The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Esdras
Now turn we to the reign of Artaxerxes in Persia, and to Esdras. This Esdras was descended through Saraias, Helcias,
Sellum, Sadoc, Achitob,
Amarias, Azarias, Maraioth,
Zarahias, Ozi, Bocci,
Abisue, Phinees and Eleazar from Aaron, that was the first priest of all.
He was a scribe, well versed in the law given to Israel by the Lord God through Moses; and now he came from Babylon armed, under God’s favour, with all the powers he had asked from the king.
Some of the common folk made the journey to Jerusalem with him, as well as priests, Levites, singers, door-keepers and Nathinaeans. This was in the seventh year of king Artaxerxes;
they reached Jerusalem in the fifth month of this seventh year,
on the first day of the month, after leaving Babylon on the first day of the first month, such was the favour God shewed him.
His was a heart given up to study of the Lord’s law, ready to hold fast by it and teach the men of Israel decree and award.
Here is a copy of the letter Artaxerxes sent with him, addressed to, The priest Esdras, a scribe well versed in the Lord’s utterances, all the commands and observances he enjoined upon Israel.
Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Esdras, a scribe most learned in the law of the God of heaven, health and greeting.
My will is, that any Israelite, priest or Levite who desires it should have leave to accompany thee to Jerusalem.
Thou art commissioned by the king and his seven counsellors to visit Juda and Jerusalem in the name of that divine law thou carriest with thee,
and to convey thither such silver and gold as the king and his council are sending to the God who dwells there, the God of Israel, as their own free gift.
Whatever silver and gold in all Babylon is at thy disposal, all that is willingly offered by people and priests for the temple of their God at Jerusalem,
thou art free to accept; and so with all thy diligence buy calf and ram and lamb and all the offerings and libations that go with them, gifts, when you reach Jerusalem, for the temple of your God.
Use what remains of the sum as thou and thy brethren, in obedience to the will of your God, shall see fit.
There at Jerusalem, in the presence of thy God, consecrate those appurtenances of his worship thou hast with thee.
All else thou must needs spend upon thy God’s house shall be defrayed by the treasury and the royal purse, at my own cost.
King Artaxerxes to all that have charge of the royal revenues beyond Euphrates; My will and decree is, that if the priest Esdras, a scribe of the God of heaven, demands any payment of you, it should be made without more ado;
so long as this payment does not exceed a hundred talents of silver, two hundred quarters of wheat, or six hundred and fifty gallons of oil; for salt, there is no limit prescribed.
What the God of heaven needs for his temple worship, the God of heaven must receive; let there be no remissness, that may call down his vengeance on the king, and the king’s heirs.
We make it known to you further that priests, Levites, singers, door-keepers, Nathinaeans, and other persons ministering in the temple of this God, are exempt from all tax, toll and custom of your imposing.
It is for thee, Esdras, who dost carry with thee the wise precepts of thy God, to appoint judges and magistrates, that will try the causes of all such persons beyond the river as are acquainted with thy God’s law; and such as do not know it, you may instruct freely.
If anyone neglects to observe that law, or the king’s law either, these judges shall have power to pronounce sentence on him of death, exile, confiscation of his goods, or imprisonment.
Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, that moved the king so to honour his temple at Jerusalem,
and deigned so to aid me when king and councillor and noble gave me audience! My task lightened by such favour shewn me, I set about finding men of name in Israel to bear me company.
The Holy Bible