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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Ezra Chapter 6

Ezra 6:1

ezr 6:1

The decision of Darius. - Ezr 6:1-5. At the command of Darius, search was made in the archives of the royal treasury; and in the fortress of Achmetha in Media, was found the roll in which was recorded the edict published by Cyrus, concerning the building of the temple at Jerusalem.

Ezr 6:1

Search was made in the house of the books where also the treasures were deposited in Babylon. מהחתין, partic. Aphel of נחת; see Ezr 5:15.

Ezr 6:2-4

"And there was found at Achmetha, in the fortress that is in the land of Media, a roll; and thus was it recorded therein." In Babylon itself the document sought for was not found; though, probably the search there made, led to the discovery of a statement that documents pertaining to the time of Cyrus were preserved in the fortress of Achmetha, where the record in question was subsequently discovered. אחמתא, the capital of Great Media - τὰ Εκβάτανα, Judith 1:1, 14, or Ἀγβάτανα (Herod. i. 98) - built by Dejokes, was the summer residence of the Persian and Parthian kings, and situate in the neighbourhood of the modern Hamadan. Achmetha is probably the Old-Median or Old-Persian pronunciation of the name, the letters אחם on Sassanidian coins being explained as denoting this city (Mordtmann in the Zeitschrift der deutsch morgenl. Gesellschaft, viii. p. 14). The citadel of Ecbatana probably contained also the royal palace and the official buildings. For בּגוּהּ is found in some MSS and editions בּגוּהּ; but Norzi and J. H. Mich. have Pathach under ו as the better authorized reading. דּכרונה, stat. emph. of דּכרון, memorandum, ὑπόμνημα, a record of anything memorable. The contents of this document follow, Ezr 6:3-5. First, the proclamation of King Cyrus in the first year of his reign: "The house of God at Jerusalem, let this house be built as a place where sacrifices are offered." The meaning of the words following is doubtful. We translate מסובלין ואשּׁוחי: and let them raise up its foundations, i.e., its foundations are to be again raised up, restored. אשּׁין, foundations (Ezr 4:12); מסובלין, part. Poel of סבל, to carry, to raise (not to be raised). סבל often stands for the Hebrew נשׂא, to carry, to raise up, to erect; compare the Samaritan translation of Gen 13:10 : וסבל את עגין, he lifted up his eyes. סובל אשּׁין analogous with מוסדי ד קומם, Isa 58:12, and signifies to erect buildings upon the foundations.

(Note: The Vulgate, following a rabbinical explanation, has ponant fundamenta supportantia, which is here unsuitable. The conjecture of Bertheau, who labours, by all sorts of critical combinations of the letters in the words מסובלין ואשּׁוחי, to produce the text תמנים מאה אמין אשוהי, "its foundation length 180 cubits," is as needless as it is mistaken. The interpretation of the words in the lxx, καὶ ἔθηκεν ἔπαρμα, and Pseudo-Ezra 6, διὰ πυρός ἐνδελεχους, are nothing else than unmeaning suppositions.)

Expositors are divided as to the dimensions of the new temple, "its height 60 cubits, and its breadth 60 cubits," Antiq. xi. 4. 6; while Solomon's temple was but 30 cubits high, and, without the side-buildings, only 20 cubits broad. We nevertheless consider the statements correct, and the text incorrupt, and explain the absence of the measure of length simply by the fact that, as far as length was concerned, the old and new temples were of equal dimensions. Solomon's temple, measured externally, inclusive of the porch and the additional building at the hinder part, was about 100 cubits long (see the ground plan in my bibl. Archaeol. Table II. fig. 1). To correspond with this length, the new temple was, according to the desire of Cyrus, to be both higher and broader, viz., 60 cubits high, and as many wide, - measurements which certainly apply to external dimensions. Zerubbabel's temple, concerning the structure of which we have no further particulars, was externally of this height and breadth. This may be inferred from the speech of King Herod in Joseph. Ant. xv. 11. 1, in which this tyrant, who desired to be famous for the magnificence of his buildings, endeavoured to gain the favour of the people for the rebuilding of the temple, which he was contemplating, by the remark that the temple built by their forefathers, on their return from the Babylonian captivity, was 60 cubits too low, - Solomon's temple having been double that height (sc. according to the height given in Ch2 3:4, 120 cubits) - and from the fact that Herod made his temple 100 or 120 cubits high. Hence the temple of Zerubbabel, measured externally, must have been 60 cubits high; and consequently we need not diminish the breadth of 60 cubits, also given in this verse, by alterations of the text, because Herod's temple was likewise of this width, but must understand the given dimensions to relate to external height and breadth. For in Herod's temple the holy places were but 60 cubits high and 20 wide; the holy place, 40 cubits long, 20 wide, and 60 high; the holy of holies, 20 cubits long, 20 wide, and 60 high. And we may assume that the dimensions of Zerubbabel's temple preserved the same proportions, with perhaps the modification, that the internal height did not amount to 60 cubits, - an upper storey being placed above the holy place and the holy of holies, as in Herod's temple; which would make the internal height of these places amount to only about 30 or 40 cubits.

(Note: While we acknowledge it possible that the holy and most holy places, measured within, may have been only 40 cubits high, we cannot admit the objection of H. Merz, in Herzog's Realencycl. xv. p. 513, that 20 cubits of internal breadth is an inconceivable proportion to 60 cubits, this being the actual proportion in Herod's temple, as Merz himself states, p. 516, without finding it in this instance "inconceivable.")

In like manner must the 60 cubits of breadth be so divided, that the 5 cubits internal breadth of the side-buildings of Solomon's temple must be enlarged to 10, which, allowing 5 cubits of thickness for the walls, would make the entire building 60 cubits wide (5 + 10 + 5 + 20 + 5 + 10 + 5).

(Note: The conjecture of Merz in his above-cited article, and of Bertheau, that the dimensions of Zerubbabel's temple were double those of Solomon's, - viz. the holy and most holy places 40 cubits high and 40 wide, the upper chambers 20 cubits high, the side-chambers each 10 cubits high, and the whole building 120 cubits long, - must be rejected as erroneous, by the consideration that Herod's temple was only the length of Solomon's, viz., 100 cubits, of which the holy of holies took up 20, the holy place 40, the porch 10, the additional building behind 10, and the four walls 20. For Herod would by no means have diminished the length of his building 20, or properly 40 cubits. We also see, from the above-named dimensions, that the 60 cubits broad cannot be understood of internal breadth.)

The statement in Ezr 6:4, "three layers of great stones, and a layer of new timber," is obscure. נדבּך means row, layer, and stands in the Targums for the Hebrew טוּר, "used of a layer of bricks;" see Gesen. Thes. p. 311, and Levy, chald. Wrterbuch, ii. p. 93. גּלל אבן, stone of rolling, one that is rolled and cannot be carried, i.e., a great building stone. חדת, novus, as an epithet to אע, is remarkable, it being self-evident that new wood is generally used for a new building. The lxx translates εἷς, reading the word חדה (Ezr 6:3). This statement involuntarily recalls the notice, Kg1 6:36, that Solomon built the inner court, ארזים כּרתת וטוּר גזית טוּרי שׁלשׁה; hence Merz expresses the supposition that "this is certainly a fragment, forming the conclusion of the whole design of the building, which, like that in Kg1 6:36, ends with the porch and the walls of the fore-court," Thus much only is certain, that the words are not to be understood, as by Fritzsche on 1 Esdr. 6:25, as stating that the temple walls were built of "three layers of large stones, upon which was one layer of beams," and therefore were not massive; such kind of building never being practised in the East in old times. "And let the expenses be given out of the king's house." This is more precisely stated in Ezr 6:8 of the royal revenues on this side the river. נפקא the expense (from נפק, Aphel, to expend), therefore the cost of building.

Ezr 6:5

"And also let the vessels ... be restored, and brought again to the temple at Jerusalem, to their place, and (thou) shalt place them in the house of God." On the matter of this verse, comp. Ezr 1:7 and Ezr 5:14. The sing. יהך (comp. Ezr 5:5) is distributive: it (each vessel) to its place. ותחת (comp. אחת Ezr 5:15) cannot, according to the sense, be third pers. fem. (neutr.), but only second pers. imperf. Aphel: thou shalt place. None but Sheshbazzar can be addressed (Ezr 5:15), though he is not named in Ezr 6:3. The historian is evidently not giving the contents of the document word for word, but only its essential matter; hence he infers the address to Sheshbazzar from the answer of the Jewish elders (Ezr 5:15). Perhaps it was also remarked in the document, that Coresh caused the sacred vessels to be delivered to Sheshbazzar (Ezr 1:8).

Ezr 6:6-12

Acting upon the discovered edict, Darius warned the governor and royal officials on this side the Euphrates, not to hinder the building of the house of God at Jerusalem. On the contrary, they were to promote it by furnishing what was necessary for the work, and paying the expenses of the building out of the royal revenues to the elders of the Jews (Ezr 6:6-8). They were also to provide for the worship of God in this temple such animals as the priests should require for sacrifice (Ezr 6:9, Ezr 6:10), under pain of severe punishment for transgressing this command as also for any injury done to the temple (Ezr 6:11, Ezr 6:12). This decree was undoubtedly communicated to the governor in the form of a written answer to his inquiries (Ezr 6:13). Without, however, expressly stating this to be the case, as Ezr 6:1 and Ezr 4:17 would lead us to expect, the historian gives us in Ezr 6:6. the actual contents of the royal edict, and that in the form of a direct injunction to the governor and his associates on this side the river: "Now Tatnai, governor, ... be ye far from thence." The suffix וּכנותהון, and their associates, is indeed unsuitable to the form of an address, of which Tatnai and Shethar-Boznai are the subjects; the narrator, however, in using it, had in mind the title or introduction of the royal letter. On this matter, comp. Ezr 5:6. רחק and רחיק, to be far from, figuratively to keep from anything, e.g., from good, Psa 53:2. מן־תּמּה, from thence, from Jerusalem; in other words, trouble yourselves no longer, as, according to Ezr 5:3, you have done about what is being done there.

Ezr 6:7

"Let the work of the house of God alone." שׁבק with an accusative, to leave anything, to let it go on without hindrance. "Let the Pechah of the Jews (Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel) and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in its place." The ל to לשׂבי introduces a second subject with special emphasis: And as far as regards the elders of the Jews, i.e., the Pechah, and especially the elders.

Ezr 6:8

"And a decree is (hereby) made by me, what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews, i.e., how you shall behave towards them (עם עבד = עם עשׂה, Gen 24:12.), to build this house, i.e., that this house may be built: namely, (ו expl.) of the royal moneys, of the custom (מדּה, see remarks on Ezr 4:13) on this side the river, let expenses (the cost of building) be punctually given to these men, that there be no hindrance." לבטּלא דּי־לא, that there be no cessation or leisure from work, i.e., that the work is not to be discontinued. On the construction of the לא with the following infinitive, comp. Dan 6:9. The Vulgate renders the sense correctly by ne impediatur opus.

Ezr 6:9

"And what is needful, both young bullocks and rams and lambs, for the burnt-offerings of the God of leaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests at Jerusalem (i.e., as the priests shall require for the service of God), let it be given them day by day without fail." מה is joined with the plur. fem. of the partic. חשׁחן, and is defined by the enumeration which follows. משׁח, properly the anointing, then oil as the means of anointing. On להוא and להון, see remarks on Ezr 4:12. שׁלוּ דּי־לא, that there be no failure.

Ezr 6:10

The end the king had in view in all this follows: "That they (the priests) may offer sacrifices well-pleasing to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons." ניחוחין (comp. Dan 2:46) are sacrifices agreeable to God, ניחוחין ריח (Lev 1:9, Lev 1:13, and elsewhere), i.e., sacrifices pleasing to God. Cyrus had commanded the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, because he acknowledged the God of Israel to be the God of heaven, who had given him the kingdoms of the earth (Ezr 1:2). Darius was treading in his footsteps by also owning the God of the Jews as the God of heaven, and desiring that the blessing of this God might rest upon himself and his dynasty. Such an acknowledgment it was possible for the Persian kings to make without a renunciation of their polytheism. They could honour Jahve as a mighty, nay, as the mightiest God of heaven, without being unfaithful to the gods of their fathers; while the Jews could also, in the interest of their own welfare, pray and offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord for the life of the king to whom God had caused them to be subject (comp. Jer 29:7). Accordingly we find that in after times sacrifices were regularly offered for the king on appointed days: comp. 1 Macc. 7:33, 12:11; 2 Macc. 3:35, 13:23; Joseph. Antiq. xii. 2. 5, and elsewhere.

Ezr 6:11

To inculcate obedience to his command, Darius threatens to punish its transgression with death: "If any one alters this command, let a beam be torn from his house, and let him be fastened hanging thereon." To alter a command means to transgress or abolish it. אע, a piece of wood, a beam. זקיף, raised on high, is in Syriac the usual word for crucified, and is to be so understood here. מחא, to strike, with על, strike upon, fasten to, nail to. This kind of capital punishment was customary among the Assyrians (Diod. Sic. ii. 1), the ancient Persians, and many other nations, but seems to have been executed in different manners among different people. Among the Assyrians it generally consisted in the impalement of the delinquent upon a sharp strong wooden post; comp. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 355, and Nineveh and its Remains, p. 379, with the illustration fig. 58. According to Herod. iii. 159, Darius impaled as many as 3000 Babylonians after the capture of their city (ἀνεσκολόπισε). Crucifixion proper, however, i.e., nailing to a cross, also occurred among the Persians; it was, however, practised by nailing the body of the criminal to a cross after decapitation; see the passages from Herodotus in Brissonii de regio Persarum princip. l. ii. c. 215. "And let his house be made a dunghill." See remarks on Dan 2:5 and Kg2 10:27.

Ezr 6:12

Finally, Darius adds the threat: "The God who has caused His name to dwell there, destroy every king and (every) people that shall stretch forth the hand to alter (this command), to destroy this house of God at Jerusalem." The expression, "the God who has caused His name to dwell there," is indeed specifically Israelitish (comp. Deu 12:11; Deu 14:23; Jer 7:12; Neh 1:9), and therefore undoubtedly originated with the Jewish historian; but the matter itself, the wish that God Himself would destroy him who should injure His temple, recalls the close of the inscription of Bisitun, wherein the judgments of Ahuramazda are imprecated upon him who should dare to injure the image and inscription, and his blessing invoked upon him who should respect them (Berth.).

Ezra 6:13

ezr 6:13

The execution of the royal decree, the completion of the building, and the dedication of the new temple. - Ezr 6:13 Tatnai and his associate diligently executed the commands of Darius. "Because Darius the king sent (i.e., despatched to them the letter, whose contents have just been given, Ezr 6:6), they speedily acted accordingly in the manner stated" (כּנמא).

Ezr 6:14

The elders of the Jews, moreover, built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, who thereby effected the resumption of the work, and promised them success. ב is used of the rule by which, or manner in which anything is done. "They built and finished (the building) according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artachshasta, kings of Persia." The naming of Artachshasta presents some difficulty; for since it is impossible to conceive that a predecessor of Darius is intended by a name which follows the name of that monarch, none but Artaxerxes Longimanus can be meant, and he did not reign till long after the completion of the temple. Cleric. and J. H. Mich. explain the mention of his name by the consideration that Artaxerxes, by his edict (Ezr 7:15, Ezr 7:21), contributed to the maintenance, though not to the building, of the temple.

(Note: "Nam etsi," remarks Calovius in J. H. Mich., adnotatt. uber. ad h. l., "non ad structuram templi conduxerit proprie edictum Artaxerxis, quae Darii secundo anno incepta et sexto absoluta fuit, Ezr 6:15 ad ornamenta tamen et additamenta eam spectasse dubium non est: quae ab ipso, ceu rege post Cyrum et Darium erga Judaeos Persarum omnium benignissimo, profecta hic celebratur." Similarly but more briefly explained by Clericus.)

It may in this instance be questionable whether the name ארתחשׁשׁתא was added by the author of the Chaldee section, or by Ezra when he introduced this into his book. We believe the latter to be the correct view, because the Chaldee section, to judge by the אמרנא, Ezr 5:4, was composed by one who lived contemporaneously with the building of the temple, while from the date of the completion of the temple to the seventh year of Artaxerxes fifty-seven years elapsed.

Ezr 6:15

And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar (the twelfth month), which is the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. שׁיציא, according to the Keri שׁיצי, with the א dropped, is the Shaphel of יצא, to bring a thing to an end, to finish it. The form שׁיציא is not a participle pass. formed from the Shaphel (Gesen.), for this would be משׁיציא, but a Hebraized passive form of the Shaphel in the meaning of the Targumistic Ishtaphal, like חיתיוּ, Dan 3:13, and חיתית, Dan 6:18, with the active היתיו, Dan 6:17. In the Targums שׁיצי has mostly an active, and only in a few passages the intransitive meaning, to end, to be at the end; comp. Levy, chald. Wrterbuch, s.v.

(Note: Instead of the "third day," which the lxx also has, in accordance with the Hebrew text, 1 Esdr. 7:5 gives the three-and-twentieth day of the month Adar, - a statement which Bertheau arbitrarily insists upon regarding as the original reading, because "the view that the compiler altered the third into the twenty-third day, because it seemed to him more fitting to assume an eight days' celebration of the dedication (comp. Kg1 8:60; Ch2 29:18), and to fill up therewith also the eight last days of the year, is rather far-fetched." Such a view, however, would be entirely consistent with the whole spirit of 1 Esdras.)

Ezr 6:16-17

The sons of Israel, more exactly the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the sons of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. חנכּה עבד = the Hebrew חנכּה עשׂה, to celebrate the dedication (Ch2 7:9). בּחדוה, Hebrew בּשׂמחה; see Neh 8:10. They brought for the dedication a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs as burnt-offerings, and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering for all Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, because the temple was intended for the entire covenant people, whose return to the Lord and to the land of their fathers, according to the predictions of the prophets, was hoped for (comp. e.g., Eze 37:15., Jer 31:27.), not, as older expositors thought, because certain families of the ten tribes, who had before settled in Judah, were also among those who returned (J. H. Mich. ad h. l.).

Ezr 6:18

At the same time, the priests and Levites were appointed, according to their classes and divisions, to the service of the temple, that they might henceforth fulfil their office, each class in its week (Ch2 23:4; Kg2 11:9). והקימוּ corresponds with the Hebrew ויּעמידוּ, Ezr 3:8, and elsewhere. As Bertheau justly remarks, "The services of public worship, which after the completion of the temple were to be performed by the priests and Levites, according to ancient ordinance, are here spoken of." With these words the Chaldee section closes.

Ezra 6:19

ezr 6:19

Celebration of the feast of the passover, and of the feast of unleavened bread, in the year following the dedication, as an historical testimony to the fact that the worship of God with its festivals was regularly carried on in the new temple.

Ezr 6:19-20

The feast of the passover, on the fourteenth day of the first month, took place only a few weeks after the dedication of the temple. The reason given in Ezr 6:20 - for the priests and Levites had purified themselves without exception (כּאחד, like Ezr 3:9); they were all clean, and they killed the passover for all the sons of the captivity (i.e., the laity who had returned from exile), and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves - has in this connection the meaning: Then the congregation celebrated the passover, and they were able to keep and to eat the passover, because the priests had purified themselves that they might be qualified for performing the office incumbent upon them of sprinkling the blood; and the Levites were also clean, that they might be able to kill the lambs for the whole congregation (comp. the remarks on Ch2 30:17, etc., and Ch2 35:11, Ch2 35:14). From the days of Josiah, it seems to have been customary for the Levites to take the place of the heads of families (Exo 12:6, etc.) in slaughtering the passover lambs for the whole community, both priesthood and laity: for the laity, that no person who was unclean might kill the paschal lamb; for the priests, that their labours might be lightened, the sprinkling of blood and the offering of sacrifices occupying them far into the night (Ch2 35:11, Ch2 35:14-15). And this custom was followed at this time also. The priests are called אחיהם, brethren of the Levites, as in Ch2 29:34; Ch2 35:15.

Ezr 6:21

Thus the sons of Israel who had returned from captivity, and all that had separated themselves unto them from the uncleanness of the heathen of the country to seek Jahve the God of Israel, could eat the passover. הארץ גּויי = הארץ עמּי, Ezr 10:2, Ezr 10:11, are the heathen races dwelling in Palestine. The expression is not essentially different from הארצות עמּי, Ezr 9:1., Ezr 3:3, and is only distinguishable therefrom, inasmuch as the latter appellation includes not merely the heathen inhabitants of Palestine, but also the heathen of other lands, as the Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians, etc. (Ezr 9:1.). Those who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the heathen to them (the Jews) to seek Jahve, are not proselytes from heathenism (Aben Ezra, Rashi, Clericus, and others), but Israelites, who had till now lived in Palestine, and mingled with the heathen inhabitants of the land. They were descended from those Israelites whom the kings of Assyria and Babylon had not carried away from the realms of Israel and Judah, and who with respect to religion had combined heathenism and the worship of Jahve (Kg2 17:32, etc.), and thus defiled themselves with heathen impurity, but who now, after the erection of the temple, joined themselves to the new community, for the purpose of worshipping with them the God of their fathers in His temple, according to the law of Moses. For, as Bertheau rightly remarks, "in the days of Ezra the princes of the new community complain that the laity, the priests, and Levites do not separate from the people of the lands (Ezr 9:1); reference is made to the dangers which threaten the Israelites, because they dwell in the holy land among the unclean (Ezr 9:10). To separate from the uncleanness of the nations means to renounce intermarriage and other connection with them. Ezr 10:2, Ezr 10:10. They are Israelites who are summoned, Ezr 10:11, to separate from the peoples of the land; the seed of Israel is, in Neh 9:2, separated from the sons of the stranger, and in Neh 10:29 they who separate from them are evidently Israelites, for, when they bind themselves to walk according to the law of God, they are said to join their brethren, i.e., their fellow-countrymen." Hence in this passage also we cannot but regard those who separated themselves as Israelites, dissolving their connection with the heathen for the sake of the God of Israel.

Ezr 6:22

Hereupon they kept the feast of unleavened bread for seven days with joy; for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned to them (i.e., had made them joyful by turning to them) the heart of the king of Assyria. With regard to the expression, comp. Ch2 20:27; Neh 12:43. The king of Assur is the Persian king Darius, who as ruler of the former realm of Assyria is thus designated. The turning of this king's heart to them consisted in this, that their hands were strengthened for the work of the house of God, i.e., that through the goodwill of the king they were enabled to complete the building of their temple, and to restore the worship of the God of Israel. On בּ ידיהם חזּק, comp. Sa1 23:19.

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