Bible: Ezra 4:8-6:18

4:8 Rehum the commander 1  and Shimshai the scribe 2  wrote a letter concerning 3  Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From 4  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, 5  the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal 6  deported and settled in the cities 7  of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates. 8  4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)

“To King Artaxerxes, 9  from your servants in 10  Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now 11  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. 12  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 13  will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, 14  and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, 15  we are sending the king this information 16  4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records 17  of his predecessors 18  and discover in those records 19  that this city is rebellious 20  and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts 21  from long ago. 22  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 23  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! 24  4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders, 25  and it was determined 26  that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in 27  rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates 28  and who were the beneficiaries of 29  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. 30  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 31  and stopped them with threat of armed force. 32 

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. 33 

Tattenai Appeals to Darius

5:1 Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son 34  of Iddo 35  prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem 36  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 37  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 38  to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure? 39  5:4 They 40  also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice? 5:5 But God was watching over 41  the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped 42  until a report could be dispatched 43  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: 44 

“To King Darius: All greetings! 45  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, 46  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 47  of Israel built it and completed it. 5:12 But after our ancestors 48  angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands 49  of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. 50  5:13 But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, 51  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 52  of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented 53  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.” 54  5:16 Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment 55  it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’

5:17Now if the king is so inclined, 56  let a search be conducted in the royal archives 57  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 58  of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. 6:2 A scroll was found in the citadel 59  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, 60  King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: 61  ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. 62  Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety 63  feet, 64  6:4 with three layers of large stones 65  and one 66  layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized 67  by the royal treasury. 68  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. 69  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. 70  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 71  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. 72 

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 73  on it, and his house is to be reduced 74  to a rubbish heap 75  for this indiscretion. 76  6:12 May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation 77  who reaches out 78  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. 79  6:14 The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time 80  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 81  year of the reign of King Darius.

6:16 The people 82  of Israel – the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles 83 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, 84  in accord with 85  the book of Moses.

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