Artaxerxes, the son of Ahasuerus, is now the king of Persia and he receives a letter from some men opposing Jerusalem. The letter says the Jews “are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.”
King Artaxerxes responds by sending a letter telling the Jews to cease the rebuilding of Jerusalem. “Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease.”
In the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’s reign, Ezra, a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses and a descendant of Aaron (Moses’s brother), is given permission to lead a second wave of captives back to Jerusalem. “For Ezra has prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Not only does King Artaxerxes allow the people to return but he also sends silver, gold, and anything else they need for the rebuilding of the house of God. In addition, he now makes a new decree that says it is unlawful to impose a tax on the servants of the house of God and “whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgement be executed speedily on him.”
Ezra praises God for King Artaxerxes’s change of heart – “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” Therefore, with the hand of the Lord upon him, Ezra leads the second wave of captives back to Judah. When they arrive in Jerusalem they give all the gold, silver, and articles brought from Babylon to the house of the Lord and they offer sacrifices to the God of Israel. “And they delivered the king’s orders to the king’s satraps and the governors in the region beyond the River. So they gave support to the people and the house of God.”
Tomorrow Ezra addresses intermarriage between the Jews and the people of the surrounding nations. Also, the third and final wave of people return to Jerusalem with Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. Keep reading.
(Ezra 4:7-23, Ezra 7:1-8:36)