Dedication of Temple
Ezra 6:13-22 King James Version (KJV)
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 commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
19 And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.
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.
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,
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.
Tattenai, to his credit, carried . . . out the instructions of Darius, and did so with diligence (cf. ”with diligence“ in 5:8; 6:12; 7:21, 23). The work was done by the Jewish elders who were encouraged by the preaching of the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah (cf. 5:1). Ezra noted that the ultimate decree for the building of the temple was from God Himself. God worked through the commands of the pagan Persian kings, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. Workers, prophets, kings, and God were all involved. Artaxerxes had nothing to do with building the temple; apparently his name was added to round out the account, for he had decreed the building of Jerusalem’s walls (Neh. 2:1, 8). He also helped provide for sacrifices at the temple (Ezra 7:12-17). Some have suggested that Artaxerxes’ name may have been added by an early scribe but there is no textual evidence of that. Actually in the Hebrew the words ”the temple“ are not in 6:14. It reads literally, They finished their building, thus speaking in general terms of the total reconstruction of Jerusalem under the decrees of the three kings. But verse 15 specifically mentions the temple.
The temple was completed in Adar (February-March) of 515—21 years after the work started in 536, and 4 1/2 years after Haggai began his prophesying. This was 70 1/2 years after the temple had been destroyed on August 12, 586.
The dedication of the temple and the celebration of the Passover (6:16-22)
The Temple Dedicated (6:16-18)
After the temple was finished, it was then dedicated. The comparatively small number of animals sacrificed (100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 male lambs, and 12 male goats) contrasted sharply with the tremendous amount sacrificed by Solomon at the dedication of the first temple (22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats; 1 Kings 8:63). This points up the comparative poverty of the postexilic community. The 12 goats for the sin offering show that the postexilic community still envisioned a unified Israel consisting of all 12 tribes even though only 2 had survived with any strength.
The leaders of the sacrificial system—the priests and the Levites—were installed . . . according to . . . the Book of Moses, that is, according to that portion of the Law in which the legal system is described—in parts of Leviticus and Numbers (Lev. 8; Num. 3:5-10; 8:5-14). One of the motifs of Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles is that the postexilic community was under the leadership of godly men who were steeped in the Scriptures and attempted to do everything according to the Law. This shows that they had learned from the Exile that God’s people suffer if they do not live up to their covenantal obligations.
The Passover Celebrated (6:19-22)
Beginning with verse 19 the text is again in Hebrew (4:8-6:18 are in Aramaic). On the 14th day of the first month (April 515 b.c.) the Passover was celebrated. The temple had been completed in the 12th month (Adar; v. 15) and fittingly, in the very next month, the Passover was reinaugurated. This was the first time in 70 years that the people partook of this feast which commemorated their forefathers’ release from Egyptian bondage (cf. Ex. 12:1-14; Lev. 23:5).
The Israelite returnees ate the Passover with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors. This second group might have been: (a) Gentiles living in Judah (cf. Num. 9:14), or more likely (b) Jews who had remained in the land and had defiled themselves by practices that went against the Law, and then repented of those sins, thereby ”separating“ themselves.
The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread was on days 15-21 of the first month, immediately after the Passover (cf. Lev. 23:6-8). The reference to Darius as the king of Assyria is not an anachronism (though the Assyrian Empire had ended in 609 b.c.) for the Persian Empire included what was once Assyria. Perhaps this title was a grim reminder that Assyria’s harsh tactics were now ended. She was the first to deport Israelites from their land; but now a contingent of Jews was settled back in their land.
This eight-day celebration (the Passover, Ezra 6:19, and the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, v. 22), 900 years after the first Passover, signaled the end of the Exile for a remnant of the nation was once again back in fellowship with Yahweh. Since the temple worship was restored, it was important for people who wanted to be in fellowship with God and live according to the covenantal obligations to be in the place where the sacrificial system was being practiced. The people had seen firsthand that God works through history, for He had caused pagan kings to issue decrees which let them return to the land of promise (much as He had caused Egypt’s Pharaoh to release Israel). The original readers of Ezra’s book would rejoice in that fact and would be encouraged to participate fully in the temple worship, which had been reestablished at such great cost.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Victor Books: Wheaton, ILCommentary
Decree ObeyedEzra 6:13-15
In the first half of the book, Ezra explains how Cyrus permitted the Jews to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Today’s text names the other rulers who participated by supporting the temple project. As James Smith explains, “In so doing the Jews were obeying the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. The mention of Artaxerxes in 6:14 suggests that it was the author’s purpose to lump together here the three great Persian patrons of the Lord’s people.”
When the people neglected their work on the temple, two prophets—Haggai and Zechariah—called them back to their task. Haggai brought a dramatic message from the Lord: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4). The elders of the Jews were responsible to see that the temple was completed. Most scholars date this event in 515 BC.
Temple DedicatedEzra 6:16-18
Everyone rejoiced at the dedication time: the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles. There were no tears shed this time (as in 3:12), only joy. In the past, dedications after extensive repairs had also been conducted by Josiah and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:17; 35:11).
Male goats were sacrificed as a sin offering covering all the 12 tribes (Numbers 7). In addition, 100 bulls, 200 rams, and 400 male lambs were given as fellowship (or peace) offerings (Leviticus 3:1ff; 7:11-14). Reuben Ratzlaff adds, “It was an appropriate gesture, for this was the first time in almost four centuries, since the division of the nation under Rehoboam and Jeroboam, that all Israel had been able to worship together in one temple.”
Some emphasize the great contrast in the number of animals offered at this time when compared to the total of 120,000 at the original dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:63). The bulk of the sacrifices on these occasions was eaten by the worshippers during the celebrations, and the community at this time was very small.
At the same time, the priests and Levites were appointed, according to their classes and divisions for service in the temple (see 2 Chronicles 23:4; 2 Kings 11:9). The Scripture specifies that this was done according to what is written in the Book of Moses.
Passover KeptEzra 6:19-22
The Passover date is commonly understood to be April 21, 515 BC. Several weeks have passed since the dedication. Passover was observed by the Jews to remember the night that the Israelites left Egyptian bondage many years before. For this observance, the priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. Ezra adds that the Passover lamb was slaughtered for all the exiles, for their relatives the priests and for themselves.
This event marked the people’s commitment to follow God completely once more. Even though they are back near Gentile neighbors whose evil influence had corrupted them in the past, now they will seek the Lord, the God of Israel. J. Stafford Wright points out that this includes “those Jews and Israelites who had not been in captivity, and who were prepared to make a clean break with the idolatry and semi-Jehovah-worship of the Samaritans and surrounding peoples.”
This rededication time included a seven-day celebration of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Ezra notes that they did this because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria. Rather than the king’s being their enemy and captor, God used him to assist them in the work on the house of God!
*Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2009, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS
July 8: Ezra 4:1-5
July 9: Ezra 4:11-16
July 10: Ezra 4:17-24
July 11: Ezra 5:1-5
July 12: Ezra 5:6-17
July 13: Ezra 6:1-12
July 14: Ezra 6:13-22