If you’re in the mood for gripping tales of bureaucratic correspondence and exciting tales of… writing letters… man, have I got the book for you.
So here it gets a bit weird, and by weird, I mean a bit racist.
Remember back in 2 Kings how the Assyrians brought in some new people and had them settle in what was Israel and how since they didn’t know how to worship God properly, God sent some frickin’ lions to eat them? So they got some Levites to come back to the land and teach them how to worship Yahweh?
Well, Yahweh worship has apparently continued among the descendants of these people, so when they hear the Judeans are rebuilding the Temple, they send envoys down to Judah and say, “Hey, we’d like to help out too, since we seek the Lord and have been sacrificing critters and worshipping him for decades now.”
And the Jews say, “Hey, cool! Let’s sit down and talk some theology and maybe get you guys circumcised and converted!”
Ha ha… no…
Joshua and Zerubabbel tell them to piss off because they’re foreigners.
The new Israelites don’t take that well, so they start causing the Jews trouble with the government by bribing officials and bad mouthing them.
So Cyrus dies, and the Persians go through a few kings, and the author here actually gets the timeline for these kings wrong. The author has the new Israelites accusing the Jews of sedition first during the reign of Xerxes (the guy from 300), and then sending a letter accusing the Jews of planning sedition during the reign of Xerxes’ son Artaxerxes and says that construction on the Temple was halted until the second year of the reign of Darius.
But the actual Persian line of succession was Cyrus, Cambyses, Bardiya, Darius, then Xerxes, then Artxerxes. There was a Darius the Second several generations later, but I doubt the author meant him as that would place the construction of the Temple far too late.
Anyway, the Temple work is stopped and I think the lesson here is that if your neighbor drops by and offers to help you with your building project, don’t tell him to “Sod off…” and if your neighbor does tell you sod off after you offer him help, just call him a jackass and let it go.
So the Jews are encouraged by Haggai and Zachariah to rebuild the Temple, so they start the work again. And the governor hears of it, and goes down to Judah and asks them who authorized them to start building.
The governor writes to Darius about the matter and relays the Jews’ answer that Cyrus authorized the work, and the governor asks Darius to check the royal archives for a copy of the decree ordering the Temple rebuilt.
Darius has the archives checked and writes back:
Yes, Cyrus ordered the Temple rebuilt. Stop messing the Jews. In fact, give them whatever they need as requested by their priests.
If anyone ignores this order, a timber will be cut from their house and they will be impaled on it.
(Like I said last time, the Persians did not screw around with disobedience.)
The governor gets the letter and carries out Darius’ orders. The Judeans finish building the Temple and they offer sacrifices to God and restore the priesthood, then they hold a Passover celebration.