If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
Please excuse the delay in publishing the notes for the end of Daniel and all of Ezra, with only brief comments, as I was on holiday for a week and only making short notes to be typed up later.
5 September. Ezra chapters 6-7
The account of Darius’ search for the records of the reign of Cyrus is a fascinating one. Remember, this is at a time when the people of Britain did not even have a written language by which subsequent generations could record their activities. The Persians must have had a very good ‘civil service’ to have kept such records.
When the Temple was finally rebuilt, the Passover was celebrated, presumably for the first time since the Exile nearly a century earlier. The Persian king Artaxerxes also gave gold and silver, blessed the rebuilding and even allowed Ezra to appoint local judges (7:25) as well as to organise the Temple worship. In return the Jews were asked to pray for the king, an arrangement perhaps similar to the medieval chantry chapels where a priest was employed in return for promising to pray for the king while he lived and for his soul after his death.
This idea that the role of religion is to act as a stabilising force in society, connected to the justice system, and that the state should pay for the clergy in return, is largely absent from our western ‘liberal democracies’ today, except for example in Germany and some other northern European countries where there is a “church tax” on an opt-out rather than opt-in basis, and in England where the national Church is still tied up constitutionally with the state (although church members do now have to pay for their priests, at Diocesan level).