The name Beltethemus is an error derived from the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic title (“be'el te'em”) of the office held by Rehum.
The persons named are officials of the region called “Beyond the River” (Ezra 4.10
), which included the lands of (Coele‑) Syria, Phoenicia, Samaria, and Judah. Rehum is designated “the royal deputy” in Ezra 4.8
; the title recorder is supported by Josephus.
The account differs considerably from that in Ezra 4.14
, which contains no reference to the rebuilding of the Temple at this point. However, Ezra 4.24
states that work on the Temple stopped. This revision and reworking of material is consistent with the focus of 1 Esdras
on the Temple.
The royal reply.
includes “until I make a decree,” setting the stage for a reversal at a later date.
Until the second year of … Darius implicitly refers to Darius I (522–486), the ruler in the subsequent narrative. It is unimaginable to these sources that
construction stopped from lack of initiative, so external motivations are found.
King Cyrus, a Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and issued this decree in 538. The decree is in line with Persian religious policy: Cyrus's inscriptions depict him as restorer
of several temples. Jeremiah, see Jer 29.10
The decree is also found in 2 Chr 36.22–23
, and in a different form in
His people, i.e., worshipers of the LORD, Israel's God. Are now permitted, better translated as a command to go up (see 2 Chr 36.23; 1 Esd 2.5
). Rebuild the house of the Lord, the Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE (see 2 Chr 36.19
Survivors, Jews still in exile.
three stages of return and reconstruction.
These two verses form the heading for the three stages of return from exile, depicted in Ezra 2–Neh 7
. The end of Nehemiah celebrates the completion of the return.
Judah and Benjamin formerly constituted the kingdom of Judah (destroyed by Babylon); the “ten tribes” of the Northern Kingdom (destroyed and
exiled by Assyria in 722 BCE according to 2 Kings 17
) had assimilated, and did not return. The Levites were religious functionaries; the priests were a more exclusive subgroup of Levites who claimed descent from Aaron, the first priest (see Ex 28.1
Restoration of Temple vessels, symbols of continuity.
Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the first Temple in 586 BCE (see 2 Kings 25
Sheshbazzar, possibly a Davidic descendant.
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