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Ezra 3-5 (Amplified Bible)

Ezra 3-5

Altar and Sacrifices Restored

When the seventh month came and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the [a]Law of Moses, the man of God. So they set up the altar on its [old] foundation, [b]for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, morning and evening. They celebrated the Feast of [c]Booths, as it is written, and offered the fixed number of daily burnt offerings, in accordance with the ordinances, as each day required; and afterward, there was the continual burnt offering, the offering at the New Moons, and at all the appointed festivals of the Lord that were consecrated, and the offerings of everyone who made a voluntary offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. They gave money to the masons and to the carpenters, and gave food, drink, and [olive] oil to the people from Sidon and Tyre, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the seaport of Joppa, in accordance with the authorization they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

Temple Restoration Begun

In the second year of their coming to God’s house at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began [the work], with the rest of their brothers—the priests and Levites and all who came to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers stood united with Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah and the sons of Henadad with their sons and brothers the Levites, to oversee the workmen in the house of God.

10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with their cymbals, to praise the Lord in accordance with the directions of David king of Israel. 11 They sang [responsively], praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness (mercy) toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first house (temple), wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Adversaries Hinder the Work

Now when [the Samaritans] the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles from the captivity were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel [who was now governor] and to the heads of the fathers’ households and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God [and worship] just as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.”

Then [the Samaritans and others of] the people of the land [d]discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them [to deter them] from building, and hired advisers [to work] against them to frustrate their plans during the entire time that Cyrus king of Persia reigned, [and this lasted] even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Now in the reign of [e]Ahasuerus (Xerxes), in the beginning of his reign, the Samaritans wrote [to him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem [who had returned from exile].

Later, in the days of [King] Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the text of the letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic.

The Letter to King Artaxerxes

Rehum the [Persian] commander [of the Samaritans] and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows— then wrote Rehum the [Persian] commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the lesser governors, the officials, the secretaries, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble [f]Osnappar deported and settled in the city of Samaria, and in the rest of the region [g]west of the [Euphrates] River. Now 11 this is a copy of the letter which they sent to him:

“To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men in the region west of the [Euphrates] River; and now: 12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem. They are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now let it be known to the king, that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, then they will not pay tax, custom, or toll, and the revenue of the kings will be diminished. 14 Now because we are in the service of the palace, and it is not proper for us to witness the king’s dishonor, for that reason we have sent word and informed the king, 15 in order that a search may be made in the record books of your fathers. And you will discover in the record books and learn that this is a rebellious city, damaging to kings and provinces, and that in the past they have incited rebellion within it. That is why that city was laid waste (destroyed). 16 We are informing the king that if that city is rebuilt and its walls finished, it will mean that you will have no possession in the province west of the [Euphrates] River.”

The King Replies and Work Stops

17 Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the [Persian] commander, to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and in the rest of the provinces west of the River: “Peace (Greetings). And now, 18 The document which you sent to us has been translated and read before me. 19 I have issued a command and a search has been made, and it has been discovered that this city [Jerusalem] in earlier times has revolted against the kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been perpetrated in it. 20 There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem who have ruled over all the provinces west of the [Euphrates] River, and tax, custom, and toll were paid to them. 21 So, now issue a decree to make these men stop [work], so that this city is not rebuilt until a [new] command is issued by me. 22 Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter. Why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?”

23 Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ document was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they went up hurriedly to Jerusalem to the Jews, and made them stop [work] by force of arms.

24 Then the [h]work on the house of God in Jerusalem stopped. It was suspended until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Temple Work Resumed

Now when the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, the son (grandson) of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, whose Spirit was over them, then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel [heir to the throne of Judah] and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God [Haggai and Zechariah] were with them, supporting and encouraging them.

At that time Tattenai, the governor of the province [i]on the west side of the [Euphrates] River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and said, “Who [j]issued you a decree and authorized you to rebuild this temple and to restore this wall (shrine)?” Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were reconstructing this building. But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, so they [Tattenai and the others] did not stop them until a report could come before Darius, and then an answer was returned by letter concerning it.

Adversaries Write to Darius

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of the province west of the [Euphrates] River, and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the officials who were west of the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent a report to him in which it was written: “To Darius the king, all peace. Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, with beams laid in the walls; and this work goes on with diligence and care and is succeeding in their hands. Then we asked those elders, ‘Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names so that we might notify you, and so that we might record the names of the men [k]in charge. 11 They replied, ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and are rebuilding the temple which was erected many years ago, which a [l]great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. 13 But in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, [the same] King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 Also the gold and silver utensils of the house of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought into the temple of Babylon, King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon and had them given to a man whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor. 15 And Cyrus said to him, “Take these utensils, go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then that Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from then until now it has been under construction and is not yet completed.’ 17 So now, if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house [in the royal archives] there in Babylon to see if it is true that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send us his decision concerning this matter.”

Footnotes:

  1. Ezra 3:2 The Hebrew word here is torah, usually translated “law.”
  2. Ezra 3:3 Lit for a state of terror was upon them. Some prefer “in spite of the hostility [or fear] upon them,” indicating that setting up the altar was an act of bravery in the face of external threats. But the real problem seems to be that they had delayed construction of the temple, even on the foundation (vv 6, 10), for fear of their neighbors. So now they conducted services in the open, with the bare minimum of the altar in its proper position. One can credit Zerubbabel and his associates (v 2) for taking the initiative to begin worship services and festivals, but having to do so with nothing more than the altar paints a pathetic picture, especially since the nation had the full support of Cyrus.
  3. Ezra 3:4 Or Tabernacles.
  4. Ezra 4:4 Lit weakened the hands of.
  5. Ezra 4:6 See Esth 1:1.
  6. Ezra 4:10 I.e. probably Ashurbanipal.
  7. Ezra 4:10 Lit beyond and so throughout.
  8. Ezra 4:24 The long digression in Ezra 4:6-23 describes later opposition to Jewish efforts to restore the walls and rebuild the city during the reigns of Xerxes (486-465 b.c.) and Artaxerxes I (465-424 b.c). Here in Ezra 4:24 Ezra reverts back to the time of Darius I (522-486 b.c) and the rebuilding of the temple, which ceased because of the discouragement described in Ezra 4:4, 5, resumed again (Ezra 5:2), and was completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius I (Ezra 6:15).
  9. Ezra 5:3 Lit beyond and so throughout.
  10. Ezra 5:3 Seventeen or eighteen years had passed since Cyrus issued his decree.
  11. Ezra 5:10 Lit at their head.
  12. Ezra 5:11 Solomon began the temple in 966 b.c. The work was completed in about seven years (1 Kin 6:1, 38).
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