What follows is the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra, priest and scholar, expert in matters involving the truths and ways of God concerning Israel:
Artaxerxes, King of Kings, to Ezra the priest, a scholar of the Teaching of the God-of-Heaven.
I hereby decree that any of the people of Israel living in my kingdom who want to go to Jerusalem, including their priests and Levites, may go with you.
You are being sent by the king and his seven advisors to carry out an investigation of Judah and Jerusalem in relation to the Teaching of your God that you are carrying with you.
You are also authorized to take the silver and gold that the king and his advisors are giving for the God of Israel, whose residence is in Jerusalem,
along with all the silver and gold that has been collected from the generously donated offerings all over Babylon, including that from the people and the priests, for The Temple of their God in Jerusalem.
Use this money carefully to buy bulls, rams, lambs, and the ingredients for Grain-Offerings and Drink-Offerings and then offer them on the Altar of The Temple of your God in Jerusalem.
You are free to use whatever is left over from the silver and gold for what you and your brothers decide is in keeping with the will of your God.
Deliver to the God of Jerusalem the vessels given to you for the services of worship in The Temple of your God.
Whatever else you need for The Temple of your God you may pay for out of the royal bank.
I, Artaxerxes the king, have formally authorized and ordered all the treasurers of the land across the Euphrates to give Ezra the priest, scholar of the Teaching of the God-of-Heaven, the full amount of whatever he asks for
up to a hundred talents of silver, six hundred and fifty bushels of wheat, and six hundred and seven gallons each of wine and olive oil. There is no limit on the salt.
Everything the God-of-Heaven requires for The Temple of God must be given without hesitation. Why would the king and his sons risk stirring up his wrath?
Also, let it be clear that no one is permitted to impose tribute, tax, or duty on any priest, Levite, singer, temple security guard, temple servant, or any other worker connected with The Temple of God.
I authorize you, Ezra, exercising the wisdom of God that you have in your hands, to appoint magistrates and judges so they can administer justice among all the people of the land across the Euphrates who live by the Teaching of your God. Anyone who does not know the Teaching, you teach them.
Anyone who does not obey the Teaching of your God and the king must be tried and sentenced at once - death, banishment, a fine, prison, whatever.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)