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Enemies Oppose the Rebuilding

The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel. So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.”

But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work. We alone will build the Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.”

Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne.[a]

Later Opposition under Xerxes and Artaxerxes

Years later when Xerxes[b] began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia,[c] the enemies of Judah, led by Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, sent a letter to Artaxerxes in the Aramaic language, and it was translated for the king.

[d]Rehum the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem. They greeted the king for all their colleagues—the judges and local leaders, the people of Tarpel, the Persians, the Babylonians, and the people of Erech and Susa (that is, Elam). 10 They also sent greetings from the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal[e] had deported and relocated in Samaria and throughout the neighboring lands of the province west of the Euphrates River.[f] 11 This is a copy of their letter:

“To King Artaxerxes, from your loyal subjects in the province west of the Euphrates River.

12 “The king should know that the Jews who came here to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city. They have already laid the foundation and will soon finish its walls. 13 And the king should know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their tribute, customs, and tolls to you.

14 “Since we are your loyal subjects[g] and do not want to see the king dishonored in this way, we have sent the king this information. 15 We suggest that a search be made in your ancestors’ records, where you will discover what a rebellious city this has been in the past. In fact, it was destroyed because of its long and troublesome history of revolt against the kings and countries who controlled it. 16 We declare to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the province west of the Euphrates River will be lost to you.”

17 Then King Artaxerxes sent this reply:

“To Rehum the governor, Shimshai the court secretary, and their colleagues living in Samaria and throughout the province west of the Euphrates River. Greetings.

18 “The letter you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I ordered a search of the records and have found that Jerusalem has indeed been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings. In fact, rebellion and revolt are normal there! 20 Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and the entire province west of the Euphrates River, receiving tribute, customs, and tolls. 21 Therefore, issue orders to have these men stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command. 22 Be diligent, and don’t neglect this matter, for we must not permit the situation to harm the king’s interests.”

23 When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem. Then, with a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building.

The Rebuilding Resumes

24 So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.[h]

Footnotes

  1. 4:5 Darius reigned 521–486 B.c.
  2. 4:6 Hebrew Ahasuerus, another name for Xerxes. He reigned 486–465 B.c.
  3. 4:7 Artaxerxes reigned 465–424 B.c.
  4. 4:8 The original text of 4:8–6:18 is in Aramaic.
  5. 4:10a Aramaic Osnappar, another name for Ashurbanipal.
  6. 4:10b Aramaic the province beyond the river; also in 4:11, 16, 17, 20.
  7. 4:14 Aramaic Since we eat the salt of the palace.
  8. 4:24 The second year of Darius’s reign was 520 B.c. The narrative started in 4:1-5 is resumed at verse 24.

Paul on the Island of Malta

28 Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods[a] as its figurehead. 12 Our first stop was Syracuse,[b] where we stayed three days. 13 From there we sailed across to Rhegium.[c] A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. 14 There we found some believers,[d] who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

15 The brothers and sisters[e] in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum[f] on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns.[g] When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.

16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.

Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard

17 Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. 18 The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. 19 But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. 20 I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”

21 They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. 22 But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”

23 So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. 24 Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. 25 And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

26 ‘Go and say to this people:
When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
27 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
    and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
    and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’[h]

28 So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”[i]

30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense.[j] He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.

Footnotes

  1. 28:11 The twin gods were the Roman gods Castor and Pollux.
  2. 28:12 Syracuse was on the island of Sicily.
  3. 28:13 Rhegium was on the southern tip of Italy.
  4. 28:14 Greek brothers.
  5. 28:15a Greek brothers.
  6. 28:15b The Forum was about 43 miles (70 kilometers) from Rome.
  7. 28:15c The Three Taverns was about 35 miles (57 kilometers) from Rome.
  8. 28:26-27 Isa 6:9-10 (Greek version).
  9. 28:28 Some manuscripts add verse 29, And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, greatly disagreeing with each other.
  10. 28:30 Or in his own rented quarters.

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