Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
A "house of the rolls" was discovered at Koyunjik, the ancient Nineveh, in 1850 - a set of chambers, i. e., in the palace devoted exclusively to the storing of public documents. These were in baked clay, and covered the floor to the depth of more than a foot. Such a "house" was probably that at Babylon.
"Achmetha" is the "Ecbatana," or "Agbatana," of the Greeks, the Persian name for which, as we find in the Behistun Inscription, was HaGMaTANa.
We must suppose that, when Babylon had been searched in vain, the other cities which possessed record-offices were visited, and the decree looked for in them. Ecbatana was the capital of Cyrus.
It is difficult to reconcile the dimentions here with expressions in Zechariah Zac 4:10, Haggai Hag 2:3, and even Ezra Ezr 3:12, which imply that the second temple was smaller than the first (compare Kg1 6:2). Perhaps the dimensions here are those which Cyrus required the Jews not to exceed.
The word translated "row" occurs only in this passage. Some regard it as a "course," and suppose that after every three courses of stone there followed a course of timber. Others understand three "storeys" of stone, with a fourth "storey" of woodwork on the summit (compare Kg1 6:5-6). Others consider that Cyrus intended to limit the thickness of the walls, which were not to exceed a breadth of three rows of stone, with an inner wooden wainscotting.
Let the expenses be given out of the king's house - i. e., "out of the Persian revenue," a portion of the decree which was probably not observed during the later years of Cyrus and during the reign of Cambyses, and hence the burthen fell upon the Jews themselves Ezr 2:68-69.
This verse gives the words of the decree of Darius, which was grounded upon, and probably recited, the decree of Cyrus.
Being set up, let him be hanged thereon - Rather, "let him be lifted up and crucified upon it." Crucifixion was the most common form of capital punishment among the Persians.
Destroy all - A similar malediction is found at the end of the great inscription of this same king Darius at Behistun: If anyone injures the tablet which he has set up, he prays that Ormazd will be their enemy, and that they may have no offspring, and that whatever they do, Ormazd may curse it for them.
To alter and to destroy this house - i. e., to alter the decree, and then proceed to destroy the house.
Artaxerxes - The Artaxerxes of marginal reference seems to be meant (i. e., Longimanus); he was one of those who together with Cyrus and Darius helped forward the completion of the work.
"Adar" was the twelfth or last month of the Jewish year, corresponding nearly with our March. The sixth year of Darius was 516-515 B.C.
Compare with this modest sacrifice, which suits well "the day of small things" Zac 4:10, the lavish offering of Solomon (see the marginal reference "n").
With this verse the writer resumes the use of the Hebrew language, which he had discarded for the Chaldee from Ezr 4:8. With the exception of the letter of Artaxerxes Ezr 7:12-26, all the remainder of the book is in Hebrew.
Some render, "And the priests were purified; and the Levites, as one man, were all of them pure." A contrast is drawn between the universal purity of the Levites and the merely general purity of the priests Ch2 29:34; Ch2 30:3, which made it fitting that the former should undertake the slaughter of all the Paschal lambs, even of those which the priests were to consume. In later times the ordinary practice was for each head of a family to kill for himself.
The king of Assyria - i. e., Darius. Assyria had so long been the great monarchy of western Asia that the sacred writers continue the title to those who had inherited the old Assyrian power, as first to the Babylonians Kg2 23:29, and secondly to the Persians. With similar inexactness we find Herodotus calling Cyrus "king of the Medes."