Bible: Ezra 4-6

Opposition to the Building Efforts

4:1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles 1  were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel, 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders 2  and said to them, “Let us help you build, 3  for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him 4  from the time 5  of King Esarhaddon 6  of Assyria, who brought us here.” 7  4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right 8  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 9  began to discourage 10  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 11  of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius 12  of Persia. 13 

4:6

Official Complaints Are Lodged Against the Jews

14 

At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus 15  they filed an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 16  4:7 And during the reign 17  of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, 18  Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues 19  wrote to King Artaxerxes 20  of Persia. This letter 21  was first written in Aramaic but then translated.

[Aramaic:] 22 

4:8 Rehum the commander 23  and Shimshai the scribe 24  wrote a letter concerning 25  Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From 26  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, 27  the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal 28  deported and settled in the cities 29  of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates. 30  4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)

“To King Artaxerxes, 31  from your servants in 32  Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now 33  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. 34  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 35  will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, 36  and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, 37  we are sending the king this information 38  4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records 39  of his predecessors 40  and discover in those records 41  that this city is rebellious 42  and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts 43  from long ago. 44  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 45  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! 46  4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders, 47  and it was determined 48  that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in 49  rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates 50  and who were the beneficiaries of 51  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. 52  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 53  and stopped them with threat of armed force. 54 

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. 55 

Tattenai Appeals to Darius

5:1 Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son 56  of Iddo 57  prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem 58  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 59  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 60  to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure? 61  5:4 They 62  also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice? 5:5 But God was watching over 63  the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped 64  until a report could be dispatched 65  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: 66 

“To King Darius: All greetings! 67  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, 68  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 69  of Israel built it and completed it. 5:12 But after our ancestors 70  angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands 71  of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. 72  5:13 But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, 73  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 74  of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented 75  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.” 76  5:16 Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment 77  it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’

5:17Now if the king is so inclined, 78  let a search be conducted in the royal archives 79  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 80  of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. 6:2 A scroll was found in the citadel 81  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, 82  King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: 83  ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. 84  Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety 85  feet, 86  6:4 with three layers of large stones 87  and one 88  layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized 89  by the royal treasury. 90  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. 91  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. 92  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 93  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. 94 

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 95  on it, and his house is to be reduced 96  to a rubbish heap 97  for this indiscretion. 98  6:12 May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation 99  who reaches out 100  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. 101  6:14 The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time 102  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 103  year of the reign of King Darius.

6:16 The people 104  of Israel – the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles 105 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, 106  in accord with 107  the book of Moses. 6:19 108  The exiles 109  observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6:20 The priests and the Levites had purified themselves, every last one, 110  and they all were ceremonially pure. They sacrificed the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their colleagues 111  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 112  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 113  of the king of Assyria 114  toward them, so that he assisted 115  them in the work on the temple of God, the God of Israel.

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