How the Jews Returned to Their Land

Three times the Babylonians carried groups of Jews away to captivity. And three times groups of Jews returned to their own land. Seventy years after the first Jews were taken to Babylon, the Medes and the Persians fought against the Babylonians, defeating them, and captured all the countries they ruled. Then their king Cyrus gave an order that the Jews who wanted to could return to their own country and that when they got there, they should rebuild the temple of God.

So around 50,000 people returned to the land of Judah. There the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest they rebuilt the altar of burnt offerings where the temple had been and began the daily sacrifices, every morning and evening. The next spring they began to lay the foundation for a new temple. But when the people from Samaria heard that the Jews were rebuilding the temple they tried to get them to stop working on it. Finally the Jews stopped rebuilding the temple. Sixteen years later the Lord sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to tell the people to start work on the temple again. They did so and four years later they finished it and dedicated the new temple.

Sixty years later a priest named Ezra led a second group of Jews back to Jerusalem. They brought with them much silver and gold for the temple. Because Ezra had told the king how great God was, he was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to guard the silver and gold. So before they left, for three days, the Jews fasted and prayed for God to protect them. The Lord did give them a safe trip. They covered the 900 miles to Jerusalem in four months. When they got to Jerusalem, Ezra taught the people more about the law of God.

Thirteen years later a man named Nehemiah was cup bearer to the Persian king. When some Jews came from Jerusalem and told him that the city walls had still not been rebuilt, he was very sad. When the king noticed it, he asked, "Why are you so sad? You aren't sick; you must be unhappy." Nehemiah said, "How can I keep from looking sad when the city of my ancestors has still not been rebuilt?" So the king said, "What do you want?" Nehemiah prayed silently to God and then said, "Let me go to the land of Judah and rebuild the city." So the king sent him to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The king made him governor of Judah and soldiers went with him to Jerusalem. There he called the leaders of the people together and told them how God had let him come to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city. So all the people began work on the walls. Most of them worked on a section near their own house. Again the Samaritans tried to get them to stop, but they continued to work. Under Nehemiah's leadership they repaired the walls and gates around the city in less than two months. Nehemiah continued as governor for twelve years. Nehemiah and Ezra led the Jews in becoming a respected people once again.

Not many years after this, the prophet Malachi wrote his book. It was the last book of the Old Testament, written four hundred years before the birth of Jesus. In it God said, "I will send my messenger to prepare the way for me." It ending by saying, "Before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah." This messenger Elijah was not the old Prophet Elijah come again, but a new prophet talking about John the Baptist. Four hundred years later he came to prepare the way for Jesus!

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