v1 Haggai and Zechariah (a *descendant of Iddo) were *prophets. They spoke messages from the God of Israel to the *Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem. v2 Then Zerubbabel (the son of Shealtiel) and Jeshua (the son of Jozadak) started to build the house of God in Jerusalem again. The *prophets of God were with them and helped them.
Verses 1-2 In this chapter, Ezra recorded what happened in the second year of King Darius’ rule. About 16 years had passed since the *Jews started to rebuild the *temple (Ezra 3:2). They had not continued with the work, because they were afraid of their enemies (Ezra 4:4-5).
During the second year of the rule of Darius, God sent *prophets to speak to the *Jews. Their names were Haggai and Zechariah. We can read what they said in the Books of Haggai and Zechariah in the Bible.
The *Jews were living in expensive houses, but they had not built the house of God (Haggai 1:2-4).
Then the *Jews obeyed the word of God, which the *prophets had spoken. The *Jews started to build the house of God again. The *prophets even helped them with the work.
v3 At that time, Tattenai was the chief official of the region beyond the Euphrates river. Tattenai, Shethar-Boznai and their companions went to Zerubbabel and Jeshua. They asked, ‘Who gave you authority to build this *temple again and to erect the wall?’ v4 We told them the names of the men who were erecting this building. v5 But God cared about the situation. So he was watching over the leaders of the *Jews. And nobody could stop the work until Darius had decided about the matter. So first, the officials had to send a report to Darius. And then they had to wait for his reply.
Verses 3-5 However, when the people started to build the house of God there were more problems. Some *Persian officials asked them who had given them authority to build.
Perhaps the other people in the country had complained to the officials. We have already seen that those people did not want the *Jews to build the house of God (Ezra 4:1-5).
During the rule of Darius, many people plotted revolutions against him. So perhaps the officials were worried about what the *Jews were building. The officials saw the large stones that they were using (Ezra 5:8). They might have thought that the *Jews were building a castle and not a *temple.
The *Jews were building the *temple in order to obey God. So God made sure that the work did not stop. The officials did not force the *Jews to stop work. Instead, the officials sent a letter to the king and then they waited for his reply.
v6 Tattenai was the chief official in the region beyond the Euphrates river. He, Shethar-Boznai and their companions, the officials in the region beyond the Euphrates, sent a letter to King Darius. This is a copy of the letter. v7 This is what the letter said:
‘To King Darius: We wish success to the king. v8 The king should know that we went to Judah. We went to the *temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones. They are putting wood in the walls. They are working carefully and they are building it well. v9 We spoke to the leaders. We asked them “Who gave you authority to build this *temple again and to erect the wall?” v10 We also asked them their names. Then we wrote down the names of the leaders so that we could report to you.’
Verses 6-10 The officials wrote a letter to the king. They told him what they had seen in Jerusalem. They told the king what they had said to the *Jews.
v11 ‘They gave us this answer. “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and we are building this *temple again. A great king of Israel built it and he finished it many years ago. v12 But our *ancestors made the God of heaven angry. So he allowed Nebuchadnezzar the *Chaldean, the king of Babylonia, to defeat them. He destroyed this *temple and he took the people away to Babylonia.
v13 But Cyrus, king of Babylonia, ordered the people to build this house of God again. He did this in the first year of his rule. v14 Also, King Cyrus brought out gold and silver objects which were in the *temple in Babylonia. These objects belonged to the house of God. But Nebuchadnezzar had taken these objects from the *temple in Jerusalem and he had brought them to the *temple in Babylonia. King Cyrus gave these objects to a man called Sheshbazzar. Cyrus had appointed him as chief officer. v15 And Cyrus said to him, ‘Take these objects. Go and put them in the *temple in Jerusalem. And build the house of God again in its proper place.’
v16 So this man Sheshbazzar came and he made the base for the house of God in Jerusalem. The people have been building it from then until now. But they have still not finished.” ’
Verses 11-16 In their letter to the king, the officials explained to him what the *Jews had told them.
The *Jews told the officials that they served the real God. That is, God who made the heaven and the earth. So perhaps the officials wondered why people had been able to destroy the house of such a powerful God. So the *Jews told them about their history.
It was good for the *Jews to remember their history. They knew that their *ancestors had not obeyed the real God. Instead, those *ancestors had served other gods. The *Jews knew that God had punished their *ancestors. God had allowed their enemies to defeat them. And God had sent those *ancestors into *exile far away in Babylonia.
But God did not want his people to stay in *exile. After many years, God spoke into the heart of King Cyrus (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus did not actually hear God’s voice. But he knew what was the right thing to do. God told Cyrus to allow the *Jews to return to Judah. And God told him to allow them to build the house of God again. So Cyrus gave authority to the *Jews to build the house of God again. This was the answer to the question that the officials had asked. Cyrus even gave back to the *Jews the objects which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the first *temple.
Some Bible teachers think that Sheshbazzar is the same person as Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Haggai 1:1).
v17 ‘Perhaps the king may think that this is a good idea. Order people to search the royal records in Babylonia. They can check if King Cyrus did give the command to build the house of God in Jerusalem again. Then the king can tell us what he wants us to do.’
Verse 17 So the officials reported everything to King Darius. They suggested that the king should order people to search the official records in Babylonia. The records would prove if Cyrus had given authority to the *Jews to build the house of God again.
Then the officials waited for the king to tell them what to do.