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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.
A "house of the rolls" was discovered at Koyunjik, the ancient Nineveh, in 1850 - a set of chambers, i. e., in the palace devoted exclusively to the storing of public documents. These were in baked clay, and covered the floor to the depth of more than a foot. Such a "house" was probably that at Babylon.
2And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:
"Achmetha" is the "Ecbatana," or "Agbatana," of the Greeks, the Persian name for which, as we find in the Behistun Inscription, was HaGMaTANa.
We must suppose that, when Babylon had been searched in vain, the other cities which possessed record-offices were visited, and the decree looked for in them. Ecbatana was the capital of Cyrus.
3In 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;
It is difficult to reconcile the dimentions here with expressions in Zechariah Zechariah 4:10, Haggai Hag 2:3, and even Ezra Ezr 3:12, which imply that the second temple was smaller than the first (compare 1 Kings 6:2). Perhaps the dimensions here are those which Cyrus required the Jews not to exceed.
4With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expences be given out of the king's house:
The word translated "row" occurs only in this passage. Some regard it as a "course," and suppose that after every three courses of stone there followed a course of timber. Others understand three "storeys" of stone, with a fourth "storey" of woodwork on the summit (compare 1 Kings 6:5-6). Others consider that Cyrus intended to limit the thickness of the walls, which were not to exceed a breadth of three rows of stone, with an inner wooden wainscotting.
Let the expenses be given out of the king's house - i. e., "out of the Persian revenue," a portion of the decree which was probably not observed during the later years of Cyrus and during the reign of Cambyses, and hence the burthen fell upon the Jews themselves Ezra 2:68-69.
5And 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.
6Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:
This verse gives the words of the decree of Darius, which was grounded upon, and probably recited, the decree of Cyrus.
7Let 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.
8Moreover 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 expences be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.
9And 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:
10That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
11Also 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.
Being set up, let him be hanged thereon - Rather, "let him be lifted up and crucified upon it." Crucifixion was the most common form of capital punishment among the Persians.
12And 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.
Destroy all - A similar malediction is found at the end of the great inscription of this same king Darius at Behistun: If anyone injures the tablet which he has set up, he prays that Ormazd will be their enemy, and that they may have no offspring, and that whatever they do, Ormazd may curse it for them.
To alter and to destroy this house - i. e., to alter the decree, and then proceed to destroy the house.
13Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
14And 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.
Artaxerxes - The Artaxerxes of marginal reference seems to be meant (i. e., Longimanus); he was one of those who together with Cyrus and Darius helped forward the completion of the work.
15And 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 twelfth or last month of the Jewish year, corresponding nearly with our March. The sixth year of Darius was 516-515 B.C.
16And 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,
17And 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.
Compare with this modest sacrifice, which suits well "the day of small things" Zechariah 4:10, the lavish offering of Solomon (see the marginal reference "n").
18And 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.
19And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.
With this verse the writer resumes the use of the Hebrew language, which he had discarded for the Chaldee from Ezra 4:8. With the exception of the letter of Artaxerxes Ezra 7:12-26, all the remainder of the book is in Hebrew.
20For 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.
Some render, "And the priests were purified; and the Levites, as one man, were all of them pure." A contrast is drawn between the universal purity of the Levites and the merely general purity of the priests 2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 30:3, which made it fitting that the former should undertake the slaughter of all the Paschal lambs, even of those which the priests were to consume. In later times the ordinary practice was for each head of a family to kill for himself.
21And 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,
22And 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 king of Assyria - i. e., Darius. Assyria had so long been the great monarchy of western Asia that the sacred writers continue the title to those who had inherited the old Assyrian power, as first to the Babylonians 2 Kings 23:29, and secondly to the Persians. With similar inexactness we find Herodotus calling Cyrus "king of the Medes."