11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord for Israel:
12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
18 You and your fellow Israelites may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.
21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you— 22 up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons? 24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.
25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
(Ezra 7:11-26 NIV)
In our last time together, we saw Ezra introduce himself (in the third person), his mission, and summarize his trip from Babylon to Jerusalem. As we also discovered, Ezra is writing in his present day, during the reign of King Artaxerxes.
Today, we begin a section (the remainder of chapter 7 and all of chapter 8) where Ezra provides the details of his trip – the preparation, the actual trip, and the completion of trip duties upon arrival in Jerusalem.
Today, we are focused on verses 11 – 26 – King Artaxerxes’ official decree and the letter that he wrote and sent with Ezra.
Here is a summary of the letter’s contents:
- vv. 12-13 – Permission for Ezra to go and take anyone who is willing to go, especially those who will minister in the Temple
- vv. 14-16 – The king is sending Ezra to make sure the Jewish people are being taught God’s Law and are living according to God’s Law
- vv. 17-19 – Gifts and offerings from King Artaxerxes and from the people are being sent with Ezra for worshipping the Lord
- vv. 20 – 22 – Supplies provided by the king, with the following limits:
- a hundred talents of silver (7,500 pounds, or 3.75 tons)
- a hundred cors of wheat (650 bushels)
- a hundred baths of wine (600 gallons)
- a hundred baths of olive oil (600 gallons)
- salt without limit
- v. 23 – the “why” of the trip and the offerings – to obey God and protect the king and his family (his sons)
- v. 24 – No taxation of those who serve in the Temple
- v. 25 – Ezra is to appoint religious rulers and judges over the people so that they can oversee and enforce what Ezra will teach them from God’s Law
- v. 26 – Ezra and the rulers and judges that Ezra appoints have the authority to enforce consequences for disobedience to God’s Law
As we look at this passage today, we see God’s hands of providence, protection, preparation, and provision around the people of Israel, as Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
- disciplining the children of Israel and Judah for their disobedience
- restoring them to their homeland
- teaching them His Laws again
- building a faithful community that honors Him from generation to generation
- preparing His people for the coming of Messiah (Jesus)
Just as God used Ezra and the others to carry out His work, the Lord is calling us to be and to do His work to bring glory to His name.
May we be as zealous to be like the Lord and carry out His desires as Ezra was.