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

6:1.  “Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls (archives), where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.”


Archaeology has revealed that the Babylonians kept very careful records of all their transactions, the word “treasures” being used here, not in the usual sense of meaning gold, silver, etc., but rather their historical records. 


The Wycliffe Bible Commentary makes the following instructive observation, “... it is a tribute to the efficiency of the Persian administration that records were safely filed in an elaborate network of archives centering in Babylon and reaching to branch libraries as far distant as Achmetha (Ecbatana), capital of the old Median empire.”


6:2.  “And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll (papyrus or leather scroll), and therein was a record thus written:”


Achmetha (another name for Ecbatana, and the former captial of Cyrus) means brother of death, a meaning very appropriate to anything connected with Babylon, which represents false religion, that deadly counterfeit of what pertains to true spiritual life.


6:3.  “In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;”


The scroll confirmed that Cyrus had indeed authorized the building of the Temple, the sixty cubit measurements referring, not to the foundation, but to the Temple itself.  A cubit was about 18 inches, so the dimensions would have been approximately ninety feet each.  Solomon’s temple had been just thirty cubits high and twenty broad.


6:4.  “With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house:”


His willingness to pay for the building of the Temple indicates that while he regarded Jehovah as just another of many gods, He viewed Him as being chief amongst them.


6:5.  “And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.”


Restitution was to be total.  Every iota taken from the original building was to be restored, and set in its proper place in the new Temple; all of this pointing to what will be in the Millennium, when the Levitical order of worship will be restored, not just for Israel, but for the whole world.


6:6.  “Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river
(Euphrates), Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:”


6:7.  “Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.”


Darius would tolerate no interference whatsoever with the building of the new Temple, and it is apparent that God was using this heathen king as an instrument for the accomplishment of His own purposes; and so is it still: man’s rebellion is permitted, and though unknown to rebel humanity, simply contributes to the advancement of God’s designs.


6:8.  “Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men that they be not hindered.”


Not only was there to be no hindering (lit., making to cease) of the work, but the enemy was to contribute to its advancement by supplying the Jews with as much money as they needed.


6:9.  “And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:”


This is another example of the truth declared in Ephesians 3:20, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”  They who had begun to build the Temple in fear and trembling, found that the enemy was being made the God-ordained supplier of all their needs.  We too, who have been commissioned to build the Church through the faithful spread of the Gospel, are delivered from anxious care relative every need, God’s assurance being, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything 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.


There is instruction also in what was prescribed for the burnt offerings, for it is to be remembered that each item speaks first of Christ, and then of us.  The bullock, the most costly, portrays Him in all the energy of young manhood devoted to the service of His Father, even unto death.  The ram represents the activity of His will in the Father’s service; while the lamb portrays the submissiveness of His will to that of His Father.  Wheat typifies Him as the corn of wheat which fell into the ground and died as our Substitute, but then rose again, see John 12:24, His resurrection being the evidence of our justification through faith in Him as the One Who died in our guilty stead for our sins.


Salt, which retards corruption, typifies Him as the sinless One upon Whom death had no claim, the same truth being declared in His resurrection, without His body experiencing corruption. 


Wine, biblical symbol of joy and gladness, reminds us of what is written concerning Him, “... the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Hebrews 12:2.


Oil, the universal symbol of the Holy Spirit, reminds us that during His life on earth He walked in perfect submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and finally it was  “... through the eternal Spirit (that He) offered himself without spot to God....” Hebrews 9:14.


All that marked the Lord ought to characterize us; and while we cannot die for sin we are commanded to live as “those who are dead to sin,” see Romans 6:11-12, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”


6:10.  “That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savor unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.”


Darius was like many another man.  He acknowledged the existence of God, and would like to have men “say a little prayer” for him; but he evinced no desire to enter into a soul-saving relationship with that same God.


6:11.  “Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon, and let his house be made a dunghill for this.”


This command is an OT example of the one which concludes the NT, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:19-20.  The great difference between them, however, is that the first was the capricious command of a mere human autocrat: the second is the fiat of the God of heaven and earth.


Many scholars believe that the warning was directed particularly to the Samaritans.


6:12.  “And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem.  I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.”


While his speech might imply a true knowledge of God, it seems clear that Darius knew nothing of Jehovah, except that He was the chief among a multitude of other gods.  Many, having only a similar scant knowledge of Him, are deluded into believing that that imperfect apprehension is nevertheless sufficient to deliver them from hell and secure their admission to heaven.


6:13.  “Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.”


There are many today who are equally prompt in obeying the dictates of men, but who treat the commands of God as though obedience were an inconsequential option.


6:14.  “And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.  And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.”


“Prophesying” in the present context means inspired teaching, and since the NT teacher is the counterpart of the OT prophet (2 Peter 2:1), one lesson at least being taught here is that the teacher’s work is also to encourage believers to build the Church through a faithful proclamation of the Gospel.  And as the building of the Temple was completed, so will that of the Church, everything now pointing to the imminence of her rapture to heaven, a fact which ought to impel us to greater diligence in preaching the Gospel.


6:15.  “And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.”


Adar was the last month of the year, the total time of rebuilding being about twenty-one years. 


6:16.  “And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.”


That day of joy is but a foreshadowing of the greater joy that will accompany the completion and rapture of the Church.


6:17.  “And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.”


As has been considered already, that Temple, built by the remnant returned from the seventy-year Babylonian captivity, foreshadows the millennial regathering of the believing remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles, following the now imminent seven-year Tribulation era, so that the sacrifices offered typify the worship that will be offered, not only by Israel, but by all the nations during that glorious thousand-year era.


The relatively small number of sacrifices, compared with the twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep, offered by Solomon at the dedication of the first Temple, see 1 Kings 8:63, may be an oblique way of revealing the relatively small number of those who will emerge from the terrible Tribulation judgments into the Millennium.


6:18.  “And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.”


The appointed order for the Millennial priests and Levites will be as recorded in Leviticus 8, and Numbers 3:5-10; 8:5-16.


6:19.  “And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.”


6:20.  “For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.”


The purity of the priests and Levites may not be taken to imply that they were sinless, but rather that they were ceremonially clean as a result of having observed all that was enjoined relative to the Levitical ritual.


6:21.  “And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat.”


Those who “had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land” were believing Gentiles, who because of their faith, were privileged to enjoy all the blessings God had made available to His own people Israel.  They represent believers of this present Church age, virtually all of whom are Gentiles, the great difference between those ancients and us being that we have been made the recipients of transcendent spiritual blessings rather than temporal, as it is written, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3.


6:22.  “And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”


The feast of unleavened bread represents our lives from the moment we became believers, and since leaven is a type of sin, their eating unleavened bread is the symbolic announcement of the fact that we are to strive to walk in obedience before God, sin being the accidental and regretted, rather than the habitual and enjoyed thing in our lives.  And since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, those seven days point to the perfection of the new life we received at conversion. 


Their keeping the feast “with joy” reminds us that of all the people on earth we are they who have the greatest cause to live joyously even in the midst of tribulation, having the assurance that “All things (even the most adverse) work together for good to those who love God,” Romans 8:28, death itself being but the end of earthly trial, and the introduction to unalloyed bliss in heaven with Christ.


Darius is called “the king of Assyria” here because his empire included what had been Assyria.

[Ezra 7]


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