Then King Darius gave a command

Chapter 6

v1 Then King Darius gave a command. So people searched in the records. Those records were in the house of the records in the city called Babylon. v2 They found a book in the palace in Ecbatana, which is in the district called Media. This book contained the record below.

Verses 1-2 God cared about the construction of the *temple. So the *Jews did not have to stop the work on the *temple while they waited for Darius’ reply (Ezra 5:5). However, as they waited, their task may have seemed harder. Perhaps they worried that the king would order them to stop work. They probably had to wait quite a long time for the king’s reply.

Darius did what the officials had suggested. He ordered people to search the records and they found the right record. But they found the record in Ecbatana and not in the main city called Babylon. Ecbatana was one of the other cities where the king had a palace.

v3 ‘King Cyrus gave a command in the first year of his rule. This command was about the house of God in Jerusalem. “People must lay the base and they must rebuild the *temple. It is a place where people give *sacrifices. It must be 27 metres (89 feet) high and 27 metres wide. v4 It must have three rows of large stones and a row of wood. The king will pay the cost. v5 Also, you must return the objects of gold and silver which belong to the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar took these objects away from the *temple in Jerusalem and he brought them to Babylonia. You must return these objects to the right places in the *temple in Jerusalem. You must put them in the house of God.” ’

Verses 3-5 Here, Ezra copies the record of Cyrus’ command.

The record showed that the *Jews had spoken the truth (Ezra 5:13-15). Cyrus had ordered the *Jews to build the house of God again. He even said that he would pay the cost. He also told the *Jews to take the special gold and silver objects back to the *temple at Jerusalem.

The *Persian officials may have been worried about the large stones that the *Jews were using to build the *temple (Ezra 5:8). But Cyrus had actually ordered the *Jews to build the *temple with large stones.

v6 Darius wrote, ‘These are my instructions to you, Tattenai, the chief official in the region beyond the Euphrates river. And these are my instructions to Shethar-Boznai and your companions, the other officials in that region. Stay away from there. v7 Do not stop the work on this house of God. Allow the chief official of the *Jews and the leaders of the *Jews to rebuild this house of God. They must build it in its proper place. v8 Also, this is my command. You must do these things for these leaders of the *Jews as they build this house of God. Take care to pay to these men all the costs. The king will pay this from the taxes of the district beyond the Euphrates river. The work must not stop. v9 The priests may need young *bulls, male sheep and young sheep. They will burn these as *sacrifices to the God of heaven. They may need wheat, salt, wine and oil. Do not neglect to give each day whatever the priests in Jerusalem request. v10 Then they will be able to give *sacrifices which will please the God of heaven. And then they will pray for the life of the king and his sons.’

Verses 6-10 Ezra continues with the letter that King Darius wrote to his officials.

Darius told his officials that they must not stop the work. They must allow the *Jews to continue to build the *temple. In fact, the king ordered his officials to help the *Jews. He told them to take the taxes that they collected in the district. They must use this money to pay the costs of the work. He even told them to give to the *Jews whatever they needed for their *sacrifices to God.

Darius gave honour to many false gods. He did not serve the real God. But he still wanted the *Jews to pray to their God for him and for his family.

It is clear that God was using Darius in order to help the *Jews. Like Cyrus, Darius was acting as God’s agent, although neither king actually served God. But both kings also had a political reason for their actions. The *Persian kings were often good to the people whom they had defeated. Then the people would not oppose the king and the country would have peace.

v11 Darius continued, ‘I also make another command. If anyone changes this law, people must take a beam from his house. Hang that man’s dead body on this beam. Make his house into a pile of rubbish.v12 No king or people must do anything to change this law or to destroy the *temple in Jerusalem. I ask the God who lives there to defeat any such person. I, Darius, have made this law. Now obey it with care.’

Verses 11-12 Darius made another command. He believed that it was very important for the *Jews to rebuild the *temple. His officials must allow the *Jews to build and they must help the *Jews. Darius would punish greatly anyone who did not obey this command.

God was now speaking into the heart of another king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). God did this so that God’s people, the *Jews, would rebuild the *temple. Like Cyrus, Darius did not actually hear God’s voice. But he knew what was the right thing to do.

v13 Then Tattenai the chief official in the region beyond the Euphrates river, Shethar-Boznai and their companions acted with care. They did what King Darius ordered. v14 So the leaders of the *Jews continued to build. Haggai the *prophet and Zechariah (a *descendant of Iddo) spoke the word of God. And the leaders of the *Jews had success. They finished the construction of the *temple as the God of Israel had ordered. This was also the command of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. v15 The *Jews completed the *temple on the third day of the month called Adar. This was in the sixth (6th) year of the rule of King Darius.

Verses 13-15 So Tattenai and the other *Persian officials obeyed the king; and the *Jews were able to build the *temple. The kings of Persia and their officials helped the *Jews. The *prophets helped them too and the leaders of the *Jews led the people well.

They built the *temple as God had ordered. And they finished it 4 years later. That was about 515 *BC. This was about 70 years after the *Babylonians had destroyed the first *temple.

Many years before, God had spoken by his *prophet Jeremiah. The punishment that God gave to the *Jews would only last for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).

v16 Then the *people of Israel gathered for a special opening ceremony to give the *temple to God. Everyone was happy: the priests, the *Levites and the rest of the people who had returned from *exile.v17 When they gave this *temple to God, they offered *sacrifices. They gave a *sacrifice of 100 *bulls, 200 male sheep and 400 young male sheep. They also gave a *sacrifice of 12 male goats. They offered one goat for the *sin of each of the large families that make up the entire nation called Israel. v18 They appointed the priests in their groups and the *Levites in their groups. These groups would serve God in Jerusalem as God ordered in the book of Moses.

Verses 16-18 The *Jews were able to be happy again because they had obeyed God. They had built the *temple again. The new *temple was not as large as the first one. Neither was the opening ceremony as large as the time when the first *temple was complete (2 Chronicles 7:4-6). At that time God had spoken to King Solomon who built the first *temple. God said that he would protect both the people and the *temple. But if the people did not obey him then he would punish them. He would take them away from the country that he had given to them. And he would leave the *temple (2 Chronicles 7:11-22). That is what happened. That is why the *Jews had been in *exile. And that is why they had to build the new *temple.

The people appointed priests and *Levites to serve God in the new *temple. Many years earlier, God had told Moses how the priests and *Levites should serve in the *temple. Moses wrote these commands in his books (Numbers 3:6-9; 18:1-32).

v19 On the 14th day of the first month the people who had returned from *exile had the *Passover holiday. v20 The priests and the *Levites had carried out a ceremony so that they would be ready to serve God. Then they killed a young sheep for the *Passover holiday. They did this for all the people who had returned from *exile, for their companions the priests, and for themselves. v21 So the *people of Israel who had returned from *exile ate the *Passover meal. And all the other people who had chosen to serve the *LORD, the God of Israel, ate with them. (These people had chosen not to follow the wrong behaviour of their neighbours, who were not *Jews. So these people had separated themselves from their neighbours.) v22 The *people of Israel also had the holiday of the Special Flat Bread for 7 days. They had great joy because the *LORD had given them joy. He had changed the attitude of the king of Assyria towards them. Then the king helped them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

Verses 19-22 Soon after the people completed the *temple, they had the *Passover holiday. This reminded them of the time when God brought their *ancestors out of the country called Egypt. At that time, God told them always to have the *Passover holiday to remember the first *Passover (Exodus 12:1-14). They also had the holiday of the Special Flat Bread. This reminded them of the special bread that their *ancestors ate on that occasion. This bread was flat because the *ancestors left too quickly to allow the bread to rise (Exodus 12:15-20). God told them always to have this holiday to remember their history (Exodus 13:3-10). The holiday would remind them that they, and their nation, have a special relationship with God.

Some *Jews were already living in Judah when the people returned from *exile. These *Jews were poor people whose families remained in Judah at the time of the *exile. Many such people simply joined the other nations that were near Judah. But when the people returned from *exile, some of these *Jews wanted to join them. They too wanted to serve God. And they wanted to be a part of the new nation.

So these *Jews separated themselves from their neighbours who were not *Jews. And they began to behave as God’s law orders. They joined the people who had returned from *exile at the *Passover meal. And together, they were all very glad because of the things that God had done for them.