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Ezra 3; Ezra 4; Ezra 5

1 The people of Israel had settled down in their towns. In the seventh month all of them gathered together in Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua began to build the altar for burnt offerings to honor the God of Israel. Jeshua was the son of Jehozadak. The other priests helped Jeshua. So did Zerubbabel and his men. They built the altar in keeping with what is written in the Law of Moses. Moses was a man of God. Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel. 3 The people who built the altar were afraid of the nations that were around them. But they built it anyway. They set it up where it had stood before. They sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord. They offered the morning and evening sacrifices on it. 4 Then they celebrated the Feast of Booths. They did it in keeping with what is written in the Law. They sacrificed the number of burnt offerings that were required for each day. 5 After they celebrated the Feast of Booths, they sacrificed the regular burnt offerings. They offered the New Moon sacrifices. They also offered the sacrifices for all of the appointed sacred feasts of the Lord. And they sacrificed the offerings the people chose to give him. 6 On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. They did it even though the foundation of the LORD's temple hadn't been finished yet. 7 The people gave money to those who worked with stone and those who worked with wood. They gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre. Then those people brought cedar logs down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea. They floated them down to Joppa. Cyrus, the king of Persia, authorized them to do it. 8 It was the second month of the second year after they had arrived at the house of God in Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, began the work. Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak, helped him. So did everyone else. That included the priests and Levites. It also included the rest of those who had returned to Jerusalem. They had been prisoners in Babylonia. Levites who were 20 years old or more were appointed to be in charge of building the LORD's house. 9 Those who joined together to direct the work included Jeshua and his sons and brothers. They also included Kadmiel and his sons. And they included the sons of Henadad and all of their sons and brothers. All of those men were Levites. Kadmiel and his sons were members of the family line of Hodaviah. 10 The builders laid the foundation of the LORD's temple. Then the priests came. They were wearing their special clothes. They brought their trumpets with them. The Levites who belonged to the family line of Asaph also came. They brought their cymbals with them. The priests and Levites took their places to praise the Lord. They did everything just as King David had required them to. 11 They sang to the Lord. They praised him. They gave thanks to him. They said, "The LORD is good. His faithful love to Israel continues forever." All of the people gave a loud shout. They praised the Lord. They were glad because the foundation of the LORD's temple had been laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family leaders sobbed out loud. They had seen the first temple. So when they saw the foundation of the second temple being laid, they sobbed. Others shouted with joy. 13 No one could tell the difference between the shouts of joy and the sounds of sobbing. That's because the people made so much noise. The sound was heard far away.
1 The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard about what the people who had returned from Babylonia were doing. They heard that they were building a temple to honor the Lord. He is the God of Israel. 2 The enemies came to Zerubbabel. The family leaders of Israel were with him. The enemies said, "We want to help you build. We're just like you. We worship your God. We offer sacrifices to him. We've been doing that ever since the time of Esarhaddon. He was king of Assyria. He brought our people here." 3 Zerubbabel and Jeshua answered them. So did the rest of the family leaders of Israel. They said, "You can't help us build a temple to honor our God. You aren't part of us. We'll build it ourselves. We'll do it to honor the Lord. He is the God of Israel. Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us to build it." 4 Then the nations that were around Judah tried to make its people lose hope. They wanted to make them afraid to go on building. 5 So they hired advisers to work against them. They wanted their plans to fail. They did it during the whole time Cyrus was king of Persia. They kept doing it until Darius became king. 6 The enemies of the Jews brought charges against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It happened when Xerxes began to rule over Persia. 7 Then Artaxerxes became king of Persia. During his rule, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and their friends wrote a letter to him. It was written in the Aramaic language. And it used the Aramaic alphabet. 8 Rehum and Shimshai also wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes. Rehum was the commanding officer. Shimshai was the secretary. Their letter was against the people of Jerusalem. It said, 9 We, Rehum and Shimshai, are writing this letter. Rehum is the commanding officer. Shimshai is the secretary. Our friends join us in writing. They include the judges and officials who are in charge of the people from Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon. They are also over the Elamites from Susa. 10 And they are over those who were forced to leave their countries. The great King Ashurbanipal, who is worthy of honor, forced them to leave. He settled them in the city of Samaria. He also settled them in other places west of the Euphrates River. 11 Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to Artaxerxes. We are sending this letter to you, King Artaxerxes. It is from your servants who live west of the Euphrates River. 12 We want you to know that the Jews who left you and came up to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that evil city. It has caused trouble for a long time. The Jews are making its walls like new again. They are repairing the foundations. 13 Here is something else we want you to know. Suppose this city is rebuilt. And suppose its walls are made like new again. Then no more taxes, gifts or fees will be collected. And there will be less money for you. 14 We owe a lot to you. We don't want to see dishonor brought on you. So we're sending this letter to tell you what is going on. 15 Then you can have a search made in the official records. Have someone check the records of the kings who ruled before you. If you do, you will find out that Jerusalem is an evil city. It causes trouble for kings and countries. For a long time the city has refused to let anyone rule over it. That's why it was destroyed. 16 We want you to know that this city shouldn't be rebuilt. Its walls shouldn't be made like new again. If that happens, you won't have anything left west of the Euphrates River. 17 The king replied, I am writing this letter to Rehum, the commanding officer. I am also writing it to Shimshai, the secretary. And I am writing it to your friends who are living in Samaria and in other places west of the Euphrates River. I give you my greetings. 18 The letter you sent us has been read to me. It has been explained to me in my language. 19 I gave an order. I had a search made. We found out that Jerusalem has a long history of turning against the kings of the countries that have ruled over it. It has refused to remain under their control. It is always stirring up trouble. 20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings. Some of them ruled over everything west of the Euphrates. Taxes, gifts and fees were paid to them. 21 So give an order to those men. Make them stop their work. Then the city won't be rebuilt until I give the order. 22 Pay careful attention to this matter. Why should we let this danger grow? That would not be in our best interests. 23 The copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and the secretary Shimshai. It was also read to their friends. Right away they went to the Jews in Jerusalem. They forced them to stop their work. 24 And so the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to an end. Nothing more was done on it until the second year that Darius was king of Persia.
1 The prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They spoke to them in the name of the God of Israel. He had spoken to those prophets. Zechariah belonged to the family line of Iddo. 2 Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, began to work. So did Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak. They began to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were right there with them. They were helping them. 3 At that time Tattenai was governor of the land west of the Euphrates River. He and Shethar-Bozenai and their friends went to the Jews. They asked them, "Who authorized you to rebuild this temple? Who told you that you could make this building like new again?" 4 They also asked, "What are the names of the men who are putting up this building?" 5 But the God of the Jews was watching over their elders. So they didn't have to stop their work. First a report would have to be sent to Darius. Then they would have to receive his answer in writing. 6 Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to King Darius. It was from Tattenai, the governor of the land west of the Euphrates. Shethar-Bozenai joined him in writing it. So did their friends. They were officials of that land. 7 The report they sent to the king said, We are sending this letter to you, King Darius. We give you our most friendly greetings. 8 We want you to know that we went to the land of Judah. We went to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones. They are putting wooden beams in the walls. The people are working hard. The work is moving ahead very quickly under the direction of the people. 9 We asked the elders some questions. We said to them, "Who authorized you to rebuild this temple? Who told you that you could make this building like new again?" 10 We also asked them their names. We wanted to write down the names of their leaders for your information. 11 Here is the answer they gave us. They said, "We serve the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago. The great King Solomon built it and finished it. 12 But our people made the God of heaven angry. So he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar from Chaldea. He was king of Babylonia. He destroyed this temple. He forced the Jews to leave their own country. He took them away to Babylonia. 13 "But King Cyrus gave an order to rebuild this house of God. He gave it in the first year he was king of Babylonia. 14 He even removed some gold and silver articles from the temple of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had brought them there from the house of God in Jerusalem. He had taken them to the temple in Babylon. "Then King Cyrus brought them out. He gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar. Cyrus had appointed him as governor. 15 He told him, 'Take these articles with you. Go and put them in the temple in Jerusalem. Rebuild the house of God in the same place where it stood before.' 16 "So Sheshbazzar made the trip to Jerusalem. He laid the foundations of the house of God there. From that day until now the people have been working on it. But they haven't finished it yet." 17 If it pleases you, King Darius, let a search be made in the official records of the kings of Babylonia. Find out whether King Cyrus really did give an order to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then tell us what you decide to do.
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