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

Chapter 6

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1 IN the second year of the reign of Darius, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Addo prophesied to the Jews in Judaea and Jerusalem, rebuking them in the name of the Lord God of Israel. 2Then Zerubbabel son of Salathiel and Jeshua son of Josedek, with the prophets of the Lord at their side to help them, began at once to rebuild the Lord's house in Jerusalem. 3Immediately Sisinnes, the governor-general of Syria and Phoenicia, together with Sathrabuzanes and their colleagues, came to them and asked, 4‘Who has given you authority to rebuild this house, to put on the roof and complete the whole work? Who are the builders engaged on this?’ 5But thanks to the Lord who protected the returned exiles, the elders of the Jews 6were not prevented from building until such time as Darius should be informed and instructions issued.

7Here is a copy of the letter sent to Darius by Sisinnes, the governor-general of Syria and Phoenicia, with Sathrabuzanes and their colleagues the authorities in Syria and Phoenicia:

To King Darius.

Greeting.

8Be these matters fully known to our lord the king: we went to the province of Judaea and to Jerusalem, its city, and there we found the elders of the Jews returned from exile 9building a great new house for their Lord with costly hewn stone and with beams set in the walls. 10This work was carried on with all speed and the undertaking was making rapid headway under their direction; it was being executed in great splendour and with the utmost care. 11We then enquired of these elders by whose authority they were building this house and laying such foundations. 12We questioned them so that we could write and inform you who their leaders were, and we asked for a list of those in charge. 13Their reply to us was: ‘We are servants of the Lord who made heaven and earth. 14This house was built and completed many years ago by a great and powerful king of Israel. 15But when our fathers by their sin provoked the heavenly Lord of Israel to anger, he delivered them into the power of the Chaldaean monarch, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 16The house was demolished and set on fire, and the people carried away captive to Babylon.

17‘But King Cyrus in the first year of his reign over Babylonia issued a decree that the house should be rebuilt. 18He brought out again from the temple in Babylon the sacred vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the house at Jerusalem and set up in his own temple, and he handed them over to Zerubbabel and Sanabassar the governor, 19with orders to take them all and restore them to the temple at Jerusalem, and to rebuild this temple of the Lord on its original site. 20Then Sanabassar came and laid the foundations of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and from that time until now the rebuilding has continued and is still not completed.’

21Now, therefore, if it please your majesty, let search be made in the Babylonian royal archives, 22and if it is found that the building of the Lord's house in Jerusalem was done with the approval of King Cyrus, and if our lord the king should so decide, let directions be issued to us on this matter.

23King Darius ordered search to be made in the archives deposited in Babylonia, and there was found in the citadel at Ecbatana in the province of Media a scroll containing the following memorandum:

24In the first year of his reign King Cyrus gave orders for the rebuilding of the Lord's house at Jerusalem, where they sacrifice with perpetual fire. 25Its height was to be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three courses of hewn stone to one of new local timber, the cost to be defrayed from the royal treasury. 26The sacred vessels, both gold and silver, which Nebuchadnezzar carried away from the house of the Lord at Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, were to be restored to the house in Jerusalem and placed where they had been in former times.

27Then Darius instructed Sisinnes, the governor-general of Syria and Phoenicia, with Sathrabuzanes, their colleagues, and the governors in office in Syria and Phoenicia, that they should see to it that the place was left unmolested and that the Lord's servant, Zerubbabel, governor of Judaea, and the elders of the Jews should be free to rebuild the house of the Lord on its original site. 28‘I have also issued instructions’, he went on, ‘that it should be completely rebuilt, and that every effort be made to co-operate with the returned exiles in Judaea until the house of the Lord is finished. 29From the tribute of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia a sufficient grant, payable to Zerubbabel the governor, is to be given to these men for sacrifices to the Lord, for bulls, rams, and lambs. 30Similarly wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as the priests in Jerusalem require to meet the needs of each day are to be provided regularly every year without question. 31Let all this be expended in order that sacrifices and libations may be offered to the Most High God and intercession made for the king and his children.’

32Darius further decreed: ‘If anyone contravenes or fails to observe anything written herein, let a beam be taken from his own house and let him be hanged on it, and his property shall be forfeit to the king. 33May the Lord himself, therefore, whose name is invoked in this temple, utterly destroy any king or people who lifts a finger to delay the work or damage the Lord's house in Jerusalem. 34I, Darius, the king, have directed that these decrees shall be strictly obeyed.’

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