The Jews cannot imagine that such opposition to their rebuilding exists within the very government sanctioning and financing their work. The support of a pagan government is not enough to enable and maintain the building of the Lord’s temple. While Darius struggles with political unrest throughout his empire, God incites the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the Jews to resume work on the building.
5 1-2 The prophets Haggai and Zechariah (descendant of Iddo) spoke to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem with the words of the True God of Israel encouraging Zerubbabel (son of Shealtiel) and Jeshua (son of Jozadak) to resume the reconstruction of the True God’s temple in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God gave them assistance. 3 Questioning the sudden commencement of the work, Tattenai (governor of the Persian province west of the Euphrates), Shethar-bozenai, and their associates approached the working Jews.
Persian Officials: Who told you to rebuild the temple?
4 We gave them the names of the people who were doing the work, fearing they might end our construction. 5 But the True God protected the Jewish elders. The Persians did not intend to stop the laborers until Darius received a letter concerning the situation and sent his written reply. 6 Tattenai (governor of the Persian province west of the Euphrates), Shethar-bozenai, and their fellow officials drafted that letter.
7 To our King Darius, we wish you peace.
8 It should be known that we have visited the great God’s temple in the province of Judah. The Jews are busy carefully laying huge stones and hoisting beams into the walls, and the work is progressing well. 9 When we saw their progress, we asked the elders who told them to resume the construction: 10 what were the names of the laborers and the superintendents. 11 They responded by telling us about Cyrus’ decree:
We are the servants of the True God of heaven and earth; we are rebuilding His house—a house that was originally crafted by one of the greatest kings of Israel early in our nation’s history. 12 Our ancestors disobeyed the True God of heaven and provoked His anger. He empowered Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean king of Babylon, to capture our rebellious ancestors, deport them to Babylon, and destroy His temple.
13 We languished in captivity for more than a generation, until King Cyrus, in his first year as king over Persia and Babylon, allowed us to rebuild the True God’s temple. 14 Cyrus returned the gold and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from the True God’s temple in Jerusalem and displayed in the Babylonian temple, to Sheshbazzar, a recently appointed governor. 15 Cyrus told him to put the vessels back into the temple in Jerusalem and rebuild the True God’s temple on the foundations of the first temple. 16 So Sheshbazzar traveled to Jerusalem and laid the foundations of the True God’s temple. We have been working on the building, either gathering supplies or building the structure, ever since, but it is far from finished.
17 We suggest that you command a thorough search of the archives in your treasure house in Babylon, if that please you. If you find that the Jews’ story is correct and that King Cyrus’ original decree commissioned the rebuilding of the True God’s temple in Jerusalem, then send us your decision as to whether or not the Jews should continue their work.
New International Version
Tattenai’s Letter to Darius
5 Now Haggai(A) the prophet and Zechariah(B) the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied(C) to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel(D) son of Shealtiel and Joshua(E) son of Jozadak set to work(F) to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
3 At that time Tattenai,(G) governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai(H) and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?”(I) 4 They[a] also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” 5 But the eye of their God(J) 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.
6 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. 7 The report they sent him read as follows:
To King Darius:
8 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(K) is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.
9 We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?”(L) 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(M) that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered(N) 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.(O)
13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree(P) to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple[b] 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[c] in Babylon.(Q) Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar,(R) 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(S) 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(T) 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.