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  • Ezra 1-6

    Permission to return to Jerusalem

    In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia’s rule, to fulfill the Lord’s word spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Persia’s King Cyrus. The king issued a proclamation throughout his kingdom (it was also in writing) that stated:

    Persia’s King Cyrus says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. If there are any of you who are from his people, may their God be with them! They may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And as for all those who remain in the various places where they are living, let the people of those places supply them with silver and gold, and with goods and livestock, together with spontaneous gifts for God’s house in Jerusalem.

    Preparing to return

    Then the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites—everyone whose spirit God had stirred up—got ready to go up and build God’s house in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with silver equipment, with gold, with goods, livestock, and valuable gifts, in addition to all that was freely offered. King Cyrus brought out the equipment of the Lord’s house—those items that Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Persia’s King Cyrus handed them over to Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. This was the count: thirty gold dishes, one thousand silver dishes, twenty-nine knives, 10 thirty gold bowls, four hundred ten larger silver bowls, and one thousand other objects. 11 The total of the gold and silver objects numbered five thousand four hundred. Sheshbazzar brought up all of these when the exiles went up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.

    List of the returnees

    These were the people of the province who went up from there—from among those captive exiles whom Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar had deported to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

    The number of the people of Israel

    The family of Parosh2,172
    of Shephatiah372
    of Arah775
    of Pahath-moab, namely the family of Jeshua and Joab2,812
    of Elam1,254
    of Zattu945
    of Zaccai760
    10 of Bani642
    11 of Bebai623
    12 of Azgad1,222
    13 of Adonikam666
    14 of Bigvai2,056
    15 of Adin454
    16 of Ater, namely of Hezekiah98
    17 of Bezai323
    18 of Jorah112
    19 of Hashum223
    20 of Gibbar95
    21 of Bethlehem123
    22 The people of Netophah56
    23 of Anathoth128
    24 The family of Azmaveth42
    25 of Kiriatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth743
    26 of Ramah and Geba621
    27 The people of Michmash122
    28 of Bethel and Ai223
    29 The family of Nebo52
    30 of Magbish156
    31 of the other Elam1,254
    32 of Harim320
    33 of Lod, Hadid, and Ono725
    34 of Jericho345
    35 of Senaah3,630

    36 The priests

    The family of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua973
    37 of Immer1,052
    38 of Pashhur1,247
    39 of Harim1,017
    40 The Levites: the family of Jeshua and Kadmiel—the family of Hodaviah74

    41 The singers

    The family of Asaph128

    42 The family of the gatekeepers

    of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai139 in all

    43 The temple servants

    The family of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, 44 Keros, Siaha, Padon, 45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, 46 Hagab, Shamlai, Hanan, 47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, 48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, 49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai, 50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim, 51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, 52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, 53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah, 54 Neziah, and Hatipha

    55 The family of Solomon’s servants

    Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda, 56 Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, 57 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.

    58 All of the temple servants and the family of Solomon’s servants 392


    59 The following came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, but they were unable to demonstrate that their family or their descent was from Israel: 60 the family of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, 652

    61 and of the family of the priests: the family of Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name).

    62 They looked for their entries in the genealogical records, but they were not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor ordered them not to eat of the most holy food until a priest arose who could consult Urim and Thummim.


    64 The whole assembly together totaled 42,360, 65 not including their 7,337 male and female servants; they also had 200 male and female singers, 66 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

    Arrival in Jerusalem

    68 When they arrived at the Lord’s house in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families brought spontaneous gifts for the rebuilding of God’s house on its site. 69 According to their means, they gave to the building fund 61,000 drachmen of gold, 5,000 manehs of silver, and 100 priestly robes.

    70 The priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants settled in their own towns, and all Israel in their towns.

    Rebuilding the altar

    When the seventh month came and the Israelites were in their towns, the people gathered together as one in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua, Jozadak’s son along with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son along with his kin, started to rebuild the altar of Israel’s God so that they might offer entirely burned offerings upon it as prescribed in the Instruction from Moses the man of God. They set up the altar on its foundations, because they were afraid of the neighboring peoples, and they offered entirely burned offerings upon it to the Lord, both the morning and the evening offerings.

    They celebrated the Festival of Booths, as prescribed. Every day they presented the number of entirely burned offerings required by ordinance for that day. After this, they presented the continual burned offerings, the offerings at the new moons, and at all the sacred feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who brought a spontaneous gift to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month, they began to present entirely burned offerings to the Lord.

    However, the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid. So they gave money to the masons and carpenters; and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedarwood by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, according to the authorization given them by Persia’s King Cyrus.

    Laying the foundations of God’s house

    In the second month of the second year after their arrival at God’s house in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, and the rest of their kin—the priests and the Levites and all who had come from the captivity to Jerusalem—made a beginning. They appointed Levites 20 years old and above to oversee the work on the Lord’s house. Then Jeshua with his sons and his kin, Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and his sons, the sons of Judah, along with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, and their sons and kin, collaborated to supervise the workers in God’s house.

    10 When the builders laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple, the priests clothed in their vests and carrying their trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, arose to praise the Lord according to the directions of Israel’s King David. 11 They praised and gave thanks to the Lord, singing responsively, “He is good, his graciousness for Israel lasts forever.”

    All of the people shouted with praise to the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s house had been laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted loudly with joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, because the people rejoiced very loudly. The sound was heard at a great distance.

    Facing opposition

    When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the families and said to them, “Let’s build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we’ve been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Assyria’s King Esarhaddon, who brought us here.”

    But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of the families in Israel replied, “You’ll have no part with us in building a house for our God. We alone will build because the Lord, the God of Israel, and Persia’s King Cyrus commanded us.”

    The neighboring peoples discouraged the people of Judah, made them afraid to build, and bribed officials to frustrate their plan. They did this throughout the rule of Persia’s King Cyrus until the rule of Persia’s King Darius.

    Writing to King Artaxerxes

    In the rule of Ahasuerus, at the beginning of his rule, they composed an indictment against those who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their associates wrote to Persia’s King Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter concerning Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows:

    From Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues, the judges, the administrators, the officials, the Persians, the people of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, the Elamites), 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and famous Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River.

    (11 This is a copy of the letter they sent to him.)

    To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River. 12 May it be known to the king that the Jews who left you and came to us have arrived in Jerusalem. They are rebuilding the rebellious and wicked city; they are completing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 May it be known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, they will not pay tribute or tax or dues, and the royal revenue will be reduced.

    14 Since we receive our salary from the palace, and since it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, we now send this letter and inform the king 15 so that you may search the records of your ancestors. You will discover in the records that this is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that it has been in revolt over a long period of time. As a result, this city was laid waste. 16 We tell the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls completed, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.

    Artaxerxes responds

    17 The king sent this answer:

    Greetings to Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and elsewhere in the province Beyond the River. 18 The entire letter that you sent to us has been read in translation for me. 19 I issued an order; they searched and discovered that this city has revolted against kings over a long period of time. There has been much rebellion and revolt there. 20 However, there have been mighty kings over Jerusalem who also ruled over the whole province Beyond the River. Tribute and taxes and dues were paid to them.

    21 Therefore, issue an order to stop these people: this city is not to be rebuilt until I make a decree. 22 Be sure to carry out this order! Why should danger grow and threaten the king?

    23 When the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem to oppose the Jews and made them stop by force of arms. 24 At that time the work on God’s house in Jerusalem stopped and was suspended until the second year of the rule of Persia’s King Darius.

    Work on God’s house continues

    Then the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah, Iddo’s son, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of Israel’s God who was over them. Subsequently, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. God’s prophets were with them, helping them.

    At the same time, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and spoke to them, asking, “Who authorized you to build this house and finish preparing this building material?” They also asked them, “What are the names of the people who are building this building?” But their God looked after the elders of the Jews, and they didn’t stop them until a report reached Darius and a letter with his response had arrived.

    Writing to King Darius

    This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues the officials who were in the province Beyond the River sent to King Darius. In the message they sent him, the following was written:

    To King Darius, all peace! Let the king know that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with dressed stone and with timber set into the walls. This work makes good progress and prospers in their hands. We asked those elders, “Who authorized you to build this house and to complete the preparation of this material?” 10 We also asked them their names so that we could write down the names of the leaders for your information.

    11 This was their reply to us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and completed. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them over into the power of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and deported the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of his rule, Babylon’s King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 King Cyrus also took the gold and silver equipment from God’s house out of the temple in Babylon (the ones that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and placed in the temple in Babylon) and gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor. 15 Cyrus said to him, ‘Take this equipment and go and put it in Jerusalem’s temple, and let God’s house be rebuilt on its original site.’ 16 Then Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of God’s house in Jerusalem. From then until now the rebuilding work has continued but is not yet complete.”

    17 And now, if it seems good to the king, may a search be made in the royal archives in Babylon to see if King Cyrus had issued a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then may the king be pleased to send us his decision about this matter.

    Darius responds

    Then King Darius made a decree, and they searched the archives where the documents were stored in Babylon. But a scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital of the province of Media, on which was written the following:

    A memorandum— In the first year of his rule, King Cyrus made a decree: Concerning God’s house in Jerusalem: Let the house at the place where they offered sacrifices be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained. Its height will be ninety feet and its width ninety feet, with three layers of dressed stones and one layer of timber. The cost will be paid from the royal treasury. In addition, the gold and silver equipment from God’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, is to be restored, that is, brought back to Jerusalem and put in their proper place in God’s house.

    Now you, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and you, their colleagues, the officials in the province Beyond the River, keep away! Leave the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its original site.

    I also issue a decree about what you should do to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this house of God: The total cost is to be paid to these people, and without delay, from the royal revenue that is made up of the tribute of the province Beyond the River. And whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, or sheep for entirely burned offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—let that be given to them day by day without fail 10 so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the lives of the king and his sons.

    11 I also decree that if anyone disobeys this edict, a beam is to be pulled out of the house of the guilty party, and the guilty party will then be impaled upon it. The house will be turned into a trash heap.

    12 May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people who try to change this order or to destroy God’s house in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have decreed it; let it be done with all diligence.

    God’s house is completed and dedicated

    13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out the order of King Darius with all diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews built and prospered because of the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s son. They finished building by the command of Israel’s God and of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the rule of King Darius.

    16 Then the Israelites, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles joyfully celebrated the dedication of this house of God. 17 At the dedication of this house of God, they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a purification offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 They set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their sections for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the scroll from Moses.

    19  On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 All of the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were clean. They slaughtered the Passover animals for all the returned exiles, their fellow priests, and themselves. 21 The Israelites who had returned from exile, together with all those who had joined them by separating themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, ate the Passover meal.

    22 They also joyfully celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days, because the Lord had made them joyful by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria toward them so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.