Summary: Sermon 13 in the series. God simply cannot be placed in a box. When He so chooses, He can use pagan kings to accomplish His will and His plan for Israel. In a letter preserved for us, not in Hebrew, but in the Aramaic, we have the word for word decree of
The Book of Ezra
The Preaching Pagan: Artaxerxes
• Between the events of chapter 6 and the return of Ezra in chapter 7 is a period of fifty-seven years.
• The entire book of Esther fits between these chapters.
• We now find ourselves at a point of transition.
• Although the people had re-established the Temple worship under Zerubbabel and Jeshua, they were not living in complete obedience to the Law.
• Unfortunately, they had lapsed into sin; and it was Ezra’s task to bring them back to the Lord.
• It was to the task of teaching and preaching the Law that Ezra had resigned himself (vs. 10). (Wiersbe and KJV Bible commentary)
• Last week we studied the way the Ezra had prepared himself for leadership and the Lord’s blessings.
NOTE: Verses 12 to 28 have been preserved for us in Aramaic, not Hebrew. We can by this have confidence that we have an exact copy of the very letter of Artaxerxes.
I. THE DECREE OF ARTAXERXES (1-26)
A. THE PERMISSION (11-14)
Ezra 7:11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel.  Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.  I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.  Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors,
• Evidently, Ezra worked for the King.
• He is called both priest and scribe.
• The permission is needed so that he may be absent from his job.
• Also that he might take others with him,
• And so that he will have protection from anyone that will stop him along the journey.
NOTE: Seven Counselors. These were the supreme court of the land. (Cf., Esther 1:14)
Esther 1:14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)
B. THE PROVISION (15-22)
1. The Receiving of the Funds (15-16,19-22)
NOTE: There are FOUR (4) SOURCES OF FUNDS.
a. From the King (15) (and His Counselors)
 And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
b. From the Neighbors (16) (Freewill offerings of the neighbors in Babylon)
 And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:
• This would include the Jews as well as those gentiles who respected the Jews.
• Remember, only a small portion of the Jews went home under Zerubabbel.
c. The vessels (19)