Opposition to the Rebuilding

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building(A) a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon(B) king of Assyria, who brought us here.”(C)

But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”(D)

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.[a](E) They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes

At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes,[b](F) they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.(G)

And in the days of Artaxerxes(H) king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic(I) language.[c][d]

Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:

Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates(J)—the judges, officials and administrators over the people from Persia, Uruk(K) and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa,(L) 10 and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal(M) deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates.(N)

11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.)

To King Artaxerxes,

From your servants in Trans-Euphrates:

12 The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.(O)

13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty(P) will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.[e] 14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, 15 so that a search may be made in the archives(Q) of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed.(R) 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.

17 The king sent this reply:

To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:(S)

Greetings.

18 The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. 19 I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt(T) against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition. 20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates,(U) and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. 21 Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. 22 Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?(V)

23 As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates,(W) they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop.

24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius(X) king of Persia.

Tattenai’s Letter to Darius

Now Haggai(Y) the prophet and Zechariah(Z) the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied(AA) to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel(AB) son of Shealtiel and Joshua(AC) son of Jozadak set to work(AD) to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At that time Tattenai,(AE) governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai(AF) and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?”(AG) They[f] also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” But the eye of their God(AH) was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. The report they sent him read as follows:

To King Darius:

Cordial greetings.

The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work(AI) is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.

We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?”(AJ) 10 We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

11 This is the answer they gave us:

“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple(AK) that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered(AL) the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.(AM)

13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree(AN) to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple[g] of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple[h] in Babylon.(AO) Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar,(AP) whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’

16 “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God(AQ) in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”

17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives(AR) of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.

The Decree of Darius

King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives(AS) stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:

Memorandum:

In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:

Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid.(AT) It is to be sixty cubits[i] high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses(AU) of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury.(AV) Also, the gold(AW) and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.(AX)

Now then, Tattenai,(AY) governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai(AZ) and you other officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.

Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:

Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury,(BA) from the revenues(BB) of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings(BC) to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.(BD)

11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled(BE) on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble.(BF) 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there,(BG) overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.

I Darius(BH) have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.

Completion and Dedication of the Temple

13 Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates(BI) carried it out with diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching(BJ) of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus,(BK) Darius(BL) and Artaxerxes,(BM) kings of Persia. 15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.(BN)

Footnotes

  1. Ezra 4:4 Or and troubled them as they built
  2. Ezra 4:6 Hebrew Ahasuerus
  3. Ezra 4:7 Or written in Aramaic and translated
  4. Ezra 4:7 The text of 4:8–6:18 is in Aramaic.
  5. Ezra 4:13 The meaning of the Aramaic for this clause is uncertain.
  6. Ezra 5:4 See Septuagint; Aramaic We.
  7. Ezra 5:14 Or palace
  8. Ezra 5:14 Or palace
  9. Ezra 6:3 That is, about 90 feet or about 27 meters