius, were kings of Persia. The king of Assyria may here be understood of both Cyrus and Darius, for they both took measures to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God. Both being adherents of the comparatively pure monotheism of the ancient Persians, they had a natural sympathy for the religious system of the Jews. Compare notes on Ezra 1:2.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezra 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ezra-6.html. 1874-1909.