7.49 Ezra-Nehemiah -- Second Phase of Rebuilding

At the beginning of Darius’ reign there was considerable rebellion and uncertainty throughout the empire.  Zerubbabel and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah seized the opportunity to restart work on the Temple (Ezra 5:1-2).  This brought a protest from Tattenai the governor, but the Jews continued their task.  Tattenai wrote to Darius, accurately stating the Jewish case for building the Temple, and asking whether a decree from Cyrus existed in the royal archives.  Darius found the decree, cited it, and added to it his own authorization to complete the work:

           "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" (Ezra 6:7).

          

Darius exceeded Cyrus' orders by underwriting the sacrificial offerings from the royal treasury,

           so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons (Ezra 6:10).

          No doubt Darius needed all the prayers he could get, but it was not devotion that was his primary motivation.  Judah was a buffer state between Persia and Egypt, and Darius wanted to ensure a loyal populace in those distant provinces (NIC, p 89).

        

So the Temple was completed in 516 BC.  The original gold vessels were in place, but there was no Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place (Study Bible, p. 683).  It was lost sometime during the destruction of Jerusalem.  From the time the foundations were laid until the Temple was completed was 21 years.  Solomon's Temple had lasted nearly 400 years,  Zerubbabel's almost 600 -- until Titus destroyed it in 70 AD. (NIC, p.93).

        

At the dedication ceremony, only priests, Levites, and exilic laity attended, not local inhabitants.  This was truly a Jewish Temple, ritually and racially pure.  Then the Passover was held:

         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 (Ezra 6:21).

 

This is a little unclear:  according to the Law, Passover was open to observant foreigners.  The verse seems to say that, unlike the dedication of the Temple, the celebration of Passover may have included local people who repented of polytheism and idolatry.  This would have included the descendants of non-exiled Judahites, but not the foreigners brought in by Assyrians or Babylonians.