Ezra 3; Ezra 4; Ezra 5

1 When the seventh month came, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. (The Israelites had already settled in their cities.) 2 Then Jozadak's son Jeshua and his relatives [who were] priests and Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel and his relatives built an altar for the God of Israel. They built it in order to sacrifice burnt offerings. They [followed the directions] written in Moses' Teachings. (Moses was a man of God.) 3 So they rebuilt the altar on its original site, though they were afraid of the people in the neighboring regions. They sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD every morning and evening. 4 Following the written directions, they celebrated the Festival of Booths. Each day they sacrificed the required number of burnt offerings. 5 After that, they sacrificed the daily burnt offerings, the offerings for the New Moon Festival and all the other holy festivals of the LORD, and all the freewill offerings brought to the LORD. 6 They started to bring these burnt offerings to the LORD on the first day of the seventh month, even though the foundation of the LORD's temple had not yet been laid. 7 So they gave money to the stonecutters and carpenters. Then they gave food, drink, and olive oil to the men from Sidon and Tyre in exchange for cedar, which the men would bring by sea from Lebanon to Joppa as King Cyrus of Persia had authorized them to do. 8 Zerubbabel (who was Shealtiel's son), Jeshua (who was Jozadak's son), and the rest of the Jews, (the priests, Levites, and all the others who had come back from exile to Jerusalem) began to rebuild the temple. This happened in the second month of the second year following their return to [the site] of God's house in Jerusalem. They began by appointing the Levites who were at least 20 years old to direct the work on the LORD's house. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and relatives and Kadmiel with his sons who were Judah's descendants joined Henadad's family and their sons and relatives, the Levites, in directing those working on God's house. 10 The builders laid the foundation of the LORD's temple. Then the priests who were dressed in their robes took their places with trumpets, and the Levites who were Asaph's descendants took their places with cymbals to praise the LORD according to the instructions of King David of Israel. 11 As they praised and gave thanks to the LORD, they sang antiphonally: "He is good; his mercy toward Israel endures forever." Then all the people shouted, "Praise the LORD," because the foundation for the house of the LORD had been laid. 12 But many of the priests, Levites, and the heads of the families who were old enough to have seen the first temple with their own eyes began to sob when they saw the foundation of this temple. Many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the loud sobbing because the people were shouting so loudly. The noise was heard from far away.
1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people who returned from exile were building a temple for the LORD God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the families. They told them, "We want to help you build because we worship the same God you worship. We have been sacrificing to him since the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here." 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of Israel's families told them, "It isn't right for your people and our people to build a temple for our God together. We must build it alone for the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia ordered us to do." 4 Then the people of that region discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to continue building. 5 They bribed officials to keep the people of Judah from carrying out their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius of Persia. 6 When Xerxes began to rule, the enemies of Judah and Jerusalem wrote a letter in which they made an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 7 Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their group wrote to him when Artaxerxes was king of Persia. The letter was written with the Aramaic script and translated into the Aramaic language. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote another letter against [the people of] Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes. 9 At that time, Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe were with the others of their group--the people from Denya, Partakka, Tarpel, Persia, Erech, Babylon, Susa, (that is, those of Elam), 10 and the rest of the people whom the great and noble Assurbanipal deported. (Assurbanipal settled them in the cities of Samaria and the rest of the lands west of the Euphrates River.) 11 This is the copy of the letter they sent to him: To King Artaxerxes, From your servants, the people west of the Euphrates: 12 Your Majesty, you should know that the Jews who came to us from you are now in Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are close to finishing the walls. The foundations are already in place. 13 You should also know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are finished, the Jews will no longer pay taxes, fees, and tolls. Ultimately, this will hurt the king's income. 14 Now, because we are paid by your palace, it isn't right for us to watch something happen that will dishonor the king. So we are sending this letter to inform you 15 that you should search the official records of your predecessors. You will find in those official records that this city has been rebellious and has been a threat to kings and provinces. This city has a history of rebelliousness. That's why this city was destroyed. 16 We want the king to know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are finished, you will have nothing left [of your province] west of the Euphrates River. 17 Then the king sent this reply: To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their group living in Samaria, and to others west of the Euphrates River: I wish you peace and prosperity! 18 The letter you sent me has been read word for word in my presence. 19 I gave the order, and a search was made. I discovered that this city has a long history of uprisings against kings. Its inhabitants are guilty of treason and rebellion. 20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings who have ruled the whole [province] west of the Euphrates. Taxes, fees, and tolls were paid to them. 21 So order these men to stop rebuilding. Keep this city from being rebuilt until I give the order. 22 Be careful not to neglect your duty in this matter. Why should I, the king, suffer any more harm? 23 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and their group hurried to Jerusalem after hearing a copy of King Artaxerxes' letter. They forced the Jews to stop rebuilding. 24 Then the work on God's temple in Jerusalem was stopped. Nothing more was done until Darius' second year as king of Persia.
1 The prophet Haggai and Zechariah, grandson of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of Israel's God, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel, who was Shealtiel's son, and Jeshua, who was Jozadak's son, began to rebuild God's temple in Jerusalem. God's prophets were with them and supported them. 3 At the same time, Governor Tattenai [from the province] west of the Euphrates River, Shethar Bozenai, and their group went to the Jews and asked them, "Who gave you permission to rebuild this temple and finish its walls?" 4 They also asked the Jews for the names of the men who were working on this building. 5 But the leaders of the Jews were under God's watchful eye. They couldn't be stopped until Darius received a report and sent a reply to it. 6 Here is a copy of the letter Governor Tattenai [from the province] west of the Euphrates River, Shethar Bozenai and his group (the Persians west of that river) sent to King Darius. 7 They sent him the following report: To King Darius, We wish you peace and prosperity in everything you do. 8 Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The temple is being built with large stones and with wooden beams laid in its walls. The builders are doing an excellent job and making rapid progress. 9 We asked their leaders the following question: "Who gave you permission to rebuild this temple and finish its walls?" 10 For your information, we also asked them for their names so that we would have a record of the men who were their leaders. 11 This was their reply to us: "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple that was originally built many years ago by a great king of Israel. 12 But because our ancestors made the God of heaven angry, he handed them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (a Chaldean). So Nebuchadnezzar destroyed this temple and deported its people to Babylon. 13 "However, in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus of Babylon, Cyrus gave permission for God's temple to be rebuilt. 14 In addition, Cyrus took out of a temple in Babylon the gold and silver utensils that belonged to God's temple. (Nebuchadnezzar had taken them out of God's temple in Jerusalem and brought them into a temple in Babylon.) Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. 15 Cyrus told him, 'Take these utensils. Place them in the temple in Jerusalem. Rebuild God's temple on its original site.' 16 Then Sheshbazzar laid the foundation of God's temple in Jerusalem. The temple has been under construction from that time until now, but it still isn't finished." 17 If it pleases Your Majesty, allow someone to search the king's archives in Babylon to determine whether King Cyrus gave permission for the temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then please send us Your Majesty's decision on this matter.
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