Spiritual Timing of Esther
If you’ve ever wondered how the book of Esther fits in with the rest of the Bible, you must have asked yourself when the events took place. That’s not an easy task when it comes to unraveling this mystery using only the Bible. That’s true for a number of reasons we will cover later. One of the most profound reasons is the relationship Esther has to future prophecy, better known as end times, the moment in earth’s history a lot of people claim we are living in now. If you’ve searched the Internet to get a historian’s point of view, I know your really confused because they add in all kinds of names and kings who ruled between the main characters in the Bible, not to mention how their articles get side tracked with stories about wives and other relatives.
It’s not difficult to see a spiritual connection between Jerusalem’s fall and the end of the world. People pull away from God, He sends His prophets, people don’t listen and God is left with no choice but to go forward with letting the warnings He gave them follow their course. Here is a point to pay close attention to. While God was sending a number of prophets to accomplish two things, warn people of the impending doom and call them into a closer relationship, false prophets appeared to say things weren’t as bad as they seemed, as well as challenging God’s true prophets. In the course of their ministry those false prophets led people away from God. A close study of those prophets show us lessons we need to survive in the last days. God’s prophets in the Bible show us how God communicated with them, how they delivered their messages, how God protected them as well as methods used to lead people back to God. Those messages followed a specific pattern. Often times the prophet recorded the date or time he received the message. They also recorded the method God used to give them the message which consisted of a series of parts. Prophets established God’s authority, told people God’s intent to call them back, told them how they drifted away, told them the consequences they’d face if they don’t turn back, shared a detail or two telling how the consequences will be carried out, then closed with a promise of rewards God has if they decided to accept His offer, to return to acting like His people. False prophets can’t understand the sequence. False prophets defy God’s message then challenge the true prophets. In other words they do what they’re best at, pointing fingers. False prophets know they failed to lead people to God, which is the main reason Jerusalem was being threatened by invading armies. Instead of looking in a mirror to see the problem, false prophets play the blame game to hang onto their dignity, pride, and jobs.
The main point is to see there are two sides or sets of details to look at in every story. God’s prophets are like reporters telling both sides of the story and letting people decide what to do. Once you understand that point, your ready for the next level, to look into the deeper meaning of the lessons taught. Understanding the timing of Esther follows the same pattern. There are two sides to look at and a deeper lesson to learn when you understand the timing. Get ready to review a lot of texts because the lessons here are going to exceed anything you’ve ever encountered.
Esther 1:1-3 NLTse These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. (2) At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. (3) In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces.
The introduction of Esther begins by establishing the time. As usual the Bible uses the reign of a king to establish a date. But it’s not as easy as it seems to align this date with other books and events in the Bible. To explain this dilemma we can look at another more popular translation.
Esther 1:1-3 KJV Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) (2) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, (3) In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
Notice how these two translations use different names? There is a logical explanation for that. Howe do you answer the question? The smart thing to do is look at the original Hebrew for an explanation.
Ahasuerus (Xerxes) H325
Of Persian origin; Achashverosh (that is, Ahasuerus or Artaxerxes, but in this case Xerxes), the title (rather than name) of a Persian king: – Ahasuerus.
The Hebrew dictionary tells us Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Xerxes are the same name, but are not the name of a king but a title. So now we have a real dilemma, how are we going to accurately place a date when we really don’t know the name of the king? With the Bible there are other ways of examining evidence. There always is. That is a key point to remember when investigating any subject in the Bible, particularly prophecy.
Another detail we see with two names is the city Ahasuerus reigned from, Susa and Shushan. Since we’ve seen the the king’s title used two different names the most obvious word to search for the next clue is the city with two names. It’s a process staring us in the face that leads us to: These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes‘ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. (Nehemiah 1:1 NLTse). We’ve seen the name Artaxerxes before. It is the same name for Ahasuerus and Xerxes.
Of foreign origin; Artachshasta (or Artaxerxes), a title (rather than name) of several Persian kings: – Artaxerxes.
We know we’re on the right track. Esther’s book begins in the third year of Artaxerxes’ reign in Susa. Nehemiah’s book begins in the twentieth year. Since Artaxerxes is a title rather than a name, we can’t be sure if this is the same king or person since the Bible will often refer to a kingdom or capital rather than a specific king. Other books will fill in more details. Persia and Media leads us to Daniel for additional details. So far it appears Esther was about seventeen years before Nehemiah went to rebuild the walls at Jerusalem.
The beginning of Esther shows us Ahasuerus was in charge or and represented the Persian empire. We also know Jews were living in that kingdom at the time since Mordecai and Esther were Jews. It’s part of the main theme of the book. There are some interesting points in Daniel also linked to this story we need to examine.
Daniel 5:30-31 NLTse That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. (31) And Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.
Daniel tells us Belshazzar, the Babylonian king lost his empire to Darius the Mede. Notice Daniel only identified Darius as a Mede and not as king of the Persian Media empire. We will get to that in a moment.
Daniel 9:1-3 NLTse It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians. (2) During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. (3) So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
Now wait a moment. Was Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus? Wouldn’t that place Daniel in a time frame after Esther? You could search a bunch of online historical points on the subject and walk away totally confused and frustrated. The fact of the matter is, none of those stories recorded by historians has anything to do with the subject we are studying. They’ll do nothing but distract you. As a matter of fact if you waste time searching the Internet you’ll find all kinds of stories written by historians trying to discredit the Bible as well as preaches trying to defend it. Neither of them make any sense nor do they address the spiritual meaning of Esther or its lessons.
As a matter of fact you may also run across a list of preaches and religious teachers claiming Esther was long before Babylon as well as other placing it in a time frame generations past Daniel. They do that for two reason. First, they don’t understand the spiritual lessons in Esther nor God’s time line. The second reason they want to misplace Esther’s timing is because spiritual lessons taught in Esther conflict with their interpretation of certain chapters in Daniel. It would be useless to debate any of those details, as our goal is to let the Bible explain itself. Overall this is a test to see if you have what it takes to let God’s Spirit lead and put aside all the distractions associated with Daniel, Esther, along with the other books and prophets we will see associated with this time frame.
First of all you have to remember Ahasuerus is a title and not a specific name. Some historians will tell you Darius was a general and not a king. Others tend to think Darius was another name used for Cyrus. No matter. The Bible has many ways of making details clear. If we followed the same steps we used at the beginning of this study we can answer one of those questions.
Of Persian origin; Darejavesh, a title (rather than name) of several Persian kings: – Darius.
We see Darius and Ahasuerus share the same origin and meaning. Both are of Persian origin and serve as a title rather than a name. So there you go. It’s all in the translation although Daniel makes it clear there were two Persian kings he served under. So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:28 NLTse). The key point is to look at the spiritual side of these stories under rule of the second kingdom in Daniel’s prophecies.
Cyrus is where we need to focus some of our attention since it was Cyrus God named in a prophecy to overthrow Babylon. This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. This is what the LORD says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness– secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them. (Isaiah 45:1-8 NLTse).
Of course the introduction of the chapter establishes the theme of that chapter. As we’ve seen, there are a number of digressions and disagreements concerning this subject and timing. When we consider that fact and decide to put our faith in God’s Spirit to lead us to evidence that helps us understand this subject, it’s not unusual to see the lessons God placed in this simple prophecy. “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?'” This is what the LORD says– the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command. I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people– without seeking a reward! I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Isaiah 45:9-13 NLTse).
Let’s look at this story about clay questioning its Creator in context. According to context rules what is the clay questioning? The prophecy about Cyrus in the introduction. This is just like we see the world arguing over minor points today. Let’s stay away from those minor points and stick with the context. God named Cyrus as Babylon’s conqueror. This provides us with a definite name to continue our search which leads us directly to Ezra.
Ezra 1:1-4 NLTse In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (2) “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! (4) Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
As some studies will do, the fulfillment of one prophecy leads us to another. A general rule of Bible Study as well as common sense tells us, we won’t get the full story until we look at the original prophecy.
Jeremiah 25:10-14 NLTse (10) I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. (11) This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. (12) “Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the LORD. “I will make the country of the Babylonians a wasteland forever. (13) I will bring upon them all the terrors I have promised in this book–all the penalties announced by Jeremiah against the nations. (14) Many nations and great kings will enslave the Babylonians, just as they enslaved my people. I will punish them in proportion to the suffering they cause my people.”
We also saw this prophecy in the introduction to Daniel 9. Since these are both introductions establishing the theme or context of the chapters and they deal with the same subject, it’s important to compare them and see how they reveal more information when studied together. Both use the term first year. Ezra tells us Cyrus wrote a letter to rebuild the temple in his first year on the throne. Daniel understood the meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy years in the first year of of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians. If Daniel is using Darius as a title as the Persian word shows, that places Daniels prayer at the same time Cyrus distributed his proclamation which tells us Daniel understood the prophecy after Cyrus wrote the letter. That is only a small detail to consider. Once again we have to consider the translation as well as other texts.
Daniel 6:28 NLTse So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
The word, “and,” was added by translators to make the sentence read the way they understood it. If we read the texts the way it was originally written it would say, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Remember Darius is a title not the name of a person.
A greater detail to concentrate on is the fact Cyrus wrote the decree in his first year or reign. There is no doubt Daniel was Cyrus’ top adviser during that time. This is a vital piece of information to consider when we look at the story in Esther. The fulfillment of Cyrus’ prophecy is also recorded in 2 Chronicles.
2 Chronicles 36:21-23 NLTse (21) So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said. (22) In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (23) “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the LORD’s people may go there for this task. And may the LORD your God be with you!”
Chronicles puts a spiritual spin on the fulfillment. Ezra only mentioned Cyrus’ conquest and the building of the temple. Chronicles adds the reason why the Jews were carried off to Babylon. “ The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years.” Plus one important detail is mentioned in both. “Any of you who are the LORD’s people may go there for this task. And may the LORD your God be with you!” What does the Bible mean by, “Any of you who are the LORD’s people?” Is this an indication leaving Babylon is a choice? In a sense it is a choice. We have a choice to learn about God’s Word and prepare to share it, in a sense building a spiritual temple, or stay behind and enjoy whatever it is that seems more important. In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he gave through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (Ezra 1:1 NLTse). Now why is it God was able to stir Cyrus’ heart but was not able to touch the hearts of more than a small group of Jews to fulfill the prophecy? We see the same thing today. Jesus sends His disciples out to preach the GOOD NEWS about Himself but people are too busy doing what they think is more important.
Now the time line is beginning to come together and make sense. According to Ezra, Cyrus fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy to rebuild the temple in his first year. Daniel was one of Cyrus’ chief advisers at the time. Daniel most likely played a part in turning Cyrus’ heart to God. We know Daniel served Cyrus at least into his third year. In the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) had another vision. He understood that the vision concerned events certain to happen in the future–times of war and great hardship. (Daniel 10:1 NLTse). The book of Esther begins in the third year of Xerxes. At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. Remember Xerxes is a title and not the actual name of a king. We also know Nehemiah begins his book in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes‘ reign. Artaxerxes is also a title. What we are seeing is how the Bible is placing Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the same time frame. All of them lived and influenced Persian kings when the temple was under construction. Daniel 10 tells us there were major problems with Persia’s king during that time. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. He replied, “Do you know why I have come? Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come. (Daniel 10:13, 20 NLTse). Here is where much of the conflicts we see today comes into play. People like to try to interpret chapters in Daniel without proper study techniques. Because these two verses deal with Persia during Daniel’s and Esther’s time, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, the time frame conflicts with some popular modern day interpretations for Daniel. This question on time is cleared up by two of God’s prophets.
Haggai 1:1-12 NLTse On August 29 of the second year of King Darius’s reign, the LORD gave a message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. (2) “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.'” (3) Then the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: (4) “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? (5) This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! (6) You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! (7) “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! (8) Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. (9) You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. (10) It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. (11) I have called for a drought on your fields and hills–a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.” (12) Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the LORD their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the LORD their God had sent, the people feared the LORD.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Haggai delivered a message to Jews rebuilding the temple. Or Jews who were supposed to be rebuilding the temple. Look at verse 1. Haggai or at least the translators used the name Darius instead of Cyrus. Now we have Biblical proof Darius is used as a title for Cyrus.
Zechariah 1:1-6 NLTse In November of the second year of King Darius’ reign, the LORD gave this message to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo: (2) “I, the LORD, was very angry with your ancestors. (3) Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.’ (4) Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.’ (5) “Where are your ancestors now? They and the prophets are long dead. (6) But everything I said through my servants the prophets happened to your ancestors, just as I said. As a result, they repented and said, ‘We have received what we deserved from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. He has done what he said he would do.'”
Zechariah also delivered a prophecy in the same year Haggai spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem. So we can see God had a number of prophets delivering messages during the reconstruction of the temple. This is one of the main themes and messages in the story about the rebuilding of the temple. God fulfilled His promises on time. God knew the Jews weren’t ready for the fulfillment of the prophecy so God sent His prophets to explain things. Which brings us to a very serious parallel today. There was a great call to come out of Babylon when Cyrus fulfilled a simple prophecy to rebuild the temple. No one knows how many Jews lived in Babylon or Susa when Ezra called them together to rebuild the temple. Do you have any idea how many answered the call? A total of 42,360 people returned to Judah. (Ezra 2:64 NLTse). Does that sound like a lot of people to you? It appears only a small percentage of people answered God’s call. Now apply that to what we see today. I mean really see today.
Oh sure we hear a lot of feel good sermons. A lot of preachers insist they are teaching the right message. Some claim they are the only remnant church, the only church with the right answers. But how many of them know what the Good News really is? How many can show you from the Bible what the Good News is? How many of them live the Good News, reflect the life and ministry of Jesus, and His willingness to sacrifice?
Working or not, the Jews in Jerusalem faced opposition. Ezra records a number of the trials they faced. Some of the trials the Jews faced have implications to last day events. If we were studying future prophecies this would be a point of focus. But we are only trying to establish God’s timing while trying to understand how God reached out at that particular time. Future prophecy is another subject but follows the same study methods. We can take a brief look at some of the problems Ezra faced while rebuilding the temple. Of course one of the first things you will have to do before considering any connection between Ezra and the last days is to explain how the temple is used as a symbol and what it points to. Remember the fulfillment is always greater than the symbol.
Ezra 4:1-8 NLTse The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel. (2) So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.” (3) But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work. We alone will build the Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.” (4) Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. (5) They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. (6) Years later when Xerxes began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. (7) Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, the enemies of Judah, led by Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, sent a letter to Artaxerxes in the Aramaic language, and it was translated for the king. (8) Rehum the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem.
Once again we see the name Cyrus. This time it is followed by all there names we have already identified as titles rather than actual names. This can become very confusing. Daniel listed Darius followed by Cyrus. Ezra listed Cyrus, followed by Darius, Xerxes, then Artaxerxes. Does it matter? Maybe there is a clue in Daniel who mentions four Persian kings in a prophecy. I have been standing beside Michael to support and strengthen him since the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede.) “Now then, I will reveal the truth to you. Three more Persian kings will reign, to be succeeded by a fourth, far richer than the others. He will use his wealth to stir up everyone to fight against the kingdom of Greece. (Daniel 11:1-2 NLTse). To keep the details simple it’s best to look at these kings, whatever their names are, are representatives of or symbols pointing to the Persian empire, the second world power in Daniels other prophecy. After all, Cyrus was the only king mentioned in prophecy.
The key to this study is to learn the time line. We’ve seen how disagreements and distractions popped up from texts to texts. Now pay attention. It took a number of texts to explain the time line. Compare that to the hundreds of different interpretations written and preached about some of the other prophecies in the chapters and books used here. Do those other studies dwell on Bible texts the same way? Do they follow the same rules of Bible Study? Do they explain how to understand God’s time line?
Most people know there are going to be a lot of distractions in the last days. What can be more distracting than arguing about the minor details. As shown here, once context is understood, the minor details are either revealed or shown to carry far less weight than some people place on them. As shown in Ezra 4, there will be organized and well funded distractions until the spiritual temple is completed. There is nothing we can do about that. It happened in Ezra’s time and it’ll happen again.
Ezra 5:1-9 NLTse At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (2) Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. (3) But Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues soon arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and restore this structure?” (4) They also asked for the names of all the men working on the Temple. (5) But because their God was watching over them, the leaders of the Jews were not prevented from building until a report was sent to Darius and he returned his decision. (6) This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor, Shethar-bozenai, and the other officials of the province west of the Euphrates River sent to King Darius: (7) “To King Darius. Greetings. (8) “The king should know that we went to the construction site of the Temple of the great God in the province of Judah. It is being rebuilt with specially prepared stones, and timber is being laid in its walls. The work is going forward with great energy and success. (9) “We asked the leaders, ‘Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and restore this structure?’
Ezra tells us God sent prophets to help the people build the temple. They not only provided words, they assisted with the labor. Do we see dedicated prophets like this today? There are some. We may not call them prophets today but we hear their messages and see them physically laboring in spiritual fields. Another detail to look for.
Ezra 5:13-17 NLTse However, King Cyrus of Babylon, during the first year of his reign, issued a decree that the Temple of God should be rebuilt. (14) King Cyrus returned the gold and silver cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of God in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of Babylon. These cups were taken from that temple and presented to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom King Cyrus appointed as governor of Judah. (15) The king instructed him to return the cups to their place in Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple of God there on its original site. (16) So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The people have been working on it ever since, though it is not yet completed.’ (17) “Therefore, if it pleases the king, we request that a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to discover whether King Cyrus ever issued a decree to rebuild God’s Temple in Jerusalem. And then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
Details about the decree from Cyrus is repeated in Ezra 5. A lesson with spiritual implications. There will be a lot of people opposing the Good News in the last days. The message Christ gave to His disciples to preach is almost forgotten. Its been trampled into the ground for so long it’s hard to find. There will be a second calling to deliver the right message before judgment ends. Who knows how many people will listen. Ezra worked hard to get the few people who followed him to Jerusalem to work together and remain focused on the goal. Look at the details. The first proclamation went out to everyone. The second went out to the people in Jerusalem and the group opposing them. There may have been a few people leaving Babylon to help rebuild the temple, but not the organized and funded effort when Ezra lead the first group to Jerusalem.
Ezra 6:1-12 NLTse So King Darius issued orders that a search be made in the Babylonian archives, which were stored in the treasury. (2) But it was at the fortress at Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found. This is what it said: “Memorandum: (3) “In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem. “Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations. Its height will be ninety feet, and its width will be ninety feet. (4) Every three layers of specially prepared stones will be topped by a layer of timber. All expenses will be paid by the royal treasury. (5) Furthermore, the gold and silver cups, which were taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, must be returned to Jerusalem and put back where they belong. Let them be taken back to the Temple of God.” (6) So King Darius sent this message: “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai, and your colleagues and other officials west of the Euphrates River–stay away from there! (7) Do not disturb the construction of the Temple of God. Let it be rebuilt on its original site, and do not hinder the governor of Judah and the elders of the Jews in their work. (8) “Moreover, I hereby decree that you are to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this Temple of God. You must pay the full construction costs, without delay, from my taxes collected in the province west of the Euphrates River so that the work will not be interrupted. (9) “Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. (10) Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons. (11) “Those who violate this decree in any way will have a beam pulled from their house. Then they will be tied to it and flogged, and their house will be reduced to a pile of rubble. (12) May the God who has chosen the city of Jerusalem as the place to honor his name destroy any king or nation that violates this command and destroys this Temple. “I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed with all diligence.”
This is really strange when you consider the past and ultimate outcome. Notice how Cyrus told them to rebuild the physical temple with the same defects the first had? Solomon’s temple burnt and fell because every third layer was wood. This is why the stone temple burned and fell when Rome set fire to it. Now you know how a stone temple can burn. It was poor planning. Someone should have learned from the first mistake and initiated proper changes to correct the situation. But once again tradition won out over common sense.
Ezra 7:11-21 NLTse King Artaxerxes had given a copy of the following letter to Ezra, the priest and scribe who studied and taught the commands and decrees of the LORD to Israel: (12) “From Artaxerxes, the king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven. (13) “I decree that any of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including the priests and Levites, may volunteer to return to Jerusalem with you. (14) I and my council of seven hereby instruct you to conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem, based on your God’s law, which is in your hand. (15) We also commission you to take with you silver and gold, which we are freely presenting as an offering to the God of Israel who lives in Jerusalem. (16) “Furthermore, you are to take any silver and gold that you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the voluntary offerings of the people and the priests that are presented for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem. (17) These donations are to be used specifically for the purchase of bulls, rams, male lambs, and the appropriate grain offerings and liquid offerings, all of which will be offered on the altar of the Temple of your God in Jerusalem. (18) Any silver and gold that is left over may be used in whatever way you and your colleagues feel is the will of your God. (19) “But as for the cups we are entrusting to you for the service of the Temple of your God, deliver them all to the God of Jerusalem. (20) If you need anything else for your God’s Temple or for any similar needs, you may take it from the royal treasury. (21) “I, Artaxerxes the king, hereby send this decree to all the treasurers in the province west of the Euphrates River: ‘You are to give Ezra, the priest and teacher of the law of the God of heaven, whatever he requests of you.
We finally see the third decree from Artaxerxes. Notice how the decree to rebuild the temple is intentionally repeated? When God repeats Himself it is time to pay attention. There is one more detail to cover. When we look back at Esther we see her story took place in the third year of Xerxes’ reign. If we used Ezra’s list of kings as a guide, we can see when the events in Esther took place. “This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. Years later when Xerxes began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia.”
Not to get too tied up in exact dates and kings, according to Ezra, Esther took place somewhere near the end of the Persian empire. Remember translations for Esther could not agree if she married Ahasuerus or Xerxes. This places the events in Esther between the third and forth king mentioned in Ezra. At any rate, Jews during Esther’s time would have heard the first proclamation but decided to stay in Susa and the Persian empire.
Esther faced one particular problem. Haman tricked the Persian king into signing a law that would have wiped out all the Jews in the Persian empire. This included the Jews in Jerusalem rebuilding the temple as well as those who left with Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. Now we can see the important connection and begin to see the spiritual implications. Think of the position Haman had, the kings chief adviser. Daniel tells how other leaders in Persia tried to do away with him in the story about the lion’s den. See how all these stories fit together once you understand the time line? Once Daniel was gone, one of those jealous leaders took his position. Now we see why Haman hated Jews. It went all the way back to Daniel. Amazing how a man can touch the hearts of so many people and kings and still be hated by, well who knows until they show their true intents. Notice how quickly things changed. Notice how sneaky Haman was. He also shows how crafty the enemy can be by doing things like keeping this time line a secret for so long. Now we can see how far Satan will go to keep the Good News from reaching the world. When it looked like the temple was going to be finished, Satan initiated a plan to kill every Jew in the world. He’ll do the same when he sees the Good News going out to the world. Now we know why the Good News is all but forgotten. But when the proclamation is repeated, Satan is ready to lash out. Will we have a woman like Esther in the right place at the right time to do the right thing? Only time will tell.