Good News Translation (GNB)
3

The Debate of the Bodyguards before the Emperor

31Darius the emperor gave a great banquet for all those under him, all the members of his family and staff, all the leading officials of Persia and Media, 2all his chief officers, administrators, and the governors of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush.3.2 Cushor Ethiopia. 3When everyone had had enough to eat and drink, they left, and Darius went to bed. He fell asleep but soon awoke.

A Contest is Proposed

4Then the three young men who served Emperor Darius as his personal bodyguard said to one another, 5“Let each of us name the one thing that he considers the strongest thing in the world. The emperor will decide who has given the wisest answer to this question and will give magnificent gifts and prizes to the winner. 6He will wear royal robes, drink from a gold cup, and sleep in a gold bed. He will have a chariot with gold-studded bridles, wear a fine linen turban, and have a gold necklace. 7Because of his wisdom he will be an adviser to the emperor and will be given the title ‘Relative of the Emperor.’ ”

8Then each of them wrote down the best answer he could think of, sealed it, and put it under the emperor's pillow. They said to one another, 9“When the emperor wakes up, the statements will be given to him. He and the three leading officials of Persia will decide who gave the wisest answer. The winner will be given the prize on the basis of what he has written.” 10The first wrote, “There is nothing stronger than wine.” 11The second wrote, “There is nothing stronger than the emperor.” 12And the third wrote, “There is nothing stronger than a woman, but truth can conquer anything.”

13When the emperor woke up, the written statements were given to him, and he read them. 14Then he sent messengers and called together all the leading officials of Persia and Media, including the chief officers, administrators, governors, and commissioners. 15He took his seat in the council chamber and had the three statements read aloud. 16“Bring in the three young men,” he said, “and let them explain their answers.” So when they were brought in, 17they were asked to explain what they had written.

The Speech about Wine

The bodyguard who had written about the strength of wine spoke first: 18“Gentlemen,” he began, “wine is clearly the strongest thing in the world. It confuses the mind of everyone who drinks it. 19It has exactly the same effect on everyone: king or orphan, slave or free, rich or poor. 20It makes every thought happy and carefree, and makes one forget every sorrow and responsibility. 21It makes everyone feel rich, ignore the power of kings and officials, and talk as if he owned the whole world. 22When men drink wine, they forget who their friends and neighbours are, and then they are soon drawing their swords to fight them. 23Then, when they sober up, they don't remember what they have done. 24Gentlemen,” he finished by saying, “if wine makes men act in this way, it certainly must be the strongest thing in the world.”

4

The Speech about the Emperor

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.”

The Speech about Women

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.

The Speech about Truth

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!”

The Response

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

4.45:
Obad 10–14
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.

5

The List of Those Who Returned from Exile

(Ezra 2.1–70; Neh 7.4–73)

51After this, the heads of clans were chosen, tribe by tribe, to go to Jerusalem with their wives, children, slaves, and animals. 2Darius sent a thousand cavalry troops to escort them safely back to Jerusalem. 3He sent them off to the music of drums and flutes, while all their fellow-Israelites danced for joy.

4These are the names, by tribes, clans, and families, of the men who returned: 5Among the priests, descendants of Phinehas son of Aaron, was Joshua, son of Jozadak and grandson of Seraiah. He was accompanied by Zerubbabel,5.5 Probable text He was accompanied by Zerubbabel; Greek and Joakim son of Zerubbabel. who was the son of Shealtiel of the family of David, of the line of Perez, of the tribe of Judah. 6He was the one who had spoken the wise words before Darius, emperor of Persia. They left Babylon in the second year of his reign in Nisan, the first month.

7These are the Jewish men who returned from exile. Their families had been living in Babylonia since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 8They returned to Jerusalem and the rest of Judah, each to his own home town. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Resaiah, Eneneus, Mordecai, Beelsarus, Aspharasus, Reeliah, Rehum, and Baanah.

9-17aThe following is a list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned with their leaders from exile:

Parosh — 2,172

Shephatiah — 472

Arah — 756

Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) — 2,812

Elam — 1,254

Zattu — 945

Chorbe — 705

Bani — 648

Bebai — 623

Azgad — 1,322

Adonikam — 667

Bigvai — 2,066

Adin — 454

Ater (also called Hezekiah) — 92

Kilan and Azetas — 67

Azaru — 432

Annias — 101

Arom — …

Bezai — 323

Arsiphurith — 112

Baiterus — 3,005

17b-23People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:

Bethlehem — 123

Netophah — 55

Anathoth — 158

Beth Azmaveth — 42

Kiriath Jearim — 25

Chephirah and Beeroth — 743

The towns of the Chadiasans and the Ammidians — 422

Ramah and Geba — 621

Michmash — 122

Bethel — 52

Magbish — 156

The other Elam and Ono — 725

Jericho — 345

Senaah — 3,330

24-25The following is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:

Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua and Anasib) — 972

Immer — 1,052

Pashhur — 1,247

Harim — 1,017

26-28Clans of Levites who returned from exile:

Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bannas, and Sudias — 74

Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) — 128

Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) — 139

29-32Clans of Temple workmen who returned from exile:

Esau, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

Keros, Siaha, Padon,

Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,

Uthai, Ketab, Hagab,

Shamlai, Hanan, Cathua,

Geddur, Jairus, Daisan,

Noeba, Chaseba, Gazera,

Uzza, Phinoe, Asara,

Besai, Asnah, Meunim,

Nephisim, Akub, Hakupha,

Asur, Pharakim, Bazluth,

Mehida, Cutha, Charea,

Barkos, Sisera, Temah,

Neziah, Hatipha.

33-34Clans of Solomon's servants who returned from exile:

Hassophereth, Peruda, Jaalah,

Lozon, Giddel, Shephatiah,

Agia, Phochereth Hazzebaim,

Sarothie, Masiah, Gas,

Addus, Subas, Apherra,

Barodis, Shaphat, Adlon.

35The total number of descendants of the Temple workmen and of Solomon's servants who returned from exile was 372.

36-37There were 652 belonging to the clans of Delaiah (descendants of Tobiah) and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah and Tel Harsha, with their leaders Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but these could not prove that they were descendants of the Israelites.

38-39The following clans, who claimed to be priestly clans, could find no record to prove their ancestry: Habaiah, Hakkoz, Jaddus (the ancestor of the clan of Jaddus had married Agia, one of the daughters of Barzillai, and had taken the name of his father-in-law's clan). Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not allowed to function as priests. 40

5.40:
Num 27.1
Nehemiah the governor5.40 probable meaning the governor; Greek and Attharius. told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a High Priest who could use the Revelation and Truth.5.40 REVELATION AND TRUTH: This is the Greek translation of Urim and Thummin, two objects used by priests to determine God's will; it is not known precisely how they were used.

41-43The total number of Israelites (twelve years old or older, not counting servants) — 42,360

Male and female servants — 7,337

Male and female musicians — 245

Camels — 435

Horses — 7,036

Mules — 245

Donkeys — 5,525

44When the exiles arrived at the place of God's Temple in Jerusalem, some of the leaders of the clans took a vow to rebuild the Temple on its old site, to the best of their ability. 45They promised to contribute for the rebuilding and the service of the Temple 500 kilogrammes of gold, 2.5 tonnes of silver, and 100 robes for priests.

46

5.46:
1 Chr 9.2
Neh 11.3
The priests, the Levites, and some of the people settled in or near Jerusalem; the musicians and the Temple guards settled in nearby towns; and the rest of the Israelites settled in the towns where their ancestors had lived.

Worship Begins Again

(Ezra 3.1–6)

47By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. Then they all assembled in the open square in front of the first gate on the east side of the Temple area. 48Joshua son of Jehozadak, his fellow-priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, prepared the altar of the God of Israel, 49so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God. 50Some of the local people, even though they were stronger than the Jews and opposed to them, joined them5.50 Some ofjoined them; Greek unclear. in rebuilding the altar where it had stood before. Then the Jews began once again to burn the regular morning and evening sacrifices on the altar. 51They celebrated the Festival of Shelters, according to the regulations, each day offering the sacrifices required for that day. 52

5.52:
Num 28.11—29.39
They also offered the normal daily sacrifices, as well as those required for the Sabbath, the New Moon Festival, and the other regular assemblies for worship. 53Although the people had not yet rebuilt God's Temple, everyone who had made a vow to God began to offer sacrifices on the first day of the seventh month.

The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins

(Ezra 3.7–13)

54The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters; they gave food, drink, 55and carts to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar logs from Lebanon, which were to be floated to the harbour at Joppa. All this was done according to the orders given by Cyrus, emperor of Persia.

56-57So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they started the work and began laying the foundation. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their fellow-Israelites, the priests, and the Levites — in fact, all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. 58The Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Temple for the Lord. The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, his brother Kadmiel, the sons of Jeshua Emadabun, the sons of Joda son of Iliadun, and all their sons and relatives — in fact, all the Levites joined together to take charge of the rebuilding of the Temple.

While the workers were building the Temple of the Lord, 59

5.59–60:
1 Chr 25.1
the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets and other musical instruments in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals. 60They praised the Lord and gave thanks to him according to the instructions handed down from the time of King David. 61
5.61:
1 Chr 16.34
2 Chr 5.11–14
Ps 100.5
106.1
118.1
136.1
Jer 33.11
They sang psalms praising the Lord, repeating the refrain: “The goodness of the Lord and his glorious presence are with all Israel for ever.” 62All the people blew trumpets and shouted with all their might, praising the Lord because the Temple was being rebuilt. 63Some of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and when they came and saw the building of this Temple, they cried and wailed. 64Others who were there blew trumpets and shouted for joy. 65The crowd blew the trumpets so loudly that the blast could be heard far away, but no one near by could hear the blast of the trumpets because the sound made by those who were crying and wailing was so loud.

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

(Ezra 4.1–5)

66The enemies of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin heard the sound of the trumpets and came to see what it meant. 67

5.67–68:
2 Kgs 17.24–41
When they learnt that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, 68they went to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans, and said, “Let us join you in building the Temple. 69We worship the same Lord you worship and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Esarhaddon,5.69 ESARHADDON: Greek Asbasareth. emperor of Assyria, sent us here to live.”

70Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of clans said to them, “We don't need your help in building the Temple for the Lord our God. 71We will build it ourselves, just as Cyrus, emperor of Persia, commanded us.”

72Then the people who had been living in the land began to harass5.72 Probable text harass; Greek unclear. the Jews; they cut off their supplies and kept them from building. 73These people plotted, agitated, and rioted so much that they prevented the Temple from being completed during the reign of Cyrus. The work was halted until Darius became emperor, two years later.