Ezra 4-7 The Message Bible

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The Adversaries Stop the Work

4 1  Old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building The Temple of the God of Israel. 2  They came to Zerubbabel and the family heads and said, "We'll help you build. We worship your God the same as you. We've been offering sacrifices to him since Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here." 3  Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the family heads of Israel said to them, "Nothing doing. Building The Temple of our God is not the same thing to you as to us. We alone will build for the God of Israel. We're the ones King Cyrus of Persia commanded to do it." 4  So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built. 5  They even hired propagandists to sap their resolve. They kept this up for about fifteen years, throughout the lifetime of Cyrus king of Persia and on into the reign of Darius king of Persia.

6  In fact, in the reign of Xerxes, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against those living in Judah and Jerusalem. 7  Again later, in the time of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote regarding the Jerusalem business to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. (What follows is written in Aramaic.) 8  Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9  From: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, backed by the rest of their associates, the judges and officials over the people from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, Elamites of Susa, 10  and all the others whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and other places in the land across the Euphrates. 11  (This is the copy of the letter they sent to him.) To: King Artaxerxes from your servants from the land across the Euphrates. 12  We are here to inform the king that the Jews who came from you to us have arrived in Jerusalem and have set about rebuilding that rebellious and evil city. They are busy at work finishing the walls and rebuilding the foundations. 13  The king needs to know that once that city is rebuilt and the wall completed they will no longer pay a penny of tribute, tax, or duty. The royal treasury will feel the loss. 14  We're loyal to the king and cannot sit idly by while our king is being insulted - that's why we are passing this information on. 15  We suggest that you look into the court records of your ancestors; you'll learn from those books that that city is a rebellious city, a thorn in the side to kings and provinces, an historic center of unrest and revolt. That's why the city was wiped out. 16  We are letting the king know that if that city gets rebuilt and its walls restored, you'll end up with nothing in your province beyond the Euphrates.

17  The king sent his reply to Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary, and the rest of their associates who lived in Samaria and other places beyond the Euphrates. 18  The letter that you sent has been translated and read to me. 19  I gave orders to search the records, and sure enough it turns out that this city has revolted against kings time and again - rebellion is an old story there. 20  I find that they've had their share of strong kings who have taken over beyond the Euphrates and exacted taxes, tribute, and duty. 21  So do this: Order these men to stop work immediately - not a lick of rebuilding in that city unless I order it. 22  Act quickly and firmly; they've done enough damage to kings! 23  The letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates. They lost no time. They went to the Jews in Jerusalem and made them quit work. 24  That put a stop to the work on The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Nothing more was done until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

The Temple Rebuilt

5 1  Meanwhile the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo were preaching to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the authority of the God of Israel who ruled them. 2  And so Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak started again, rebuilding The Temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were right there helping them.

3  Tattenai was governor of the land beyond the Euphrates at this time. Tattenai, Shethar-Bozenai, and their associates came to the Israelites and asked, "Who issued you a permit to rebuild this Temple and restore it to use?" 4  Then we told them the names of the men responsible for this construction work. 5  But God had his eye on the leaders of the Jews, and the work wasn't stopped until a report could reach Darius and an official reply be returned. 6  Tattenai, governor of the land beyond the Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and his associates - the officials of that land - sent a letter to Darius the king. 7  This is what they wrote to him: To Darius the king. Peace and blessing! 8  We want to report to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to The Temple of the great God that is being rebuilt with large stones. Timbers are being fitted into the walls; the work is going on with great energy and in good time. 9  We asked the leaders, "Who issued you the permit to rebuild this Temple and restore it to use?" 10  We also asked for their names so we could pass them on to you and have a record of the men at the head of the construction work. 11  This is what they told us: "We are servants of the God of the heavens and the earth. We are rebuilding The Temple that was built a long time ago. A great king of Israel built it, the entire structure. 12  But our ancestors made the God of the heavens really angry and he turned them over to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who knocked this Temple down and took the people to Babylon in exile. 13  "But when Cyrus became king of Babylon, in his first year he issued a building permit to rebuild this Temple of God. 14  He also gave back the gold and silver vessels of The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had carted off and put in the Babylon temple. Cyrus the king removed them from the temple of Babylon and turned them over to Sheshbazzar, the man he had appointed governor. 15  He told him, 'Take these vessels and place them in The Temple of Jerusalem and rebuild The Temple of God on its original site.' 16  And Sheshbazzar did it. He laid the foundation of The Temple of God in Jerusalem. It has been under construction ever since but it is not yet finished." 17  So now, if it please the king, look up the records in the royal archives in Babylon and see if it is indeed a fact that Cyrus the king issued an official building permit authorizing the rebuilding of The Temple of God in Jerusalem. And then send the king's ruling on this matter to us.

6 1  So King Darius ordered a search through the records in the archives in Babylon. 2  Eventually a scroll was turned up in the fortress of Ecbatana over in the province of Media, with this writing on it: 3  In his first year as king, Cyrus issued an official decree regarding The Temple of God in Jerusalem, as follows: 4  with three courses of large stones topped with one course of timber. The cost is to be paid from the royal bank. 5  The gold and silver vessels from The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar carried to Babylon are to be returned to The Temple at Jerusalem, each to its proper place; place them in The Temple of God. 6  Now listen, Tattenai governor of the land beyond the Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, associates, and all officials of that land: Stay out of their way. 7  Leave the governor and leaders of the Jews alone so they can work on that Temple of God as they rebuild it. 8  I hereby give official orders on how you are to help the leaders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that Temple of God: 1. All construction costs are to be paid to these men from the royal bank out of the taxes coming in from the land beyond the Euphrates. And pay them on time, without delays. 9  2. Whatever is required for their worship - young bulls, rams, and lambs for Whole-Burnt-Offerings to the God-of-Heaven; and whatever wheat, salt, wine, and anointing oil the priests of Jerusalem request - is to be given to them daily without delay 10  so that they may make sacrifices to the God-of-Heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11  I've issued an official decree that anyone who violates this order is to be impaled on a timber torn out of his own house, and the house itself made a manure pit. 12  And may the God who put his Name on that place wipe out any king or people who dares to defy this decree and destroy The Temple of God at Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued an official decree. Carry it out precisely and promptly.

13  Tattenai governor of the land across the Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their associates did it: They carried out the decree of Darius precisely and promptly. 14  So the leaders of the Jews continued to build; the work went well under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They completed the rebuilding under orders of the God of Israel and authorization by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. 15  The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. 16  And then the Israelites celebrated - priests, Levites, every last exile, exuberantly celebrated the dedication of The Temple of God. 17  At the dedication of this Temple of God they sacrificed a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs - and, as an Absolution-Offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 18  They placed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their places for the service of God at Jerusalem - all as written out in the Book of Moses. 19  On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. 20  All the priests and Levites had purified themselves - all, no exceptions. They were all ritually clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for the exiles, their brother priests, and themselves. 21  Then the Israelites who had returned from exile, along with everyone who had removed themselves from the defilements of the nations to join them and seek God, the God of Israel, ate the Passover. 22  With great joy they celebrated the Feast of Unraised Bread for seven days. God had plunged them into a sea of joy; he had changed the mind of the king of Assyria to back them in rebuilding The Temple of God, the God of Israel.

Ezra and His Company Come to Jerusalem

7 1  After all this, Ezra. It was during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia. Ezra was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2  son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3  son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4  son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5  son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the high priest. 6  That's Ezra. He arrived from Babylon, a scholar well-practiced in the Revelation of Moses that the God of Israel had given. Because God's hand was on Ezra, the king gave him everything he asked for. 7  Some of the Israelites - priests, Levites, singers, temple security guards, and temple slaves - went with him to Jerusalem. It was in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8  They arrived at Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king's reign. 9  Ezra had scheduled their departure from Babylon on the first day of the first month; they arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month under the generous guidance of his God. 10  Ezra had committed himself to studying the Revelation of God, to living it, and to teaching Israel to live its truths and ways.

11  What follows is the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra, priest and scholar, expert in matters involving the truths and ways of God concerning Israel: 12  Artaxerxes, King of Kings, to Ezra the priest, a scholar of the Teaching of the God-of-Heaven. 13  I hereby decree that any of the people of Israel living in my kingdom who want to go to Jerusalem, including their priests and Levites, may go with you. 14  You are being sent by the king and his seven advisors to carry out an investigation of Judah and Jerusalem in relation to the Teaching of your God that you are carrying with you. 15  You are also authorized to take the silver and gold that the king and his advisors are giving for the God of Israel, whose residence is in Jerusalem, 16  along with all the silver and gold that has been collected from the generously donated offerings all over Babylon, including that from the people and the priests, for The Temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17  Use this money carefully to buy bulls, rams, lambs, and the ingredients for Grain-Offerings and Drink-Offerings and then offer them on the Altar of The Temple of your God in Jerusalem. 18  You are free to use whatever is left over from the silver and gold for what you and your brothers decide is in keeping with the will of your God. 19  Deliver to the God of Jerusalem the vessels given to you for the services of worship in The Temple of your God. 20  Whatever else you need for The Temple of your God you may pay for out of the royal bank. 21  I, Artaxerxes the king, have formally authorized and ordered all the treasurers of the land across the Euphrates to give Ezra the priest, scholar of the Teaching of the God-of-Heaven, the full amount of whatever he asks for 22  up to a hundred talents of silver, six hundred and fifty bushels of wheat, and six hundred and seven gallons each of wine and olive oil. There is no limit on the salt. 23  Everything the God-of-Heaven requires for The Temple of God must be given without hesitation. Why would the king and his sons risk stirring up his wrath? 24  Also, let it be clear that no one is permitted to impose tribute, tax, or duty on any priest, Levite, singer, temple security guard, temple servant, or any other worker connected with The Temple of God. 25  I authorize you, Ezra, exercising the wisdom of God that you have in your hands, to appoint magistrates and judges so they can administer justice among all the people of the land across the Euphrates who live by the Teaching of your God. Anyone who does not know the Teaching, you teach them. 26  Anyone who does not obey the Teaching of your God and the king must be tried and sentenced at once - death, banishment, a fine, prison, whatever.

27  Blessed be God, the God-of-Our-Fathers, who put it in the mind of the king to beautify The Temple of God in Jerusalem! 28  Not only that, he caused the king and all his advisors and influential officials actually to like me and back me. My God was on my side and I was ready to go. And I organized all the leaders of Israel to go with me.

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