This chapter highlights some of the features found elsewhere in the book of Ezra in relation to the rebuilding of the temple. First was the initial delay by the returnees, who seemed to focus more on building their own homes than on rebuilding the temple. Second came the local opposition to rebuilding the temple. And third was the initial decree by Cyrus, the Persian ruler, which allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the temple.
These verses mention two prophets known elsewhere in the Old Testament, Haggai and Zechariah. In their own respective books of scripture, they not only prophesied about rebuilding the temple but also strongly encouraged the inhabitants to make progress on the temple. When the people claimed it was not yet time to rebuild the house of the Lord, Haggai responded, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled [paneled] houses, and this house lie waste?” (Haggai 1:4).
As the rebuilding continued, so did the opposition against it. The local governor demanded to know who ordered the rebuilding of the house. A request for further information was sent to King Darius while the building continued.
These verses contain a copy of the letter sent by the provincial governor Tatnai (Tattenai) and other officials to King Darius (522–486 BC), the successor to Cyrus. These officials informed the king that the temple was being rebuilt and that the people claimed that King Cyrus issued an order to rebuild the house of God. They requested that a search be made in the royal archives to see whether such an order by Cyrus had been made. These verses summarize the Jewish perspective that God had allowed the temple to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar because of their fathers’ disobedience but that through the instrumentality of Cyrus, the captured temple vessels were returned to Jerusalem along with permission to rebuild the temple.
Throughout scripture we see covenant promises related to land or other blessings that sometimes the covenant peoples forfeited through their rebellious actions. God extends promises to His people but also requires faithfulness in return.