Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return
(2 Chr 36.22–23; Ezra 1.1–11)
1In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor,#2.1 emperor: King Cyrus of Persia occupied the city of Babylon in 539 bc and began to reign as the emperor of Babylonia. the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. 2He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire:
3 # Is 44.28 “This is the command of Cyrus, emperor of Persia. The Lord of Israel, the Lord Most High, has appointed me ruler over the whole world 4and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. 5May the Lord be with those of you who are his people. You are to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the Lord of Israel, the Lord who lives in Jerusalem. 6If any of his people in exile need help to return, their neighbours must give them this help, and provide them with silver and gold 7and other gifts, with horses and pack animals, as well as anything else offered for the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem in fulfilment of a vow.”
8Then the heads of the clans of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and everyone else whose heart the Lord had moved, got ready to go and rebuild the Lord's Temple in Jerusalem. 9Their neighbours helped them with everything, giving them silver, gold, horses, and pack animals. Many of their neighbours were also led to give a large number of other things, in fulfilment of vows.
10Cyrus gave them back the sacred utensils that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his idols. 11He brought them out and handed them over to Mithredath, chief of the royal treasury, 12who delivered them to Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah. 13Here is the inventory of the utensils:
|gold bowls for offerings
|silver bowls for offerings
|silver fire pans
|small gold bowls
|small silver bowls
14In all there were 5,469 gold and silver bowls and other utensils, 15and Sheshbazzar took these with him when he and the other exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.
Opposition to Rebuilding Jerusalem
16In the reign of Emperor Artaxerxes of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, Rehum, Beltethmus, Shimshai the secretary of the province, and their associates who lived in Samaria and elsewhere wrote the following letter of protest against the Jews who were living in Judah and Jerusalem:
17“To His Majesty Emperor Artaxerxes from your servants, the official correspondent Rehum, the secretary Shimshai, the other members of the council, and the judges of Greater Syria and Phoenicia.
18“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 are restoring the market places, repairing the walls, and laying the foundations for a temple. 19If this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes and will even rebel against royal authority. 20Since work on the temple has already begun, we consider it appropriate not to overlook such an important matter 21but to bring it to the attention of Your Majesty. Then, if it seems proper to you, a search may be made in the records your ancestors kept. 22You will find information about these matters in the historical records, and you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and given trouble to other cities and kings. 23The Jews have used it from ancient times as a base for rebellions and wars. That is why the city was destroyed. 24We therefore declare to you that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are restored, Your Majesty will no longer be able to enter Greater Syria and Phoenicia.”
25The emperor sent the following answer to the official correspondent Rehum, Beltethmus, the secretary Shimshai, and their associates who lived in Samaria, Syria, and Phoenicia:
26“After reading the letter which you sent me, I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority, 27and its people have been involved in insurrections and wars. Powerful and cruel kings have reigned there and have ruled over Greater Syria and Phoenicia, from which they collected taxes. 28Therefore I am now issuing orders that those men be prevented from rebuilding the city and that necessary steps be taken to ensure that these orders will not be disobeyed, 29so that this trouble spot will no longer be a threat to the royal interests.”
30As soon as this letter from Artaxerxes was read, Rehum, Shimshai the secretary, and their associates hurried to Jerusalem with a force of cavalry and a large number of armed troops and began interfering with the rebuilding of the Temple. The work had to stop, and no more was done until the second year of the reign of Darius, emperor of Persia.