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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 2

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1 IN the first year of King Cyrus of Persia the Lord, to fulfil his word spoken through Jeremiah, 2moved the heart of the king so that throughout his kingdom the following proclamation was made and at the same time issued in writing:

3The decree of King Cyrus of Persia.

The Lord of Israel, the Most High Lord, has made me king of the world 4and has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judaea. 5Whoever among you, therefore, belongs to his people, may his Lord be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem in Judaea and build the house of the Lord of Israel, the Lord who dwells in Jerusalem. 6Throughout the country let assistance be given to each man by his neighbours with gold and silver 7and other gifts, with horses and pack-animals, together with anything else set aside as votive offerings for the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.

8Then the heads of the families of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin came forward, along with the priests, the Levites, and all who had been prompted by the Lord to go up and build his house in Jerusalem. 9Their neighbours assisted with gifts of every kind, silver and gold, horses and pack-animals. Many were also moved to help with votive offerings in great quantity. 10Moreover, the sacred vessels of the Lord which Nebuchadnezzar had removed from Jerusalem and placed in the temple of his idols were brought out by King Cyrus of Persia 11and given into the charge of Mithradates his treasurer, 12by whom they were handed over to Sanabassar, governor of Judaea. 13Here is the list of them: a thousand gold cups, a thousand silver cups, twenty-nine silver censers, thirty gold bowls, two thousand four hundred and ten silver bowls, and a thousand other articles. 14In all, five thousand four hundred and sixty-nine gold and silver vessels were sent back, 15and they were brought by Sanabassar to Jerusalem from Babylon along with the exiles.

16But when Artaxerxes was king of Persia, Belemus, Mithradates, Tabellius, Rathymus, Beeltethmus, Semellius the secretary, and their colleagues in office in Samaria and elsewhere, wrote the king the following letter denouncing the inhabitants of Judaea and Jerusalem:

17To our Sovereign Lord Artaxerxes your servants Rathymus the Recorder, Semellius the Secretary, the other members of their council, and the magistrates in Coele-Syria and Phoenicia.

18Be it known to your majesty that the Jews who left you to come up here have arrived in Jerusalem, and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city, repairing its streets and walls and laying the foundation of a temple. 19Once this city is rebuilt and the walls are completed, they will never submit to paying tribute but will even rebel against your royal house. 20Since work on the temple is in hand, we have thought it well not to overlook such an important matter 21but to bring it to your majesty's attention, in order that, if it please your majesty, search may be made in the records left by your predecessors. 22You will discover in the archives references to these matters; you will learn that this has been a rebellious city, a source of trouble to kings and cities. 23From earliest times it has been a centre of armed resistance by the Jews, and for that reason it was laid in ruins. 24Therefore we now submit to your majesty that, if this city be rebuilt and its walls rise again, you will be denied access to Coele-Syria and Phoenicia.

25The king sent this reply:

To Rathymus the Recorder, Beeltethmus, Semellius the Secretary, and their colleagues in office in Samaria, Syria, and Phoenicia.

26Having read the letter you sent me, I ordered search to be made, and that city, it was discovered, has a long history of opposition to the royal house, 27and its inhabitants have been given to rebellion and war. There have been powerful and ruthless kings ruling in Jerusalem who have exercised authority over Coele-Syria and Phoenicia and laid them under tribute. 28I therefore command that the men of whom you write be prevented from rebuilding the city, and that measures be taken to enforce this order 29and to check the spread of an evil likely to be troublesome to our royal house.

30On receipt of the letter from King Artaxerxes, Rathymus, Semellius the secretary, and their colleagues hurried to Jerusalem with cavalry and a large body of other troops and stopped the builders. Work on the temple at Jerusalem remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.

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