1 Esdras 4 Common English Bible (CEB)
Superiority of the king
4 Then the second young man, who had spoken of the strength of the king, spoke: 2 “Gentlemen, aren’t people superior who control land and sea and all that’s in them? 3 But the king is most superior, because he is their ruler and master, and whatever he might say to them they obey as soon as they hear it. 4 If he tells them to make war on each other, they do so; and if he sends them out against the enemy, they march and overcome mountain fortresses, walls, and towers. 5 They murder and are murdered, but they don’t disobey the king’s word. If they win a battle, they bring everything to the king—whatever plunder they take and everything else. 6 Similarly, for those who don’t serve in the army or make war but farm the land, whenever they sow and reap, they bring some to the king. They force each other to pay taxes to the king. 7 Yet the king is only one man! If he tells them to kill, they kill. If he tells them to set someone free, they set someone free. 8 If he tells them to strike, they strike. If he tells them to destroy or build something, they destroy it or they build it. 9 If he tells them to cut down something, they cut it down. If he tells them to plant, they plant. 10 All his people and his military powers obey him. Furthermore, he reclines, eats, drinks, and sleeps; 11 but they keep watch around him, and no one can go away to take care of his own matters, nor do they disobey him. 12 Gentlemen, isn’t the king superior, since he is to be completely obeyed in this manner?” Then he stopped speaking.
Superiority of women
13 Then the third young man, Zerubbabel, who had spoken of women and truth, began to speak: 14 “Gentlemen, isn’t the king great, aren’t men abundant, and isn’t wine strong? Who is it, though, that masters them or rules over them? Isn’t it women? 15 Women give birth to the king and to all the people who rule over the sea and land. 16 From women they all are born. It was women who brought up those men who plant the vineyards from which wine is produced.
17 “Women make men’s clothes. They bring men honor. Without women, men aren’t even able to exist. 18 If men gather gold and silver or any valuable thing, and then see a desirable and beautiful woman, 19 they forget everything to gaze at her. With mouths wide open, they stare at her. All choose her over gold, silver, or any other valuable thing. 20 A man leaves his own father, who raised him, and his own country, and clings to his own wife. 21 With his wife he departs this life, with no memory of his father or mother or country. 22 Therefore, surely you must recognize that women rule over you!
“Don’t you work and labor, yet you bring everything and give it to women? 23 A man takes his sword, goes out to travel abroad to raid, steal, and sail the sea and rivers. 24 He faces lions; he walks in darkness; when he steals and robs and plunders, he carries it back to the woman he loves. 25 A man loves his own wife much more than his father or mother. 26 Many men have lost their heads over women, and have become slaves on account of them. 27 Many have perished, stumbled, or sinned because of women.
28 “Now don’t you believe me? Isn’t the king great in his authority? Don’t all countries fear to touch him? 29 I once saw the king and Apame his mistress, the daughter of the eminent Bartacus, sitting by his right side. 30 She took the crown from the king’s head and put it on her own head, and slapped the king with her left hand. 31 At this the king would stare at her with his mouth wide open. If she smiles at him, he laughs; but if she should get angry with him, he humors her so that she may be reconciled to him. 32 Gentlemen, aren’t women powerful, since they can do such things?”
Superiority of truth
33 The king and the officials looked at each other, and the third young man began to speak about truth: 34 “Gentlemen, aren’t women strong? The earth is great, heaven is high, and the sun is swift in its course, for it circles the heavens and returns again to its place in a single day. 35 Isn’t the one who does these things great? Yet truth is also great and superior still to all of these things. 36 The whole earth calls on truth, and heaven praises it. All of heaven’s works[a] move and tremble at the sight of it, and there’s nothing wrong with truth. 37 You can’t trust wine; you can’t trust the king; you can’t trust women. No human beings are trustworthy. Everything they do is wrong. There is no truth in them. They will perish in their lies. 38 But truth endures and is valid for all time; it lives and succeeds forever. 39 With it there’s no charade or preference, but it does what is right instead of what is wrong or evil. Everyone approves of its deeds. There’s nothing unjust in its judgment. 40 To it belongs the strength, the royalty, the authority, and the greatness of all ages. Bless God’s truth!” 41 He stopped speaking, and all the people cried out, “Great is truth and superior to all!”
Darius rewards Zerubbabel
42 Then the king said to Zerubbabel, “Ask for whatever you like, even more than what was proposed, and we’ll give it to you, for you’ve been found to be the wisest one. You may sit next to me and be called my confidant.”
43 Zerubbabel said to the king, “Remember the promise that you made to rebuild Jerusalem on the day that you became king. 44 You promised to send back all the holy equipment that was taken from Jerusalem, which Cyrus set apart when he promised to destroy Babylon and also promised to send it back there. 45 You also solemnly swore to rebuild the temple, which was burned down by the Edomites when Judea was devastated by the Chaldeans. 46 Now Master and King, this is what I ask and request of you, something that is fitting for your greatness. I beg you to fulfill the pledge you solemnly swore to the king of heaven with your own mouth.”
47 Then King Darius stood up and kissed him. He wrote letters for him to all the treasurers, district governors, generals, and administrators so that they would send him out and all those who were going up with him to rebuild Jerusalem. 48 He wrote letters to all the district governors in Coele-Syria and Phoenicia and to those in Lebanon, to bring cedar timber from Lebanon to Jerusalem and to help him rebuild the city. 49 He wrote on behalf of all the Judeans who were going up from the kingdom to Judea, for the benefit of their freedom, that no administrator, district governor, or treasurer should break down their doors. 50 He wrote that all the territory they forcibly took was for them to live in without taxation, and that the Idumeans should leave behind the villages of the Judeans that they had seized. 51 He wrote that 1,140 pounds of silver a year should be given for the building of the temple until it was completely rebuilt. 52 In addition, 570 pounds of silver a year should be given for entirely burned offerings that are provided daily on the altar, in keeping with the commandment that they make seventeen offerings in all. 53 He wrote that all who depart from Babylon to rebuild the city should have their freedom, both they and their children and all the priests who depart as well. 54 He wrote about the expenses and the priests’ holy garments in which they were to serve. 55 He wrote that the expenses for the Levites should be supplied until the day when the temple would be completed and Jerusalem rebuilt. 56 He wrote that all who guarded the city should be supplied with land and wages. 57 He sent back from Babylon all the holy equipment that Cyrus had set aside. Everything that Cyrus had said he would do, Darius himself commanded to do them and to send them to Jerusalem.
58 When the young man Zerubbabel went outside, he lifted up his face to heaven toward Jerusalem and praised the king of heaven: 59 “From you come the victory and wisdom. To you belongs the glory. I’m your household servant. 60 You are worthy of praise, you who have given wisdom to me. I praise you, Lord of our ancestors.”
61 So he took the letters, went to Babylon, and reported this to all of his people. 62 They praised the God of their ancestors, because he had given them amnesty and permission 63 to go up and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple that is called by God’s name. They celebrated with music and enthusiasm for seven days.