Daily Bible Radio

The Decree of Artaxerxes

Ezra 7:11-20 :

Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even the scribe of the words of Yahweh’s commandments, and of his statutes to Israel:

Artaxerxes, king of kings,

To Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the perfect God of heaven.
Now I make a decree, that all those of the people of Israel, and their priests and the Levites, in my realm, who intend of their own free will to go to Jerusalem, go with you. Because you are sent by the king and his seven counselors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your hand, and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem, and all the silver and gold that you will find in all the province of Babylon, with the free will offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem; therefore you shall with all diligence buy with this money bulls, rams, lambs, with their meal offerings and their drink offerings, and shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. Whatever seems good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do that according to the will of your God. The vessels that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver before the God of Jerusalem. Whatever more will be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to give, give it out of the king’s treasure house.

It is astounding to read words like these from the Persian king Artaxerxes. It shows that God was moving the heart of yet another Iranian ruler. The way that Artaxerxes speaks of Ezra in his letter, leads me to believe that Ezra was not only highly respected in the kings court, but that he was an amazing teacher. This foreign ruler understood many things about God. He knew that God had set apart Israel as a special people, he knew that the family of the Levites were to do the work of God. He knew that God required bulls, rams and lambs as well as drink offerings. Above all, Artaxerxes called God "the perfect God of heaven." We know that Ezra liked to refer to God as "the God of Heaven" so there is a good chance that the king learned this from Ezra himself.

This king had also learned to fear God because he, like the kings before him, decreed that all who were able should give gifts to God for Ezra and his company to take to the temple. He specified that after the animals and gifts were received, they should take anything more that they think they need out of the king's own treasure house.

Even though Artaxerxes made this decree, it wasn't clear that he chose to personally obey the God of heaven. I understand that history describes him as a vicious ruler. This tells me that God can use the Bible and the voice of a believer to influence those who don't even believe yet. We can take courage in the fact that the God who loves us, can do anything He decides to do, no matter what the people around us are like.

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