Ezra 5:1-6:22 – The Temple Rebuilt
SummaryThe temple is rebuilt under the prophetic leadership of Haggai and Zechariah, who urged the people to resume construction despite the vigorous attempts of Tattenai, the governor, to block their efforts.
AnalysisThe second stage in the completion of God's mission to restore the exiles to their homeland was completed with the rebuilding of the temple.
The temple was central to Israel's spiritual life. As the sign of God's presence among the people, the temple represented the focus of their worship and the source of divine blessing. Its completion signaled the continuity with the past that the returnees so desperately needed to experience. Now that they were under Persian rule and no longer politically defined, a fundamental problem confronting the community lay in their need to define themselves in relation to those around them. The accounts of opposition from the surrounding peoples that frequently occur in these chapters testify to the seriousness of the problem. The building occurred over a long period of time as the community struggled against this opposition and the demoralizing conditions that met them upon their return.
The first sentence of Ezra 6:14 provides a cheery summary of the project's success, giving the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who threatened and cajoled the people to persist in their labors (Ezra 5), their due. More important, the second sentence defines Israel in terms of both the Persian administration and their God, maintaining that God had caused the Persian kings to decree the return and rebuilding, just as, through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, God had stirred up the people to build the temple.