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Ezra 4; Ezra 5; Ezra 6; Ezra 7

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.
1 King Darius gave an order. He had a search made in the official records that were stored among the treasures at Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in a safe storeroom at Ecbatana in the land of Media. Here is what was written on it. This is my official reply to your letter. 3 In the first year that Cyrus was king, he gave an order. It concerned God's temple in Jerusalem. It said, Rebuild the temple. Then the Jews can offer sacrifices there. Lay its foundations. The temple must be 90 feet high and 90 feet wide. 4 Its walls must have three layers of large stones. They must also have a layer of beautiful wood. Use money from the royal treasures to pay for everything. 5 The gold and silver articles from the house of God must be returned. Nebuchadnezzar had taken them from the first temple in Jerusalem. And he had brought them to Babylon. Now they must be returned to their places in the temple at Jerusalem. They must be put in the house of God there. 6 Tattenai, you are governor of the land west of the Euphrates River. I want you to stay away from the temple in Jerusalem. Shethar-Bozenai and the other officials of that area must also stay away from it. 7 Don't try to stop the work on God's temple. Let the governor of the Jews and their elders rebuild the house of their God. Let them build it in the same place where it stood before. 8 Here is what I want you to do for the elders of the Jews. Here is how you must help the men who build the house of their God. Pay all of their expenses from the royal treasures. Use the money you collect from the people who live west of the Euphrates. Don't let the work on the temple stop. 9 Don't fail to give the priests in Jerusalem what they ask for each day. Give them what they need. Give them young bulls, rams and male lambs. The priests can use them to sacrifice burnt offerings to the God of heaven. Also give them wheat, salt, wine and olive oil. 10 Give them those things so they can offer sacrifices that please the God of heaven. And I want them to pray that things will go well for me and my sons. 11 Don't change this order. If a man tries to change it, he must be put to death. A pole must be pulled from his house. The pole must be stuck through his body. Then it must be set up where people can see it. Because the man tried to change my royal order, his house must be broken to pieces. 12 God has chosen to put his Name in the temple at Jerusalem. May he wipe out any king or nation that lifts a hand to change this order. May he also wipe out anyone who tries to destroy the temple in Jerusalem. That's what I have ordered. I am King Darius. Make sure you carry out my order. 13 The governor Tattenai carried out the order King Darius had sent. So did Shethar-Bozenai and their friends. 14 The elders of the Jews continued to build the temple. They enjoyed great success because of the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Zechariah belonged to the family line of Iddo. The people finished building the temple. That's what the God of Israel had commanded them to do. Cyrus and Darius had given orders allowing them to do it. Later, Artaxerxes supplied many things that were needed in the temple. Those three men were kings of Persia. 15 So the temple was completed on the third day of the month of Adar. It was in the sixth year that Darius was king. 16 When the house of God was set apart, the people of Israel celebrated with joy. The priests and Levites joined them. So did the rest of those who had returned from Babylonia. 17 When the house of God was set apart to him, the people sacrificed 100 bulls. They also sacrificed 200 rams and 400 male lambs. As a sin offering for the whole nation of Israel, the people sacrificed 12 male goats. One goat was sacrificed for each tribe in Israel. 18 The priests were appointed to their companies. And the Levites were appointed to their groups. All of them served God at Jerusalem. They served him in keeping with what is written in the Scroll of Moses. 19 Those who had returned from Babylonia celebrated the Passover Feast. It was on the 14th day of the first month. 20 The priests and Levites had made themselves pure and clean. The Levites killed the Passover lamb for everyone who had returned from Babylonia. They also did it for themselves and their relatives, the priests. 21 So the people of Israel who had returned ate the Passover lamb. They ate it together with all those who had separated themselves from the practices of their neighbors who weren't Jews. Those practices were "unclean." The people worshiped the Lord. He is the God of Israel. 22 For seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with joy. That's because the LORD had filled them with joy. They were glad because he had changed the mind of the king of Persia. So the king had helped them with the work on the house of the God of Israel.
1 After all of those things had happened, Ezra came up to Jerusalem from Babylonia. It was during the rule of Artaxerxes. He was king of Persia. Ezra was the son of Seraiah. Seraiah was the son of Azariah. Azariah was the son of Hilkiah. 2 Hilkiah was the son of Shallum. Shallum was the son of Zadok. Zadok was the son of Ahitub. 3 Ahitub was the son of Amariah. Amariah was the son of Azariah. Azariah was the son of Meraioth. 4 Meraioth was the son of Zerahiah. Zerahiah was the son of Uzzi. Uzzi was the son of Bukki. 5 Bukki was the son of Abishua. Abishua was the son of Phinehas. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar. And Eleazar was the son of the chief priest Aaron. 6 So Ezra came up from Babylonia. He was a teacher. He knew the Law of Moses very well. The LORD had given Israel that law. He is the God of Israel. The king had given Ezra everything he asked for. That's because the powerful hand of the LORD his God helped him. 7 Some of the people of Israel came up to Jerusalem too. They included priests, Levites and singers. They also included the temple servants and those who guarded the temple gates. It was in the seventh year that Artaxerxes was king. 8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king's rule. 9 Ezra had begun his journey from Babylonia on the first day of the first month. He arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month. That's because the gracious hand of his God helped him. 10 Ezra had committed himself to study and obey the Law of the LORD. He also wanted to teach the LORD's rules and laws in Israel. 11 Ezra was a priest and teacher. He was an educated man. He knew the LORD's commands and rules for Israel very well. Here is a copy of a letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra. It said, 12 I, Artaxerxes, am writing this letter. I am the greatest king of all. I have given it to the priest Ezra. He is a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven. I give you my greetings. 13 Ezra, there are people from Israel in my kingdom. I am giving an order that any of them who want to go to Jerusalem with you can go. The order also allows priests and Levites to go with you. 14 I and my seven advisers are sending you to see how things are going in Judah and Jerusalem. Find out whether the people there are obeying the Law of your God. You have a copy of that law with you. 15 I and my advisers have freely given some silver and gold to the God of Israel. He lives in Jerusalem. Take the silver and gold with you. 16 Also take any other silver and gold you can get from the land of Babylonia. And take the offerings the people and priests choose to give for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 Make sure you use the money to buy bulls, rams and male lambs. Also buy their grain offerings and drink offerings. Then sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem. 18 You and the other Jews can do what you think is best with the rest of the silver and gold. Do what your God wants you to do. 19 Give to the God of Jerusalem all of the articles you are accountable for. Use them for worshiping your God in his temple. 20 You might need to supply some other things for the temple of your God. If you do, take them from among the royal treasures. 21 I, King Artaxerxes, also give this order. It applies to all those who are in charge of the treasures west of the Euphrates River. Make sure you provide anything the priest Ezra might ask you to give. He is a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven. 22 Give Ezra up to three and three-fourths tons of silver. Give him up to 600 bushels of wheat. Give him up to 600 gallons of wine. Also give him up to 600 gallons of olive oil. And give him as much salt as he needs. 23 Work hard for the temple of the God of heaven. Do everything he has required. I don't want him to be angry with my kingdom and the kingdom of my sons. 24 I want you to know that you don't have any authority to collect taxes, gifts or fees from these people. You can't collect them from the priests, Levites, singers or those who guard the temple gates. And you can't collect them from the temple servants or other workers at the house of God in Jerusalem. 25 Ezra, appoint judges and other court officials. When you do it, use the wisdom your God gives you. Those you appoint should do what is right and fair when they judge people. They should do it for everyone who lives west of the Euphrates. They should do it for everyone who knows the laws of your God. And I want you to teach the people who don't know those laws. 26 Anyone who doesn't obey the law of your God must be punished. The same thing applies to anyone who doesn't obey my law. The people must be punished in keeping with the laws they have broken. Some of them must be put to death. Others must be forced to leave the places where they live. Others must have their property taken away from them. Still others must be put in prison. 27 People of Israel, give praise to the Lord. He is the God of our people who lived long ago. He has put it in the king's heart to bring honor to the LORD's temple in Jerusalem. The king has honored the LORD in his letter. 28 The LORD has shown his good favor to me. He has caused the king and his advisers to show me their favor. In fact, all of the king's powerful officials have shown favor to me. The strong hand of the LORD my God helped me. That gave me new strength. So I gathered together leaders from Israel to go up to Jerusalem with me.
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