The Decree of King Darius (Ezra 6:1 – 12)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 6:1 – 12

 

1. What might be the oldest document in your family archives? Your birth certificate? Grandpa’s journal? Someone’s high school yearbook? Why has it been kept so long?

2. What court order, parents’ ruling or umpire’s decision recently went your way in some contested case? How did you feel about that?

3. Compare this Aramaic memo of Cyrus’ decree with the Hebrew version in chapter 1:2 – 4. What additional details do you see here? Why would they have been added?

4. How does Darius’ decree (verses 6 – 12) expand on that earlier memo? What is his “punch line”? Why might this rub Tattenai the wrong way?

5. When have you invoked God’s authority as your own? Where do you draw the line and dare someone to cross over or defy your authority? What defiance (by your children, partners or subordinates) would trip your trigger and bring them into conflict with you?

6.What sacrifices and prayers are you offering on behalf of those in authority over you (verse 10; see 1 Timothy 2:1ff)?

7. Persian kings made a policy of restoring the religious institutions of native peoples (chapter 6:1 – 12). If this policy were practiced where you live, what native religions might flourish?

8. What restoration projects are you, like Darius, supporting with your money, as well as your mouth?

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Tattenai’s Letter To Darius (Ezra 5)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 5

1. Are you a “pack-rat” selective saver or a toss-it-all person? How far back do you keep letters? Christmas cards? Email? Bills? Taxes?

2. In what way do the events of verses 1 and 2 represent a new start (see chapter 4:24; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1)?

3. Why does the author retrace the rebuilding effort to Shealtiel (verse 2; see 1 Chronicles 3:17 – 19)?

4. “At that time” (verse 3) can be dated to the period from August 29 to December 18, 520 BC, one year after the Babylonians failed in their revolt against Persia (November, 521 BC). How does that help account for what’s going on in verses 3 – 5?

5. What about this episode is seen as a blessing from God? Why?

6. How is God’s hand of blessing evident in Tattenai’s letter to Darius (verses 6 – 17)? What human instruments has God evidently been using to bless and discipline His people?

7. What is the status of this re-building project to date? Who is to be credited (or blamed) for the “rapid progress” (verse 8)? How about for the “unfinished task” (verse 16)?

8. In 536 BC Sheshbezzar presided over laying the temple foundation (verses 14 – 16), and in 520 BC Zerubbabel presided over laying a second foundation (see Haggai 1:14, 15). How do you account for that 16-year delay (see Zechariah 4:6 – 10)? Explain your answer. (Note: Some believe Sheshbezzar [verse 14] was the Babylonian name for Zerubbabel, meaning the two were the same person.)

  • Israel suffers from strong opposition?
  • From lack of legal authority?
  • From lack of spiritual power?
  • From internal lethargy?
  • Good things, done right, take time?

9. In your life, what has taken many years to get right? How do you account for the delay?

10. In the work God has given you to do, when is His hand of blessing obvious to you?

  • In warding off opponents, as in chapter 5:5?
  • In “making rapid progress,” as in chapter 5:8?
  • Often in construction delays?
  • Only in the project’s completion, as in chapter 6:15 – 17?

Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:6 – 24)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 4:6 – 24

Additional Comments:

From 536 BC until 522 BC, work on the temple comes to a halt. The opposition of Israel enemies is in part the problem, but another part is the priority given by the settlers to building their own houses and preparing the land for crops. The record of opposition contains various correspondence between Israel’s enemies and the Persian leaders by whom the resettlement is being permitted.

Notice Chapter 4 describes three different strategies used to hinder God’s people. . .

  • offer help that will lead to compromises or even a complete takeover of the project by unbelievers (verses 1 – 3)
  • discourage, frighten and frustrate God’s people (verses 4 and 5)
  • use official power to force them to stop (verses 23 and 24)

Now, as then, government and opposition groups use these strategies to stymie believers.

1. “The pen is mightier than the sword” – when has that proved true for you? Do you fight better with words or with your fists?

2. Fighting with words. Do you tend to pout? Provoke? Tease? Ridicule? Do you get your best zingers by thinking quickly on your feet or by composing your words on paper?

3. Xerxes reigned from 486 – 465 BC and Artaxerxes I from 465 – 424 BC. How does the opposition under their reigns compare to the opposition under King Cyrus (see chapter 4:1 – 6)? How do you account for the perseverance and intensifying of this conflict over such a span of years?

4. Ashurbanipal squelched a major revolt in Babylonia (652 – 648 BC), destroying the town of Susa (verse 9) in the process and deported the rebels (verse 10). What irony do you see in what Rehum (and the other descendants of those rebels) are doing 200 years later?

5. What was their letter designed to do (verses 11 – 16)? How is that related to what transpired 100 years earlier (under the reign of Cyrus)?

6. What is the three-pronged appeal of Rehum’s letter? What is this plaintiff more concerned about?

  • city building code violations?
  • political issues?
  • advancing his own cause?
  • revenging himself and his people on Israel?
  • something else?

7. What effect did this letter have on Artaxerxes? On Rehum and associates? On the Jews? And later, on Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 1:3ff, where it is believed he hears news of this episode)?

8. What does Ezra conclude? What happens in the second year of King Darius’ rule (verse 24; Haggai 1:1 – 5; Zechariah 1:1 – 17)?

9. Rehum’s complaints against Israel reminds us that our past sometimes lives on to haunt us. Where do you see that proving true today in national or international affairs? In TV evangelists? In churches and denominations? In your personal and family life?

10. When one party says they alone are the true worshipers of God, and all others are a mixed breed, what might be expected in return? How else do you account for the opposition mounted against ancient Israel?

11. On the other hand, why was Israel right to insist on religious exclusivity and spiritual purity? Today, when might it be valid to assert one’s expression of the faith as the only way? Over against whom? Other denominations? Cults? State religion? Government interference?

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