Bible: Ezra 3-6

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 

4:6

Official Complaints Are Lodged Against the Jews

51 

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 

4:24 So the work on the temple of God in Jerusalem came to a halt. It remained halted until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. 92 

Tattenai Appeals to Darius

5:1 Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son 93  of Iddo 94  prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem 95  in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 5:2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began 96  to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

5:3 At that time Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues came to them and asked, “Who gave you authority 97  to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure? 98  5:4 They 99  also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice? 5:5 But God was watching over 100  the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped 101  until a report could be dispatched 102  to Darius and a letter could be sent back concerning this.

5:6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and his colleagues who were the officials of Trans-Euphrates sent to King Darius. 5:7 The report they sent to him was written as follows: 103 

“To King Darius: All greetings! 104  5:8 Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. It is being built with large stones, 105  and timbers are being placed in the walls. This work is being done with all diligence and is prospering in their hands. 5:9 We inquired of those elders, asking them, ‘Who gave you the authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?’ 5:10 We also inquired of their names in order to inform you, so that we might write the names of the men who were their leaders. 5:11 They responded to us in the following way: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago. A great king 106  of Israel built it and completed it. 5:12 But after our ancestors 107  angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands 108  of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. 109  5:13 But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, 110  King Cyrus enacted a decree to rebuild this temple of God. 5:14 Even the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought to the palace 111  of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented 112  to a man by the name of Sheshbazzar whom he had appointed as governor. 5:15 He said to him, “Take these vessels and go deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt in its proper location.” 113  5:16 Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment 114  it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’

5:17Now if the king is so inclined, 115  let a search be conducted in the royal archives 116  there in Babylon in order to determine whether King Cyrus did in fact issue orders for this temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning this matter.”

Darius Issues a Decree

6:1 So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives 117  of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. 6:2 A scroll was found in the citadel 118  of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows:

“Memorandum: 6:3 In the first year of his reign, 119  King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: 120  ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. 121  Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety 122  feet, 123  6:4 with three layers of large stones 124  and one 125  layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized 126  by the royal treasury. 127  6:5 Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’

6:6Now Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans-Euphrates – all of you stay far away from there! 6:7 Leave the work on this temple of God alone. 128  Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place.

6:8I also hereby issue orders as to what you are to do with those elders of the Jews in order to rebuild this temple of God. From the royal treasury, from the taxes of Trans-Euphrates the complete costs are to be given to these men, so that there may be no interruption of the work. 129  6:9 Whatever is needed – whether oxen or rams or lambs or burnt offerings for the God of heaven or wheat or salt or wine or oil, as required by 130  the priests who are in Jerusalem – must be given to them daily without any neglect, 6:10 so that they may be offering incense to the God of heaven and may be praying for the good fortune of the king and his family. 131 

6:11I hereby give orders that if anyone changes this directive a beam is to be pulled out from his house and he is to be raised up and impaled 132  on it, and his house is to be reduced 133  to a rubbish heap 134  for this indiscretion. 135  6:12 May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation 136  who reaches out 137  to cause such change so as to destroy this temple of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have given orders. Let them be carried out with precision!

The Temple Is Finally Dedicated

6:13 Then Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues acted accordingly – with precision, just as Darius the king had given instructions. 138  6:14 The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time 139  Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo continued prophesying. They built and brought it to completion by the command of the God of Israel and by the command of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 6:15 They finished this temple on the third day of the month Adar, which is the sixth 140  year of the reign of King Darius.

6:16 The people 141  of Israel – the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles 142 observed the dedication of this temple of God with joy. 6:17 For the dedication of this temple of God they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve male goats for the sin of all Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 6:18 They appointed the priests by their divisions and the Levites by their divisions over the worship of God at Jerusalem, 143  in accord with 144  the book of Moses. 6:19 145  The exiles 146  observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6:20 The priests and the Levites had purified themselves, every last one, 147  and they all were ceremonially pure. They sacrificed the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their colleagues 148  the priests, and for themselves. 6:21 The Israelites who were returning from the exile ate it, along with all those who had joined them 149  in separating themselves from the uncleanness of the nations of the land to seek the Lord God of Israel. 6:22 They observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, for the Lord had given them joy and had changed the opinion 150  of the king of Assyria 151  toward them, so that he assisted 152  them in the work on the temple of God, the God of Israel.

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