Ezra was a priest and teacher. He was an educated man. He knew the LORD's commands and rules for Israel very well. Here is a copy of a letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra. It said,
I, Artaxerxes, am writing this letter. I am the greatest king of all. I have given it to the priest Ezra. He is a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven. I give you my greetings.
Ezra, there are people from Israel in my kingdom. I am giving an order that any of them who want to go to Jerusalem with you can go. The order also allows priests and Levites to go with you.
I and my seven advisers are sending you to see how things are going in Judah and Jerusalem. Find out whether the people there are obeying the Law of your God. You have a copy of that law with you.
I and my advisers have freely given some silver and gold to the God of Israel. He lives in Jerusalem. Take the silver and gold with you.
Also take any other silver and gold you can get from the land of Babylonia. And take the offerings the people and priests choose to give for the temple of their God in Jerusalem.
Make sure you use the money to buy bulls, rams and male lambs. Also buy their grain offerings and drink offerings. Then sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
You and the other Jews can do what you think is best with the rest of the silver and gold. Do what your God wants you to do.
Give to the God of Jerusalem all of the articles you are accountable for. Use them for worshiping your God in his temple.
You might need to supply some other things for the temple of your God. If you do, take them from among the royal treasures.
I, King Artaxerxes, also give this order. It applies to all those who are in charge of the treasures west of the Euphrates River. Make sure you provide anything the priest Ezra might ask you to give. He is a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven.
Give Ezra up to three and three-fourths tons of silver. Give him up to 600 bushels of wheat. Give him up to 600 gallons of wine. Also give him up to 600 gallons of olive oil. And give him as much salt as he needs.
Work hard for the temple of the God of heaven. Do everything he has required. I don't want him to be angry with my kingdom and the kingdom of my sons.
I want you to know that you don't have any authority to collect taxes, gifts or fees from these people. You can't collect them from the priests, Levites, singers or those who guard the temple gates. And you can't collect them from the temple servants or other workers at the house of God in Jerusalem.
Ezra, appoint judges and other court officials. When you do it, use the wisdom your God gives you. Those you appoint should do what is right and fair when they judge people. They should do it for everyone who lives west of the Euphrates. They should do it for everyone who knows the laws of your God. And I want you to teach the people who don't know those laws.
Anyone who doesn't obey the law of your God must be punished. The same thing applies to anyone who doesn't obey my law. The people must be punished in keeping with the laws they have broken. Some of them must be put to death. Others must be forced to leave the places where they live. Others must have their property taken away from them. Still others must be put in prison.