41The bodyguard who had written about the strength of the emperor spoke next. 2“Gentlemen,” he began, “nothing in the world is stronger than men, since they rule over land and sea and, in fact, over everything in the world. 3But the emperor is the strongest of them all; he is their lord and master, and men obey him, no matter what he commands. 4If he tells them to make war on one another, they do it. If he sends them out against his enemies, they go, even if they have to break down mountains, walls, or towers. 5They may kill or be killed, but they never disobey the emperor's orders. If they are victorious, they bring him all their loot and everything else they have taken in battle. 6Farmers do not go out to war, but even they bring to the emperor a part of everything that they harvest, and they compel one another to pay taxes to the emperor. 7Although the emperor is only one man, if he orders people to kill, they kill; if he orders them to set prisoners free, they do it; 8if he orders them to attack, they do; if he orders destruction, they destroy; if he orders them to build, they build; 9if he orders crops to be destroyed or fields to be planted, it is done. 10Everybody, soldier or civilian, obeys the emperor. And when he sits down to eat or drink and then falls asleep, 11his servants stand guard round him, without being able to go and take care of their own affairs, for they never disobey him. 12Gentlemen,” he ended by saying, “since people obey the emperor like this, certainly nothing in the world is stronger than he is.”
13The bodyguard who had written about women and the truth — it was Zerubbabel — spoke last. 14“Gentlemen,” he began, “the emperor is certainly powerful, men are numerous, and wine is strong, but who rules and controls them all? It is women! 15Women gave birth to the emperor and all the men who rule over land and sea. 16Women brought them into the world. Women brought up the men who planted the vineyards from which wine comes. 17Women make the clothes that men wear; women bring honour to men; in fact, without women, men couldn't live.
18“Men may accumulate silver or gold or other beautiful things, but if they see a woman with a pretty face or a good figure, 19they will leave it all to gape and stare, and they will desire her more than their wealth. 20A man will leave his own father, who brought him up, and leave his own country to get married. 21He will forget his father, his mother, and his country to spend the rest of his life with his wife. 22So you must recognize that women are your masters. Don't you work and sweat and then take all that you have earned and give it to your wives? 23A man will take his sword and go out to attack, rob and steal, and sail the seas and rivers. 24He may have to face lions or travel in the dark, but when he has robbed, stolen, and plundered, he will bring the loot home to the woman he loves.
25“A man loves his wife more than his parents. 26Some men are driven out of their minds on account of a woman, and others become slaves for the sake of a woman. 27Others have been put to death, have ruined their lives, or have committed crimes because of a woman. 28So now do you believe me?
“The emperor's power is certainly great — no nation has the courage to attack him. 29But once I saw him with Apame, his concubine, the daughter of the famous Bartacus. While she was sitting at the emperor's right, 30she took his crown off his head, put it on her own, and then slapped his face with her left hand. 31All the emperor did was look at her with his mouth open. Whenever she smiles at him, he smiles back; and when she gets angry with him, he flatters her and teases her until she is in a good mood again. 32Gentlemen, if women can do all that, surely there can be nothing stronger in the world.” 33The emperor and his officials just looked at one another.
Then Zerubbabel began to speak about truth. 34“Yes, gentlemen,” he said, “women are very strong. But think how big the earth is, how high the sky is; think how fast the sun moves, as it rapidly circles the whole sky in a single day. 35If the sun can do this, it is certainly great. But truth is greater and stronger than all of these things. 36Everyone on earth honours truth; heaven praises it; all creation trembles in awe before it.
“There is not the slightest injustice in truth.4.36 in truth; some manuscripts have with God. 37You will find injustice in wine, the emperor, women, all human beings, in all they do, and in everything else. There is no truth in them; they are unjust and they will perish. 38But truth endures and is always strong; it will continue to live and reign for ever. 39Truth shows no partiality or favouritism; it does what is right, rather than what is unjust or evil. Everyone approves what truth does; 40its decisions are always fair. Truth is strong, royal, powerful, and majestic for ever. Let all things praise the God of truth!”
41When Zerubbabel had finished speaking, all the people shouted, “Truth is great — there is nothing stronger!”
42Then the emperor said to him, “You may ask anything you want, even more than what was agreed, and I will give it to you. You will be my adviser, and you will be granted the title ‘Relative of the Emperor.’ ”
43Zerubbabel replied, “Your Majesty, permit me to remind you of the solemn vow you took on the day you became emperor. You promised to rebuild Jerusalem 44and to send back all the treasures that had been taken from the city. Remember that when Cyrus made a vow to destroy Babylon, he set these things aside and solemnly promised to send them back to Jerusalem. 45
You also promised to rebuild the Temple, which the Edomites burnt down when the Babylonians devastated the land of Judah. 46So, Your Majesty, because you are a man of generosity, I beg you to fulfil the promise you made to the King of Heaven.”
47Then Darius the emperor stood up, kissed Zerubbabel, and wrote letters for him to all the treasurers, governors, and administrators in the provinces, ordering them to provide safe conduct for him and all those going with him to rebuild Jerusalem. 48He also wrote letters to all the governors in Greater Syria and Phoenicia, with special instructions to those in Lebanon, to transport cedar logs to Jerusalem and help Zerubbabel rebuild the city.
49The emperor also provided letters for all the Jews who wished to return to Jerusalem. These letters guaranteed their freedom and ordered all governors, treasurers, and other administrators not to interfere with them in any way. 50All the land that they acquired was to be exempt from taxation, and the Edomites were to surrender the villages they had taken from the Jews. 51Each year 680 kilogrammes of silver would be given for the construction of the Temple until it was finished. 52In addition, 340 kilogrammes of silver would be given each year to provide for the seventeen burnt offerings to be offered in the Temple each day. 53All the Jews who left Babylonia to build the city of Jerusalem would be granted their freedom, together with their children and the priests.
54The emperor's orders gave specific instructions, as follows: the priests were to be supported, their robes for the Temple services were to be provided, 55the Levites were to be supported until the Temple and Jerusalem were completely rebuilt, 56and land and wages were to be provided for all the guards of the city. 57He also reaffirmed Cyrus' instructions that all the small utensils and Temple treasures that Cyrus had set aside should be returned to Jerusalem.
58Then the young man Zerubbabel left the council chamber, turned towards Jerusalem, looked up to heaven, and praised the King of Heaven: 59“Lord, all praise belongs to you; you are the source of all victory and wisdom, 60and I thank you, O Lord of our ancestors, for giving wisdom to me, your servant.”
61Zerubbabel took the emperor's letters and went to Babylon, where he told his fellow-Jews everything that had happened. 62They praised the God of their ancestors because he had made it possible for them 63to go and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple which bears his name. For seven days they held a joyful celebration, accompanied by music.