The Word Made Fresh
1King Darius issued the order to search the records of the documents stored in Babylon, 2but it was in Ecbatana, the capital of the province of Media, that a scroll was found on which this record was written: 3“In the first year of his reign King Cyrus issued these instructions concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: ‘Let the house be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices and burnt offerings are brought; its height and its width shall be ninety feet with three layers of hewn stones and one of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. 5Let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon be restored to the temple in Jerusalem, each in its proper place in the house of God.’
6“Therefore,” the king decreed, “you, Tattenai, governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-Bozenai and all of you assistants and envoys in that province, keep your distance 7and allow the work on this house of God to be done. Let the governor and the leaders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its original site. 8Furthermore, you shall remit to these people the funds to cover the cost of the building of the house of God. The full cost is to be given these people without delay from the royal treasury out of the funds allocated for the province beyond the River. 9Also, give to them day by day whatever is needed – young bulls, rams or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine, and oil as the priests in Jerusalem may need – 10so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his children. 11In addition, I decree that if anyone changes this edict in any way, a beam shall be pulled out of that person’s house and he will be impaled on it, and the house will be made a garbage heap. 12And may the God whose name has been placed there overthrow any king or nation that attempts to amend this decree or seeks to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I Darius, have issued this decree; let it be obeyed completely.”
13Then Tattenai the governor of the province beyond the River and Shethar-Bozenai and their officers complied with what king Darius had ordered. 14So, the Jewish elders built successfully, supported by the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They completed the building according to the order of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15The house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year of King Darius.
16Then the people of Israel along with the priests and Levites and the returned elders celebrated and dedicated the house of God with great joy. 17For the dedication of the house of God they sacrificed a hundred bulls, two hundred rams and four hundred lambs, plus twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 18Then they established the priests in their divisions, and the Levites according to their assigned responsibilities for serving God at Jerusalem, as written in the book of Moses.
19They observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 20All of the priests and Levites had cleansed themselves, so they could sacrifice the Passover lamb for the returned exiles, their fellow priests and themselves. 21It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from their exile as well as by all who had joined them and had rejected the disgusting practices of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel. 22They happily celebrated the festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days because the LORD had made them joyful and had even turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them to assist them in the work on the house of the God of Israel.
1-5: The Persian administrative organization is showcased here. Records from the reign of Cyrus are not found in Babylon, but in the capital of another province, and Jeshua and Zerubbabel are upheld in their claim.
6-12: The text moves immediately to record the letter Darius sends back to Tattenai. He tells them not only to not interfere with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem but to assist the project by diverting funds from their annual tribute to Darius and give those funds directly to the building project. Not only that, but they are to provide everything the priests need for making sacrifices so they can pray for Darius and his children to the “God of heaven.”
13-15: Tattenai and his associates comply with Darius’ decree and the temple is completed.
16-18: The temple is dedicated with modest sacrifices of only a few hundred animals, plus the sin offerings for the people. The priests and Levites are organized to run the Department of Religion.
19-22: On the fourteenth day of the first month (Jewish calendar) they celebrate the Passover and the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread. All the people are happy that Darius is now their benefactor.
God has allowed Israel to fall into the hands of foreign powers; first Babylon, and then Babylon is overtaken by Assyria. The Assyrians turn out to be a blessing for them. Cyrus, Darius, and Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes) give them all the support they need for rebuilding the temple, and it is clear that God is using these foreign leaders to reestablish the temple and the worship of the people. Even in punishment God is willing to provide all we need to return to the fold.