3:8 In the second year after they had come to the temple of God in Jerusalem, 1 in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak initiated the work, 2 along with the rest of their associates, 3 the priests and the Levites, and all those who were coming to Jerusalem from the exile. They appointed 4 the Levites who were at least twenty years old 5 to take charge of the work on the Lord’s temple. 3:9 So Jeshua appointed both his sons and his relatives, 6 Kadmiel and his sons (the sons of Yehudah 7 ), to take charge of the workers in the temple of God, along with the sons of Henadad, their sons, and their relatives 8 the Levites. 3:10 When the builders established the Lord’s temple, the priests, ceremonially attired and with their clarions, 9 and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with their cymbals, stood to praise the Lord according to the instructions left by 10 King David of Israel. 11 3:11 With antiphonal response they sang, 12 praising and glorifying the Lord:
“For he is good;
his loyal love toward Israel is forever.”
All the people gave a loud 13 shout as they praised the Lord when the temple of the Lord was established. 3:12 Many of the priests, the Levites, and the leaders 14 – older people who had seen with their own eyes the former temple while it was still established 15 – were weeping loudly, 16 and many others raised their voice in a joyous shout. 3:13 People were unable to tell the difference between the sound of joyous shouting and the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people were shouting so loudly 17 that the sound was heard a long way off.
4:1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles 18 were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel, 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders 19 and said to them, “Let us help you build, 20 for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him 21 from the time 22 of King Esarhaddon 23 of Assyria, who brought us here.” 24 4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right 25 to help us build the temple of our God. We will build it by ourselves for the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.” 4:4 Then the local people 26 began to discourage 27 the people of Judah and to dishearten them from building. 4:5 They were hiring advisers to oppose them, so as to frustrate their plans, throughout the time 28 of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius 29 of Persia. 30
4:6 31 At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus 32 they filed an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 33 4:7 And during the reign 34 of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, 35 Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues 36 wrote to King Artaxerxes 37 of Persia. This letter 38 was first written in Aramaic but then translated.
4:8 Rehum the commander 40 and Shimshai the scribe 41 wrote a letter concerning 42 Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From 43 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues – the judges, the rulers, the officials, the secretaries, the Erechites, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, 44 the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal 45 deported and settled in the cities 46 of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates. 47 4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)
“To King Artaxerxes, 48 from your servants in 49 Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now 50 let the king be aware that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and odious city. 51 They are completing its walls and repairing its foundations. 4:13 Let the king also be aware that if this city is built and its walls are completed, no more tax, custom, or toll will be paid, and the royal treasury 52 will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, 53 and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, 54 we are sending the king this information 55 4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records 56 of his predecessors 57 and discover in those records 58 that this city is rebellious 59 and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts 60 from long ago. 61 It is for this very reason that this city was destroyed. 4:16 We therefore are informing the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will not retain control 62 of this portion of Trans-Euphrates.”
4:17 The king sent the following response:
“To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and other parts of Trans-Euphrates: Greetings! 63 4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders, 64 and it was determined 65 that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in 66 rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates 67 and who were the beneficiaries of 68 tribute, custom, and toll. 4:21 Now give orders that these men cease their work and that this city not be rebuilt until such time as I so instruct. 69 4:22 Exercise appropriate caution so that there is no negligence in this matter. Why should danger increase to the point that kings sustain damage?”
4:23 Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerxes was read in the presence of Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they proceeded promptly to the Jews in Jerusalem 70 and stopped them with threat of armed force. 71
5:1 Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son 73 of Iddo 74 prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem 75 in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 5:2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began 76 to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
5:3 At that time Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues came to them and asked, “Who gave you authority 77 to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?” 78 5:4 They 79 also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice?” 5:5 But God was watching over 80 the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped 81 until a report could be dispatched 82 to Darius and a letter could be sent back concerning this.
5:6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and his colleagues who were the officials of Trans-Euphrates sent to King Darius. 5:7 The report they sent to him was written as follows: 83
“To King Darius: All greetings! 84 5:8 Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. It is being built with large stones, 85 and timbers are being placed in the walls. This work is being done with all diligence and is prospering in their hands. 5:9 We inquired of those elders, asking them, ‘Who gave you the authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?’ 5:10 We also inquired of their names in order to inform you, so that we might write the names of the men who were their leaders. 5:11 They responded to us in the following way: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago. A great king 86 of Israel built it and completed it. 5:12 But after our ancestors 87 angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands 88 of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. 89 5:13 But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, 90 King Cyrus enacted a decree to rebuild this temple of God. 5:14 Even the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought to the palace 91 of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented 92 to a man by the name of Sheshbazzar whom he had appointed as governor. 5:15 He said to him, “Take these vessels and go deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt in its proper location.” 93 5:16 Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment 94 it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’
5:17 “Now if the king is so inclined, 95 let a search be conducted in the royal archives 96 there in Babylon in order to determine whether King Cyrus did in fact issue orders for this temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning this matter.”
6:1 So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives 97 of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. 6:2 A scroll was found in the citadel 98 of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows:
“Memorandum: 6:3 In the first year of his reign, 99 King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: 100 ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. 101 Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety 102 feet, 103 6:4 with three layers of large stones 104 and one 105 layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized 106 by the royal treasury. 107 6:5 Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’
6:6 “Now Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans-Euphrates – all of you stay far away from there! 6:7 Leave the work on this temple of God alone. 108 Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place.
6:8 “I also hereby issue orders as to what you are to do with those elders of the Jews in order to rebuild this temple of God. From the royal treasury, from the taxes of Trans-Euphrates the complete costs are to be given to these men, so that there may be no interruption of the work. 109 6:9 Whatever is needed – whether oxen or rams or lambs or burnt offerings for the God of heaven or wheat or salt or wine or oil, as required by 110 the priests who are in Jerusalem – must be given to them daily without any neglect, 6:10 so that they may be offering incense to the God of heaven and may be praying for the good fortune of the king and his family. 111
6:11 “I hereby give orders that if anyone changes this directive a beam is to be pulled out from his house and he is to be raised up and impaled 112 on it, and his house is to be reduced 113 to a rubbish heap 114 for this indiscretion. 115 6:12 May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation 116 who reaches out 117 to cause such change so as to destroy this temple of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have given orders. Let them be carried out with precision!”
6:13 Then Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues acted accordingly – with precision, just as Darius the king had given instructions. 118 6:14 The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time 119 Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo continued prophesying. They built and brought it to completion by the command of the God of Israel and by the command of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 6:15 They finished this temple on the third day of the month Adar, which is the sixth 120 year of the reign of King Darius.
2 tn Heb “began”; the phrase “the work” is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
3 tn Heb “their brothers.”
4 tn Heb “stood.”
5 tn Heb “from twenty years and upward.”
6 tn Heb “brothers.”
8 tn Heb “brothers.”
9 sn This was a long, straight, metallic instrument used for signal calls, rather than the traditional ram’s horn (both instruments are typically translated “trumpet” by English versions).
10 tn Heb “according to the hands of.”
12 tn Heb “they answered.”
13 tn Heb “great.”
14 tn Heb “the heads of the fathers.”
15 sn The temple had been destroyed some fifty years earlier by the Babylonians in 586
16 tn Heb “with a great voice.”
17 tn Heb “a great shout.”
18 tn Heb “the sons of the exile.”
20 tn Heb “Let us build with you.”
21 tc The translation reads with the Qere, a Qumran
22 tn Heb “days.”
23 sn Esarhaddon was king of Assyria ca. 681-669
24 sn The Assyrian policy had been to resettle Samaria with peoples from other areas (cf. 2 Kgs 17:24-34). These immigrants acknowledged Yahweh as well as other deities in some cases. The Jews who returned from the Exile regarded them with suspicion and were not hospitable to their offer of help in rebuilding the temple.
25 tn Heb “not to you and to us.”
26 tn Heb “the people of the land.” Elsewhere this expression sometimes has a negative connotation, referring to a lay population that was less zealous for Judaism than it should have been. Here, however, it seems to refer to the resident population of the area without any negative connotation.
27 tn Heb “were making slack the hands of.”
28 tn Heb “all the days of.”
29 sn Darius ruled Persia ca. 522-486
30 sn The purpose of the opening verses of this chapter is to summarize why the Jews returning from the exile were unable to complete the rebuilding of the temple more quickly than they did. The delay was due not to disinterest on their part but to the repeated obstacles that had been placed in their path by determined foes.
31 sn The chronological problems of Ezra 4:6-24 are well known and have been the subject of extensive discussion since ancient times. Both v. 5 and v. 24 describe the reign of Darius I Hystaspes, who ruled Persia ca. 522–486
32 sn Ahasuerus, otherwise known as Xerxes I, ruled ca. 486-464
34 tn Heb “And in the days.”
35 tn The LXX understands this word as a prepositional phrase (“in peace”) rather than as a proper name (“Bishlam”). Taken this way it would suggest that Mithredath was “in agreement with” the contents of Tabeel’s letter. Some scholars regard the word in the MT to be a corruption of either “in Jerusalem” (i.e., “in the matter of Jerusalem”) or “in the name of Jerusalem.” The translation adopted above follows the traditional understanding of the word as a name.
36 tc The translation reads the plural with the Qere rather than the singular found in the MT Kethib.
37 sn Artaxerxes I ruled in Persia from ca. 465–425
38 tc It is preferable to delete the MT’s וּכְתָב (ukhÿtav) here.
39 sn The double reference in v. 7 to the Aramaic language is difficult. It would not make sense to say that the letter was written in Aramaic and then translated into Aramaic. Some interpreters understand the verse to mean that the letter was written in the Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language, but this does not seem to give sufficient attention to the participle “translated” at the end of the verse. The second reference to Aramaic in the verse is more probably a gloss that calls attention to the fact that the following verses retain the Aramaic language of the letter in its original linguistic form. A similar reference to Aramaic occurs in Dan 2:4b, where the language of that book shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic. Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12-26 are written in Aramaic, whereas the rest of the book is written in Hebrew.
41 sn Like Rehum, Shimshai was apparently a fairly high-ranking official charged with overseeing Persian interests in this part of the empire. His title was “scribe” or “secretary,” but in a more elevated political sense than that word sometimes has elsewhere. American governmental titles such as “Secretary of State” perhaps provide an analogy in that the word “secretary” can have a broad range of meaning.
42 tn Or perhaps “against.”
43 tn Aram “then.” What follows in v. 9 seems to be the preface of the letter, serving to identify the senders of the letter. The word “from” is not in the Aramaic text but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
44 tn For the qere of the MT (דֶּהָיֵא, dehaye’, a proper name) it seems better to retain the Kethib דִּהוּא (dihu’, “that is”). See F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 25, §35; E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 36.
45 tn Aram “Osnappar” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV), another name for Ashurbanipal.
sn Ashurbanipal succeeded his father Esarhaddon as king of Assyria in 669
46 tc The translation reads with the ancient versions the plural בְּקֻרְיַהּ (bÿquryah, “in the cities”) rather than the singular (“in the city”) of the MT.
47 tn Aram “beyond the river.” In Ezra this term is a technical designation for the region west of the Euphrates river.
48 tn The Masoretic accents indicate that the phrase “to Artaxerxes the king” goes with what precedes and that the letter begins with the words “from your servants.” But it seems better to understand the letter to begin by identifying the addressee.
49 tn Aram “men of.”
51 sn Management of the provinces that were distantly removed from the capital was difficult, and insurrection in such places was a perennial problem. The language used in this report about Jerusalem (i.e., “rebellious,” “odious”) is intentionally inflammatory. It is calculated to draw immediate attention to the perceived problem.
52 tn Aram “the treasury of kings.” The plural “kings” is Hebrew, not Aramaic. If the plural is intended in a numerical sense the reference is not just to Artaxerxes but to his successors as well. Some scholars understand this to be the plural of majesty, referring to Artaxerxes. See F. C. Fensham, Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT), 74.
53 tn Aram “we eat the salt of the palace.”
54 tn Aram “the dishonor of the king is not fitting for us to see.”
55 tn Aram “and we have made known.”
56 tn Aram “the book of the minutes.”
57 tn Aram “of your fathers.”
58 tn Aram “discover…and learn.” For stylistic reasons this has been translated as a single concept.
59 tn Aram “is a rebellious city.”
60 tn Aram “revolts they are making in its midst.”
62 tn Aram “will not be to you.”
63 tn Aram “peace.”
64 tn Aram “from me was placed a decree.”
65 tn Aram “and they searched and found.”
66 tn Aram “are being done.”
67 sn The statement that prior Jewish kings ruled over the entire Trans-Euphrates is an overstatement. Not even in the days of David and Solomon did the kingdom of Israel extend its borders to such an extent.
68 tn Aram “were being given to them.”
69 tn Aram “until a command is issued from me.”
70 tn Aram “to Jerusalem against the Jews.”
71 tn Aram “by force and power,” a hendiadys.
72 sn Darius I Hystaspes ruled Persia ca. 522–486
74 tn Aram “and Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo the prophet.”
76 tn Aram “arose and began.” For stylistic reasons this has been translated as a single concept.
78 tn The exact meaning of the Aramaic word אֻשַּׁרְנָא (’ussarna’) here and in v. 9 is uncertain (BDB 1083 s.v.). The LXX and Vulgate understand it to mean “wall.” Here it is used in collocation with בַּיְתָא (bayta’, “house” as the temple of God), while in 5:3, 9 it is used in parallelism with this term. It might be related to the Assyrian noun ashurru (“wall”) or ashru (“sanctuary”; so BDB). F. Rosenthal, who translates the word “furnishings,” thinks that it probably enters Aramaic from Persian (Grammar, 62-63, §189).
79 tc The translation reads with one medieval Hebrew
80 tn Aram “the eye of their God was on.” The idiom describes the attentive care that one exercises in behalf of the object of his concern.
81 tn Aram “they did not stop them.”
82 tn Aram “[could] go.” On this form see F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 58, §169.
83 tn Aram “and it was written in its midst.”
84 tn Aram “all peace.”
85 tn Aram “stones of rolling.” The reference is apparently to stones too large to carry.
86 sn This great king of Israel would, of course, be Solomon.
87 tn Aram “fathers.”
88 tn Aram “hand” (singular).
89 sn A reference to the catastrophic events of 586
90 sn Cyrus was actually a Persian king, but when he conquered Babylon in 539
91 tn Or “temple.”
92 tn Aram “they were given.”
93 tn Aram “upon its place.”
94 tn Aram “from then and until now.”
95 tn Aram “if upon the king it is good.”
96 tn Aram “the house of the treasures of the king.”
97 tn Aram “the house of the archives.”
98 tc The translation reads בִירְתָא (birta’, citadel”) rather than the reading בְּבִירְתָא (bÿvireta’, “in the citadel”) found in the MT. The MT probably experienced dittography here.
99 tn Aram “In the first year of Cyrus the king.”
101 tn Aram “raised”; or perhaps “retained” (so NASB; cf. NLT), referring to the original foundations of Solomon’s temple.
102 tc The Syriac Peshitta reads “twenty cubits” here, a measurement probably derived from dimensions given elsewhere for Solomon’s temple. According to 1 Kgs 6:2 the dimensions of the Solomonic temple were as follows: length, 60 cubits; width, 20 cubits; height, 30 cubits. Since one would expect the dimensions cited in Ezra 6:3 to correspond to those of Solomon’s temple, it is odd that no dimension for length is provided. The Syriac has apparently harmonized the width dimension provided here (“twenty cubits”) to that given in 1 Kgs 6:2.
103 tn Aram “Its height sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about eighteen inches (45 cm) long.
104 tn Aram “stones of rolling.”
105 tc The translation follows the LXX reading חַד (khad, “one”) rather than the MT חֲדַת (khadat, “new”). If the MT reading “new” is understood to mean freshly cut timber that has not yet been seasoned it would seem to be an odd choice for construction material.
106 tn Aram “let be given.”
107 tn Aram “house.”
108 tc For the MT reading “the work on this temple of God” the LXX reads “the servant of the Lord Zurababel” [= Zerubbabel].
109 tn The words “of the work” are not in the Aramaic, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
110 tn Aram “according to the word of.”
111 tn Aram “for the life of the king and his sons.”
112 sn The practice referred to in v. 11 has been understood in various ways: hanging (cf. 1 Esd 6:32 and KJV); flogging (cf. NEB, NLT); impalement (BDB 1091 s.v. זְקַף; HALOT 1914 s.v. מחא hitpe; cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV). The latter seems the most likely.
113 tn Aram “made.”
114 tn Aram “a dunghill.”
115 tn Aram “for this.”
116 tn Aram “people.”
117 tn Aram “who sends forth his hand.”
118 tn Aram “sent.”
119 tn Aram “in” or “by,” in the sense of accompaniment.
120 sn The sixth year of the reign of Darius would be ca. 516