13 Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. 15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
16 Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. 17 For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses.
19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their relatives the priests and for themselves. 21 So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
(Ezra 6:13-22 NIV)
In chapter 5, we saw the Jewish people begin rebuilding the Temple. The regional governor Tattenai showed up and demanded to know who authorized this rebuilding work. The Jewish leaders recounted their story and King Cyrus’ decree to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
Tattenai was not going to go against a king’s orders, but Cyrus was no longer the king – Darius was now the monarch in charge. So Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius in hopes that a) Darius would shut down the rebuilding, or b) the record of King Cyrus’ decree could not be found and Darius would shut down the project.
In the first half of chapter 6, we see King Darius receive the letter, search the archives, find the decree, and write back to Governor Tattenai. The governor’s plan backfires – not only does King Darius support his predecessor’s decree, he also orders Tattenai to leave the Jews alone and to subsidize the rebuilding effort out of the regional tax revenue and the king’s treasury. Furthermore, Darius tells Tattenai that anyone who disobeys his order will be publicly executed, their house demolished, thus wiping out their name from memory forever.
In today’s passage, Governor Tattenai reads King Darius’ letter. Tattenai carries out Darius’ orders immediately, not wanting to risk the consequences.
The Jewish leaders finish building the Temple, encouraged along the way by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. When the Temple was finished, the Jewish people gathered and celebrated by dedicating the Temple to the Lord, thanking Him for all He had done for them. With the Temple rebuilt, the priests, Levites, singers, and others resumed their Temple duties as God had instructed Moses.
In case you’re keeping track of the timeline for this passage, you’ll notice that Ezra mentions King Artaxerxes in verse 14. Remember that Ezra is writing about the history of these events that happened during the reigns of Kings Cyrus and Darius which were a century before his time. Ezra was a scribe during the time of King Artaxerxes, so he had access to all the official records from that previous era, as well as the family stories and Jewish remembrances that came from that time period. Ezra was recounting how God intervened in the affairs of Zerubbabel and the other Jewish leaders during the reign of King Darius, and God was taking care of Ezra and the Jewish people in King Artaxerxes’ day.
The chapter concludes by recounting the first Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread that were held in the Temple. What a joyous occasion that must have been, celebrating God’s goodness for an entire week!
It seems that every generation has reason to look back in humble gratitude and celebrate how God has delivered them from bondage and called them to Himself. For the ancient Jews, the Passover and the rebuilding of the Temple signified God’s hand at work. For us, the cross signifies the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, to rescue us from the bondage of our sin and shame and restore us to right relationship with Him.
While we look back to Jesus’ life and events two thousand plus years ago, we know that He is active in our lives today, rescuing us and giving us new life and hope.
Has the Lord delivered you from a former way of life that was leading to destruction, to a new life focused on Him? Take some time to praise Him for your transformation.
Are you still struggling with something that wants to control your life and rob you of the joy that God has planned for you? If so, why not lay those burdens down at the foot of the cross and leave them there? Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
Take Jesus up on His offer today – and celebrate the deliverance only He can provide.