Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Building of the Temple Continued, and Notice Thereof Sent to King Darius - Ezra 5
In the second year of Darius Hystaspis (Darajavus Vitapa) the prophets Zechariah and Haggai arose, and exhorted the people by words, both of reproof and encouragement, to assist in the work of rebuilding the house of God. In consequence of these prophetic admonitions, the rulers of the community resumed the work (Ezr 5:1, Ezr 5:2); and the royal governor on this side the Euphrates allowed them, when in answer to his inquiries they appealed to the decree of Cyrus, to proceed with their building until the arrival of a decision from King Darius, to whom he addressed a written report of the matter (Ezr 5:3-17).
"The prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel upon them." חתנבּי without א, which this word occasionally loses in Hebrew also, comp. Sa1 10:6, Sa1 10:13; Jer 26:9. The epithet נביּאה added to the name of Haggai serves to distinguish him from others of the same name, and as well as הנּביא, Hagg. Hag 1:1, Hag 1:3, Hag 1:12, and elsewhere, is used instead of the name of his father; hence, after Zechariah is named, the prophets, as designating the position of both, can follow. על־יהוּדיא, they prophesied to (not against) the Jews; על as in Eze 37:4, = אל, Eze 37:9; Eze 36:1. The Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, in contradistinction to Jews dwelling elsewhere, especially to those who had remained in Babylon. עליהון belongs to אלהּ בּשׁם, in the name of God, who was upon them, who was come upon them, had manifested Himself to them. Comp. Jer 15:16.
"Then rose up Zerubbabel ... and Joshua ... and began to build the house of God at Jerusalem, and with them the prophets of God helping them." The beginning to build is (Ezr 3:6, etc.) the commencement of the building properly so called, upon the foundations laid, Ezr 3:10; for what was done after this foundation-laying till a stop was put to the work, was so unimportant that no further notice is taken of it. The "prophets of God" are those mentioned Ezr 5:1, viz., Haggai, and Zechariah the son, i.e., grandson, of Iddo, for his father's name was Berechiah (see Introd. to Zechariah). Haggai entered upon his work on the first day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius; and his first address made such an impression, that Zerubbabel and Joshua with the people set about the intermitted work of building as early as the twenty-fourth day of the same month (comp. Hag 1:1 and Hag 1:14.). Two months later, viz., in the eighth month of the same year, Zechariah began to exhort the people to turn sincerely to the Lord their God, and not to relapse into the sins of their fathers.
When the building was recommenced, the governor on this side Euphrates, and other royal officials, evidently informed of the undertaking by the adversaries of the Jews, made their appearance for the purpose of investigating matters on the spot. עליהון אתּה, came to them, to the two above-named rulers of the community at Jerusalem. Tatnai (lxx Θανθαναΐ́) was פּחה, viceroy, in the provinces west of Euphrates, i.e., as correctly expanded in 1 Esdras, of Syria and Phoenicia, to which Judaea with its Pecha Zerubbabel was subordinate. With him came Shethar-Boznai, perhaps his secretary, and their companions, their subordinates. The royal officials inquired: "Who has commanded you to build this house, and to finish this wall?" The form לבנא here and Ezr 5:13 is remarkable, the infinitive in Chaldee being not בנא, butמבנא; compare Ezr 5:2, Ezr 5:17, and Ezr 6:8. Norzi has both times לבּנא, as through the Dagesh forte were compensating for an omitted .מ אשּׁרנא which occurs only here and Ezr 5:9, is variously explained. The Vulgate, the Syriac, and also the Rabbins, translate: these walls. This meaning best answers to the context, and is also linguistically the most correct. It can hardly, however, be derived (Gesenius) from אשׁר, but rather from אשׁן, in Chaldee אשׁוּן, firm, strong-walls as the strength or firmness of the building. The form אשּׁרנא has arisen from אשׁנּא, and is analogous to the form בּשׁנה.
(Note: The interpretations of the lxx, τὴν χορηγίαν ταύτην, meaning these building materials, and of 1 Esdr. 6:4, τὴν στέγην ταύτην καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πάντα, this roof and all besides, for which Bertheau decides, without considering that שׁכלל may mean to complete, and not to prepare for anything, are but conjectures.)
Then told we them after this manner (כּנמא, Ezr 4:8), what were the names of the men who were building this building. From אמרנא, we said, it is obvious that the author of this account was an eye-witness of, and sharer in, the work of building. These is not a shadow of reason for altering אמרנא into אמרוּ, or into the participle אמרין (Ew., Berth., and others); the εἴποσαν of the lxx being no critical authority for so doing. The answer in Ezr 5:4 seems not to correspond with the question in Ezr 5:3. The royal officials asked, Who had commanded them to build? The Jews told them the names of those who had undertaken and were conducting the building. But this incongruity between the question and answer is merely caused by the fact that the discussion is reported only by a short extract restricted to the principal subjects. We learn that this is the case from the contents of the letter sent by the officials to the king. According to these, the royal functionary inquired not merely concerning the author of the command to build, but asked also the names of those who were undertaking the work (comp. Ezr 5:9 and Ezr 5:10); while the rulers of the Jews gave a circumstantial answer to both questions (Ezr 5:11-15).
Tatnai and Shethar-Boznai had power to prohibit them from proceeding; they allowed them, however, to go on with their work till the arrival of an answer from the king, to whom they had furnished a written report of the matter. In these dealings, the historian sees a proof of the divine protection which was watching over the building. "The eye of their God was over the elders of the Jews, that they should not restrain them (from building) till the matter came to Darius; and they should then receive a letter concerning this matter." Bertheau incorrectly translates יהך לד עד־טעמא: until the command of King Darius should arrive. ל is only used as a paraphrase of the genitive in statements of time; otherwise the genitive, if not expressed by the status construc., is designated by דּ or דּי. יהך, fut. Peal of הלך, formed by the rejection of ל, construed with ל, signifies to go to a place (comp. Ezr 7:13), or to come to a person. טעמא (טעם) does not here mean commandment, but the matter, causa, which the king is to decide; just as פּתגּן, Ezr 6:11, means thing, res. The clause יתיבוּן ואדין still depends upon עד: and till they (the royal officials) then receive a letter, i.e., obtain a decision.
In Ezr 5:6-17 follows the letter which the royal officials sent to the king. Ezr 5:6 and Ezr 5:7 form the introduction to this document, and correspond with Ezr 5:8-11 in Ezra 4. Copy of the letter (comp. Ezr 4:11) which Tatnai, etc., sent. The senders of the letter are, besides Tatnai, Shethar-Boznai and his companions the Apharsachites, the same called Ezr 4:9 the Apharsathchites, who perhaps, as a race specially devoted to the Persian king, took a prominent position among the settlers in Syria, and may have formed the royal garrison. After this general announcement of the letter, follows the more precise statement: They sent the matter to him; and in it was written, To King Darius, much peace. פּתגּן here is not command, but matter; see above. כלּא, its totality, is unconnected with, yet dependent on שׁלמא: peace in all things, in every respect. The letter itself begins with a simple representation of the state of affairs (Ezr 5:8): "We went into the province of Judaea, to the house of the great God (for so might Persian officials speak of the God of Israel, after what they had learned from the elders of Judah of the edict of Cyrus), and it is being built with freestone, and timber is laid in the walls; and this work is being diligently carried on, and is prospering under their hands." The placing of wood in the walls refers to building beams into the wall for flooring; for the building was not so far advanced as to make it possible that this should be said of covering the walls with wainscotting. The word אספּרנא here, and Ezr 6:8, Ezr 6:12-13; Ezr 7:17, Ezr 7:21, Ezr 7:26, is of Aryan origin, and is explained by Haug in Ew. Janro. v. p. 154, from the Old-Persian us-parna, to mean: carefully or exactly finished-a meaning which suits all these passages.
Hereupon the royal officials asked the elders of the Jews who had commanded them to build, and inquired concerning their names, that they might write to the king the names of the leading men (see the remark on 3 and 41). בראשׁהם דּי does not mean, who are at the head of them: but, who act in the capacity of heads.
The answer of the elders of the Jews. They returned us answer in the following manner (לממר = לאמר): "We are His, the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house which was built many years ago; and a great king of Israel built and completed it." דּנה מקּדמת, of before this, i.e., before the present; to which is added the more precise definition: many years (accusative of time), i.e., many years before the present time.
For this reason (להן), because (מן־דּי = מאשׁר, e.g., Isa 43:4) our fathers provoked the God of heaven, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, and he (Nebuch.) destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon. For כּסדּיא the Keri requires כּסדּאה, the ordinary form of the absolute state of the noun in ai. סתר, Pael, in the sense of destroy, appears only here in biblical Chaldee, but more frequently in the Targums. עמּה, its people, would refer to the town of Jerusalem; but Norzi and J. H. Mich. have עמּהּ, and the Masora expressly says that the word is to be written without Mappik, and is therefore the stat. emphat. for עמּא.
In the first year, however, of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus made a decree, etc.; comp. Ezr 1:3. The infin. לבנא like Ezr 5:3. - On Ezr 5:14 and Ezr 5:15, comp. Ezr 1:7-11. ויחיבוּ, praeter. pass. of Peal; they were given to one Sheshbazzar, (is) his name, i.e., to one of the name of Sheshbazzar, whom he had made pechah. Zerubbabel is also called פּחה, Hag 1:1, Hag 1:14, and elsewhere.
Take these vessels, go forth, place them in the temple. For אלּה the Keri reads אל, according to Ch1 20:8. אחת is imperat. Aphel of נחת. The three imperatives succeed each other without any copula in this rapid form of expression. The last sentence, "and let the house of God be built in its place," i.e., be rebuilt in its former place, gives the reason for the command to deposit the vessels in the temple at Jerusalem, i.e., in the house of God, which is to be rebuilt in its former place.
In virtue of this command of Cyrus, this Sheshbazzar came (from Babylon to Jerusalem), and laid then the foundations of the house of God, and from that time till now it has been building, and is not (yet) finished. שׁלים, part. pass. of שׁלם, often used in the Targums and in Syriac for the Hebrew תּמם; hence in Dan 5:26 the Aphel, in the meaning of to finish, and Eze 7:19, to restore. This statement does not exclude the cessation from building from the last year of Cyrus to the second of Darius, narrated Ezra 4-6:7, as Bertheau and others suppose, but only leaves the unmentioned circumstance which had been the cause of the delay. If the section Ezra 4:6-23 does not refer to the building of the temple, then neither is a "forcible interruption" of the building spoken of in Ezra 4; but it is only said that the adversaries frustrated the purpose of the Jews to rebuild the temple till the time of Darius, and weakened the hands of the people, so that the work of the house of God ceased.
After thus representing the state of affairs, the royal officials request Darius to cause a search to be made among the archives of the kingdom, as to whether a decree made by Cyrus for the erection of the temple at Jerusalem was to be found therein, and then to communicate to them his decision concerning the matter. "And if it seem good to the king, let search be made in the king's treasure-house there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king." על טב הן, like the Hebrew על טּוב אם, Est 1:19, for which in older Hebrew לו טּוב, Deu 23:17, or בּעינים טוב, Gen 19:8; Jdg 10:15, and elsewhere, is used. גּזיּא בּית, house of the treasure, more definitely called, Ezr 6:1, house of the rolls, where also the royal treasures were deposited. Hence it is obvious that important documents and writings were preserved in the royal treasury. תּמּה, there, is explained by "which at Babylon." רעוּת, chald. voluntas, comp. Ezr 7:18. Concerning the behaviour of these officials Brentius well remarks: vides differentiam inter calumniatores et bonos ac probos viros. Una eademque causa erat aedificii templi, unus idemque populus Judaeorum; attamen hujus populi causa aliter refertur ab impiis calumniatoribus, aliter a bonis viris.