Temple Work Resumed
In 520 BC, after 16 years of idleness, God sent Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the Jews to resume work on the temple. The Jews had been busy with their daily lives, building their homes, but had allowed opposition to stop them (Haggai 1:4; Ezra 4:23, 24).
The king’s servants inquired about the work, not from a standpoint of hostility, but of looking out for the king’s interest. The New American Commentary notes that during Darius’ first years there were rebellions against him, especially west of the Euphrates (NAC, 108). However, God was with His people and the work continued.
Darius Authorized the Work To Continue
A letter was sent to Darius inquiring about any authority given the Jews by king Cyrus. It is interesting to note that the Jews of the return were well aware of and thinking about the rebellion of past generations (Ezra 5:12). Knowing the consequences of disobeying God was part of their motivation to keep building the temple.
Darius’ reply was more than the Jews could have hoped for. Not only did he tell his officials to keep away from the Jews and their work, he also provided material support for the temple. Further, the king declared a punishment for anyone that would dare alter his decree stating that person would be crucified and his house made a refuse heap (Ezra 6:11).
The Temple Was Finished & The People Celebrated
The teaching done by Haggai and Zechariah resulted in prosperous work by the Jews – because they listened. Hence, they finished the temple about 4 ½ years after restarting the work (compare Ezra 5:1 and 6:15). This was an occasion of great joy as they dedicated the temple with multiple sacrifices. With the rebuilt temple, they observed the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. Note those who participated “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel” (Ezra 6:21).