This section of Ezra closes with a series of worship events: the dedication of the house of God, the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The dedication of the temple testified to the already/not yet nature of the return from exile. The dedication offering is made for “all Israel.” This is symbolized by having one goat sacrificed for each of the twelve tribes (6:17) (Steinmann 2010: 190; Shepherd and Wright 2018: 28). Nonetheless, it is only a remnant that has gathered to dedicate the rebuilt temple. The number of animals sacrificed was small compared to what Solomon offered at the dedication of the first temple (1 Kings 8:5, 63; cf. 2 Chon. 30:24; 35:7 )(Steinmann 2010: 271).
Ezra is careful to point out that the priests and their divisions are set up according to the Book of Moses. This may be a reference to Numbers 18 (cf. 1 Chron 23-26) (Steinmann 2010: 271).
The following portrayal of Passover may also draw on Numbers. Shepherd observes, “[T]he insistence on the purity of the Levites in Ezra’s account (טָהוֹר/ṭāhôr; 6:20) resonates specifically with the extensive instructions for the cleansing (טִהַר/ṭihar) of the Levites in Num 8:6–26.” Furthermore, Numbers 9:14 emphasizes that sojourners needed to be purified according to the law in order to participate. “Finally, the specific sequence of the (re)dedication by the tribal leaders (Ezra 6:17; Num 7), purification of the Levites (Ezra 6:20a; Num 8), and celebration of the Passover (Ezra 6:20b–21; Num 9) that appears in both Ezra and Numbers seems unlikely to be accidental” (Shepherd and Wright 2018: 29).
Passover is a fitting feast for Ezra to record since it celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and it is here “eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile” (6:21). Notably, it was also eaten “by everyone who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land.” The people who came up in the Exodus were not all Israelites by descent; some were Egyptian. God’s intention has always been for Israel to bring the other nations to God. Similarly, the prophets predicted that in the second exodus, the nations would come to worship God in Jerusalem. There is an anticipation of the fulfillment of those prophecies here.
Notably, the problem with the peoples of the land is not their ethnicity but their religious uncleanness. People of all ethnicities are invited to worship Yhwh with the Israelites if they will purify themselves from uncleanness.
It is also fitting that this section of Ezra, focused on the rebuilding of the temple, closes with an emphasis on joyful worship. The purpose of the temple is for worship. The last verse of chapter 6 brings in this fulfillment of the chief end of man—worshipping God with joy—with the other themes of the section: God’s providential working through the Persian kings to bring about the construction of the House of the God of Israel.
Darius is here called “king of Assyria,” which is an odd title for a Persian king. But the exile began under Assyria. Assyria was conquered by Babylon, and Babylon by Persia. Thus through conquest, the Persian king could be seen as the Assyrian king. This title is probably used to signify the end of the exile from the Assyrians (cf. Brenneman 1993: 122-23).