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Enemies Against Rebuilding the Temple

4 1–2Many people living in the area were against the people of Judah and Benjamin. Those enemies heard that the people that had come from captivity were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel. So those enemies came to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders and said, “Let us help you build. We are the same as you, we ask your God for help. We have offered sacrifices to your God since the time Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here.” 3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other family leaders of Israel answered, “No, you people can’t help us build a temple for our God. Only we can build the temple for the Lord. He is the God of Israel. This is what King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us to do.” 4{This made those people angry}. So those people started bothering the Jews. They tried to discourage them and stop them from building the temple. 5Those enemies hired government officials to work against the people of Judah. Those officials constantly did things to stop the Jews’ plans to build the temple. This continued the whole time that Cyrus was the king of Persia until Darius became the king of Persia. 6Those enemies even wrote letters to the king of Persia trying to stop the Jews. They wrote a letter the year that Xerxes* became the king of Persia.

Enemies Against Rebuilding Jerusalem

7And later, at the time Artaxerxes* became the new king of Persia, some of those men wrote another letter complaining about the Jews. The men who wrote the letter were: Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the other people in their group. They wrote the letter to King Artaxerxes in Aramaic* using the Aramaic way of writing. 8* Then Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against the people of Jerusalem. They wrote the letter to Artaxerxes* the king. This is what they wrote: 9From Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, and from the judges and important officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, and from the Elamite people from Susa, 10and from the other people that the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved to the city of Samaria and other places in the country west of the Euphrates River. 11This is the copy of the letter sent to King Artaxerxes:* From your servants living in the area west of the Euphrates River. 12King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that the Jews you sent away from you have come here. Those Jews are now trying to build that city again. Jerusalem is a bad city. The people in that city have always rebelled against other kings. Now those Jews are fixing the foundations and building the walls.* 13Also, King Artaxerxes, you should know that if Jerusalem and its walls are built again, the people of Jerusalem will stop paying their taxes. They will stop sending money to honor you. They also will stop paying duty taxes. And the king will lose all that money. 14We have a responsibility to the king. We don’t want to see those things happen. So we are sending this letter to inform the king. 15King Artaxerxes, we suggest that you search the writings of the kings that ruled before you. You will see in those writings that Jerusalem always rebelled against other kings. It has caused much trouble for other kings and nations. Many rebellions have started in this city since ancient times! That is why Jerusalem was destroyed! 16King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that if this city and its walls are built again, you will lose control of the area west of the Euphrates River. 17Then King Artaxerxes* sent this answer: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary, and all the people with them living in Samaria and other places west of the Euphrates River. Greetings. 18The letter you sent us has been translated and read to me. 19I gave an order for the writings of the kings before me to be searched. The writings were read, and we found out that Jerusalem has a long history of rebellion against kings. Jerusalem has been a place where rebellion and revolt has happened often. 20Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over it and over the whole area west of the Euphrates River. Taxes and money to honor kings, and duty taxes have been paid to those kings. 21Now, you must give an order for those men to stop work. That order must be given to keep Jerusalem from being built again until I say so. 22Be careful not to overlook this business. We should not let the building of Jerusalem continue. If that work continues, I will not get any more money from Jerusalem. 23So a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes sent was read to Rehum, Shimshai the secretary, and the people with them. They went very quickly to the Jews in Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop building.

The Work on the Temple Stopped

24So the work stopped on God’s temple* in Jerusalem. The work did not continue until Darius’ second year* as king of Persia.

Xerxes King of Persia about 485–465 B.C. Artaxerxes King of Persia about 465–424 B.C. He was the son of Xerxes. Aramaic The official language of the Babylonian empire. Verse 8 Here the original language changes from Hebrew to Aramaic. King Artaxerxes King of Persia about 465–424 B.C. He was the son of Xerxes. building the walls This was a way of protecting a city, but these men wanted the king to think that the Jews were preparing to rebel against the king. worked stopped … temple Here this refers to the time of Xerxes, when work on the temple was stopped, not to the time of Artaxerxes, when work on the walls around Jerusalem was stopped. Darius’ second year That is, 520 B.C.

5 At that time, the prophets Haggai* and Zechariah son of Iddo* began to prophesy* in the name of God. They encouraged the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. 2So Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak again started working on the temple in Jerusalem. All of God’s prophets were with them and were supporting the work. 3At that time Tattenai was the governor of the area west of the Euphrates River. Tattenai, Shethar Bozenai, and the men with them went to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the others that were building. Tattenai and the people with him asked Zerubbabel and the people with him, “Who gave you permission to build this temple again and fix it like new?” 4They also asked Zerubbabel, “What are the names of the men who are working on this building?” 5But God was watching over the Jewish leaders. The builders didn’t have to stop working until a report could be sent to King Darius. They continued working until the king sent his answer back. 6Tattenai the governor of the area west of the Euphrates River, Shethar Bozenai, and the important people with them sent a letter to King Darius. 7This is a copy of that letter: To King Darius, greetings 8King Darius, you should know that we went to the province of Judah. We went to the temple of the great God. The people in Judah are building that temple with large stones. They are putting big wooden timbers in the walls. The work is being done with much care and the people of Judah are working very hard. They are building very fast; it will soon be done. 9We asked their leaders some questions about the work they are doing. We asked them, “Who gave you permission to build this temple again and fix it like new?” 10We also asked for their names. We wanted to write down the names of their leaders so you would know who they are. 11This is the answer they gave us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are building again the temple that a great king of Israel built and finished many years ago. 12But our ancestors made the God of heaven angry. So God gave our ancestors to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed this temple, and he forced the people to go to Babylon as prisoners. 13But, in the first year that Cyrus was king of Babylon, King Cyrus gave a special order for God’s temple to be built again. 14And Cyrus brought out from his false god’s temple in Babylon the gold and silver things that were taken from God’s temple in the past. Nebuchadnezzar took those things from the temple in Jerusalem and brought them to his false god’s temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave those gold and silver things to Sheshbazzar.* Cyrus chose Sheshbazzar to be governor.” 15Then Cyrus said to Sheshbazzar,* “Take these gold and silver things and put them back in the temple in Jerusalem. Build again God’s temple in the same place it was in the past.” 16So Sheshbazzar came and built the foundations of God’s temple in Jerusalem. From that day until now the work has continued. But it is not yet finished. 17Now, if it pleases the king, please search the official records of the king. See if it is true that King Cyrus gave an order to build again God’s temple in Jerusalem. And then, sir, please send us a letter to let us know what you have decided to do about this.

Haggai See Haggai 1:1. Zechariah son of Iddo See Zechariah 1:1. prophesy To speak for God. Sheshbazzar This is probably the man named Zerubbabel, a name that means “Stranger in Babylon,” or “He left Babylon.” Sheshbazzar is probably his Aramaic name.

The Order of Darius

6 So King Darius gave an order to search the writings of the kings before him. Those writings were kept in Babylon in the same place the money was kept. 2A scroll* was found in the fortress* of Ecbatana. Ecbatana is in the province of Media. This is what was written on that scroll: Official Note: 3During Cyrus’ first year as king, Cyrus gave an order about the temple of God in Jerusalem. The order said: Let the temple of God be built again. It will be a place to offer sacrifices. Let its foundations be built. The temple must be 90 feet* high and 90 feet wide. 4{The wall around it} must have three rows of large stones and one row of big wood timbers. The cost of building the temple must be paid for from the king’s treasury. 5Also, the gold and silver things from God’s temple must be put back in their places. Nebuchadnezzar took those things from the temple in Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon. They must be put back in God’s temple. 6Now then, I, Darius, order you Tattenai, governor of the area west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar Bozenai, and all the officials living in that province, to stay away from Jerusalem. 7Don’t bother the workers. Don’t try to stop the work on this temple of God. Let the Jewish governor and the Jewish leaders build it again. Let them build God’s temple again in the same place it was in the past. 8Now I give this order. You must do these things for the Jewish leaders building God’s temple: The cost of the building must be fully paid from the king’s treasury. That money will come from the taxes collected from the provinces in the area west of the Euphrates River. Do these things quickly, so the work will not stop. 9Give those people anything they need. If they need young bulls, rams, or male lambs for sacrifices to the God of Heaven, give those things to them. If the priests of Jerusalem ask for wheat, salt, wine, and oil, then give those things to them every day without fail. 10Give those things to the Jewish priests so that they may offer sacrifices that please the God of Heaven. Give those things so that the priests may pray for me and my sons. 11Also, I give this order: If any person changes this order, a wood beam must be pulled from that person’s house. Then the wooden beam will be pushed through that person’s body. And his house will be destroyed until it is only a pile of rocks. 12God put his name there in Jerusalem. And I hope that God will defeat any king or other person that tries to change this order. If any person tries to destroy this temple in Jerusalem, I hope God will destroy that person. I, Darius, have ordered it. This order must be obeyed quickly and completely!

Completion and Dedication of the Temple

13So, Tattenai the governor of the area west of the Euphrates River, Shethar Bozenai, and the men with them obeyed King Darius’ order. Those men obeyed the order quickly and completely. 14So the Jewish elders (leaders) continued to build. And they were successful as Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo encouraged them. Those people finished building the temple. This was done to obey the command of the God of Israel. It was also done to obey the orders that Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia, gave. 15The temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar.* That was in the sixth year of the rule of King Darius.* 16Then the people of Israel celebrated the dedication* of God’s temple with much happiness. The priests, the Levites, and all the other people that came back from captivity joined in the celebration. 17This is the way they dedicated* God’s temple: They offered 100 bulls, 200 rams, and 400 male lambs. And they offered twelve male goats for all Israel for a sin offering. That is one goat for each of the twelve family groups of Israel. 18Then they chose the priests in their groups and the Levites in their groups to serve in God’s temple in Jerusalem. They did these things just like it says in the Book of Moses.

The Passover

19* On the fourteenth day of the first month,* those Jews that came back from captivity celebrated the Passover.* 20The priests and Levites made themselves pure. They all made themselves clean and ready to celebrate the Passover. The Levites killed the Passover lamb for all the Jews that came back from captivity. They did that for their brothers the priests, and for themselves. 21So all the people of Israel that came back from captivity ate the Passover meal. Other people washed themselves and made themselves pure from the unclean* things of the people living in that country. Those pure people also shared in the Passover meal. Those people did this so they could go to the Lord, the God of Israel, for help. 22They celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread* with much joy for seven days. The Lord made them very happy because he had changed the attitude of the king of Assyria.* So the king of Assyria had helped them do the work on God’s temple.

scrolls A long roll of leather or papyrus (paper) used for writing books, letters, and legal documents. fortress A building or city with tall, strong walls for protection. 90 feet Or, 27m Literally, “60 {short} cubits.” third … Adar That is, February-March. Some ancient writers have “23rd of Adar.” sixth … Darius That is, 515 B.C. dedication, dedicated(d) To give something for a special use, or to honor it for a special reason. Verse 19 Here, the original language changes from Aramaic back to Hebrew. first month That is, March-April, 515 B.C. Passover Important holy day for Jews. They ate a special meal on this day every year to remember that God freed them from slavery in Egypt in the time of Moses. unclean Not pure or not acceptable for worship. See Lev. 11–15 for the laws about uncleanness. Festival of Unleavened Bread Same as Passover Festival, the most important holy day for Jews. On this day they ate a special meal with bread that was made without yeast. king of Assyria This probably means Darius, the king of Persia.

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