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Ezra 4; Ezra 5; Ezra 6; Psalm 137 (Good News Translation)

1 The enemies of the people of Judah and Benjamin heard that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 So they went to see Zerubbabel and the heads of the clans and said, "Let us join you in building the Temple. We worship the same God you worship, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Emperor Esarhaddon of Assyria sent us here to live." 3 Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans told them, "We don't need your help to build a temple for the Lord our God. We will build it ourselves, just as Emperor Cyrus of Persia commanded us." 4 Then the people who had been living in the land tried to discourage and frighten the Jews and keep them from building. 5 They also bribed Persian government officials to work against them. They kept on doing this throughout the reign of Emperor Cyrus and into the reign of Emperor Darius. 6 At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Xerxes, the enemies of the people living in Judah and Jerusalem brought written charges against them. 7 Again in the reign of Emperor Artaxerxes of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote a letter to the emperor. The letter was written in Aramaic and was to be translated when read. 8 Also Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary of the province, wrote the following letter to Emperor Artaxerxes about Jerusalem: 9 "From Rehum, the governor, from Shimshai, secretary of the province, from their associates, the judges, and from all the other officials, who are originally from Erech, Babylon, and Susa in the land of Elam, 10 together with the other peoples whom the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved from their homes and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in West-of-Euphrates Province." 11 This is the text of the letter: "To Emperor Artaxerxes from his servants who live in West-of-Euphrates. 12 "We want Your Majesty to know that the Jews who came here from your other territories have settled in Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil and rebellious city. They have begun to rebuild the walls and will soon finish them. 13 Your Majesty, if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes, and your royal revenues will decrease. 14 Now, because we are under obligation to Your Majesty, we do not want to see this happen, and so we suggest 15 that you order a search to be made in the records your ancestors kept. If you do, you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and that from ancient times it has given trouble to kings and to rulers of provinces. Its people have always been hard to govern. This is why the city was destroyed. 16 We therefore are convinced that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, Your Majesty will no longer be able to control West-of-Euphrates Province." 17 The emperor sent this answer: "To Rehum, the governor, to Shimshai, secretary of the province, and to their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of West-of-Euphrates, greetings. 18 "The letter which you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority and that it has been full of rebels and troublemakers. 20 Powerful kings have reigned there and have ruled over the entire province of West-of-Euphrates, collecting taxes and revenue. 21 Therefore you are to issue orders that those men are to stop rebuilding the city until I give further commands. 22 Do this at once, so that no more harm may be done to my interests." 23 As soon as this letter from Emperor Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop rebuilding the city. 24 Work on the Temple had been stopped and had remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of Emperor Darius of Persia. 1 At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. 2 When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them. 3 Almost at once Governor Tattenai of West-of-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow officials came to Jerusalem and demanded: "Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?" 4 They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping build the Temple. 5 But God was watching over the Jewish leaders, and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Emperor Darius and receive a reply. 6 This is the report that they sent to the emperor: 7 "To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace. 8 "Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily. 9 "We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it. 10 We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are. 11 "They answered, "We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel. 12 But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia. 13 Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt. 14 He restored the gold and silver Temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Emperor Cyrus turned these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah. 15 The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before. 16 So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but it is still not finished.' 17 "Now, if it please Your Majesty, have a search made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Emperor Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter." 1 So Emperor Darius issued orders for a search to be made in the royal records that were kept in Babylon. 2 But it was in the city of Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found, containing the following record: 3 "In the first year of his reign Emperor Cyrus commanded that the Temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are made and offerings are burned. The Temple is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide. 4 The walls are to be built with one layer of wood on top of each three layers of stone. All expenses are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5 Also the gold and silver utensils which King Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon from the Temple in Jerusalem are to be returned to their proper place in the Jerusalem Temple." 6 Then Emperor Darius sent the following reply: "To Tattenai, governor of West-of-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and your fellow officials in West-of-Euphrates. "Stay away from the Temple 7 and do not interfere with its construction. Let the governor of Judah and the Jewish leaders rebuild the Temple of God where it stood before. 8 I hereby command you to help them rebuild it. Their expenses are to be paid promptly out of the royal funds received from taxes in West-of-Euphrates, so that the work is not interrupted. 9 Day by day, without fail, you are to give the priests in Jerusalem whatever they tell you they need: young bulls, sheep, or lambs to be burned as offerings to the God of Heaven, or wheat, salt, wine, or olive oil. 10 This is to be done so that they can offer sacrifices that are acceptable to the God of Heaven and pray for his blessing on me and my sons. 11 I further command that if any disobey this order, a wooden beam is to be torn out of their houses, sharpened on one end, and then driven through their bodies. And their houses are to be made a rubbish heap. 12 May the God who chose Jerusalem as the place where he is to be worshiped overthrow any king or nation that defies this command and tries to destroy the Temple there. I, Darius, have commanded. My command is to be fully obeyed." 13 Then Governor Tattenai, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow officials did exactly as the emperor had commanded. 14 The Jewish leaders made good progress with the building of the Temple, encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They completed the Temple as they had been commanded by the God of Israel and by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, emperors of Persia. 15 They finished the Temple on the third day of the month Adar in the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Darius. 16 Then the people of Israel - the priests, the Levites, and all the others who had returned from exile - joyfully dedicated the Temple. 17 For the dedication they offered 100 bulls, 200 sheep, and 400 lambs as sacrifices, and 12 goats as offerings for sin, one for each tribe of Israel. 18 They also organized the priests and the Levites for the Temple services in Jerusalem, according to the instructions contained in the book of Moses. 19 The people who had returned from exile celebrated Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month of the following year. 20 All the priests and the Levites had purified themselves and were ritually clean. The Levites killed the animals for the Passover sacrifices for all the people who had returned, for the priests, and for themselves. 21 The sacrifices were eaten by all the Israelites who had returned from exile and by all those who had given up the pagan ways of the other people who were living in the land and who had come to worship the Lord God of Israel. 22 For seven days they joyfully celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They were full of joy because the Lord had made the emperor of Assyria favorable to them, so that he supported them in their work of rebuilding the Temple of the God of Israel. 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat down; there we wept when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows near by we hung up our harps. 3 Those who captured us told us to sing; they told us to entertain them: "Sing us a song about Zion." 4 How can we sing a song to the Lord in a foreign land? 5 May I never be able to play the harp again if I forget you, Jerusalem! 6 May I never be able to sing again if I do not remember you, if I do not think of you as my greatest joy! 7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did the day Jerusalem was captured. Remember how they kept saying, "Tear it down to the ground!" 8 Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy are those who pay you back for what you have done to us - 9 who take your babies and smash them against a rock.
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