1 Ezra 2:12-4:42
12 But Bishlam, Mithridates, Tabeel, Rehum, Beltethmus, Shimshai the scribe, and the other members of their council, as well as those living in Samaria and other places, wrote a letter to Artaxerxes during the time he was king of the Persians. They wrote it against those dwelling in Judea and Jerusalem, inscribed as follows:
13 “To King Artaxerxes our lord from your servants Rehum the recorder, and Shimshai the scribe, and the other members of their council, and the judges in Coelesyria and Phoenicia: 14 Let it now be known to our lord the king that the Jews who came up from you to us went to Jerusalem to build the rebellious and evil city. They are restoring both its marketplaces and its walls and are laying a foundation for a temple. 15 If therefore this city is built and its walls completed, they will not continue to pay tribute but will also resist kings. 16 Since work is being done on the temple, we assume it best not to overlook such a matter, but to address our lord the king, that if it seems appropriate to you, this may be researched in the books of your forefathers. 17 For you will find the record of these things in the archives. You will learn that this city was rebellious and troubled both kings and cities, and that the Jews themselves are rebels. They formed military blockades in it from ancient times, which is the reason the city itself was destroyed. 18 Therefore we now make known to you, O lord our king, that if this city is built and its walls restored, you will no longer have access to Coelesyria and Phoenicia.”
19 Then the king wrote back to Rehum the recorder, to Beltethmus, to Shimshai the scribe, to the other members of their council, and to those dwelling in Samaria, Syria, and Phoenicia. He inscribed his letter as follows:
20 “I read the letter you sent to me. 21 So I commanded a search to be made. It was discovered that this city from ancient times stood in hostile array against kings, that the people within it perpetrated rebellion and war, 22 that mighty and fierce kings were ruling in Jerusalem and levying tributes from Coelesyria and Phoenicia. 23 Therefore I have now imposed orders to prevent those men from building the city, 24 to be careful not to do anything contrary to this order, and to do nothing to cause trouble for kings.”
25 After they read the letter from King Artaxerxes, Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and the other members of their council went speedily to Jerusalem. They departed with cavalry and a large number of armed soldiers formed in battle array and began to hinder the builders. 26 So the building of the temple in Jerusalem became idle until the second year of the reign of Darius king of the Persians.
The Three Young Guards
1 Now King Darius put on a great banquet for all his subjects, for his entire household, and for all the nobles of Media and Persia. 2 He also invited all the satraps, commanders, and governors under him throughout the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces extending from India to Ethiopia. 3 They ate and drank, and when they were satisfied they returned home. As for King Darius, he returned to his bedchamber and slept, but awoke.
4 Then the three young men who were attending the king as bodyguards said one to the other, 5 “Let each of us speak one strong saying, and whichever saying of ours seems to be the strongest, King Darius will give him great gifts and a feast in his honor. 6 He will be dressed in purple, drink from gold cups, and sleep in a gold bed. He will have a chariot with a gold-studded bridle, a turban of fine linen, and a gold necklace around his neck. 7 Because of his wisdom he will sit second to Darius and will be addressed as kinsman of Darius.”
8 So each one then wrote down his saying, sealed it, and placed it under the pillow of King Darius. They said, 9 “When the king awakens, they will give the writings to him and the one whose saying the king and the three nobles of Persia may judge the wisest, the victory shall be given to him, as it is written.”
Which Is Strongest?
10 The first one wrote, “Wine is the strongest.” 11 The second wrote, “The king is the strongest.” 12 The third wrote, “Women are the strongest, but above all things the truth conquers.”
13 So when the king was awakened, he took the writings they gave to him, and he read them. 14 Then he sent forth and invited all the nobles of Persia and Media and the satraps, commanders, governors, and highest officials. He took his place in the seat of judgment, and the writings were read in their presence. 15 He said, “Call the young men, and they will clarify their sayings.” So they were summoned and came in. 16 They said to them, “Interpret for us the sayings you wrote.”
The Strength of Wine
17 So the first, who spoke about the strength of wine, began and said thus: 18 “Men, how is wine the strongest? It leads astray the mind of all who drink it. 19 It makes a single mind of both the king and the orphan, of the servant and the freeman, and of the poor man and the rich man. 20 It turns every mind to feasting and gladness, and it does not remember any pain or any debt. 21 Wine makes all hearts rich, does not remember a king or satrap, and makes everyone talk in big money terms. 22 When men drink, they do not remember to act as a friend to friends, and after a short while they draw swords. 23 But when they become sober, they do not remember what they did. 24 O men, is not wine the strongest because it forces us to do such things?” So he spoke in this way and then became silent.
The Strength of the King
1 Then the second, who talked about the strength of the king, began to speak: 2 “O men, has not man prevailed on land and sea, becoming the master of them and everything in them? 3 But the king is strong and rules over these, for he is their master; whatever he commands them they obey. 4 If he commands one to make war on the other, they do it. If he sends them out against enemies, they go and subdue mountains, walls, and towers. 5 They kill and are killed, but the word of the king is not transgressed. If they conquer, they bring everything to the king—whatever they forage or anything else. 6 But those who do not serve as soldiers nor wage war, but cultivate the land, they too bring to the king whatever they sow and harvest. They also compel one another to pay taxes to the king. 7 Although he is only one man, yet if he says to kill, they kill; if he says to spare, they spare. 8 If he says to smite, they smite; if he says to destroy, they destroy; if he says to build, they build. 9 If he says to cut down, they cut down; if he says to plant, they plant. 10 So all his people and his army listen to him. 11 In addition to these things, he reclines—he eats, he drinks, he rests—while they keep watch around him. Nobody can leave to do his own business, nor do they disobey him. 12 O men, in what is the king not strong, since he is so carefully obeyed?” Then he kept silent.
The Strength of Women
13 Then the third, who had spoken about women and the truth and whose name was Zerubbabel, began to speak: 14 “Men, is not the king great, and men many, and wine strong? Who then rules them, or who is their master? Is it not women? 15 Women gave birth to the king and to all the people who rule over sea and land. 16 They came to exist from women, and women reared those who plant the vineyards from which the wine comes. 17 Women also make men’s clothing and bring glory to men. Indeed, men could not exist without women.
18 “Moreover, if men are gathering gold, silver, or anything beautiful, but see one woman who looks good in form and beauty, 19 they drop everything and gape at her, and with mouths wide open they stare at her. They all choose her rather than gold, silver, or any beautiful thing. 20 Yes, a man will even forsake his own father who reared him and his own country so as to cleave to his own wife. 21 He will live out his life and not even remember father, mother, or country. 22 From all this, you should realize that women rule over you!
“Do you not work hard and grow weary with toil, then bring it and give it all to women? 23 Furthermore, a man will put on his sword and go forth to rob, steal, and sail the sea and rivers. 24 He will stalk a lion and walk in darkness, and when he steals, whatever he takes and pillages he will bring back to his beloved. 25 For a man dearly loves his own wife more than his father or mother. 26 Yes, many men have lost all sense and even become slaves because of their wives. 27 Many have perished, stumbled, or sinned because of their wives.
28 “Do you not believe me now? Is the king not great in his authority? Are not all the countries moved with fear to touch him? 29 Yet I saw him with Apame, the king’s concubine and the daughter of the admirable Bartacus. She sat at the king’s right hand, 30 removed the crown from the king’s head, and put it on her own. She also struck the king with her left hand. 31 At this, the king gaped at her with his mouth wide open. When she smiled at him he laughed, and when he exasperated her, he flattered her that she might be reconciled with him. 32 O men, in what way are women not strong, since they do such things?”
The Strongest Is Truth
33 Then the king and the nobles looked at one another, 34 and Zerubbabel began to speak about the truth: “Men, are not women strong? The earth is great, heaven is high, and the sun is swift in its course, for it revolves around heaven in a circle and returns again to its place in one day. 35 Is not He great who made all things? For His truth is great and stronger than all things. 36 All the earth summons the truth, and heaven blesses it; for all His works shake with fear and tremble, and there is nothing unjust with Him. 37 But wine is unjust, the king is unjust, women are unjust, all the children of the men and their works are unjust, and all such things are unjust; for there is no truth in them. So they will perish in their injustice.
38 “But the truth abides and is strong forever. The truth lives and rules unto ages of ages. 39 There is no partiality or prejudice with the truth, but it does righteous things, distinct from all wrongdoings and evil. All are pleased with its deeds, and there is nothing unjust in its judgment. 40 For strength, dominion, authority, and majesty belong to it unto all ages, and blessed is the God of truth.”
41 So he stopped speaking, and all the people then cried aloud and said, “Great is the truth, for it is the strongest!” 42 Then the king said to him, “Ask what you will, and let it be more than what is written; for we will give it to you, inasmuch as you were found to be the wisest. You will also sit next to me and be called my kinsman.”
1 An ode of ascents; by David.
Behold now, what is so good or so pleasant
As for brothers to dwell together in unity?
2 It is like fragrant oil running down upon the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down upon the border of his garment;
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, running down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing
And life forever.
1 An ode of ascents.
Behold now, bless the Lord,
All you servants of the Lord,
Who stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God.
2 In the nights, lift up your hands to the holy of holies
And bless the Lord.
3 May the Lord bless you from Zion,
He who made heaven and earth.
21 He who works his own land shall be satisfied with bread,
But he who pursues leisure shall be filled with poverty.
22 A trustworthy man shall be blessed in many things,
But an evil man shall not go unpunished.
23 He who does not respect righteous people is not good;
Such a man will sell another for a morsel of bread.
24 An envious man hastens to be rich,
But does not know that a merciful man shall have the mastery over him.
25 He who reproves a man’s ways
Shall have more grace than he who flatters him.
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”
27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
It Is Finished
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”
29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.
33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”
37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
Jesus Buried in Joseph’s Tomb
(Matt. 27:57–61; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56)
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.
39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.