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Ezra 4:8-6:18 Common English Bible (CEB)

Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter concerning Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows:

From Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues, the judges, the administrators, the officials, the Persians, the people of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, the Elamites), 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and famous Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River.

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

To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River. 12 May it be known to the king that the Jews who left you and came to us have arrived in Jerusalem. They are rebuilding the rebellious and wicked city; they are completing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 May it be known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, they will not pay tribute or tax or dues, and the royal revenue will be reduced.

14 Since we receive our salary from the palace,[a] and since it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, we now send this letter[b] and inform the king 15 so that you may search the records of your ancestors. You will discover in the records that this is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that it has been in revolt over a long period of time. As a result, this city was laid waste. 16 We tell the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls completed, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.

Artaxerxes responds

17 The king sent this answer:

Greetings to Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and elsewhere in the province Beyond the River. 18 The entire letter that you sent to us has been read in translation for me. 19 I issued an order; they searched and discovered that this city has revolted against kings over a long period of time. There has been much rebellion and revolt there. 20 However, there have been mighty kings over Jerusalem who also ruled over the whole province Beyond the River. Tribute and taxes and dues were paid to them.

21 Therefore, issue an order to stop these people: this city is not to be rebuilt until I make a decree. 22 Be sure to carry out this order! Why should danger grow and threaten the king?

23 When the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem to oppose the Jews and made them stop by force of arms.[c] 24 At that time the work on God’s house in Jerusalem stopped and was suspended until the second year of the rule of Persia’s King Darius.

Work on God’s house continues

Then the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah, Iddo’s son, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of Israel’s God who was over them. Subsequently, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. God’s prophets were with them, helping them.

At the same time, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and spoke to them, asking, “Who authorized you to build this house and finish preparing[d] this building material?”[e] They[f] also asked them, “What are the names of the people who are building this building?” But their God looked after the elders of the Jews, and they didn’t stop them until a report reached Darius and a letter with his response had arrived.

Writing to King Darius

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues the officials who were in the province Beyond the River sent to King Darius. In the message they sent him, the following was written:

To King Darius, all peace! Let the king know that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with dressed stone and with timber set into the walls. This work makes good progress and prospers in their hands. We asked those elders, “Who authorized you to build this house and to complete the preparation of this material?” 10 We also asked them their names so that we could write down the names of the leaders for your information.

11 This was their reply to us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and completed. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them over into the power of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and deported the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of his rule, Babylon’s King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 King Cyrus also took the gold and silver equipment from God’s house out of the temple in Babylon (the ones that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and placed in the temple in Babylon) and gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor. 15 Cyrus said to him, ‘Take this equipment and go and put it in Jerusalem’s temple, and let God’s house be rebuilt on its original site.’ 16 Then Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of God’s house in Jerusalem. From then until now the rebuilding work has continued but is not yet complete.”

17 And now, if it seems good to the king, may a search be made in the royal archives in Babylon to see if King Cyrus had issued a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then may the king be pleased to send us his decision about this matter.

Darius responds

Then King Darius made a decree, and they searched the archives where the documents were stored in Babylon. But a scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital of the province of Media, on which was written the following:

A memorandum— In the first year of his rule, King Cyrus made a decree: Concerning God’s house in Jerusalem: Let the house at the place where they offered sacrifices be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained. Its height will be ninety feet and its width ninety feet, with three layers of dressed stones and one[g] layer of timber. The cost will be paid from the royal treasury. In addition, the gold and silver equipment from God’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, is to be restored, that is, brought back to Jerusalem and put in their proper place in God’s house.

Now you, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and you, their colleagues, the officials in the province Beyond the River, keep away! Leave the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its original site.

I also issue a decree about what you should do to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this house of God: The total cost is to be paid to these people, and without delay, from the royal revenue that is made up of the tribute of the province Beyond the River. And whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, or sheep for entirely burned offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—let that be given to them day by day without fail 10 so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the lives of the king and his sons.

11 I also decree that if anyone disobeys this edict, a beam is to be pulled out of the house of the guilty party, and the guilty party will then be impaled upon it. The house will be turned into a trash heap.

12 May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people who try to change this order or to destroy God’s house in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have decreed it; let it be done with all diligence.

God’s house is completed and dedicated

13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out the order of King Darius with all diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews built and prospered because of the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s son. They finished building by the command of Israel’s God and of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar,[h] in the sixth year of the rule of King Darius.

16 Then the Israelites, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles joyfully celebrated the dedication of this house of God. 17 At the dedication of this house of God, they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a purification offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 They set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their sections for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the scroll from Moses.

Footnotes:

  1. Ezra 4:14 Or since we have salted the salt of the palace
  2. Ezra 4:14 Heb lacks this letter.
  3. Ezra 4:23 Or power and force
  4. Ezra 5:3 Heb lacks preparing.
  5. Ezra 5:3 Heb uncertain; so also 5:9
  6. Ezra 5:4 LXX, Syr, Aram We
  7. Ezra 6:4 LXX; Heb new
  8. Ezra 6:15 February–March
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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