Ezra 6 (New Century Version)
The Order of Darius
1 So King Darius gave an order to search the records kept in the treasury in Babylon.
This was the response to the respectful request made by Tattenai described in the last part of Ezra 5.
2 A scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital city of Media.
This is what was written on it:
3 King Cyrus gave an order about the Temple of God in Jerusalem in the first year he was king. This was the order:
This is the decree originally recorded in Ezra 1, giving the Jewish people who wanted to return to Jerusalem and Judea the right to return and to repopulate Judea and to rebuild Jerusalem. Not only did Cyrus give permission for the temple to be rebuilt, he commanded the funding of the work from the royal treasury. Furthermore, Cyrus ordered that the spoils taken from the temple some two generations before be returned to the Jerusalem temple.
“Let the Temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices. Let its foundations be laid; it should be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide. 4 It must have three layers of large stones and then one layer of timbers. The costs should be paid from the king’s treasury.5 The gold and silver utensils from the Temple of God should be put back in their places. Nebuchadnezzar took them from the Temple in Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon, but they are to be put back in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
Other similar letters dealing with permission to rebuild subject peoples’ temples have been found among ancient Aramaic papyri.
6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and all the officers of that area, stay away from there. 7 Do not bother the work on that Temple of God. Let the governor of the Jewish people and the Jewish elders rebuild this Temple where it was before.
8 Also, I order you to do this for those elders of the Jewish people who are building this Temple: The cost of the building is to be fully paid from the royal treasury, from taxes collected from Trans-Euphrates. Do this so the work will not stop. 9 Give those people anything they need—young bulls, male sheep, or lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, or wheat, salt, wine, or olive oil. Give the priests in Jerusalem anything they ask for every day without fail.10 Then they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven, and they may pray for the life of the king and his sons.
Such generosity from the king! And so the work of God is not hindered, but furthered.
11 Also, I give this order: If anyone changes this order, a wood beam is to be pulled from his house and driven through his body.
Impalement was a common form of execution in ancient Persia; I will spare you the pictures and statues!
Because of his crime, make his house a pile of ruins.12 God has chosen Jerusalem as the place he is to be worshiped. May he punish any king or person who tries to change this order and destroy this Temple.
I, Darius, have given this order. Let it be obeyed quickly and carefully.
Completion of the Temple
13 So, Tattenai, the governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their fellow workers carried out King Darius’ order quickly and carefully. 14 The Jewish elders continued to build and were successful because of the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo.
“Work on the temple made little progress because of opposition and the preoccupation of returnees with their own homes (Haggai 1:2-3). Because they had placed their own interests first, God sent them famine as a judgment (Haggai 1:5-6, 10-11). Spurred by the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, a new effort was begun (Haggai 1:12-15).”
They finished building the Temple as the God of Israel had commanded and as kings Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes of Persia had ordered. 15The Temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year Darius was king.
16 Then the people of Israel celebrated and gave the Temple to God to honor him. Everybody was happy: the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the Jewish people who had returned from captivity.17 They gave the Temple to God by offering a hundred bulls, two hundred male sheep, and four hundred lambs as sacrifices.
Compared to the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:62-66), this was a meager dedication celebration. Solomon sacrificed some 142,000 animals at his dedication of the temple; here at the dedication of the second temple they only sacrificed a total of 712 animals. However, given the relative wealth of Israel in the days of the first temple as compared to the second temple, the smaller gift recorded in Ezra may have been more beautiful to God.
And as an offering to forgive the sins of all Israel, they offered twelve male goats, one goat for each tribe in Israel.
“It was a confession of failure but also faith. There was still atonement and still the covenant with the whole people – for this was the implication of the twelve sacrifices.”
18 Then they put the priests and the Levites into their separate groups. Each group had a certain time to serve God in the Temple at Jerusalem as it is written in the Book of Moses.
Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.
We are the young — our lives are a mystery
we are the old — who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.
Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
The Passover Is Celebrated
19 The Jewish people who returned from captivity celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.20 The priests and Levites had made themselves clean. Then the Levites killed the Passover lambs for all the people who had returned from captivity, for their relatives the priests, and for themselves.21 So all the people of Israel who returned from captivity ate the Passover lamb. So did the people who had given up the unclean ways of their non-Jewish neighbors in order to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.
Psalm 14:2 (ESV)
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
22 For seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in a very joyful way. The Lord had made them happy by changing the mind of the king of Assyria so that he helped them in the work on the Temple of the God of Israel.
“Do not be afraid of joy; when God makes you joyful, do not think it necessary to restrain your songs or smiles.”
–F. B. Meyer
Psalm 122 (NIV)
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
“Shalom Jerusalem,” HERE, by Paul Wilbur.