For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

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.”


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.”


The prophesies of Haggai and Zenchariah were obviously exhortations and encouragement to the people to resume the rebuilding of the Temple, which had been stopped for about fifteen years, see 4:1-5, 24.  The result was that Zerubbabel and Jozadak set the people to work on that project, the prophets themselves assisting the people.  This was in the second year of Darius.


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 means my gifts; and Shethar-boznai who searched my despisers, but these meanings yield no readily discernible instruction.  It seems that before attempting to stop the work, these two had the wisdom to ascertain the names of those who had authorized the Jews to engage in the work of rebuilding.  They were making sure that their command to the Jews to cease the work wasn’t going to contravene that of a higher authority, king Darius.


In the present context “this wall” refers to the wall of the Temple, not the wall of the city.


5:4.  “Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?”


The first part of this verse doesn’t make sense in the context of what follows, and it is generally agreed that it was Tatnai and Shethar-boznai who asked the question.


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.”


God was watching over His people, and He saw to it that the work would not cease except by the command of His own instrument Darius the king.  Accordingly therefore Tatnai and Shethar-boznai sent a letter to Darius seeking his instructions relative to the building being carried on by the Jews.


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:”


Apharsachites means as causers of division.  They are the OT equivalent of those who cause division amongst God’s people today.


5:7.  “They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.”


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.”


Even though they worshiped many gods, perhaps including Jehovah, Whom they worshiped ignorantly, their calling Him “the great God,” indicates that He occupied first place in their pantheon.


The Temple is a type of the Church, the “great stones” portraying us as the “living stones” of 1 Peter 2:5; and the timber speaking of us as those who, though spiritual men, are still in their natural bodies.


“... this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands,” is a description aptly fitted to the state of the Church in the early apostolic age, but regrettably it was applicable only to those early days, the glory of which serves simply to manifest by contrast the sad state of the Church today.


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?”


Their question undoubtedly was meant to enable them to supply king Darius with the name of the person who had authorized the building, so that he could contact that individual directly.  What they didn’t know was that that One was He Who held in His omnipotent hand the very breath drawn by them and their king.


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.”


They were careful to omit no detail that would aid Darius in his causing the work to cease; nor have the opponents of the Gospel been any less assiduous in their opposition to it in the intervening centuries.


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.”


They might have described themselves as prophets and priests and elders, but it is instructive to note that they described themselves simply as God’s servants.  The apostate travesty that calls itself “The Church” - Protestant and Catholic alike - has departed very far from the simple humility that becomes those who profess to be followers of Christ, and that was displayed by the Apostles and early Church fathers.  Instead they have arrogated high-sounding titles such as Pope, Archbishop, Bishop, Very Reverend, Reverend, Pastor, etc; have clad themselves in gorgeous robes and miters; built for themselves palatial dwellings; erected magnificent cathedrals and “churches,” and live more luxuriously than those they are supposed to serve.


Those who insist that the splendor associated with the Temple and its liturgy is the pattern for the Church, display abysmal spiritual ignorance.  That magnificence is the pattern for Millennial worship; the simplicity of the early Apostolic era is the model for the Church.


The “great king” who had built the original Temple was Solomon, the glory of his kingdom foreshadowing the greater glory of the now imminent millenial kingdom.


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.”


It is ominously significant that Nebuchadnezzar means confusing the lord of treasure: prophesy, the earthen vessel is preserved; while Babylon means confusion (by mixing). 


Only the spiritually blind will fail to see in Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and his captivity of the Jews, the typological foreshadowing of what has befallen the professing Church.  The Apostolic age hadn’t ended until confusion and error had begun to ravage the virgin bride of Christ, so that today a fragmented, confused, spiritually blind and ignorant professing Church has become a virtual spiritual ruin which is the pitiful object of the world’s disdain.


Nor should we miss the aptness of the meaning of Babylon - confusion (by mixing).  It is the Church’s refusal to remain separate from the world, that has contributed largely to her ruin, the evil of her disobedience being the greater by reason of

its being rebellion against God’s direct command, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? and what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 .


Chaldeans, incidentally, means as clod-breakers; that is they are representative of those who are so spiritually dull as to be capable only of understanding earthly things.  The Chaldean, in fact, is a type of the natural man of whom it is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto himn: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.


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.”


See comments on Ezra 1:1-4 relative to this decree of Cyrus.


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 Shesh-bazzar, whom he had made governor.”


This is one of the few places in Scripture where gold is mentioned before silver, for as has been noted already, silver represents redemption; and gold, Divine glory; man being required to accept the silver of redemption before he can inherit glory. 


Here the subject is God’s glory, the things relating to that glory and man’s redemption having no place in an idol’s temple, hence their short sojourn in the Babylonian temple, and their removal now in preparation for return to their proper place: God’s Temple in Jerusalem.


Shesh-bazzar means fine linen in the tribulation, and it isn’t difficult to see in him a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who amid the “tribulation” of this sinful world, exhibited in His every thought, word, and deed, the perfect righteousness of which fine linen is a Biblical symbol.  And as Shesh-bazzar had been made governor, so into Christ’s hand has been committed the government of the whole earth.


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.”


So certain was the construction of the Temple that it is spoken of here as having already been rebuilt.  It is equally certain that the millennial Temple will also be built; and as the returned gold and silver vessels would add glory to the Temple which was to be built by that returning remnant, so will the millennial Temple exhibit more splendidly the glory of God to the nations of that soon-coming day.


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.”


As has been noted already Sheshbazzar (another name for Zerubbabel) is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in his laying the foundation of the Temple we have the typological portrait of Christ’s, not only laying, but being Himself, the foundation of the Church, as it is written, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 3:11.


“... the house of God which is in Jerusalem,” adds a further detail to the picture, for as the Temple was in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem means dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, so is peace associated with the Church, for even in the midst of Tribulation, those who constitute that mystical temple walk in the enjoyment of the peace of God which passeth all understanding, as it is written, “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.


“... and yet it is not finished.”  The building of the Temple wasn’t then finished, nor is the building of the Church yet complete; but everything points to the fact that its completion is very near.  Today could see the last “living stone” added, that event being synchronous with the Lord’s descent to the air to catch us up to be for ever with Him, see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”


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.”


Much as Tatnai and Shethar-bozni and their associates would have liked to stop the Jews from building the Temple and the city, care for their own welfare dictated caution.  It would have been foolish to act without having Darius’ authority.  And so does God still work in the hearts of His enemies to accomplish His own purposes.

[Ezra 6]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough