The letter sent by the enemies gives an honest account of the work and differs from the letter in the previous chapter. The letter begins by naming the senders (verse 66[This is] the copy of the letter which Tattenai, the governor of [the province] beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues the officials, who were beyond the River, sent to Darius the king.) and the addressee (verse 77They sent a report to him in which it was written thus: “To Darius the king, all peace.). The first communication is a testimony to the diligence and devotion of the builders (verse 88Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God, which is being built with huge stones, and beams are being laid in the walls; and this work is going on with great care and is succeeding in their hands.). The world sees how the believers are busy for the dwelling place of God, the church. When they see that they are committed to it, they are impressed by it. They see the zeal and prosperity.
Then the senders mention what they have asked the builders and why (verses 9-109Then we asked those elders and said to them thus, ‘Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?’10We also asked them their names so as to inform you, and that we might write down the names of the men who were at their head.). The answer of the builders to their interrogators is also shown. That answer is a beautiful testimony of who they are: “Servants of the God of heaven and earth” (verse 1111Thus they answered us, saying, ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished.). It is a testimony of His supreme authority. He is not a local deity. They are in connection with the God on whom all creation depends. That consciousness ensures that they are without fear of humans.
They also honestly acknowledge that they are now in the power of the nations because of their unfaithfulness and the wrath of God (verse 1212But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, [who] destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.). That unfaithfulness is also the cause of God’s surrender of His house to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Further they answer that they are rebuilding the house of the LORD which is called “this house” (verses 12-1312But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, [who] destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.13However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.). It is the same house as the one that “a great king” (verse 1111Thus they answered us, saying, ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished.), that is Solomon, built. It is no other house. We too may rebuild it and are encouraged to do so.
The builders also appeal to the command of Cyrus (verse 1313However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.). Here Cyrus is called “the king of Babylon”, because Babylon was conquered by him. From there the Jews also left for Jerusalem. At their departure, Cyrus also took all the utensils that Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem to Babylon from the temple in Babylon and gave them to the Jews (verse 1414Also the gold and silver utensils of the house of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, and brought them to the temple of Babylon, these King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon and they were given to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor.) to be placed back in God’s temple (verse 1515He said to him, “Take these utensils, go [and] deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem and let the house of God be rebuilt in its place.”).
After that they talk about the foundation of the temple and that they have built the temple “from then until now” and that the building of the house of God has not yet been completed (verse 1616Then that Sheshbazzar came [and] laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from then until now it has been under construction and it is not [yet] completed.’). They don’t talk about their slackening in the building so that the temple hasn’t been worked on for twenty years. The delay is a matter between them and their God.
The senders conclude their letter with a request to Darius to investigate whether there really was a decree by Cyrus to “rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem” (verse 1717“Now if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon, if it be that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send to us his decision concerning this [matter].”). They also indicate the ‘place of search’, which is “in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon”. They conclude their letter with the request that the king have his decision sent to them as a result of the search.