Ezra 5:1-17

EZRA 5:1

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.


Then after about two years since the temple’s foundation was laid there was a work hiatus.  Since the temple had to be built, God now dispatches two prophets to motivate the people to get back to work on the temple which was Haggai and Zechariah who was the son of Berechiah who was the son of Iddo.  Sometimes the Bible calls a man a son when he was a grandson because he is in the direct lineage.  These two prophets who penned their own books had begun to prophesy unto the people in the name of the God of Israel, so these were not just personal motivational speeches, they were direct prophecies from the LORD himself.


EZRA 5:2

Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.


Then based upon the prophecies which came from Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and the High Priest Jeshua once again began to work on the temple at Jerusalem.  The prophets of God stood by them and encouraged them and directed them as they began.  The prophets did not abandon them and move on. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. (Haggai 1:12) 


EZRA 5:3

At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?


Tatnai was a Persian Governor west of the Euphrates and Shethar-boznai was a Persian official who also opposed the building of the temple.  Then they came up to the Jews and commanded to know who gave them permission to once again work on the temple and the wall which was probably repaired only where homes were attached to the wall but no major rebuilding of it happened at this time.


EZRA 5:4

Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?


They wanted to know specifically who were the ones involved in the building of the temple.  They probably gave them the names of the two prophets, Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the names of others as they would not have been fearful in giving them the names since it was God himself who dispatched the two prophets to get the people to start building again.


EZRA 5:5

But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.


The LORD was continually watching over them as they continued on the work and even if Tatnai and Shethar-boznai threatened them, they would not stop the work on the temple.  Then the two Persian officials immediately composed a letter and sent it to Darius.  The Jews were not intimidated by the Persians as they knew they were under the direct command of God to build the temple and no human can ever cause the work of God to cease especially since they allowed two years to go by before they restarted the work.


EZRA 5:6

The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:


Then a copy of the letter sent to Darius follows in the chapter.  Remember the Apharsachites were citizens of Media.  The river being the Euphrates River.  Tatnai probably had rule over some of the conquered nations west of the Euphrates.


EZRA 5:7

They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.


They composed a letter to Darius and started it off by wishing him all peace in his life and rule.


EZRA 5:8

Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands.


Then they desired to notify the king of the present situation which prevailed in Judah.  They had gone to the province of Judah which means Tatnai was probably ruling from somewhere else.  He calls it the house of the great God, even the Persians knew that there was a great and central God which ruled in Judah.  The great stones may have been marble stones and the timber would have been the cedars of Lebanon which would have been used for rafters, flooring and the walls.  The Jews really had a mind to work at this point as the temple was now being built at a rapid rate and the final phrase means that they were making such progress they could possibly finish it very soon.


EZRA 5:9

Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?


They placed in the letter that they asked the elders of Judah who commanded them to continue building the house and the walls.  They wanted to know if another decree from the king was issued that they did not know about.


EZRA 5:10

We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.


Then they took a list of the names of the men who were working on the temple and no doubt also the names of the two prophets which the LORD sent to motivate the people to get the job done.  To certify thee meant they made known to the king the specific names of those involved in the building.  These would have been the chief men involved and not the workers.


EZRA 5:11

And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.


Then the Jews responded to them leaving no uncertainties in their answer.  They stated that they were the servants of the God of Heaven and earth which means he rules universally, even over the Medes and Persians.   Then they stated their purpose was to rebuild the temple which was built many years ago by Solomon whom they referred to as a great king of Israel. 


EZRA 5:12

But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.


Then they gave a little of their history that after the time of Solomon both Israel and Judah had degenerated into apostasy.  This resulted in judgment by God who gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar who came to Judah and in three removals, 605, 597, 587 B.C., he came in and completely destroyed the temple of Solomon and after that he carried the people into captivity for seventy years.


EZRA 5:13

But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.


In the first year that Cyrus began to rule Babylon after he conquered it, he had issued a decree that the Jews could return to Judah and build the house of God as this command was given to him by God.  They had included this decree so Darius would see that this was not of their own doing but by the decree of the king.


EZRA 5:14

And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor;


Then all of the gold and silver including all the vessels needed for the work in the temple were carried off by Nebuchadnezzar but he did not destroy any of them, instead he stored them in the Temple of Babylon which was probably built for the false god Bel.  Then once Cyrus received the command from God to rebuild the temple, he had them delivered to Sheshbazzar who was the Governor of Judah at the time and when the temple was completed, the vessels would be placed back in the temple for the work.  Sheshbazzar was the other name for Zerubbabel.


EZRA 5:15

And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.


Then Cyrus commanded Zerubbabel to take all the vessels of the temple and when the temple was completed, to place all the vessels back inside for the priests to do their daily work in the temple according to the law of God.  Something Zerubbabel would have done very happily.


EZRA 5:16

Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.


Then Sheshbazzar had come to Jerusalem and laid the foundation of the house of God.  Remember the great shout they gave when the foundation was laid.  Since that time including the two year hiatus, the building was being built but it was not yet finished at the writing of this letter.


EZRA 5:17

Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search 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.


Now they requested that the king make search in the treasure house which was where the archives and edicts were stored.  They asked to make sure that the information they received from the Jews was correct and there was indeed a decree made by Cyrus the king to rebuild the house and that the king would send to them his findings in a letter so they would be able to confirm that what they were told was the truth.