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©Clay Eldridge

Chapter 7:11-26 (ESV)

Posted on October 17, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 7:11-26 (ESV) - This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel: “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king's treasury.

“And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.

“And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

Question to consider: Why would Artaxerxes treat the people of Israel in this manner?

When the people of Israel were expelled from their land and brought into captivity in Babylon, God spoke through the prophet, Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

God may have used Babylon as His instrument of judgment against Israel, but at the completion of their time of judgment, God used Babylon once again as His instrument of their blessing. Had Israel not sought the welfare of Babylon as God commanded, this day would never have arrived.

Artaxerxes would not have personally witnessed the power of God like Nebuchadnezzar or Darius the Mede (not to be confused with Darius the Great), but with the historical record of this God, and the knowledge that this God was not above judging His own people, let alone His enemies, he did not wish to become an enemy of God. I also have to think that the Magi would have advised the king about the power of God having served under Daniel for so many years. Daniel had a far-reaching impact on this group of Persian king-makers, for almost 500 years later, there would still be a group of them who would be led to a young couple outside of Bethlehem to give gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to a young child Daniel prophesied would be king of kings and lord of lords.

In this letter, Artaxerxes gave an open decree for the rest of Israel to return to their homeland with the means necessary to thrive and with his blessing to judge according to the Law of God. If Israel had not been a blessing to their captors, Artaxerxes never would have felt confident that he was investing in the future of a country who would prosper and extend his empire through peace.

Not only would they be blessed by the king, but there would be a freewill offering given by the people of Babylon who knew them. Like the Israelite captives, we are aliens and strangers in the land, for our kingdom is not of this world. In the same manner, we should seek the welfare of the countries in which we live as good citizens who bless our neighbors. Like the Israelite captives, we have the promise of Christ that we will one day be reunited with Him who prepares a place for us in His kingdom. 


Dear heavenly Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us and hold on to the hope You have given to us in Christ that we will one day dwell with You in the kingdom of heaven. As far as it depends on us, help us to seek peace and preserve it as we tell others of the righteousness of Christ offered to them. Amen.