The Book of Ezra
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Introduction to The Book of Ezra
The Persian king Cyrus proved to be a wise and just sovereign. Many peoples were transplanted within his vast empire, and he gave them permission to return to their native lands subject to the overlordship of Persia. Among those who benefited by this were the Jews. Not only did Cyrus allow them to return to Jerusalem but he gave back the Temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had brought to Babylon.
The great day of release was at hand, yet only a comparatively small number of Jews took advantage of it. The ones who had been transported from Judah in 597 B.C. were too old, generally; those who had been in Babylonia since 586 B.C., and the Jews who had been born in Babylonia were accustomed to the country and did not want to leave. The prophets of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. had foreseen that a remnant would return, and it was indeed the spiritual minded to whom Jehovah and the Holy City were of paramount importance. Only they were willing to undertake the long journey to Judah and establish a new life.
Always the search for the things of the Spirit is a courageous adventure into the unknown, but those who love the Lord put Him first. The Jews who remained in Babylonia gave moral and financial support to the intrepid group whose high hopes were to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. It is much easier to give such support than to give of ourselves. We will gladly support a religious enterprise with funds but we are reluctant to give our hearts to God. Only when we are quickened to the realization that the more abundant life is to be found in a harmonious relationship with God will we willingly surrender the things of the world for the priceless treasures of the kingdom.
Sheshbazzar was in charge of the company of returning Jews, though the two names most prominently connected with the activities of the group are Zerubbabel and Jeshua (often called Joshua by Bible students). Whether Sheshbazzar was the uncle of Zerubbabel, as some Bible authorities believe, or whether he was a Persian officer appointed by Cyrus, is uncertain. In any event, Zerubbabel succeeded Sheshbazzar as leader, and the events of this period, as recorded in The Book of Ezra, deal primarily with Zerubbabel and Jeshua.
Zerubbabel was a member of the house of David, the grandson of Jehoiachin. Zerubbabel signifies:
A very strong and influential thought activity belonging to the spiritual phase of man. ... This spiritual thought activity becomes a leading factor in putting away error illusions and restoring the worship of God, with its resultant good (MBD/Zerubbabel).
Jeshua was of the priestly line and served as high priest. He represents “salvation or redemption through Jehovah, I AM” (MBD/Jeshua).
These two, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, working together emphasize the value of spiritual consciousness in re-establishing a community, or a life, on the right basis.
The period of the restoration symbolizes our return to Spirit and our efforts to sustain a spiritual consciousness. During a time of trial (exile) we turn to God and our release eventually comes. However, it is one thing to gain a spiritual blessing, such as freedom, but quite another thing to maintain it. The people who returned to Jerusalem loved their God sufficiently to desire to rebuild His city and His Temple, even as we willingly give of ourselves to a righteous undertaking. We start with devotion and zeal, but it is not easy to keep at our task in the face of trials. In the experiences of the Jews we find some of our own hardships duplicated, and from their great teachers and leaders come the lessons necessary to us.
The party found Jerusalem in ruins. The poorer class of Jews who had been left behind when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city had made no effort to restore the Temple or the city. The newcomers were immediately confronted with the serious problem of laying the foundation of an adequate economic existence as well as establishing a religious life. They knew that it was all-important to have some place of worship, and a rough stone altar was set up on Mount Zion; there burnt offerings were made, the regular morning and evening oblations resumed, and feast days observed. As soon as possible timber was bought from the Phoenicians and masons and carpenters engaged to begin the Temple.
The surrounding peoples resented the return of the Jews and warred on them, giving them no peace. When this hostility did not succeed, a group of Samaritans offered assistance in the construction of the Temple, but Zerubbabel and Jeshua said:
Ye have nothing to do with us in building a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us (Ezra 4:3).
The Samaritans, whose homeland was north of Judah, were a mixed race, the descendants of the Israelites left in the country when the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and of colonists imported into the land. The Judean Jews would have no dealings with them. Even in the time of Jesus they still considered the Samaritans inferior racially and religiously. The spiritual idea involved is that we cannot build a spiritual consciousness (temple) with a divided mind and heart. The Samaritans represent “mixed thoughts, partly worldly and partly religious. ... a state of consciousness in which Truth and error are mixed” (MBD/Samaritan). Spiritual development demands a complete separation between the true and the false. Our temple can be constructed by spiritual thought only. The Jewish leaders represent one established in spiritual consciousness who wisely rejects what is offered by the sense mind.
In retaliation for the Jews’ refusal to let them help with the Temple, the Samaritans “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4, 5). They even wrote a letter to the Persian king accusing the Jews of strengthening their position in order to resist Persian rule. These hindrances so discouraged the Jews that they stopped work on the Temple and sank into an apathetic frame of mind. Here again the spiritual was cast aside by mortal thought.
However, when we have once started on the spiritual path the Lord does not permit us to drift too far, and in time the spiritual idea reasserts itself. Historically, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were the ones who aroused the Jews to a sense of the necessity of completing the house of Jehovah, sixteen years after work on it had been begun and a few years after it had been discontinued.
At the beginning of the fifth century B.C. the Greeks were slowly rising to power, and Darius of Persia was determined to subdue them. When, however, the Persian force met the Athenians at Marathon, it was defeated. In the midst of preparation for another expedition against Greece, Darius died. His son Xerxes I continued the father’s plans. At the battles of Salamis (480 B.C.) and Plataea (479 B.C.), the huge fleet and army of Persia were routed. The Greeks became aggressive, and throughout the next century the power of Persia gradually declined.
Artaxerxes I came to the throne of Persia in 465 B.C., and reigned until 424 B.C. During those years two outstanding leaders of the Jews did their work.
Though the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem (called Zerubbabel’s Temple) was of benefit to Jewish prestige, the conditions in Judah generally were far from satisfactory. Jerusalem’s walls were still in ruins, and the city was at the mercy of marauding tribes. It was also scantily populated, and most of the inhabitants were poor. Many social and economic evils existed. On the other hand, the Jews who had remained in Babylonia were living peaceably, and some had accumulated wealth and obtained positions of influence. Naturally they knew something of the hardships of their kinsmen in Judah, and when a small deputation of Jews came from Judah seeking help, Ezra, and later Nehemiah—two outstanding Jews—responded to the call. Each of these men left memoirs of his own deeds and works, and these now form the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
In 458 B.C. Ezra secured a royal decree permitting him to visit Jerusalem. Gathering a company of some fifteen hundred, Ezra left Persia bearing rich gifts to the Temple, not only from the Jews in Babylonia but even from Artaxerxes I.
Ezra was a scribe and an earnest student of the law. Among the Jews in Babylonia there had risen the priestly school of writers whose great achievement was the formulation of an elaborate code of religious practices to govern almost every act of everyday life. Those who interpreted and expounded the law were known as scribes. Ezra is commonly referred to as the “father of the scribes.”
When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he had the Priestly Code with him and intended to introduce it for use in the Temple to take the place of the less stringent regulations contained in Deuteronomy, which the Judean Jews were following. He was positive that the more elaborate and exacting ritual would be beneficial to the Temple service and tend to stimulate individual piety. The Jews had grown lax in religious observance, and many evils were prevalent. Those to which Ezra objected most were intermarriage with Gentiles (people of surrounding nations, such as Ammonites, Moabites, Samaritans), indiscriminate divorce, and indifference in keeping the laws of the Sabbath. Ezra’s first move was against intermarriage, and he was so vigorously opposed that for the time being he set aside his main project, the introduction of the Priestly Code.
We find in the man Ezra the thought of the spirit of loyalty to Truth: “For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra is often called the Puritan of the Bible. Metaphysically, therefore, he represents order, the faculty of the mind that holds every thought and act strictly to the Truth of Being, regardless of circumstances or environments (MBD/Ezra).
The underlying purpose of the Priestly Code was to establish order and intensify religious zeal. In our own ongoing we need just what this code was designed to accomplish.
Order is truly “heaven’s first law,” and if we are to grow spiritually we need to establish system in our religious life. To have daily periods for study and prayer is advisable. When outer interests or duties are pressing, it is often a temptation to postpone prayer. However, if the faculty of order (typified by Ezra) is prominent in consciousness we shall let nothing interfere with those precious moments of communion with God. What we are in consciousness is much more important than what we do. Judging from the human viewpoint, physical and mental accomplishment is the goal, but as we progress along spiritual lines we commence to realize that the important business before us is to keep our contact with the Lord steady and sure. Then our outer affairs will be in order and successful. But to keep the vital inner contact with God demands regular times of seeking His Spirit indwelling. This requires discipline, and discipline is a word the human self does not like. Exacting teachers like Ezra are never popular, but they play an important part in our development, and in time we rise to call them blessed.
Judaism was so strengthened by what Ezra did for the Jews that it successfully resisted pagan thought in the next century. Order and loyalty to Truth safeguard our consciousness against the destructive forces that are prevalent in a materialistic society. Other changes had to take place before the people were willing to listen to Ezra, and these were brought about by Nehemiah, one of the most colorful and dynamic leaders the Jews ever had.
Introduction to The Book of Habakkuk by Elizabeth Sand Turner, Let There Be Light.
End of the Babylonian Captivity
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that Yahweh’s* word by Jeremiah’s mouth might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2“Cyrus king of Persia says, ‘Yahweh, the God† of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Yahweh, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 Whoever is left, in any place where he lives, let the men of his place help him with silver, with gold, with goods, and with animals, in addition to the free will offering for God’s house which is in Jerusalem.’ ”
5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, all whose spirit God had stirred to go up, rose up to build Yahweh’s house which is in Jerusalem. 6 All those who were around them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with animals, and with precious things, in addition to all that was willingly offered. 7 Also Cyrus the king brought out the vessels of Yahweh’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem, and had put in the house of his gods; 8 even those, Cyrus king of Persia brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This is the number of them: thirty platters of gold, one thousand platters of silver, twenty-nine knives, 10 thirty bowls of gold, four hundred ten silver bowls of a second kind, and one thousand other vessels. 11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand four hundred. Sheshbazzar brought all these up when the captives were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem.
World English Bible Footnotes:
List of the Returned Exiles
1Now these are the children of the province who went up out of the captivity of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city; 2 who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
The number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 The children of Parosh, two thousand one hundred seventy-two. 4 The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy-two. 5 The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy-five. 6 The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred twelve. 7 The children of Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 8 The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty-five. 9 The children of Zaccai, seven hundred sixty. 10 The children of Bani, six hundred forty-two. 11 The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty-three. 12 The children of Azgad, one thousand two hundred twenty-two. 13 The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty-six. 14 The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty-six. 15 The children of Adin, four hundred fifty-four. 16 The children of Ater, of Hezekiah, ninety-eight. 17 The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty-three. 18 The children of Jorah, one hundred twelve. 19 The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty-three. 20 The children of Gibbar, ninety-five. 21 The children of Bethlehem, one hundred twenty-three. 22The men of Netophah, fifty-six. 23 The men of Anathoth, one hundred twenty-eight. 24 The children of Azmaveth, forty-two. 25 The children of Kiriath Arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty-three. 26 The children of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty-one. 27 The men of Michmas, one hundred twenty-two. 28 The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty-three. 29 The children of Nebo, fifty-two. 30 The children of Magbish, one hundred fifty-six. 31 The children of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 32 The children of Harim, three hundred twenty. 33 The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty-five. 34 The children of Jericho, three hundred forty-five. 35 The children of Senaah, three thousand six hundred thirty.
36 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy-three. 37 The children of Immer, one thousand fifty-two. 38 The children of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred forty-seven. 39 The children of Harim, one thousand seventeen.
40 The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy-four. 41 The singers: the children of Asaph, one hundred twenty-eight. 42 The children of the gatekeepers: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all one hundred thirty-nine.
43 The temple servants: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 44 the children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon, 45 the children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub, 46 the children of Hagab, the children of Shamlai, the children of Hanan, 47 the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, 48 the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam, 49 the children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, 50 the children of Asnah, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephisim, 51 the children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 52 the children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 53 the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Temah, 54 the children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.
55 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Hassophereth, the children of Peruda, 56 the children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 57 the children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth Hazzebaim, the children of Ami. 58 All the temple servants, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred ninety-two.
59 These were those who went up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not show their fathers’ houses and their offspring,* whether they were of Israel: 60 the children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty-two. 61 Of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Hakkoz, and the children of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name. 62 These sought their place among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were deemed disqualified and removed from the priesthood. 63 The governor told them that they should not eat of the most holy things until a priest stood up to serve with Urim and with Thummim.
64 The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred sixty, 65 in addition to their male servants and their female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty-seven; and they had two hundred singing men and singing women. 66Their horses were seven hundred thirty-six; their mules, two hundred forty-five; 67their camels, four hundred thirty-five; their donkeys, six thousand seven hundred twenty.
68Some of the heads of fathers’ households, when they came to Yahweh’s house which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for God’s house to set it up in its place. 69 They gave according to their ability into the treasury of the work sixty-one thousand darics of gold,† five thousand minas‡ of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.
World English Bible Footnotes:
Worship Restored at Jerusalem
1 When the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak stood up with his brothers the priests and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his relatives, and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 In spite of their fear because of the peoples of the surrounding lands, they set the altar on its base; and they offered burnt offerings on it to Yahweh, even burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 They kept the feast of booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the ordinance, as the duty of every day required; 5 and afterward the continual burnt offering, the offerings of the new moons, of all the set feasts of Yahweh that were consecrated, and of everyone who willingly offered a free will offering to Yahweh. 6 From the first day of the seventh month, they began to offer burnt offerings to Yahweh; but the foundation of Yahweh’s temple was not yet laid. 7 They also gave money to the masons and to the carpenters. They also gave food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus King of Persia.
Foundation Laid for the Temple
8 Now in the second year of their coming to God’s house at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to have the oversight of the work of Yahweh’s house. 9 Then Jeshua stood with his sons and his brothers, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together to have the oversight of the workmen in God’s house: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brothers the Levites.
10 When the builders laid the foundation of Yahweh’s temple, they set the priests in their vestments with trumpets, with the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise Yahweh, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 They sang to one another in praising and giving thanks to Yahweh, “For he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever toward Israel.” All the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised Yahweh, because the foundation of Yahweh’s house had been laid.
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice. Many also shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people; for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard far away.
Resistance to Rebuilding the Temple
1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building a temple to Yahweh, the God of Israel, 2 they came near to Zerubbabel, and to the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have been sacrificing to him since the days of Esar Haddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.”
3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves together will build to Yahweh, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”
4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building. 5 They hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Rebuilding of Jerusalem Opposed
7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of his companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in Syrian and delivered in the Syrian language. 8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows. 9 Then Rehum the chancellor, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, the Dinaites, and the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Shushanchites, the Dehaites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar brought over and settled in the city of Samaria, and in the rest of the country beyond the River, and so forth, wrote.
12 Be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us to Jerusalem. They are building the rebellious and bad city, and have finished the walls and repaired the foundations. 13 Be it known now to the king that if this city is built and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and in the end it will be hurtful to the kings. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not appropriate for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore we have sent and informed the king, 15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will see in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful to kings and provinces, and that they have started rebellions within it in the past. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and the walls finished, then you will have no possession beyond the River.
18 The letter which you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 I decreed, and search has been made, and it was found that this city has made insurrection against kings in the past, and that rebellion and revolts have been made in it. 20There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem who have ruled over all the country beyond the River; and tribute, custom, and toll was paid to them. 21 Make a decree now to cause these men to cease, and that this city not be built until a decree is made by me. 22 Be careful that you not be slack doing so. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
23 Then when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews, and made them to cease by force of arms. 24 Then work stopped on God’s house which is at Jerusalem. It stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Restoration of the Temple Resumed
1Now the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied to them in the name of the God of Israel. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build God’s house which is at Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them.
3At the same time Tattenai, the governor beyond the River, came to them, with Shetharbozenai and their companions, and asked them, “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this wall?” 4 They also asked for the names of the men were who were making this building. 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they didn’t make them cease until the matter should come to Darius, and an answer should be returned by letter concerning it.
6 The copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor beyond the River, and Shetharbozenai, and his companions the Apharsachites who were beyond the River, sent to Darius the king follows. 7They sent a letter to him, in which was written: To Darius the king, all peace.
8 Be it known to the king that we went into the province of Judah, to the house of the great God, which is being built with great stones and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on with diligence and prospers in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders, and said to them thus, “Who gave you a decree to build this house, and to finish this wall?” 10 We asked them their names also, to inform you that we might write the names of the men who were at their head. 11 Thus they returned us answer, saying, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and are building the house that was built these many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But after our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried the people away into Babylon. 13 But in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree to build this house of God. 14 The gold and silver vessels of God’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, those Cyrus the king also took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. 15 He said to him, ‘Take these vessels, go, put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let God’s house be built in its place.’ 16 Then the same Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of God’s house which is in Jerusalem. Since that time even until now it has been being built, and yet it is not completed.
17 Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it is so that a decree was made by Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.”
The Decree of Darius
1 Then Darius the king made a decree, and the house of the archives, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon, was searched. 2 A scroll was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, and in it this was written for a record:
3 In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king made a decree: Concerning God’s house at Jerusalem, let the house be built, the place where they offer sacrifices, and let its foundations be strongly laid, with its height sixty cubits* and its width sixty cubits; 4with three courses of great stones and a course of new timber. Let the expenses be given out of the king’s house. 5 Also let the gold and silver vessels of God’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple which is at Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought again to the temple which is at Jerusalem, everything to its place. You shall put them in God’s house.
6 Now therefore, Tattenai, governor beyond the River, Shetharbozenai, and your companions the Apharsachites, who are beyond the River, you must stay far from there. 7 Leave the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in its place. 8Moreover I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the River, expenses must be given with all diligence to these men, that they not be hindered. 9 That which they have need of, including young bulls, rams, and lambs, for burnt offerings to the God of heaven; also wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests who are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer sacrifices of pleasant aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons. 11 I have also made a decree that whoever alters this message, let a beam be pulled out from his house, and let him be lifted up and fastened on it; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. 12May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow all kings and peoples who stretch out their hand to alter this, to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree. Let it be done with all diligence.
Completion and Dedication of the Temple
14 The elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 This house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
16 The children of Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin 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 courses, for the service of God which is at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.
The Passover Celebrated
19 The children of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 20 Because the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together, all of them were pure. They killed the Passover for all the children of the captivity, for their brothers the priests, and for themselves. 21 The children of Israel who had returned out of the captivity, and all who had separated themselves to them from the filthiness of the nations of the land to seek Yahweh, the God of Israel, ate, 22 and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy; because Yahweh had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, to strengthen their hands in the work of God, the God of Israel’s house.
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 6:3. A cubit is the length from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow on a man’s arm, or about 18 inches or 46 centimeters.
The Coming and Work of Ezra
1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, 2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylon. He was a skilled scribe in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given; and the king granted him all his request, according to Yahweh his God’s hand on him. 7 Some of the children of Israel, including some of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to seek Yahweh’s law, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.
The Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra
11 Now this is the copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even the scribe of the words of Yahweh’s commandments, and of his statutes to Israel: 12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
Now 13 I make a decree that all those of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my realm, who intend of their own free will to go to Jerusalem, go with you. 14 Because you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your hand, 15 and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem, 16 and all the silver and gold that you will find in all the province of Babylon, with the free will offering of the people and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem. 17 Therefore you shall with all diligence buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs with their meal offerings and their drink offerings, and shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. 18 Whatever seems good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do that according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20Whatever more will be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to give, give it out of the king’s treasure house.
21 I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers who are beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, requires of you, it shall be done with all diligence, 22up to one hundred talents* of silver, and to one hundred cors† of wheat, and to one hundred baths‡ of wine, and to one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done exactly for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
25 You, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are beyond the River, who all know the laws of your God; and teach him who doesn’t know them. 26Whoever will not do the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed on him with all diligence, whether it is to death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
27 Blessed be Yahweh, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify Yahweh’s house which is in Jerusalem; 28 and has extended loving kindness to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. I was strengthened according to Yahweh my God’s hand on me, and I gathered together chief men out of Israel to go up with me.
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 7:22. A talent is about 30 kilograms or 66 pounds or 965 Troy ounces.
- † 7:22. 1 cor is the same as a homer, or about 55.9 U. S. gallons (liquid) or 211 liters or 6 bushels.
- ‡ 7:22. 1 bath is one tenth of a cor, or about 5.6 U. S. gallons or 21 liters or 2.4 pecks. 100 baths would be about 2,100 liters.
Heads of Families Who Returned with Ezra
Servants for the Temple
15 I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there we encamped three days. Then I looked around at the people and the priests, and found there were none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, for Elnathan, for Jarib, for Elnathan, for Nathan, for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib and for Elnathan, who were teachers. 17 I sent them out to Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia; and I told them what they should tell Iddo and his brothers the temple servants at the place Casiphia, that they should bring to us ministers for the house of our God. 18 According to the good hand of our God on us they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and his brothers, eighteen; 19 and Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brothers and their sons, twenty; 20 and of the temple servants, whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites, two hundred twenty temple servants. All of them were mentioned by name.
Fasting and Prayer for Protection
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a straight way for us, for our little ones, and for all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to ask of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the way, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is on all those who seek him, for good; but his power and his wrath is against all those who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and begged our God for this, and he granted our request.
Gifts for the Temple
24 Then I set apart twelve of the chiefs of the priests, even Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them, 25 and weighed to them the silver, the gold, and the vessels, even the offering for the house of our God, which the king, his counselors, his princes, and all Israel there present, had offered. 26 I weighed into their hand six hundred fifty talents of silver,* one hundred talents of silver vessels, one hundred talents of gold, 27 twenty bowls of gold weighing one thousand darics,† and two vessels of fine bright bronze, precious as gold. 28 I said to them, “You are holy to Yahweh, and the vessels are holy. The silver and the gold are a free will offering to Yahweh, the God of your fathers. 29 Watch and keep them until you weigh them before the chiefs of the priests, the Levites, and the princes of the fathers’ households of Israel at Jerusalem, in the rooms of Yahweh’s house.”
The Return to Jerusalem
31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the bandits by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days. 33 On the fourth day the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed in the house of our God into the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them were Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, the Levites. 34 Everything was counted and weighed; and all the weight was written at that time.
35 The children of the captivity, who had come out of exile, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve male goats for a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering to Yahweh. 36 They delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s local governors and to the governors beyond the River. So they supported the people and God’s house.
World English Bible Footnotes:
Denunciation of Mixed Marriages
1Now when these things were done, the princes came near to me, saying, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, following their abominations, even those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy offspring have mixed themselves with the peoples of the lands. Yes, the hand of the princes and rulers has been chief in this trespass.”
3 When I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled the hair out of my head and of my beard, and sat down confounded. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel were assembled to me because of the trespass of the exiles; and I sat confounded until the evening offering.
5 At the evening offering I rose up from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe torn; and I fell on my knees, and spread out my hands to Yahweh my God; 6 and I said, “My God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have increased over our head, and our guiltiness has grown up to the heavens. 7 Since the days of our fathers we have been exceedingly guilty to this day; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. 8 Now for a little moment grace has been shown from Yahweh our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a stake in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and revive us a little in our bondage. 9 For we are bondservants; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended loving kindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to set up the house of our God, and to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
10“Now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you have commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land to which you go to possess is an unclean land through the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, through their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their filthiness. 12 Now therefore don’t give your daughters to their sons. Don’t take their daughters to your sons, nor seek their peace or their prosperity forever, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’
13“After all that has come on us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such a remnant, 14 shall we again break your commandments, and join ourselves with the peoples that do these abominations? Wouldn’t you be angry with us until you had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 Yahweh, the God of Israel, you are righteous; for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold,* we are before you in our guiltiness; for no one can stand before you because of this.”
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 9:15. “Behold”, from “הִנֵּה”, means look at, take notice, observe, see, or gaze at. It is often used as an interjection.
The People’s Response
1 Now while Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before God’s house, there was gathered together to him out of Israel a very great assembly of men and women and children; for the people wept very bitterly. 2 Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have married foreign women of the peoples of the land. Yet now there is hope for Israel concerning this thing. 3 Now therefore let’s make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and those who are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. Let it be done according to the law. 4 Arise, for the matter belongs to you and we are with you. Be courageous, and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose, and made the chiefs of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel to swear that they would do according to this word. So they swore.
Foreign Wives and Their Children Rejected
6 Then Ezra rose up from before God’s house, and went into the room of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib. When he came there, he didn’t eat bread or drank water, for he mourned because of the trespass of the exiles. 7 They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together to Jerusalem; 8 and that whoever didn’t come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his possessions should be forfeited, and he himself separated from the assembly of the captivity.
9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together to Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the wide place in front of God’s house, trembling because of this matter, and because of the great rain.
10 Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have trespassed, and have married foreign women, increasing the guilt of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession to Yahweh, the God of your fathers and do his pleasure. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign women.”
12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “We must do as you have said concerning us. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand outside. This is not a work of one day or two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Now let our princes be appointed for all the assembly, and let all those who are in our cities who have married foreign women come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city and its judges, until the fierce wrath of our God is turned from us, until this matter is resolved.”
16 The children of the captivity did so. Ezra the priest, with certain heads of fathers’ households, after their fathers’ houses, and all of them by their names, were set apart; and they sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. 17 They finished with all the men who had married foreign women by the first day of the first month.
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