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Building Up the Temple

Key References: Ezra 4-6; Prophets and Kings, chap. 46, pp. 567-581; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 6, pp. 89-99; Our Beliefs, nos. 12, 8, 17

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“Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work” (1 Chronicles 28:10).

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We can worship God even when we are discouraged.

Has anyone ever slowed you down when you were excited about a project? How did you handle that person? To learn more about how the Israelites responded to challenges during the time the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, read this Bible story.

The foundation of the temple had been laid, so the building of the Temple could now begin. A group of people who had returned from the captivity dedicated themselves to building the Temple. Nearby lived the Samaritans, a mixed race of people that resulted from marriages between the heathen nations from Assyria and the remnant tribes of Samaria and Galilee. They came to Zerubbabel, and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and offered to help build the Temple along with the Israelites. “Let us build with you,” they said, “for we seek your God as you do” (Ezra 4:2, NKJV). But Zerubbabel and the rest of the leaders of Israel said, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us” (verse 3). They sensed the Samaritans’ insincerity and didn’t want to partner with a group of people who still worshipped idols.

The Samaritans had lived there a long time, and felt that the country belonged to them. They thought the Jews would try to take over the land. So the Samaritans tried to discourage the Jews and troubled them as they built. They “hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (verse 5).

The Samaritans wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes, accusing the Jews of building a rebellious and evil city. “Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished,” they wrote. “We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River” (verses 13, 16).

The king replied, “Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me” (verse 21). As a result, the work on the house of God was halted until the second year of the reign of Darius, king of Persia (see verse 24).

Meanwhile, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. Then Zerubbabel decided to start building the house of God, and the prophets of God were with him, encouraging him (see Ezra 5:2). At the same time Tattenai, the governor, came to them and said, “Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall?” (verse 3). But God blessed the Israelites, and they did not quit until a report could be sent to Darius, inquiring about whether they had permission to keep building. After searching the king’s records, Darius sent back the following message:

“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar- Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered” (Ezra 6:6-8, NKJV).

Soon the time came when the Jews finished building the Temple! The elders of the Jews built, and they prospered as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah had prophesied. “They built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (verse 14).

After the Temple was completed, the people dedicated it to God. They celebrated the Passover with those who separated themselves in order to serve the Lord God of Israel. The Israelites kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread with gladness because the Lord was with them. They recognized that God had changed the heart of the Assyrian king toward them for the better. With grateful hearts the people acknowledged that it was the God of Israel who made their work to prosper and who helped them complete the building of the Temple (see verse 22).