Cyrus King of Persia: “Build The Temple of God!”
1 1-4 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. He wrote it out as follows:
From Cyrus king of Persia, a Proclamation: God, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has also assigned me to build him a Temple of worship in Jerusalem, Judah. Who among you belongs to his people? God be with you! Go to Jerusalem which is in Judah and build The Temple of God, the God of Israel, Jerusalem’s God. Those who stay behind, wherever they happen to live, will support them with silver, gold, tools, and pack animals, along with Freewill-Offerings for The Temple of God in Jerusalem.
5-6 The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone, in fact, God prodded—set out to build The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Their neighbors rallied behind them enthusiastically with silver, gold, tools, pack animals, expensive gifts, and, over and above these, Freewill-Offerings.
7-10 Also, King Cyrus turned over to them all the vessels and utensils from The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had hauled from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia put Mithredath the treasurer in charge of the transfer; he provided a full inventory for Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah, including the following:
30 gold dishes
1,000 silver dishes
29 silver pans
30 gold bowls
410 duplicate silver bowls
1,000 miscellaneous items.
11 All told, there were 5,400 gold and silver articles that Sheshbazzar took with him when he brought the exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem.
2 1-58 These are the people from the province who now returned from the captivity, exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried off captive. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his hometown. They came in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
The numbers of the returning Israelites by families of origin were as follows:
Pahath-Moab (sons of Jeshua and Joab), 2,812
Ater (sons of Hezekiah), 98
Israelites identified by place of origin were as follows:
Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth, 743
Ramah and Geba, 621
Bethel and Ai, 223
Elam (the other one), 1,254
Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 725
Jedaiah (sons of Jeshua), 973
Jeshua and Kadmiel (sons of Hodaviah), 74.
Asaph’s family line, 128.
Security guard families:
Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai, 139.
Families of temple support staff:
Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
Keros, Siaha, Padon,
Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan,
Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
Asnah, Meunim, Nephussim,
Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
Neziah, and Hatipha.
Families of Solomon’s servants:
Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
Jaala, Darkon, Giddel,
Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim, and Ami.
Temple support staff and Solomon’s servants added up to 392.
59-60 These are those who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer. They weren’t able to prove their ancestry, whether they were true Israelites or not:
61 Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, 652 in all.
Likewise with these priestly families:
Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai, who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and took that name.
62-63 They had thoroughly searched for their family records but couldn’t find them. And so they were barred from priestly work as ritually unclean. The governor ruled that they could not eat from the holy food until a priest could determine their status with the Urim and Thummim.
64-67 The total count for the congregation was 42,360. That did not include the male and female slaves, which numbered 7,337. There were also 200 male and female singers, and they had 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
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68-69 Some of the heads of families, on arriving at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, made Freewill-Offerings toward the rebuilding of The Temple of God on its site. They gave to the building fund as they were able, about 1,100 pounds of gold, about three tons of silver, and 100 priestly robes.
70 The priests, Levites, and some of the people lived in Jerusalem. The singers, security guards, and temple support staff found places in their hometowns. All the Israelites found a place to live.
The Building Begun
3 1-2 When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled into their towns, the people assembled together in Jerusalem. Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brother priests, along with Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and his relatives, went to work and built the Altar of the God of Israel to offer Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it as written in The Revelation of Moses the man of God.
3-5 Even though they were afraid of what their non-Israelite neighbors might do, they went ahead anyway and set up the Altar on its foundations and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it morning and evening. They also celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed and the daily Whole-Burnt-Offerings set for each day. And they presented the regular Whole-Burnt-Offerings for Sabbaths, New Moons, and God’s Holy Festivals, as well as Freewill-Offerings for God.
6 They began offering Whole-Burnt-Offerings to God from the very first day of the seventh month, even though The Temple of God’s foundation had not yet been laid.
7 They gave money to hire masons and carpenters. They gave food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and Tyrians in exchange for the cedar lumber they had brought by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, a shipment authorized by Cyrus the king of Persia.
8-9 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jozadak, in company with their brother priests and Levites and everyone else who had come back to Jerusalem from captivity, got started. They appointed the Levites twenty years of age and older to direct the rebuilding of The Temple of God. Jeshua and his family joined Kadmiel, Binnui, and Hodaviah, along with the extended family of Henadad—all Levites—to direct the work crew on The Temple of God.
10-11 When the workers laid the foundation of The Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise God in the tradition of David king of Israel. They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God:
Yes! God is good!
Oh yes—he’ll never quit loving Israel!
11-13 All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.
The Building Stopped
4 1-2 Old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building The Temple of the God of Israel. They came to Zerubbabel and the family heads and said, “We’ll help you build. We worship your God the same as you. We’ve been offering sacrifices to him since Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here.”
3 Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the family heads of Israel said to them, “Nothing doing. Building The Temple of our God is not the same thing to you as to us. We alone will build for the God of Israel. We’re the ones King Cyrus of Persia commanded to do it.”
4-5 So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built. They even hired propagandists to sap their resolve. They kept this up for about fifteen years, throughout the lifetime of Cyrus king of Persia and on into the reign of Darius king of Persia.
6 In fact, in the reign of Xerxes, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against those living in Judah and Jerusalem.
7 Again later, in the time of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote regarding the Jerusalem business to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. (What follows is written in Aramaic.)
8-16 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:
From: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, backed by the rest of their associates, the judges and officials over the people from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, Elamites of Susa, and all the others whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and other places in the land across the Euphrates.
(This is the copy of the letter they sent to him.)
To: King Artaxerxes from your servants from the land across the Euphrates.
We are here to inform the king that the Jews who came from you to us have arrived in Jerusalem and have set about rebuilding that rebellious and evil city. They are busy at work finishing the walls and rebuilding the foundations. The king needs to know that once that city is rebuilt and the wall completed they will no longer pay a penny of tribute, tax, or duty. The royal treasury will feel the loss. We’re loyal to the king and cannot sit idly by while our king is being insulted—that’s why we are passing this information on. We suggest that you look into the court records of your ancestors; you’ll learn from those books that that city is a rebellious city, a thorn in the side to kings and provinces, a historic center of unrest and revolt. That’s why the city was wiped out. We are letting the king know that if that city gets rebuilt and its walls restored, you’ll end up with nothing in your province beyond the Euphrates.
17-22 The king sent his reply to Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary, and the rest of their associates who lived in Samaria and other places beyond the Euphrates.
Peace be with you. The letter that you sent has been translated and read to me. I gave orders to search the records, and sure enough it turns out that this city has revolted against kings time and again—rebellion is an old story there. I find that they’ve had their share of strong kings who have taken over beyond the Euphrates and exacted taxes, tribute, and duty. So do this: Order these men to stop work immediately—not a lick of rebuilding in that city unless I order it. Act quickly and firmly; they’ve done enough damage to kings!
23 The letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates. They lost no time. They went to the Jews in Jerusalem and made them quit work.
24 That put a stop to the work on The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Nothing more was done until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.