I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.
Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezra 6-8.
At the end of the last chapter we read that the governor of the province which included Jerusalem questioned the Jews who had resumed rebuilding the Temple. When they claimed to have been given permission to do so by Cyrus, he sent to the current emperor, Darius, for clarification. I believe the reason that Cyrus’ edict, and Darius’ edict were included was because the writer(s) realized that they were likely to be lost to time otherwise (considering how hard it was to find Cyrus’ edict at the date of Darius’ letter). It appears to me that Tattenai the governor, while not exactly supportive of the rebuilding, was not hostile to it either. In any case it was after this that reconstruction of the Temple was finally completed.
It is in chapter 7 that we finally meet Ezra, for whom this entire book is named. We are not told in what way Ezra gained the favor of Artaxerxes, but it is clear that he did. It seems likely that Artaxerxes support for Ezra coincided with his sponsorship of the building of temples throughout his empire, something which had been avoided by previous Persian emperors. This is especially likely if my theory that Cyrus and his successors perceived Judaism to be related to Zoroastrianism. All of that is really just an aside from what, to me, is the main point of the account of Ezra’s trip to Jerusalem. As Ezra was preparing for the trip, he found himself in a bind. The first part of that bind was that Ezra had been entrusted with more gold, silver, and other valuables to the Temple in Jerusalem than he had expected. He was concerned that it might fall to bandits along the way. The second part was that he had expressed his firm belief that God was capable of protecting those who worshiped Him. Ezra was torn. He wanted to be responsible and guard the treasures which had been entrusted to him, but he also wanted to live up to his expressions of faith. In the end, the plan he made was both practical and showed his faith in God. He divided up the treasure among various individuals who were leaders of groups among those going on the trip. The division was done in front of multiple witnesses so that no one could claim that they had been given less, nor that someone else had been given more, than they were. And for security, he, and all of those who were joining the expedition, spent time in prayer and fasting asking God to protect them and the treasure they were transporting. Are we willing and able to trust God to protect our lives and treasure in the way which Ezra demonstrated here? Also, are we willing to vocalize our trust the way that Ezra had done?