Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.