Ezra 6

These small group studies of Ezra contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Ezra 6 Inductive Bible Study

I.   Darius reaffirms Cyrus’ decree (1-13)

II.   The temple is finished (14-15)

III.  The people dedicate the temple to the Lord (16-18)

IV.  The Passover is celebrated and the people rejoice (19-22)

I. Darius reaffirms Cyrus’ decree (1-13)

Discussion Questions

What did Darius do when he received the report from Tattenai and his colleagues?

What did he find out?

Why do you think Ezra includes so many direct quotes from letters and decrees of non-believing officials? Is this unspiritual? Boring? Why do these kinds of additions to the Bible show us about the Bible? Why is this important?

Did Darius give any additional instructions to Tattenai? What were they? Was he required to do this? Why do you think he was so generous?

Does Darius give any instructions about how these commands are to be carried out (without delay v. 8, under threat of death if there is disobedience v 11 and with all diligence v 12)?

If people are expected to obey an earthly king with speed and diligence how do you think God expects us to obey Him?

What was the penalty for disobeying the king? What will we happen if we disobey God? Can you give any examples of people in the Bible were faithful to obey God diligently or who disobeyed God?

Cross-References:

Psalms 119:60 – I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.

Psalm 112:1 – Delight in God’s commandments.

Exodus 23:22 – Carefully obey…

Joshua 22:5 – Be very careful to observe…

Teaching Points:

1.       We see that in the book of Ezra a large chunk of the book is composed of genealogies, royal edicts, decrees, and official letters to and from the king. Why? At first glance these seem a little bit boring. It may be hard to find a lot of spiritual significance from the official correspondence of politicians. It may be hard to find a lot of applications from these sections so we may be tempted to feel they are insignificant or less important or maybe even wonder why they were included. However, it is sections just like these that go a long way to helping us verify the history of the Bible. They remind us that the Bible was not written in a vacuum. It instead describes real history, history of real people, places, and events. These people faced everyday problems and everyday decisions just like we do. If the Bible is not based in real life events (history) then it would be just a mythical book. As a mythical book, it would lose its power. When you feel it is burdensome or difficult to read so many long names and wonder why God included them, remember this. Many of these kings like Darius, Cyrus, Artaxerxes, etc. are verified in other historical sources, which is yet more evidence that the Bible in its entirety is true.

2.       King Darius wisely decided to research this issue and get to the heart of the matter. In the process of his research, he found that Cyrus had issued a royal decree and that he had given permission to rebuild the temple in addition to financial aid and the spoils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem when he conquered it. The Empire was organized and these types of decrees and laws were evidently saved in an archive for future reference.

3.       Darius then gave instructions to Tattenai. He honored the decree by Cyrus, upholding it. But he didn’t just uphold it, he went above and beyond its original scope. What additions did he make? He said the full cost should be paid without delay. But in addition to the full cost, he also commanded that all kinds of animals, as well as wheat, salt, wine, oil, and whatever is needed be provided. Not only this, but those who didn’t obey this decree were to be violently killed. This strong support from the king enabled the people to finish building the temple without the fear of what their enemies would do to them. But remember that they had already started rebuilding the temple in chapter 5 and were willing to put their own necks on the line (by giving their names to Tattenai who sent them to Darius). God honored their obedience by giving them grace in the eyes of the leader who made policies that were favorable to them.

4.       Notice that Darius also asks them to pray for him and his family. This is a reminder that we should do this. 1 Timothy 2:2. In past lessons from 1 Peter we discussed that we should pray more for the authorities and governments God has established. Did you do this? We should remember that we have Bible study to teach us and change how we live. We should make applications from what we learn and not forget and live our life the same as before. With the Chinese power handover coming up and the US elections about to take place we should all remember to pray for new leaders who will make favorable policies for believers like Darius did.

5.       Notice what kind of obedience Darius expected. He expected them to obey without delay (v8). He expected them to obey with all diligence (v12). And those who didn’t obey would be violently killed. This is the kind of obedience that a king expected. We, however, have an even greater king. If an earthly king expects this kind of obedience, how much more does God? We must remember to always obey God willingly, joyfully, quickly, and diligently.

II. The temple is finished (14-15)

Discussion Questions

What helped the people accomplish the work of building the temple?

Who is first in the list of monarchs that issued commands for the temple to be rebuilt? (God)

Is there any significance to this?

Cross-References:

Proverbs 21:1- The kings hearts are like channels of water, God moves them wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 16:1, 9 , 33 – Verses on God’s plans overriding man’s.

Isaiah 10:5-7- The divine hand of God is shown in Tiglath-pileser’s actions.

Teaching Points:

1.       The people were successful in building the temple. When they were lazy and struggling, God sent prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to encourage them. Through their encouragement the people repented and finished the job. Finishing is a lot harder than starting. Through perseverance and God’s blessing, they did it. Remember that when God gives you a mission, there will almost surely be obstacles and adversity, but God will also provide the resources and strength you need to do what He has asked. Only persevere and do not give up.

2.       Notice that in the list of monarchs in verse 14 God comes first, in front of these historic and great kings. This reminds us that God’s command is the foundation and the priority. His command is far more important than the commands of anyone else. Those kings gave their decrees because God first gave His. Picture God sitting on His throne in heaven. He issues a decree/command from His throne which is passed through the prophets to His people. At the same time, He sends out angels to influence the kings to give favorable policies. These angels likely meet adversity in the from of demons also trying to exert influence on the kings (see Daniel). Of course God is victorious. His decree cannot be resisted. What He has said will come to pass. Isaiah 46:10

III. The people dedicate the temple to the Lord (16-18)

Discussion Questions

What was the attitude of the people when they finished building the temple?

Why did they feel joyful?

When will you feel joyful?

When you will feel unhappy?

Is celebration a biblical concept? What kinds of things should we celebrate?

Cross-References:

On Joy:

Genesis 4:7 – If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?

1 Chronicles 16:33

Psalm 81:1

Psalm 95:1-2

Psalm 96:12

Teaching Points:

1.       When the people finished they celebrated with joy! They did it! It wasn’t easy. There was adversity from without and from within. With encouragement and strength from God they were able to finally persevere and finish the task and they were excited about it! And why not? Doing what is right makes us happy. Joy does not come from having a lot of things. It does not come from having a lot of power. It comes from having a right relationship with God. We feel joyful when we love God and obey Him. When we sin we fell guilty and regret. When we obey, we are joyful. This is another incentive to serve God. The chief end of man is said to be to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We do get joy from glorifying God. It is a win-win! A side point is that perhaps if you are depressed, it is because of some sin in your life which you have not repented of and dealt with. See Psalm 31:10.

2.       The people were determined to serve God faithfully this time around. When they finished the temple they dedicated it to God. This would be a place where God would be praised and worshiped and where the people could come together to confess their sin. They followed the law of Moses to the letter in appointing the divisions for the priestly labor.

3.       We see in these verses that celebration is a biblical concept. There are many times to celebrate. Christians do not just go along living boring, dull lives. We have much more to celebrate than those who don’t know God. What kind of things should we as Christians celebrate? How should we celebrate?

IV. The Passover is celebrated and the people rejoice (19-22)

Discussion Questions

Did the Jews celebrate the Passover every every year? When were they supposed to celebrate it? Why?

Why is it significant that the priests and Levites purified themselves before preparing the Passover?

When should we purify ourselves?

What people were being referred to in verse 21? Jews or Gentiles? So then, was it possible for Gentiles to serve and follow God at that time?

Where did the people’s joy come from? Were they rich? Powerful?

In what ways was God blessing them? How is this different than the situation we see in Haggai 1-2 when the people were disobeying God by putting off the building of the temple until later?

Cross-References:

Matthew 5:24 – Leave your sacrifice at the altar and go be reconciled to your brother. (Importance of purification and confession over and above sacrifices).

Teaching Points:

1.       We see here that the people are serving God faithfully like they are doing back in chapter 3. Festivals of remembrance for God’s providence in their history are being celebrated which hadn’t been celebrated in centuries. As the people come together in unity to follow God you can just the momentum this creates as a movement of revival sweeps through the land changing the entire community. This is what can happen whcn sin is confessed and people listen to the message they hear from God and OBEY IT! Obedience brings joy, success, changed lives and changed communities.

2.       Before the Passover, the Levites and Priests purified themselves. Confessing sin was actually more important than the sacrifices. See Matthew 5:24. We should regularly evaluate our own lives and purify ourselves by confessing our sins to the Lord.

3.       In verse 21 we can see that not only Jews joined this Passover but neighbors from the surrounding countries joined them to seek the Lord. These were proselytes who recognized that YHWH was the only true God. They separated themselves from the idol worship and evil practices of their own peoples and joined the Jews to seek following after God. We learn two things from this. Firstly, we learn that Gentiles in the Old Testament could be saved. When the Jews were serving God this was a witness to the surrounding nations and this testimony sometimes drew unbelievers from around them to turn to God. But we see that these people were committed. They didn’t just add God to their existing religions and worship one more God (like the Samaritans were doing). They rejected their idols and sought after the Lord. It doesn’t do any good to “win” someone to Christ if they do not reject the lie that they have been following.

4.       In verse 22, we learn more about joy. The source of it is God. The Lord caused them to rejoice. Joy doesn’t come by making up your mind to be happy. Sometimes I can see some of the other teachers in my training center are depressed and discouraged. But when they step foot into the classroom, they put on their happy face and pretend to be joyful because that is their job. This is not joy. It is a cover, a mask. God can give us true joy, just as Jesus promised in the book of John.

5.       In verse 22 we also see that God was directing the heart of the king to give them favor in His eyes. The story of Israel’s return to Jerusalem and rebuilding of the temple is mostly a story of God’s grace and God’s sovereign power. He kept His promises to them and made it happen. When the temple was finished, you could truly say that they didn’t build that. God did. Insert Obama “You didn’t build that” joke here.

Study Ezra 7

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