Bible Society of South Africa

Bible Reading Plan – Day 246

Bible text(s)

Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return

1In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the LORD made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire:

2“This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The LORD, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. 3May God be with all of you who are his people. You are to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is worshipped in Jerusalem. 4If any of his people in exile need help to return, their neighbours are to give them this help. They are to provide them with silver and gold, supplies and pack animals, as well as offerings to present in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

5Then the heads of the clans of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and everyone else whose heart God had moved got ready to go and rebuild the LORD's Temple in Jerusalem. 6All their neighbours helped them by giving them many things: silver utensils, gold, supplies, pack animals, other valuables, and offerings for the Temple.

7Cyrus gave them back the bowls and cups that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his gods. 8He handed them over to Mithredath, chief of the royal treasury, who made an inventory of them for Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah,

11In all there were 5,400 gold and silver bowls and other articles which Sheshbazzar took with him when he and the other exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.

The List of Those who Returned from Exile

(Neh 7.4–73)

1Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own cities. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 2Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:

    3-20Parosh — 2,172
    Shephatiah — 372
    Arah — 775
    Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) — 2,812
    Elam — 1,254
    Zattu — 945
    Zaccai — 760
    Bani — 642
    Bebai — 623
    Azgad — 1,222
    Adonikam — 666
    Bigvai — 2,056
    Adin — 454
    Ater (also called Hezekiah) — 98
    Bezai — 323
    Jorah — 112
    Hashum — 223
    Gibbar — 95

21-35People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:

    Bethlehem — 123
    Netophah — 56
    Anathoth — 128
    Azmaveth — 42
    Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth — 743
    Ramah and Geba — 621
    Michmash — 122
    Bethel and Ai — 223
    Nebo — 52
    Magbish — 156
    The other Elam — 1,254
    Harim — 320
    Lod, Hadid, and Ono — 725
    Jericho — 345
    Senaah — 3,630

36-39This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:

    Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) — 973
    Immer — 1,052
    Pashhur — 1,247
    Harim — 1,017

40-42Clans of Levites who returned from exile:

    Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) — 74
    Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) — 128
    Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) — 139

43-54Clans of temple workmen who returned from exile:

    Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
    Keros, Siaha, Padon,
    Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
    Hagab, Shamlai, Hanan,
    Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
    Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
    Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
    Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim,
    Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
    Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
    Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
    Neziah, and Hatipha.

55-57Clans of Solomon's servants who returned from exile:

    Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
    Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
    Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth Hazzebaim, and Ami.

58The total number of descendants of the temple workmen and of Solomon's servants who returned from exile was 392.

59-60There were 652 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites.

61-62The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and had taken the name of his father-in-law's clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests. 63The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim.

    64-67Total number of exiles who returned — 42,360
    Their male and female servants — 7,337
    Male and female musicians — 200
    Horses — 736
    Mules — 245
    Camels — 435
    Donkeys — 6,720

68When the exiles arrived at the LORD's Temple in Jerusalem, some of the leaders of the clans gave freewill offerings to help rebuild the Temple on its old site. 69They gave as much as they could for this work, and the total came to 500 kilogrammes of gold, 2.8 tonnes of silver, and 100 robes for priests.

70The priests, the Levites, and some of the people settled in or near Jerusalem; the musicians, the temple guards, and the temple workmen settled in nearby towns; and the rest of the Israelites settled in the towns where their ancestors had lived.

Worship Begins Again

1By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. Then they all assembled in Jerusalem, 2and Joshua son of Jehozadak, his fellow-priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel, so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God. 3Even though the returning exiles were afraid of the people who were living in the land, they rebuilt the altar where it had stood before. Then they began once again to burn on it the regular morning and evening sacrifices. 4They celebrated the Festival of Shelters according to the regulations; each day they offered the sacrifices required for that day; 5and in addition they offered the regular sacrifices to be burnt whole and those to be offered at the New Moon Festival and at all the other regular assemblies at which the LORD is worshipped, as well as all the offerings that were given to the LORD voluntarily. 6Although the people had not yet started to rebuild the Temple, they began on the first day of the seventh month to burn sacrifices to the LORD.

The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins

7The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters and gave food, drink, and olive oil to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar trees from Lebanon, which were to be brought by sea to Joppa. All this was done with the permission of Cyrus, emperor of Persia. 8So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they began work. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their fellow-countrymen, the priests, and the Levites, in fact all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. All the Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of the work of rebuilding the Temple. 9The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons (the clan of Hodaviah) joined together in taking charge of the rebuilding of the Temple. (They were helped by the Levites of the clan of Henadad.)

10When the builders started to lay the foundation of the Temple, the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals. They praised the LORD according to the instructions handed down from the time of King David. 11They sang the LORD's praises, repeating the refrain:

“The LORD is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.”

Everyone shouted with all his might, praising the LORD, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started. 12Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy. 13No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard far and wide.

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

1The enemies of the people of Judah and Benjamin heard that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel. 2So they went to see Zerubbabel and the heads of the clans and said, “Let us join you in building the Temple. We worship the same God you worship, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Esarhaddon, emperor of Assyria, sent us here to live.”

3Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans said to them, “We don't need your help to build a temple for the LORD our God. We will build it ourselves, just as Cyrus, emperor of Persia, commanded us.”

4Then the people who had been living in the land tried to discourage and frighten the Jews and keep them from building. 5They also bribed Persian government officials to work against them. They kept on doing this throughout the reign of Cyrus and into the reign of Darius.

Opposition to the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

6At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes the emperor, the enemies of the people living in Judah and Jerusalem brought written charges against them.

7Again, in the reign of Artaxerxes, emperor of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote a letter to the emperor. The letter was written in Aramaic and was to be translated when read.

8Also Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary of the province, wrote the following letter to Artaxerxes about Jerusalem:

9“From Rehum, the governor, from Shimshai, secretary of the province, from their associates, the judges, and from all the other officials, who are men originally from Erech, Babylon, and Susa in the land of Elam, 10together with the other peoples whom the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved from their homes and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in the province of West Euphrates.”

11This is the text of the letter:

“To Emperor Artaxerxes from his servants, the men of West Euphrates.

12“We want Your Majesty to know that the Jews who came here from your other territories have settled in Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil and rebellious city. They have begun to rebuild the walls and will soon finish them. 13Your Majesty, if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes, and your royal revenues will decrease. 14Now, because we are under obligation to Your Majesty, we do not want to see this happen, and so we suggest 15that you order a search to be made in the records your ancestors kept. If you do, you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and that from ancient times it has given trouble to kings and to rulers of provinces. Its people have always been hard to govern. This is why the city was destroyed. 16We therefore are convinced that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, Your Majesty will no longer be able to control the province of West Euphrates.”

17The emperor sent this answer:

“To Rehum, the governor, to Shimshai, secretary of the province, and to their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of West Euphrates, greetings.

18“The letter which you sent has been translated and read to me. 19I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority and that it has been full of rebels and troublemakers. 20Powerful kings have reigned there and have ruled over the entire province of West Euphrates, collecting taxes and revenue. 21Therefore you are to issue orders that those men are to stop rebuilding the city until I give further commands. 22Do this at once, so that no more harm may be done to my interests.”

23As soon as this letter from Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop rebuilding the city.

Ezra 1:1-4:23GNBOpen in Bible reader
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