6 King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:
3 In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:
Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide,4 with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5 Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.
6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of that province, stay away from there.7 Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.
8 Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:
Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop.9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.
11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.
I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
(Ezra 6:1-12 NIV)
By way of review, King Cyrus commissioned Jewish exiles to leave Babylon and return to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple to the Lord. Approximately 50,000 exiles returned, resettled, and began rebuilding the Temple.
The local transplants saw what was taking place; they didn’t like it and opposed the work at every turn. Tattenai, the regional governor, appeared and demanded to know who authorized the exiles to rebuild the Temple. When the Jewish leaders replied that King Cyrus commissioned them, the governor knew he could not stop the work by his authority but could appeal to the new Persian ruler, King Darius. The governor then sent a letter to King Darius asking what to do in hopes that the King would agree with him and shut down the rebuilding of the Temple.
In today’s passage, Ezra tells us that King Darius received the governor’s letter, investigated the matter, and found King Cyrus’ decree in the royal archives.
King Darius then sent a letter back to Tattenai, the regional governor, and told him not only to leave the Jewish exiles alone as they rebuilt the Temple but also to pay for their needs out of the region’s royal taxes and treasury.
Moreover, the king stated that anyone who dared disobey his command was to be impaled on a beam from their house and their house was to be destroyed. For the people of that era, the king’s decree was the worst of all fates. This decree essentially meant that the person’s name was to be erased from history and memory forever.
Darius then asked God Himself to overthrow anyone who would attempt to destroy the Temple and reiterated that his word was to be carried out with all diligence.
What Tattenai, the regional governor, meant for harm, God reversed and used for His glory and His people’s good. History tells us that King Darius, like his predecessor King Cyrus, was a benevolent supporter of all local deities in an effort to keep the peace and maintain control over his kingdom.
I doubt that King Darius could ever imagine that his actions would set the stage for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to one day appear on earth and ultimately rule the world.
Be encouraged, friends, to stand firm in your faith, especially in times of opposition and hardship. God is working on your behalf, just as He did for the Jewish exiles as we read in today’s passage, to right the wrongs for His glory and your good.