Series: Thru the Bible
Return to rebuild – the Historical account of Ezra Pt. 2
We began last week in our walk through Ezra with the initial decree from Cyrus to rebuild and restore Temple in Jerusalem. Now in chapters 5 and 6 we revisit this old decree as it is looked up in the archives by the current king Darius due to some busybodies who were hoping to stop the construction. The only thing worse than a busybody is a busybody with authority! But God’s favor is more powerful than their schemes!
Now before we get started, I want to tell you that I am no great historian with an ax to grind or a case to make. All my studies have led me to the conclusions I have set forth as true regarding which king was which as these events have unraveled before us. That having been said, I have come to believe that it is more than possible that the Artaxerxes under whom Nehemiah served is the same Artaxerxes who commanded Ezra to go to Jerusalem. This is not impossible as the dates are well within one person’s lifetime. Up until now I have agreed with others that Ezra was under Artaxerxes II, because when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem the wall was already built which was during the time of Nehemiah. However, it is possible that Ezra had arrived first, then left for Babylon as seems to be indicated in these chapters, and having received an edict to return by Artaxerxes, he did so with a good number of Jews with him. THIS may be when he came to Jerusalem and saw the wall already constructed, but I need more time to study and collaborate narratives to be certain.
In the end this has no meaningful impact on the events, but I like to keep things as neat and tidy in terms of chronology as possible and so this probably bothers me more than it does you.
All that having been said, let’s continue on in Ezra 5 where these busybodies with authority try to thwart the progress of the reconstruction.
“(1) Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (2) Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
(3) At that time Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and their colleagues came to them and asked,
“Who gave you authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?”
(4) They also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice?”
(5) But God was watching over the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped until a report could be dispatched to Darius and a letter could be sent back concerning this.
(6) This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and his colleagues who were the officials of Trans–Euphrates sent to King Darius. (7) The report they sent to him was written as follows:
“To King Darius: All greetings!
(8) Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. It is being built with large stones, and timbers are being placed in the walls. This work is being done with all diligence and is prospering in their hands. (9) We inquired of those elders, asking them, ‘Who gave you the authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?’ (10) We also inquired of their names in order to inform you, so that we might write the names of the men who were their leaders. (11) They responded to us in the following way: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago. A great king of Israel built it and completed it. (12) But after our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. (13) But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus enacted a decree to rebuild this temple of God. (14) Even the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought to the palace of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented to a man by the name of Sheshbazzar whom he had appointed as governor.
(15) He said to him, “Take these vessels and go deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt in its proper location.” (16) Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’ (17) “Now if the king is so inclined, let a search be conducted in the royal archives there in Babylon in order to determine whether King Cyrus did in fact issue orders for this temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning this matter.”
The second decree was made by Darius who also was part of the Persian Empire. He commanded the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in 517 BC which is recorded in Ezra 6:1-15. This is only 21 years after Cyrus the Great had issued the first command.
“(1) So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon.
(2) A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows:
(3) In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety feet, (4) with three layers of large stones and one layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized by the royal treasury. (5) Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’
(6) “Now Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans–Euphrates – all of you stay far away from there!
(7) Leave the work on this temple of God alone.
Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place.
(8) “I also hereby issue orders as to what you are to do with those elders of the Jews in order to rebuild this temple of God.
From the royal treasury, from the taxes of Trans–Euphrates the complete costs are to be given to these men, so that there may be no interruption of the work.
(9) Whatever is needed – whether oxen or rams or lambs for burnt offerings for the God of heaven or wheat or salt or wine or oil, as required by the priests who are in Jerusalem – must be given to them daily without any neglect, (10) so that they may be offering incense to the God of heaven and may be praying for the good fortune of the king and his family.
(11) “I hereby give orders that if anyone changes this directive a beam is to be pulled out from his house and he is to be raised up and impaled on it, and his house is to be reduced to a rubbish heap for this indiscretion. (12) May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation who reaches out to cause such change so as to destroy this temple of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have given orders. Let them be carried out with precision!”
(13) Then Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and their colleagues acted accordingly – with precision, just as Darius the king had given instructions.
(14) The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo continued prophesying. They built and brought it to completion by the command of the God of Israel and by the command of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (15) They finished this temple on the third day of the month Adar, which is the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
(16) The people of Israel – the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles – observed the dedication of this temple of God with joy. (17) For the dedication of this temple of God they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve male goats for the sin of all Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
(18) They appointed the priests by their divisions and the Levites by their divisions over the worship of God at Jerusalem, in accord with the book of Moses.
(19) The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.
(20) The priests and the Levites had purified themselves, every last one, and they all were ceremonially pure. They sacrificed the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their colleagues the priests, and for themselves.
(21) The Israelites who were returning from the exile ate it, along with all those who had joined them in separating themselves from the uncleanness of the nations of the land to seek the LORD God of Israel.
(22) They observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, for the LORD had given them joy and had changed the opinion of the king of Assyria toward them, so that he assisted them in the work on the temple of God, the God of Israel.”
The third time a formal decree went out regarding the Jews and their home in Jerusalem was in 458 BC by Artaxerxes, who also was part of the Persian Empire and is recorded in Ezra 7:1, 10-28. This decree was 59 years after the one re-issued by Darius which we just read in chapter 6.
“(1) Now after these things had happened, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra came up from Babylon.
Ezra was the son of Seraiah, who was the son of Azariah, who was the son of Hilkiah, (2) who was the son of Shallum, who was the son of Zadok, who was the son of Ahitub, (3) who was the son of Amariah, who was the son of Azariah, who was the son of Meraioth, (4) who was the son of Zerahiah, who was the son of Uzzi, who was the son of Bukki, (5) who was the son of Abishua, who was the son of Phinehas, who was the son of Eleazar, who was the son of Aaron the chief priest.
(6) This Ezra is the one who came up from Babylon.
He was a scribe who was skilled in the law of Moses which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king supplied him with everything he requested, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
(7) In the seventh year of King Artaxerxes, Ezra brought up to Jerusalem some of the Israelites and some of the priests, the Levites, the attendants, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants.
(8) He entered Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king.
(9) On the first day of the first month he had determined to make the ascent from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he arrived at Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him.
“(10) Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the LORD, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel. (11) What follows is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priestly scribe.
Ezra was a scribe in matters pertaining to the commandments of the LORD and his statutes over Israel:
(12) “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven:
(13) I have now issued a decree that anyone in my kingdom from the people of Israel – even the priests and Levites – who wishes to do so may go up with you to Jerusalem.
(14) You are authorized by the king and his seven advisers to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your possession, (15) and to bring silver and gold which the king and his advisers have freely contributed to the God of Israel, who resides in Jerusalem, (16) along with all the silver and gold that you may collect throughout all the province of Babylon and the contributions of the people and the priests for the temple of their God which is in Jerusalem.
(17) With this money you should be sure to purchase bulls, rams, and lambs, along with the appropriate meal offerings and libations. You should bring them to the altar of the temple of your God which is in Jerusalem. (18) You may do whatever seems appropriate to you and your colleagues with the rest of the silver and the gold, in keeping with the will of your God.
(19) Deliver to the God of Jerusalem the vessels that are given to you for the service of the temple of your God.
(20) The rest of the needs for the temple of your God that you may have to supply, you may do so from the royal treasury.
(21) “I, King Artaxerxes, hereby issue orders to all the treasurers of Trans–Euphrates, that you precisely execute all that Ezra the priestly scribe of the law of the God of heaven may request of you – (22) up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of olive oil, and unlimited salt. (23) Everything that the God of heaven has required should be precisely done for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the empire of the king and his sons?
(24) Furthermore, be aware of the fact that you have no authority to impose tax, tribute, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the musicians, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or the attendants at the temple of this God.
(25) “Now you, Ezra, in keeping with the wisdom of your God which you possess, appoint judges and court officials who can arbitrate cases on behalf of all the people who are in Trans–Euphrates who know the laws of your God. Those who do not know this law should be taught.
(26) Everyone who does not observe both the law of your God and the law of the king will be completely liable to the appropriate penalty, whether it is death or banishment or confiscation of property or detainment in prison.”
(27) Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who so moved in the heart of the king to so honor the temple of the LORD which is in Jerusalem! (28) He has also conferred His favor on me before the king, his advisers, and all the influential leaders of the king. I gained strength as the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.”
“(1) These are the leaders and those enrolled with them by genealogy who were coming up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: (2) from the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom;
from the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel;
from the descendants of David, Hattush (3) the son of Shecaniah;
from the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were enrolled by genealogy 150 men;
(4) from the descendants of Pahath–Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men;
(5) from the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men;
(6) from the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men;
(7) from the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men;
(8) from the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men;
(9) from the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men;
(10) from the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men;
(11) from the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men;
(12) from the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men;
(13) from the descendants of Adonikam there were the latter ones. Their names were Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men;
(14) from the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai, and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
(15) I had them assemble at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there for three days.
I observed that the people and the priests were present, but I found no Levites there. (16) So I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were teachers. (17) I sent them to Iddo, who was the leader in the place called Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his relatives, who were the temple servants in Casiphia, so they would bring us attendants for the temple of our God.
(18) Due to the fact that the good hand of our God was on us, they brought us a skilled man, from the descendants of Mahli the son of Levi son of Israel.
This man was Sherebiah, who was accompanied by his sons and brothers, 18 men,
(19) and Hashabiah, along with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, with his brothers and their sons, 20 men,
(20) and some of the temple servants that David and his officials had established for the work of the Levites – 220 of them. They were all designated by name.
(21) I called for a fast there by the Ahava Canal, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and seek from Him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our property. (22) I was embarrassed to request soldiers and horsemen from the king to protect us from the enemy along the way, because we had said to the king, “The good hand of our God is on everyone who is seeking him, but his great anger is against everyone who forsakes him.” (23) So we fasted and prayed to our God about this, and he answered us.
(24) Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers, (25) and I weighed out to them the silver, the gold, and the vessels intended for the temple of our God – items that the king, his advisers, his officials, and all Israel who were present had contributed. (26) I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver vessels worth 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, (27) 20 gold bowls worth 1,000 darics, and two exquisite vessels of gleaming bronze, as valuable as gold.
(28) Then I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, just as these vessels are holy. The silver and the gold are a voluntary offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. (29) Be careful with them and protect them, until you weigh them out before the leading priests and the Levites and the family leaders of Israel in Jerusalem, in the storerooms of the temple of the LORD.
(30) Then the priests and the Levites took charge of the silver, the gold, and the vessels that had been weighed out, to transport them to Jerusalem to the temple of our God.
(31) On the twelfth day of the first month we began traveling from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from our enemy and from bandits along the way. (32) So we came to Jerusalem, and we stayed there for three days. (33) On the fourth day we weighed out the silver, the gold, and the vessels in the house of our God into the care of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest, and Eleazar son of Phinehas, who were accompanied by Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui, who were Levites.
(34) Everything was verified by number and by weight, and the total weight was written down at that time. (35) The exiles who were returning from the captivity offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel – twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs, along with twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD.
(36) Then they presented the decrees of the king to the king’s satraps and to the governors of Trans–Euphrates, who gave help to the people and to the temple of God.”Esther.