Ezra 6:1-22


Verse 1, Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.

I.    This letter also got a response from Darius, king of Persia, like the previous letter got a response from Artaxerxes, King of Persia.

A.  He made the necessary search through the records at Babylon, but evidently nothing was found there.


II.   It has been suggested that Smerdis, who ruled between Cyrus and Artaxerxes destroyed the records of former kings, but I couldn't find anything to prove that.


Verse 2, And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:

I.    It must be noted that Darius was very diligent to find the correct information.

A.  Achmetha is about 250 miles north east of Babylon.  Therefore Darius had to go to some trouble to find this information.

1.   It must be noted that the information was found in the province of the Medes, for during the time of Cyrus, the Medes and Persians had joint rule over several provinces.

2.   Even if Smerdis had destroyed the Persian copy of King Cyrus decree, he couldn't destroy the Medes copy because he didn't have access to their records.


Verse 3, In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;

I.    Darius sent back a copy of Cyrus decree with some additional information concerning the temple construction.

A.  It must be noted that King Cyrus gave no instructions at all for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, only the temple, "the place where they offered sacrifices".

B.   Order was made that the foundation be strongly laid, for the foundation is the most important part of the structure, even though it is not seen.

1.   The foundation is what the rest of the structure is built upon.

2.   If it is weak, the entire structure will be weak, and will soon fall into decay.

C.   The height and width of the temple are to be 90' tall and 90' wide.

1.   This may be the maximum measurements.

2.   Regardless, the majesty of the temple order by Cyrus is revealed.


Verse 4, With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house:

I.    There is no real record of just how these three rows of great stones and rows of new timber.

A.  Speculation has it that there would be three rows of stones, then a row of new timber, three rows of stone, then another row of new timber, until the entire structure was completed.


II.   The expenses would be given out of the king's house.

A.  This means that the king would pay for the entire structure.

1.   This thought certainly destroys the theology of some who believe that it is a sin to accept any kind or amount of money from any government.

2.   It may be a sin to accept tax money, but the circumstance must be very carefully examined.

B.   In Ezra 7:20-23, Ezra had the approval of the government to set the amount of and collect taxes for the support of the temple worship, and whatever else Ezra deemed necessary.

1.   The Jews did accept this support and used the taxes to worship God.

2.   It was not a sin for Israel to do this, but it would probably be a sin for us to do this today.

C.   The difference is that the government of Darius and in Ezra's day had no intention of controlling the worship of God.

1.   Please notice that the Jews were not required to give any accounting of the money to Darius, the government he established in Judah and Samaria, or to anybody else.

2.   Darius gave the tax money so the Jews could perform the duties outlined in verse 10: offer a sweet saviour to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons.

D.  Today, 1991, we could accept tax money from the government if that were the only stipulation.

1.   As long as we don't have to account to the government as to how we use the money, we can accept tax money for the operation of our churches, and Christian schools.

2.   If, however, the government put the responsibility of accountability upon God's churches, we cannot accept the money.


Verse 5, And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.

I.    This command had already been carried out by Nebuchadnezzar.

A.  This command is mentioned because the Jews confessed that Cyrus had given them the vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken away.

B.   Honesty is really the best policy.


Verse 6, Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:

I.    Darius now speaks directly to Tatnai and Shetharboznai and the rest of their friends, the Apharsachites.

A.  He tells them to leave the area where the temple is being constructed.

1.   Their presence might cause the Jews come anxiety about what they were about to do next.

2.   King Darius wants the Jews to work unobstructed from any hindrance at all.


Verse 7, Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.

I.    The Samaritans are to have nothing at all to do with the work.

A.  This generation of Samaritans have not asked to help, and now they are restrained from helping by direct order from King Darius.

B.   It is good to note that in chapter 4, Zerubbabel and the other leaders of Israel forbid the Samaritans from helping, and they turned against them, hindering the work continually, finally stopping the work altogether.

C.   This generation, however, has never asked to help, and being told by the King Darius to leave the work alone, obeys, and the work progresses to completion.


Verse 8, Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.

I.    Moreover:

A.  King Darius makes a decree in addition to the decree made by King Cyrus.

1.   He reinforces the law that the Jews can use tax money for the building expenses, that the progress be not hindered for lack of money.

B.   Notice that the Jews are not to ask for this tax, the inhabitants are order to give.

1.   This is very important, for sometimes religious groups ask for tax money for this or that project.

2.   This is not correct.

3.   If they have a need for tax money, and God knows He wants them to have it, He will lay that burden on the hearts and minds of the proper government officials.

C.   A religious organization should never ask for tax money!


Verse 9, And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:

I.    The necessary supplies for daily worship should be received by the Jews on a daily basis.

A.  In order for this to be accomplished, the Samaritans in that area would have to set up a special commission to take care of that project.

1.   Notice it is not the responsibility of the Jews to require the Samaritans to give to them.

2.   It is the responsibility of the Samaritans to give to the Jews.

B.   There is no doubt that there was a diversity of opinions among the Samaritans concerning this matter.

1.   Some would have no opinion at all.

2.   Some would think it was a good idea.

3.   Some would think it was a terrible idea.

C.   It should also be noted that Darius was fairly familiar with the requirements of spiritual sacrifice.

1.   Where he learned these requirements is not revealed.

2.   It should be remembered that there were still Jews in his kingdom, and some "high ranking" Jews.


Verse 10, That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

I.    The purpose of all this is that God might bless the king of Persia and his sons.

A.  Some might believe this was a selfish request, and it could be taken that way.

B.   We might also ask ourselves this question:

1.   Is it selfish to help the Israelite nation so God will bless us?

2.   Of course not!

3.   That is just simply believing the promises of God.  Therefore we ought to give King Darius the benefit of the doubt and believe that he is also trusting the promises of God.


II.   It is good to have government officials who desire God's blessings.

A.  Would to God the officials of our government would express such a desire as Darius.

B.   We that are saved ought to pray for our government officials even if they don't ask us to pray for them.


Verse 11, Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.

I.    King Darius now makes an additional decree concerning the person or persons who will disobey the previous command.

A.  This is a most terrible sentence to the person who changes Darius' decree.

1.   To be hung from a gallows build from the lumber in your house is a just sentence.

2.   Darius wouldn't let any tax money be spent to punish the criminal, but he would bear the cost of his own hanging!  Isn't this the way it ought to be done?

B.   It is a shame that our government bears not only the cost of punishing criminals, but also the cost of supporting their families when they are in jail.

1.   The place where his house sets would become a dunghill, a place for refuse of the vilest sort.

2.   You sure wouldn't want a neighbor who was rebellious at God's commands, for you might wind up living next door to a dunghill!


Verse 12, And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.

I.    Darius makes an additional decree that any nation that attempts to destroy the house of God at Jerusalem shall be under a very severe curse from God for their own destruction.

A.  This decree was actually unnecessary, for God would destroy any nation that was against Israel.

B.   It is good to make such a decree for it shows where Darius stands.

1.   Everybody that hears this decree will also know where Darius stands.

2.   It is always good for us to make such statements about God and what He will do.

3.   God will do what He will do, whether we say so or not, but when we say so, those people living around us will know and understand that we are on God's side.

4.   It is necessary for us to be a witness.


II.   I think it would be obvious that King Darius was a worshipper of God Almighty.

A.  At least his decrees show some fruit of the Spirit, and a desire to worship God.

1.   It is clear that Darius knows who holds his kingdom and life.

2.   He has the desire for His blessings.


Verse 13, Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.

I.    These Samaritans are not like the past generation of Samaritans who fought God, and led Artaxerxes to fight God.

A.  They don't seem to have any animosity against Israel, they just want to make sure the Jews are not breaking any Persian law by rebuilding the temple.

1.   When they understand that Darius is fully aware and fully behind the Jews, they obey his commands speedily.

2.   They obey speedily.

3.   They obey quickly because the want to please King Darius.

B.   The previous generation speedily took Artaxerxes command to quit building the temple to the Jews.

1.   Their objective was to get their way, stopping God's purpose.


Verse 14, And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

I.    It is very interesting to note the work of the prophets.

A.  The Bible doesn't declare that they helped in the physical work of building the temple.

1.   They helped by prophesying to the people concerning the present (Haggai) and future (Zechariah) blessings of God.

2.   It would not be wrong for Haggai and Zechariah to help in the building, but it would certainly be wrong for them to put aside their spiritual work to do it.

3.   It would be wrong for Haggai and Zechariah (or any other preacher) to expect the people to do the physical work while they do nothing.

a.   One preacher told me he had to have a full time church because God called him to preach, not to work.

b.   Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend this man to any church.

c.   Paul worked to support, not only himself, but those that labored in the Lord with him.

B.   There are those who believe that preachers can be more useful by doing the physical work necessary to keep a church running smoothly.

1.   There is nothing wrong with the preacher doing this, but when the preacher does that work, then what are the people to do?

2.   Some would say the people are supposed to help the preacher in the physical work, then the preacher is to do the spiritual work alone.

3.   This sure does put a big load on the preacher, such a big load that he will soon fail in the spiritual work.

4.   Acts 6:4 states that the apostles had the church appoint 7 "deacons" who would care of distributing food to the widows while they continued in their work, that of praying and the ministry of the word.

5.   If a church would prosper, that is the order they would follow.


II.   The house was finished according to the commandments of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes.

A.  Cyrus and Darius gave good commands and Artaxerxes gave bad commands.

B.   This verse doesn't state that Artaxerxes gave any good (or bad) commands.

1.   He is included because he was head of the Persian government during the time the temple was being rebuilt.

2.   Anyone who checks the records will find out the truth.

3.   It is good not to say anything bad about a ruler.


Verse 15, And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

I.    Ezra 4:24 states that the work on the temple stopped during the first part of Artaxerxes reign until the second year of Darius reign.

A.  When the Jews begin to build in the second year of Darius, they continued until the sixth year of his reign.

1.   They took an additional four years to complete the temple.

2.   It is very likely they were unable to work during some of the winter because of the cold and bad weather.

3.   It is good to see the perseverance of the Jews to complete the task before them.

4.   Some things take a long time to finish.

5.   These things we must continue working on, even though the way is long, and there are many details to work out.

B.   The month Adar is the last month of the Jewish calendar.

1.   This corresponds to our month March.

2.   Or the very beginning of Spring.

3.   The temple is finished just in time for the Jews to begin observing the yearly religious festivals.


Verse 16, And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,

I.    The children of Israel kept the dedication of the temple all by themselves.

A.  They didn't invite any of the Samaritans, for they were not of Israel.

1.   They didn't invite any of the government officials, for they were not of Israel.

2.   They didn't invite any of the people who had paid for the building with their tax money, for they were not of Israel.

3.   It would seem to us that common courtesy would cause us to invite even our enemies to the dedication of our new church building.

4.   This is what the devil would have us believe.

5.   The truth is that our fellowship ought to be around the truth of God's holy Word, not around anything else.

B.   It may have been that there were some Gentiles who observed this dedication.  There is really no way to tell.


II.   It is odd that the Jews have two names:  "Children of Israel", and "Children of the captivity".

A.  I think the term "Children of Israel" is a defining term to show us who the verse is talking about.

B.   The term "Children of the captivity" is what Israel is now being called.

1.   It is a shame that they now have this name.

2.   The word "Israel" means "He will rule as God".

3.   Israel will not rule as God, but will be ruled over.

4.   Their rebellion cost them their right to rule.

5.   They will rule during the 1,000 year reign of Christ, but it will be by grace, not according to what they deserve.

6.   This is the way we shall all reign.

C.   This is a time of great joy.

1.   The temple is a symbol from God that He had not only forgiven their sins, but also that He would be with them in the future.

2.   They have not had a place to worship God, now they have a special place to worship Him.

3.   It is true that we can worship God in any place.

4.   But when we have a special place to worship, a special place to remember the blessings of the past, it means much to us, and is a real blessing to assemble with other of God's saints in that place.


Verse 17, And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.

I.    This is not very many sacrifices.

A.  At the dedication of Solomon's Temple

1.   II Chron. 7:4,5, they offered 22,000 oxen, 120,000 sheep.

2.   II Chron. 7:7, "Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brazen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat."

B.   We must be very careful lest we think Solomon's dedication was greater than the dedication in Ezra.

1.   God saw and accepted both of them.

2.   Solomon was richer than the people in Ezra's day.

3.   Both dedications were made with much joy and worship.

4.   This is what God desires.

C.   Today, we may think that God blesses a large church more than he blesses a small church.

1.   The truth is that God sees and accepts both of them.

2.   The larger church is probably richer, therefore God requires more of them.

3.   The smaller church is probably poorer, therefore God doesn't require them to give the same as the larger church.

4.   God requires faithfulness of both.


II.   They also offered sin offerings.

A.  Every tribe offered its own sin offering.

B.   This is necessary for they recognize they sinfulness before God.


Verse 18, And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.

I.    This shows a desire on the part of Israel to continue in their worship of God.

A.  They have a desire to worship God "His" way.

1.   They have studied their history and discovered their ancestors tried to worship God their way.

2.   God didn't accept their worship, and finally turned from them, leading them into Babylon captivity.

3.   They don't want to repeat that error.

B.   Their desire lead to study, which lead to conviction, which lead to action.


II.   This shows the people had done a lot of "Bible" study.

A.  They somehow got a copy of the Bible written by Moses, studied it and learned what God expected of them.

1.   This Bible had probably been carried into captivity.

2.   This same Bible had been studied during the captivity so the Jews understood why they were put under captivity.

3.   Now they are using that same Bible to learn how to worship God His way.

B.   They were more interested in worshipping according to Moses law than accepting some of the changes made by King David.

1.   There is nothing wrong with many of the changes David made.

2.   These changes were made because it was more expedient for Israel to worship in a slightly different way during David's time, because there was more population.


Keeping the Passover


Verse 19, And the children of the captivity kept the Passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.

I.    This is the normal time for keeping the Passover.

A.  There is no Bible record of the Jews keeping the Passover from the time they went into captivity until now.

B.   They could have kept the Passover while in captivity.

1.   The only way they could really keep the Passover was to keep it as a nation.

2.   They will observe the Passover individually, but also as a nation.

3.   We, in the Lord's local churches, observe the Lord's Supper individually, but also as a church.

C.   They could have kept the Passover when they returned to Jerusalem, for they did not need a temple, or altar.

1.   The Passover is celebrated in individual households.

2.   The Passover could be celebrated when there was no temple, or altar, or public meeting place.

3.   The first Passover was observed in Egypt, with Israel ready to leave.


II.   Who are the children of the captivity?

A.  This term is used to distinguish between Israel as a separate nation whom God has blessed and the nation of Israel who has gone into captivity because of the judgment of God.

1.   They still belong to God as a nation.

2.   But they are not receiving the blessings God intended them to receive as a nation.

B.   We that are saved can become the children of the captivity.

1.   This doesn't mean we are lost.

2.   It means we haven't received the blessings God has for us simply because we haven't lived in such a way as to receive them.


Verse 20, For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the Passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

I.    The purity of the Levites and priests.

A.  The Levites and priests had just enough time between the completion of the temple and the Passover to purify themselves.

B.   This purity can be compared to II Chron. 29:34.

1.   This verse tells us that the Levites were more apt to purify themselves than the priests.

2.   There is a great desire to be as much like God as they are able.

C.   The purity of the ministry today enhances the service of God.

1.   Jimmy Swaggart has just got caught with another prostitute.

2.   He said it is nobody's business what he does on his "time off".

3.   God put qualifications on the ministry which helps church members stay closer to God and His service.


II.   The priest kill the Passover lamb.

A.  Ex. 12:6, The command was for all the congregation of Israel to kill the Passover on the even of the 14th day of the first month.

1.   There was no Levitical Priesthood at this time.

2.   Therefore, each family would kill the Passover lamb.

B.   The priests probably killed the Passover to show their acceptance before God.

1.   The common Israelite had accepted the priesthood and showed their approval by letting them kill the Passover for them.

2.   God accepted this diversion.

3.   It is likely the common people wanted the priests to kill the Passover lamb for them as a "safer" way to observe the Passover.

C.   After this, the responsibility to kill the Passover lamb rests with the head of each family.


Verse 21, And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,

I.    Those who partook of the Passover.

A.  All of the Israelites which came out of captivity celebrated the Passover.

1.   This was a great time of much joy, for some of these people had probably never celebrated the Passover.

2.   It wasn't a time of fear or sorrow, but of rejoicing because of all the good things God had done for them after they had treated Him and His worship so shabbily.

B.   There were evidently some other people who had separated themselves from the wickedness of the land, accepting the religion of the Jews and the true worship of Jehovah.

1.   This were probably Gentiles, perhaps some of them were Samaritans who came to a knowledge of the saving faith of Christ.

2.   There will always be converts to Christ when God's people try to serve Him according to the dedicates of His Holy Word.

C.   Why did Israel reject the Gentiles in Ezra 4:3, and accept the Gentiles in Ezra 6:21?

1.   The Gentiles in Ezra 4:3 wanted to join with Israel, but didn't want to reject their false religion, or the wickedness of the land.

2.   The Gentiles in Ezra 6:21 wanted to separate themselves from the filthiness of the land, embracing the Jewish religion.


II.   It is very interesting to note that all this worship of God was in order to seek the Lord.

A.  This is exactly what we do when we meet together, or when we pray and study privately.

B.   We don't ever really truly find the Lord, not in this life anyway.

C.   But it is our place to continually seek Him.


Verse 22, And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

I.    They continued in joyfulness.

A.  It is easy to be happy when things are going the way we want them to.

1.   The Jews have rest from their enemies for over 4 years.

2.   They have plenty because the government has provided what they need.

3.   They have freedom to worship God according to His precepts.

B.   They are worshipping God from their heart, which gives much joy.

1.   We ought to look for the good things God does for us, so we will be able to worship in joy.

2.   We shouldn't always be looking at the bad side of life, for if we do, we will never see the good.


II.   We must learn to worship God even during times of sorrow.

A.  I am not saying that we won't have sorrow during troublous times.

1.   I am saying that when we have great sorrow, at the same time we will have a peace that passes all understanding, because we know God is with us.

2.   During these times, we will be able to worship God in sorrow.

3.   Not because of circumstances, good or bad, but because we know He is with us through all things.

B.   If we only worship God during times of joy, we will miss many opportunities to worship.

1.   There are some truths we will never learn, except in the valley of sorrow.

2.   There are some other truths we will never learn, except in the mountain top of joy.