New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary



Ezra 5:1 Now the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem; in the name of the God of Israel they prophesied to them- see on Ezra 4:24; Hag. 1:2. These prophets were critical of the returned exiles, and yet it seems they were responded to; because despite the legal problems, they arose and built.

Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah returned from Babylon and were intended to be leaders who would crown Joshua / Jesus as the Messiah-Priest-Branch who would rebuild Jerusalem. But nothing is heard of them further. Perhaps it is to them that Zech. 11:8 refers: “Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them… then said I [on God’s behalf], I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die”. They had gone into captivity because of poor shepherds, and now at their return they again lacked men willing to be their Saviours; and God is saying that He would not do the shepherding job which He had delegated to others. It could be that Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah all died in one month as a result of Zechariah’s prophecy at the time of Ezra 5:1. Or it could be that the three potential shepherds who failed were Zerubbabel, Joshua and Nehemiah.

Ezra 5:2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build God’s house which is at Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them-
The fact Ezekiel gave prophesies- or what sound like prophesies- of a restored temple doesn’t mean that they would come true regardless of Israel’s obedience. 19th century Christians looked at the prophecies relating to Israel’s return to the land and worked to enable them to happen- by financially supporting the Jews etc. It is therefore no mere coincidence that we read that the prophets who ‘prophesied’ of the rebuilding of the temple also helped physically to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:2). They worked for the fulfilment of their prophecies.

Ezra 5:3 At the same time came to them Tattenai, the governor beyond the River, and Shetharbozenai, and their companions, and said thus to them, Who gave you a decree to build this house, and to finish this wall?-
Tattenai was in charge of the entire area west of the Euphrates and was based in Damascus. He came specially to Jerusalem to find out first hand what the situation was.

We know that finally, the work of rebuilding wasn't done in obedience to the commands in Ez. 40-48 and the envisioned rebuilt temple and reestablished Kingdom didn't come about. The essence of the prophecies will come true in the last days, but they were also reapplied and reinterpreted with reference to the building of a spiritual house for God to indwell. We therefore perceive a similarity here with the attempts of local authorities to close down the preaching of the early apostles of the Lord Jesus. They too were asked in whose name they were operating (Acts 4:7) and they likewise continued in God's work despite being told not to. We conclude that the work of building God's house was now being understood in terms of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and baptizing people into the Lord Jesus. See on Ezra 6:6,7.  

Ezra 5:4 Then we told them in this way, what the names of the men were who were making this building-
It seems from :5 that the names of the "elders of the Jews" were given (see too :9,10).

Ezra 5:5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not make them cease, until the matter should come to Darius, and then answer should be returned by letter concerning it-
"The eye of their God" may refer to the Angel giving them power to continue the work. Again we note the similarities with the preaching of the apostles, who refused to cease the work of the new temple when ordered to (see on :3).


Ezra 5:6 This is the copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor beyond the River, and Shetharbozenai, and his companions the Apharsachites, who were beyond the River, sent to Darius the king-
As noted on :3, Tattenai was in charge of the entire area west of the Euphrates and was based in Damascus. He came specially to Jerusalem to find out first hand what the situation was. It seems from Ezra 4:9 that the Apharsachites were a favoured group of exiles who collaborated with the Persians in maintaining order west of the Euphrates.

Ezra 5:7 They sent a letter to him, in which was written thus: To Darius the king, all peace-
The inspired author of Ezra apparently had access to this correspondence; it likely was in the public domain, as it were, and not confidential.

Ezra 5:8 Be it known to the king, that we went into the province of Judah, to the house of the great God, which is built with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls; and this work goes on with diligence and prospers in their hands-
These impartial observers couldn't but note that despite the command to cease the work, the work was 'prospering'. This prospering was from God (s.w. Neh. 1:11; 2:20). No device formed against the program of rebuilding the Kingdom would prosper (Is. 54:17 s.w.), and the Divine word of restoration would prosper (Is. 55:11 s.w.). Any attempt to bring about the intended reestablishment of the Kingdom would be prospered by God; the fact that ultimately didn't happen was because the exiles ceased to make use of His potential assistance.   

Ezra 5:9 Then we asked those elders, and said to them thus, Who gave you a decree to build this house, and to finish this wall?-
Again we note the similarities with the preaching of the apostles, who were demanded to provide human authority for their work of building the spiritual temple, and refused to cease the work of that new temple when ordered to (see on :3).

Ezra 5:10 We asked them their names also, to inform you that we might write the names of the men who were at their head-
This demand for names was answered, apparently, by the statement that "We are the servants of... God" (:11). It recalls John the Baptist being asked for his name, and responding that he was merely "a voice" in obedience to God's voice.

Ezra 5:11 Thus they returned us answer saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and are building the house that was built these many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished-
See on :10. They were unashamed of their connection with the previous Israel, which had been researched as rebellious and the land of "great kings" (Ezra 4:20). It's almost as if they allude to that. They were unashamedly about reestablishing the Kingdom of God in Israel, and they were not pretending otherwise.    

Ezra 5:12 But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon-
This confession of sin and just punishment was not easily forthcoming. For Ezekiel had argued with the exiles against their view that the whole exile had been due to Yahweh being too heavy handed with His people. But it seems there was at least a minority who recognized the guilt of their fathers, or at least did in words. But it appears there was not the personal repentance required to activate the huge potential plans God had to reestablish His Kingdom at the time.

Ezra 5:13 But in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree to build this house of God-
Cyrus was king of Persia, but they call him "king of Babylon" because he took over Babylon and therefore governance of the Jews.

Ezra 5:14 The gold and silver vessels also of God’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought into the temple of Babylon, those Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor-
This "Sheshbazzar" may be a title, and could refer to Nehemiah or Zerubbabel; for in Ezra 1:8 he is defined as "prince of Judah". The "governor" was Zerubbabel in Hag. 1:1 (s.w. "governor"); see on :16.

Ezra 5:15 and he said to him, ‘Take these vessels, go, put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let God’s house be built in its place’-
The problem with this command is that it involved building the temple according to the dimensions of Cyrus (see on Ezra 6:3) which were far smaller than those given in Ezekiel 40-48. Building it "in its place", as if restoring what once was, precluded fulfilling the Kingdom vision of Ezekiel. And so the preference of the word of man (Cyrus) over that of God through Ezekiel precluded the fulfilment of the Kingdom then.

Ezra 5:16 Then the same Sheshbazzar came, and laid the foundations of God’s house which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now has it been in building, and yet it is not completed-
It was Zerubbabel who laid the foundations in Ezra 3, so it seems he was the Sheshbazzar; see on :14. Their statement that they had been continuously building it would suggest that some faithful ones did continue building after they were told to stop, although the majority gave up (Ezra 4:24).

Ezra 5:17 Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let a search be 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
- The records quickly searched in Ezra 4:19 would have been kept in a different location. We suspect that Tattenai was in fact aware of the decree of Cyrus. See on Ezra 6:2.