When the seventh month came and the Israelites were in their towns, the people gathered together as one in Jerusalem.
Then Jeshua, Jozadak's son along with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel, Shealtiel's son along with his kin, started to rebuild the altar of Israel's God so that they might offer entirely burned offerings upon it as prescribed in the Instruction from Moses the man of God.
They set up the altar on its foundations, because they were afraid of the neighboring peoples, and they offered entirely burned offerings upon it to the LORD, both the morning and the evening offerings.
They celebrated the Festival of Booths, as prescribed. Every day they presented the number of entirely burned offerings required by ordinance for that day.
After this, they presented the continual burned offerings, the offerings at the new moons, and at all the sacred feasts of the LORD, and the offerings of everyone who brought a spontaneous gift to the LORD.
From the first day of the seventh month, they began to present entirely burned offerings to the LORD. However, the foundation of the LORD's temple had not yet been laid.
So they gave money to the masons and carpenters; and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedarwood by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, according to the authorization given them by Persia's King Cyrus.
In the second month of the second year after their arrival at God's house in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel's son, and Jeshua, Jozadak's son and the rest of their kin—the priests and the Levites and all who had come from the captivity to Jerusalem—made a beginning. They appointed Levites 20 years old and above to oversee the work on the LORD's house.
Then Jeshua with his sons and his kin, Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and his sons, the sons of Judah, along with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, and their sons and kin, collaborated to supervise the workers in God's house.
When the builders laid the foundation of the LORD's temple, the priests clothed in their vests and carrying their trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, arose to praise the LORD according to the directions of Israel's King David.
They praised and gave thanks to the LORD, singing responsively, "He is good, his graciousness for Israel endures forever." All of the people shouted with praise to the LORD because the foundation of the LORD's house had been laid.
But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted loudly with joy.
No one could distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, because the people rejoiced very loudly. The sound was heard at a great distance.
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel,
they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the families and said to them, "Let's build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we've been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Assyria's King Esarhaddon, who brought us here."
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of the families in Israel replied, "You'll have no part with us in building a house for our God. We alone will build because the LORD, the God of Israel, and Persia's King Cyrus commanded us."
The neighboring peoples discouraged the people of Judah, made them afraid to build,
and bribed officials to frustrate their plan. They did this throughout the rule of Persia's King Cyrus until the rule of Persia's King Darius.
In the rule of Ahasuerus, at the beginning of his rule, they composed an indictment against those who lived in Judah and Jerusalem.
In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their associates wrote to Persia's King Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated.
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),
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.
(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.
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.
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.
Since we receive our salary from the palace, and since it is not fitting for us to witness the king's dishonor, we now send this letter and inform the king
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.
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.
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.
The entire letter that you sent to us has been read in translation for me.
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.
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.
Therefore, issue an order to stop these people: this city is not to be rebuilt until I make a decree.
Be sure to carry out this order! Why should danger grow and threaten the king?
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.
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.
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 this building material?"
They 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.
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?"
We also asked them their names so that we could write down the names of the leaders for your information.
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.
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.
However, in the first year of his rule, Babylon's King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.
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.
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.'
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."
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.