September 17, Ezra 4-6, Psalm 137

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When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin(A) heard that the returned exiles[a](B)were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the family heads and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we also worship your God and have been sacrificing to him[b] since the time King Esar-haddon of Assyria brought us here.”(C)

But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other heads of Israel’s families answered them, “You may have no part with us in building a house for our God,(D) since we alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.”(E) Then the people who were already in the land[c] discouraged[d] the people of Judah and made them afraid(F) to build. They also bribed officials to act against them to frustrate their plans(G) throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.(H)

Opposition to Rebuilding the City

At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus,(I)the people who were already in the land(J)wrote an accusation against the residents of Judah and Jerusalem. During the time of King Artaxerxes of Persia,(K) Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his colleagues wrote to King Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic(L) and translated.[e]

Rehum the chief deputy and Shimshai the scribe(M) wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes concerning Jerusalem as follows:

From Rehum[f] the chief deputy, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues—the judges and magistrates[g] from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, Babylon, Susa(N)(that is, the people of Elam),[h] 10 and the rest of the peoples whom the great and illustrious Ashurbanipal[i] deported and settled in the cities of Samaria(O) and the region west of the Euphrates River.(P)

11 This is the text of the letter they sent to him:

To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men from the region west of the Euphrates River:

12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came from you have returned to us at Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and evil city, finishing its walls, and repairing its foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that if that city is rebuilt and its walls are finished,(Q) they will not pay tribute, duty, or land tax,(R) and the royal revenue[j] will suffer. 14 Since we have taken an oath of loyalty to the king,[k] and it is not right for us to witness his dishonor, we have sent to inform the king 15 that a search should be made in your predecessors’ record books.(S) In these record books you will discover and verify that the city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces. There have been revolts in it since ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We advise the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are finished, you will not have any possession west of the Euphrates.

Artaxerxes’s Reply

17 The king sent a reply to his chief deputy Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues living in Samaria and elsewhere in the region west of the Euphrates River:

Greetings.

18 The letter you sent us has been translated and read[l](T) in my presence. 19 I issued a decree and a search was conducted. It was discovered that this city has had uprisings against kings since ancient times, and there have been rebellions and revolts in it. 20 Powerful kings have also ruled over Jerusalem and exercised authority over the whole region west of the Euphrates River, and tribute, duty, and land tax were paid to them. 21 Therefore, issue an order for these men to stop, so that this city will not be rebuilt until a further decree has been pronounced by me.(U) 22 See that you not neglect this matter. Otherwise, the damage will increase and the royal interests[m] will suffer.

23 As soon as the text of King Artaxerxes’s letter was read to Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues,(V) they immediately went to the Jews in Jerusalem and forcibly stopped them.

Rebuilding of the Temple Resumed

24 Now the construction of God’s house in Jerusalem had stopped and remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.(W)

But when the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo(A) prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak(B) began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. The prophets of God(C) were with them, helping them.

At that time Tattenai the governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues(D) came to the Jews and asked, “Who gave you the order to rebuild this temple and finish this structure?” [a](E) They also asked them, “What are the names of the workers[b] who are constructing this building?” But God was watching[c]over(F) the Jewish elders. These men wouldn’t stop them until a report was sent to Darius, so that they could receive written instructions about this matter.

The Letter to Darius

This is the text of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials in the region, sent to King Darius. They sent him a report, written as follows:

To King Darius:

All greetings.

Let it be known to the king that we went to the house of the great God in the province of Judah. It is being built with cut[d] stones, and its beams are being set in the walls. This work is being done diligently and succeeding through the people’s efforts.(G) So we questioned the elders and asked, “Who gave you the order to rebuild this temple and finish this structure?” 10 We also asked them for their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

11 This is the reply they gave us:

We are the servants of the God of the heavens and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished.(H) 12 But since our ancestors angered the God of the heavens, he handed them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.(I) 13 However, in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, he issued a decree to rebuild the house of God.(J) 14 He also took from the temple in Babylon the gold and silver articles of God’s house that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and carried them to the temple in Babylon.(K) He released them from the temple in Babylon to a man named Sheshbazzar, the governor by the appointment of King Cyrus.(L) 15 Cyrus told him, “Take these articles, put them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its original site.”(M)16 Then this same Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundation of God’s house in Jerusalem.(N) It has been under construction from that time until now,(O) but it has not been completed.

17 So if it pleases the king, let a search of the royal archives[e] in Babylon be conducted to see if it is true that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem.(P) Let the king’s decision regarding this matter be sent to us.(Q)

King Darius gave the order, and they searched(A) in the library of Babylon in the archives.[a](B) But it was in the fortress of Ecbatana in the province of Media(C) that a scroll was found with this record written on it:

In the first year of King Cyrus, he issued a decree(D) concerning the house of God in Jerusalem:

Let the house be rebuilt as a place for offering sacrifices, and let its original foundations be retained.[b] Its height is to be ninety feet[c] and its width ninety feet,(E)with three layers of cut[d] stones and one of timber.(F) The cost is to be paid from the royal treasury.[e](G) The gold and silver articles of God’s house that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon must also be returned. They are to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem where they belong[f]and put into the house of God.(H)

Darius’s Decree

Therefore, you must stay away from that place, Tattenai governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, Shethar-bozenai, and your[g] colleagues, the officials in the region.(I) Leave the construction of the house of God alone. Let the governor(J) and elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its original site.

I hereby issue a decree concerning what you are to do, so that the elders of the Jews can rebuild the house of God:

The cost is to be paid in full to these men out of the royal revenues(K) from the taxes of the region west of the Euphrates River, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings to the God of the heavens, or wheat, salt, wine, and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—let it be given to them every day without fail,(L) 10 so that they can offer sacrifices of pleasing aroma to the God of the heavens and pray for the life of the king and his sons.(M)

11 I also issue a decree concerning any man who interferes with this directive:

Let a beam be torn from his house and raised up; he will be impaled on it, and his house will be made into a garbage dump because of this offense.(N) 12 May the God who caused his name to dwell there(O)overthrow any king or people who dares[h]to harm or interfere with this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued the decree. Let it be carried out diligently.

13 Then Tattenai governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues(P) diligently carried out what King Darius had decreed. 14 So the Jewish elders continued successfully with the building under the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo.(Q) They finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus,(R) Darius, and King Artaxerxes(S) of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar(T) in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

Temple Dedication and the Passover

16 Then the Israelites, including the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. 17 For the dedication of God’s house they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs, as well as twelve male goats(U) as a sin offering for all Israel—one for each Israelite tribe. 18 They also appointed the priests by their divisions and the Levites by their groups to the service of God in Jerusalem, according to what is written in the book of Moses.(V)

19 The exiles(W) observed the Passover(X) on the fourteenth day of the first month. 20 All of the priests and Levites were ceremonially clean, because they had purified themselves. They killed the Passover lamb for themselves, their priestly brothers, and all the exiles.(Y)21 The Israelites who had returned from exile(Z) ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the Gentiles of the land[i](AA) in order to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 They observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days(AB) with joy, because the Lordhad made them joyful, having changed the Assyrian king’s attitude toward them, so that he supported them[j] in the work on the house of the God of Israel.(AC)

By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and wept
when we remembered Zion.(A)
There we hung up our lyres
on the poplar trees,(B)
for our captors there asked us for songs,
and our tormentors, for rejoicing:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”(C)

How can we sing the Lord’s song
on foreign soil?(D)
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.(E)
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!(F)

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites said
that day[a] at Jerusalem:
“Destroy it! Destroy it
down to its foundations!” (G)
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who pays you back
what you have done to us.(H)
Happy is he who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rocks.(I)

Work in the Kingdom of God will always be opposed. You can count on it. The more you are doing to build God’s kingdom the more you will see opposition come your way. Our job is not to fight the opposition or even to understand the opposition. Our job is to continue to maintain focus on the work at hand and the Savior we serve. Next time you see opposition for doing what God has called you to do, use it as affirmation that you are helping to build God’s kingdom.

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