The Third Return of Israel
Artahshashta, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a perfect scribe of the law of the Elah of heaven. And now, I make a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my reign, who volunteer to go up to Yerushalayim, go with you. Since you are being sent by the king and his seven counsellors to inquire about Yehudah and Yerushalayim, with regard to the law of your Elah which is in your hand; and to bring the silver and gold which the sovereign and his counsellors have voluntarily given to the Elah of Israel, whose dwelling is in Yerushalayim, and all the silver and gold that you find in all the province of Bavel, along with the gift of the people and the priests, voluntarily given for the House of their Elah in Yerushalayim, therefore, with this silver promptly buy bulls, rams, lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the House of your Elah in Yerushalayim. And whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the desire of your Elah. And the utensils that are given to you for the service of the House of your Elah, put back before the Elah of Yerushalayim. And the rest of the needs for the House of your Elah, which falls to you to give, give from the sovereign’s treasure-house. And I, I Artahshashta the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers who are beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the Elah of heaven, does ask of you, let it be done promptly, up to one hundred talents of silver, and up to one hundred kors of wheat, and up to one hundred baths of wine, and up to one hundred baths of oil, and salt without reckoning. Whatever is commanded by the Elah of heaven, let it be diligently done for the House of the Elah of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the reign of the sovereign and his sons? We further inform you that there is no authority to impose tax, excise, or toll on any of the priests and Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, and servants of this House of Elah. And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your Elah that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people who are beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your Elah. And teach those who do not know them. And whoever does not do the law of your Elah and the law of the sovereign, let judgment be promptly executed on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment. Blessed be Yehovah Elohim of our fathers, who has put this in the sovereign’s heart, to embellish the House of Yehovah which is in Yerushalayim, (Ezr 7:12-27)
In the reign of King Artahshashta (King Xerxes, son of Dareyavesh, per Antiq 11:5:1), Ezra left Babylon with some exile (but 40,000 according to the tradition) on the first day of the first month in the king’s seventh year (3507) and arrived in Yerushalayim on the first day of the fifth month same year (1Es_8:5-6, Ezr_7:6-9) thus having travelled four months from Babylon to Yehudah caring gold and silver needed for the Temple; they travelled without any escort (Ezr_8:21-36).
The chronology of the third exile clearly indicates that the king’s edict to beautify the Temple (Ezr_7:12-27) was not issued in his seventh year as many support this view, because Ezra left Babylon on the first day of the first month in the seventh year, but sometime close to end of the sixth year of the king. Ezra arrived in Yerushalayim in the seventh year to find that the Yehudim had married pagan wives. He got all Yehudim together to examine the matter in the first day of the tenth month that year and the problem was solved in the first day of the first month of the eight year of the king (1Es_9:16-17).
Per Antiq 11:5:5 and 1Es_9:36-52, but not found anywhere in Tanak, Ezra read publicly Torah in the first day of the seventh month (that would be Yom Teruah) in the eight year of King Artahshashta before all people, men and women, indicating that (1) that could have been a year of release, or (2) there was a necessity for that particular Torah reading concerning the incident with the pagan wives.
Ezra was a scribe skilled in Torah and apparently knew when YHVH had set the Sabbath years in the reign of Hizqiyahu’s fourteenth year and Tsidqiyahu’s eleventh year and having applied his understanding of reckoning of time desired to set the public reading of Torah to take place in a Sabbath year. In the pre-exilic period Yehudah had not observed the Sabbath years at all. However, after the return and being aware that the Sabbath year had past (see Jubilees Table), nevertheless, Ezra was jealous to obey Torah and the law of the Sabbath of the land in particular.
Upon his arrival in Yerushalayim in the seventh year of the king (which we will see later was Jubilee), he unexpectedly encountered the problem with the pagan wives; Ezra postponed the reading for the next year (the eighth year of the king) because in his zealousness to obey Torah he could not have done this in the presence of that apostasy. His motive probably was to solve the problem with the pagan wives first before the Torah reading. The incidents with the pagan wives were solved in the first day of the first month of the eighth year (1Es_9:5-17, Ezr_10:9-17) and he read Torah in the first day of the seventh month. Therefore, the reason for the reading of the Torah was not that that year was a year of release, i.e. Sabbatical. Moreover, Deu_31:10-12 states that the Torah is to be read during the Feast of the Tabernacles, Sukkot, while Ezra read it on Yom Teruah.