Bible: Ezra 3:1-4:23

The Altar is Rebuilt

3:1 When the seventh month arrived and the Israelites 1  were living 2  in their 3  towns, the people assembled 4  in 5  Jerusalem. 6  3:2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak 7  and his priestly colleagues 8  and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his colleagues 9  started to build 10  the altar of the God of Israel so they could offer burnt offerings on it as required by 11  the law of Moses the man of God. 3:3 They established the altar on its foundations, even though they were in terror of the local peoples, 12  and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and the evening offerings. 3:4 They observed the Festival of Temporary Shelters 13  as required 14  and offered the proper number of 15  daily burnt offerings according to the requirement for each day. 3:5 Afterward they offered the continual burnt offerings and those for the new moons and those for all the holy assemblies of the Lord and all those that were being voluntarily offered to the Lord. 3:6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. However, the Lord’s temple was not at that time established. 16 

Preparations for Rebuilding the Temple

3:7 So they provided money 17  for the masons and carpenters, and food, beverages, and olive oil for the people of Sidon 18  and Tyre, 19  so that they would bring cedar timber from Lebanon to the seaport 20  at Joppa, in accord with the edict of King Cyrus of Persia. 3:8 In the second year after they had come to the temple of God in Jerusalem, 21  in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak initiated the work, 22  along with the rest of their associates, 23  the priests and the Levites, and all those who were coming to Jerusalem from the exile. They appointed 24  the Levites who were at least twenty years old 25  to take charge of the work on the Lord’s temple. 3:9 So Jeshua appointed both his sons and his relatives, 26  Kadmiel and his sons (the sons of Yehudah 27 ), to take charge of the workers in the temple of God, along with the sons of Henadad, their sons, and their relatives 28  the Levites. 3:10 When the builders established the Lord’s temple, the priests, ceremonially attired and with their clarions, 29  and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with their cymbals, stood to praise the Lord according to the instructions left by 30  King David of Israel. 31  3:11 With antiphonal response they sang, 32  praising and glorifying the Lord:

“For he is good;

his loyal love toward Israel is forever.”

All the people gave a loud 33  shout as they praised the Lord when the temple of the Lord was established. 3:12 Many of the priests, the Levites, and the leaders 34 older people who had seen with their own eyes the former temple while it was still established 35 were weeping loudly, 36  and many others raised their voice in a joyous shout. 3:13 People were unable to tell the difference between the sound of joyous shouting and the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people were shouting so loudly 37  that the sound was heard a long way off.

Opposition to the Building Efforts

4:1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles 38  were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel, 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders 39  and said to them, “Let us help you build, 40  for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him 41  from the time 42  of King Esarhaddon 43  of Assyria, who brought us here.” 44  4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right 45  to help us build the temple of our God. We will build it by ourselves for the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.” 4:4 Then the local people 46  began to discourage 47  the people of Judah and to dishearten them from building. 4:5 They were hiring advisers to oppose them, so as to frustrate their plans, throughout the time 48  of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius 49  of Persia. 50 


Official Complaints Are Lodged Against the Jews


At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus 52  they filed an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 53  4:7 And during the reign 54  of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, 55  Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues 56  wrote to King Artaxerxes 57  of Persia. This letter 58  was first written in Aramaic but then translated.

[Aramaic:] 59 

4:8 Rehum the commander 60  and Shimshai the scribe 61  wrote a letter concerning 62  Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From 63  Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues – the judges, the rulers, the officials, the secretaries, the Erechites, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, 64  the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal 65  deported and settled in the cities 66  of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates. 67  4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)

“To King Artaxerxes, 68  from your servants in 69  Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now 70  let the king be aware that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and odious city. 71  They are completing its walls and repairing its foundations. 4:13 Let the king also be aware that if this city is built and its walls are completed, no more tax, custom, or toll will be paid, and the royal treasury 72  will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, 73  and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, 74  we are sending the king this information 75  4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records 76  of his predecessors 77  and discover in those records 78  that this city is rebellious 79  and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts 80  from long ago. 81  It is for this very reason that this city was destroyed. 4:16 We therefore are informing the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will not retain control 82  of this portion of Trans-Euphrates.”

4:17 The king sent the following response:

“To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and other parts of Trans-Euphrates: Greetings! 83  4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders, 84  and it was determined 85  that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in 86  rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates 87  and who were the beneficiaries of 88  tribute, custom, and toll. 4:21 Now give orders that these men cease their work and that this city not be rebuilt until such time as I so instruct. 89  4:22 Exercise appropriate caution so that there is no negligence in this matter. Why should danger increase to the point that kings sustain damage?

4:23 Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerxes was read in the presence of Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they proceeded promptly to the Jews in Jerusalem 90  and stopped them with threat of armed force. 91 

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