Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 152

Ezra 1–6

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, 9-10as follows:

gold bowls for offerings 30
silver bowls for offerings 1,000
other bowls 29
small gold bowls 30
small silver bowls 410
other utensils 1,000

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.

Work on the Temple Begins Again

24Work on the Temple had been stopped and had remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius, emperor of Persia.

1At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. 2When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them.

3Almost at once Tattenai, governor of West Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow-officials came to Jerusalem and demanded: “Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?” 4They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping to build the Temple. 5But God was watching over the Jewish leaders, and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Darius and receive a reply. 6This is the report that they sent to the emperor:

7“To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace.

8“Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily.

9“We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it. 10We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are.

11“They answered, ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel. 12But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia. 13Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt. 14He restored the gold and silver temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Cyrus handed these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah. 15The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before. 16So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but the Temple is still not finished.’

17“Now, if it please Your Majesty, let a search be made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter.”

Cyrus' Order is Rediscovered

1So Darius the emperor issued orders for a search to be made in the royal records that were kept in Babylon. 2But it was in the city of Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found, containing the following record:

3“In the first year of his reign Cyrus the emperor commanded that the Temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are made and offerings are burnt. The Temple is to be 27 metres high and 27 metres wide. 4The walls are to be built with one layer of wood on top of every three layers of stone. All expenses are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5Also the gold and silver utensils which King Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon from the Temple in Jerusalem are to be returned to their proper place in the Jerusalem Temple.”

Darius Orders the Work to Continue

6Then Darius sent the following reply:

“To Tattenai, governor of West Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and your fellow-officials in West Euphrates.

“Stay away from the Temple 7and do not interfere with its construction. Let the governor of Judah and the Jewish leaders rebuild the Temple of God where it stood before. 8I hereby command you to help them rebuild it. Their expenses are to be paid promptly out of the royal funds received from taxes in West Euphrates, so that the work is not interrupted. 9Day by day, without fail, you are to give the priests in Jerusalem whatever they tell you they need: young bulls, sheep, or lambs to be burnt as offerings to the God of Heaven, or wheat, salt, wine, or olive oil. 10This is to be done so that they can offer sacrifices that are acceptable to the God of Heaven and pray for his blessing on me and my sons. 11I further command that if anyone disobeys this order, a wooden beam is to be torn out of his house, sharpened at one end, and then driven through his body. And his house is to be made a rubbish heap. 12May the God who chose Jerusalem as the place where he is to be worshipped overthrow any king or nation that defies this command and tries to destroy the Temple there. I, Darius, have given this order. It is to be fully obeyed.”

The Temple is Dedicated

13Then Tattenai the governor, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow-officials did exactly as the emperor had commanded. 14The Jewish leaders made good progress with the building of the Temple, encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They completed the Temple as they had been commanded by the God of Israel and by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, emperors of Persia. 15They finished the Temple on the third day of the month Adar in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the emperor. 16Then the people of Israel — the priests, the Levites, and all the others who had returned from exile — joyfully dedicated the Temple. 17For the dedication they offered 100 bulls, 200 sheep, and 400 lambs as sacrifices, and twelve goats as offerings for sin, one for each tribe of Israel. 18They also organized the priests and the Levites for the temple services in Jerusalem, according to the instructions contained in the book of Moses.

The Passover

19The people who had returned from exile celebrated Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month of the following year. 20All the priests and the Levites had purified themselves and were ritually clean. The Levites killed the animals for the Passover sacrifices for all the people who had returned, for the priests, and for themselves. 21The sacrifices were eaten by all the Israelites who had returned from exile and by all those who had given up the pagan ways of the other people who were living in the land and who had come to worship the LORD God of Israel. 22For seven days they joyfully celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They were full of joy because the LORD had made the emperor of Assyria favourable to them, so that he supported them in their work of rebuilding the Temple of the God of Israel.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.20.14
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