The Persian Kings (Ezra 4:6 – 5:17)

King Cyrus of Persia, the new power kingdom in the Middle East during the time of the writing of Ezra, had defeated Babylon.  He then decreed that the Jews return to Israel, specifically Jerusalem, and rebuild their temple.  This had upset the power structure in Jerusalem which had developed in the time between Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian defeat of Israel and the conquest of Babylon by Persia.  The Jews resisted the opposition to their actions, however, and continued the process of restoring Jerusalem.  But another king arose in Persia, Ahaseurus, and the Persian subjects in Jerusalem sent him a letter protesting the Jews actions.  They received no response, so when another king arose, Artaxerxes, they sent another letter to him, and he heard their pleas and responded by ordering the Jews to cease building the temple, because the record of them in Persia showed them to have been a rebellious and powerful nation at one time.  The work did not continue under his reign.  

When Darius took the throne, however, the Jews began working on the temple again.  When approached about who authorized them to begin the work again, they gave the Persians the names of the builders.  They also shared that they were the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and recounted the great history of Israel and how they forsook God and lost their temple to the attack of Nebuchadnezzar.  They reminded the Persians that Cyrus their former king had ordered them to rebuild the temple.  They then asked that a search be made for the decree of Cyrus and a decision be rendered by Darius as to what they should do.

The Jews were forced to stop the action of building the temple under the reign of Artaxerxes by force of armed men, but when they found a strategic shift in the power structure of Persia, they resumed their work, and called for a decision from the new king.  Two things come to mind here:  time and faith.  First, the time during which this project was attempted was lengthy and disjointed, due to the actions of Israel’s enemies.  They worked under the leadership of seven different kings, over a period of over one hundred years.  Their efforts were stopped and restarted, and took much longer than they could have expected.  However, the Jews maintained their faith, trusting God and stepping out against opposition, even putting their own lives at risk.  How long and how strong is our faith in God?  Put God’s plan to work in your life, and do not fear the detractors and skeptics who stand in the way of God’s blessings in your life!

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