Many years later, when Artaxerxes was emperor of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He traced his ancestors back to Aaron, the High Priest, as follows: Ezra was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah,
son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub,
son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth,
son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki,
son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron.
Ezra was a scholar with a thorough knowledge of the Law which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given to Moses. Because Ezra had the blessing of the LORD his God, the emperor gave him everything he asked for. In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, Ezra set out from Babylonia for Jerusalem with a group of Israelites which included priests, Levites, Temple musicians, Temple guards, and workers.
They left Babylonia on the first day of the first month, and with God's help they arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month.
Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel.
Emperor Artaxerxes gave the following document to Ezra, the priest and scholar, who had a thorough knowledge of the laws and commands which the LORD had given to Israel:
"From Emperor Artaxerxes to the priest Ezra, scholar in the Law of the God of Heaven.
"I command that throughout my empire all the Israelite people, priests, and Levites that so desire be permitted to go with you to Jerusalem.
I, together with my seven counselors, send you to investigate the conditions in Jerusalem and Judah in order to see how well the Law of your God, which has been entrusted to you, is being obeyed.
You are to take with you the gold and silver offerings which I and my counselors desire to give to the God of Israel, whose Temple is in Jerusalem.
You are also to take all the silver and gold which you collect throughout the province of Babylon and the offerings which the Israelite people and their priests give for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem.
"You are to spend this money carefully and buy bulls, rams, lambs, grain, and wine and offer them on the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem.
You may use the silver and gold that is left over for whatever you and your people desire, in accordance with the will of your God.
You are to present to God in Jerusalem all the utensils that have been given to you for use in the Temple services.
And anything else which you need for the Temple, you may get from the royal treasury.
"I command all the treasury officials in West-of-Euphrates Province to provide promptly for Ezra, the priest and scholar in the Law of the God of Heaven, everything he asks you for,
up to a limit of 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of olive oil, and as much salt as needed.
You must be careful to provide everything which the God of Heaven requires for his Temple, and so make sure that he is never angry with me or with those who reign after me.
You are forbidden to collect any taxes from the priests, Levites, musicians, guards, workers, or anyone else connected with this Temple.
"You, Ezra, using the wisdom which your God has given you, are to appoint administrators and judges to govern all the people in West-of-Euphrates who live by the Law of your God. You must teach that Law to anyone who does not know it.
If any disobey the laws of your God or the laws of the empire, they are to be punished promptly: by death or by exile or by confiscation of their property or by imprisonment."
Ezra said, "Praise the LORD, the God of our ancestors! He has made the emperor willing to honor in this way the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem.
By God's grace I have won the favor of the emperor, of his counselors, and of all his powerful officials; the LORD my God has given me courage, and I have been able to persuade many of the heads of the clans of Israel to return with me."
This is the list of the heads of the clans who had been in exile in Babylonia and who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem when Artaxerxes was emperor:
Gershom, of the clan of Phinehas; Daniel, of the clan of Ithamar; Hattush son of Shecaniah, of the clan of David; Zechariah, of the clan of Parosh, with 150 men of his clan (there were records of their family lines); Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, of the clan of Pahath Moab, with 200 men; Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, of the clan of Zattu, with 300 men; Ebed son of Jonathan, of the clan of Adin, with 50 men; Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, of the clan of Elam, with 70 men; Zebadiah son of Michael, of the clan of Shephatiah, with 80 men; Obadiah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Joab, with 218 men; Shelomith son of Josiphiah, of the clan of Bani, with 160 men; Zechariah son of Bebai, of the clan of Bebai, with 28 men; Johanan son of Hakkatan, of the clan of Azgad, with 110 men; Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, of the clan of Adonikam, with 60 men (they returned at a later date); Uthai and Zaccur, of the clan of Bigvai, with 70 men
I assembled the entire group by the canal that runs to the town of Ahava, and we camped there three days. I found that there were priests in the group, but no Levites.
I sent for nine of the leaders: Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, and for two teachers, Joiarib and Elnathan.
I sent them to Iddo, head of the community at Casiphia, to ask him and his associates, the Temple workers, to send us people to serve God in the Temple.
Through God's grace they sent us Sherebiah, an able man, a Levite from the clan of Mahli; and eighteen of his sons and brothers came with him.
They also sent Hashabiah and Jeshaiah of the clan of Merari, with twenty of their relatives.
In addition there were 220 Temple workers whose ancestors had been designated by King David and his officials to assist the Levites. They were all listed by name.
There by the Ahava Canal I gave orders for us all to fast and humble ourselves before our God and to ask him to lead us on our journey and protect us and our children and all our possessions.
I would have been ashamed to ask the emperor for a troop of cavalry to guard us from any enemies during our journey, because I had told him that our God blesses everyone who trusts him, but that he is displeased with and punishes anyone who turns away from him.
So we fasted and prayed for God to protect us, and he answered our prayers.
From among the leading priests I chose Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten others.
Then I weighed out the silver, the gold, and the utensils which the emperor, his advisers and officials, and the people of Israel had given to be used in the Temple, and I gave it to the priests.
This is what I gave them: silver - 25 tons; 100 silver utensils - 150 pounds; gold - 7,500 pounds; 20 gold bowls - 270 ounces; fine bronze bowls, equal in value to gold bowls
I said to them, "You are sacred to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and so are all the silver and gold utensils brought to him as freewill offerings.
Guard them carefully until you reach the Temple. There in the priests' rooms weigh them and turn them over to the leaders of the priests and of the Levites, and to the leaders of the people of Israel in Jerusalem."
So the priests and the Levites took charge of the silver, the gold, and the utensils, to take them to the Temple in Jerusalem.
It was on the twelfth day of the first month that we left the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. Our God was with us and protected us from enemy attacks and from ambush as we traveled.
When we reached Jerusalem, we rested three days.
Then on the fourth day we went to the Temple, weighed the silver, the gold, and the utensils, and turned them over to Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah. With him were Eleazar son of Phinehas and two Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui.
Everything was counted and weighed, and a complete record was made at the same time.
All those who had returned from exile then brought offerings to be burned as sacrifices to the God of Israel. They offered 12 bulls for all Israel, 96 rams, and 77 lambs; they also offered 12 goats to purify themselves from sin. All these animals were burned as sacrifices to the LORD.
They also took the document the emperor had given them and gave it to the governors and officials of West-of-Euphrates Province, who then gave their support to the people and the Temple worship.
One day when Jesus was in the Temple teaching the people and preaching the Good News, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, together with the elders, came
and said to him, "Tell us, what right do you have to do these things? Who gave you such right?"
Jesus answered them, "Now let me ask you a question. Tell me,
did John's right to baptize come from God or from human beings?"
They started to argue among themselves, "What shall we say? If we say, 'From God,' he will say, 'Why, then, did you not believe John?'
But if we say, 'From human beings,' this whole crowd here will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet."
So they answered, "We don't know where it came from."
And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you, then, by what right I do these things."
Then Jesus told the people this parable: "There was once a man who planted a vineyard, rented it out to tenants, and then left home for a long time.
When the time came to gather the grapes, he sent a slave to the tenants to receive from them his share of the harvest. But the tenants beat the slave and sent him back without a thing.
So he sent another slave; but the tenants beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him back without a thing.
Then he sent a third slave; the tenants wounded him, too, and threw him out.
Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my own dear son; surely they will respect him!'
But when the tenants saw him, they said to one another, 'This is the owner's son. Let's kill him, and his property will be ours!'
So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to the tenants?" Jesus asked.
"He will come and kill those men, and turn the vineyard over to other tenants." When the people heard this, they said, "Surely not!"
Jesus looked at them and asked, "What, then, does this scripture mean? 'The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all.'
Everyone who falls on that stone will be cut to pieces; and if that stone falls on someone, that person will be crushed to dust."
The teachers of the Law and the chief priests tried to arrest Jesus on the spot, because they knew that he had told this parable against them; but they were afraid of the people.
So they looked for an opportunity. They bribed some men to pretend they were sincere, and they sent them to trap Jesus with questions, so that they could hand him over to the authority and power of the Roman Governor.
These spies said to Jesus, "Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is right. We know that you pay no attention to anyone's status, but teach the truth about God's will for people.
Tell us, is it against our Law for us to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, or not?"
But Jesus saw through their trick and said to them,
"Show me a silver coin. Whose face and name are these on it?" "The Emperor's," they answered.
So Jesus said, "Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God."
There before the people they could not catch him in a thing, so they kept quiet, amazed at his answer.
Then some Sadducees, who say that people will not rise from death, came to Jesus and said,
"Teacher, Moses wrote this law for us: 'If a man dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man's brother must marry the widow so that they can have children who will be considered the dead man's children.'
Once there were seven brothers; the oldest got married and died without having children.
Then the second one married the woman,
and then the third. The same thing happened to all seven---they died without having children.
Last of all, the woman died.
Now, on the day when the dead rise to life, whose wife will she be? All seven of them had married her."
Jesus answered them, "The men and women of this age marry,
but the men and women who are worthy to rise from death and live in the age to come will not then marry.
They will be like angels and cannot die. They are the children of God, because they have risen from death.
And Moses clearly proves that the dead are raised to life. In the passage about the burning bush he speaks of the Lord as 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'
He is the God of the living, not of the dead, for to him all are alive."
Some of the teachers of the Law spoke up, "A good answer, Teacher!"
For they did not dare ask him any more questions.
Jesus asked them, "How can it be said that the Messiah will be the descendant of David?
For David himself says in the book of Psalms, 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit here at my right side
until I put your enemies as a footstool under your feet.'
David called him 'Lord'; how, then, can the Messiah be David's descendant?"
As all the people listened to him, Jesus said to his disciples,
"Be on your guard against the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplace; who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts;
who take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers! Their punishment will be all the worse!"