In the second year of the reign of Emperor Darius, the two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the Lord God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. 1
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. 2
Almost at once Governor Sisinnes of Greater Syria and Phoenicia, with Shethar Bozenai and the other officials, came to Jerusalem and demanded:
"Who gave you orders to build this Temple and complete this roof and everything else? Who is doing this work?"
But the Lord was with the people who had returned from exile and was watching over the Jewish leaders,
and they were allowed to continue building until Emperor Darius could be informed and his reply received.
Here is the report that the Persian officials sent to the emperor:
"To Emperor Darius, greetings. "Your Majesty should know that we went to Judah and to Jerusalem and there we found the leaders of the Jews who have returned from exile
building a large new Temple for the Lord with expensive, shaped stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the walls.
The work is being done rapidly and is moving ahead steadily; yet they are taking great care and doing their work beautifully.
"We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them orders to rebuild the Temple and lay the foundations for the buildings.
We also asked them who their leaders were and demanded a list of their names, so that we could inform you.
"They answered, "We are servants of the Lord who created heaven and earth.
This Temple was built and equipped many years ago by a very powerful king of Israel.
But because our ancestors sinned against Israel's Lord in heaven and made him angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. 3
The Temple was demolished and burned, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia.
Then, in the first year of his reign as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt. 4
He gave back the sacred gold and silver utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in his own temple in Babylon. Emperor Cyrus turned these utensils over to Zerubbabel and the governor, Sheshbazzar.
The Emperor told Sheshbazzar to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before.
So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation, and construction has continued from then until the present, but the Temple is still not finished.'
"Now, if it please Your Majesty, have a search made in the royal records in Babylon
to find whether or not the building of this Temple in Jerusalem had the approval of Emperor Cyrus, and then, if it please Your Majesty, inform us what your will is in this matter."
So Emperor Darius ordered a search to be made in the royal records that were kept in Babylon. It was, however, in the fortress of Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found, containing the following record:
"In the first year of his reign Emperor Cyrus ordered the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, where sacrifices are continually offered.
The Temple is to be 90 feet high and 90 feet wide. The walls must be built with one layer of new local wood on top of each three layers of shaped stone. All expenses are to be paid by the royal treasury.
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."
Then Emperor Darius gave strict orders to Sisinnes, governor of Greater Syria and Phoenicia, Shethar Bozenai, the other officials, and the local officials to stay away from Jerusalem and let Zerubbabel, the servant of the Lord and governor of Judah, and the other Jewish leaders rebuild the Temple of the Lord where it stood before.
"And I also command," he continued, "that it be completely rebuilt and that, until it is finished, every effort be made to help the Jews who have returned from exile.
From the taxes received in Greater Syria and Phoenicia a contribution shall be made on a regular basis to these men, payable to Governor Zerubbabel, for bulls, sheep, and lambs to be used in their sacrifices to the Lord.
In the same way, each year and without further question, wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil are to be supplied, according to the daily needs indicated by the priests.
This must be done so that they can make wine offerings to God Most High for me and my children and pray for his blessing on our lives."
He also gave these orders: "If anyone disobeys the commands as written above or fails to carry them out, he is to be hanged on a wooden beam taken from his own house, and his property is to be turned over to the emperor.
May the Lord who is worshiped at Jerusalem destroy any king or nation that tries to stop the work or damage the Temple there.
I, Emperor Darius, issue the command that these orders be carried out in every detail."