Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
LXXVII. (1) About this time Darius, King of Media, was taken very ill, and, being about to die, he called Cyrus, King of Persia, his son-in-law, his daughter's husband, and made him king in his stead, so that the kingdoms of Media and Persia were united into one; and when Darius the Mode was gathered to his people, Cyrus reigned over Media and Persia and the remainder of the country. He then issued a proclamation in all his kingdom, saying, 'Whoever of you among the people of the Lord God of heaven is willing to go up to Jerusalem to the footstool of the great and mighty God, to build His house and His temple which the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, who was more wicked than all his predecessors, overthrew, let him go up and assist in the building, and may His God be with everyone whose heart prompts him to do so. And I, Cyrus, servant of the living God, who set me upon this throne, shall provide from my riches and my treasury all the wants of the house of this mighty God who made me King of Media and Persia, and who assisted me to destroy the kingdom of the Chaldeans.'
(2) Thus all the elders of the captivity, Ezra the scribe, Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah, with the other chiefs of the captivity and the priests, went up to Jerusalem and built the temple of God and His altar, and arranged the wood and placed the flesh of sacrifice upon the altar. (3) Then they lifted up their voices and wept, while Ezra and Nehemiah, with the other chiefs of the captivity, prayed to God, and said: 'O Lord of the whole universe, Thou hast put it into the heart of the King of Persia to do honour to Thy house, and to send Thy servants and priests to make sacrifices to Thee and to offer Thy burnt-offerings as Thy servants, our pious forefathers, did before Thee. Behold we, also Thy servants, have come to this place, and have rebuilt Thy altar after the same pattern, and we offer sacrifices to Thee, and arrange the wood beneath the burnt-offering. But how can it be pleasing to Thee, O God, seeing that we offer strange fire, for the holy fire is no more, since it has been hidden by Jeremiah the prophet, Thy servant, and the other chiefs of the captivity whom Nebuchadnezzar sent into exile. What shall we do, O God of heaven? Give us counsel and help, for to Thee belongs dominion, to help us and to strengthen our hands.'
(4) Now, it happened while they were praying to the Lord in this wise, a very old man about 100 years of age, belonging to those priests who were exiled in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, was heard calling. Being rather deaf through old age, he summoned his six sons before him, and said, 'O my sons, if I have found favour in your eyes, carry me near the altar and place me opposite it that I may inhale the sweet-smelling frankincense of the altar, for I have not been deemed worthy of that pleasure for many years now. Let your kindness be extended to me that ye may hearken to me this once, that I may be enabled to smell it once more before I die. Ye shall be rewarded by the holy God, for I have been a great burden to you.'
(5) His sons forthwith carried him into the midst of the assembled priests opposite the altar. When he heard the
noise of the multitude and the priests crying to God for the holy fire, the old man said to his sons, 'What ails the people that they cry?' And they replied, 'The priests are seeking the holy fire which is no longer to be found, as it has been hidden from them.' 'Carry me, then, near the priests and the heads of the fathers, and I shall tell them where it is, and where Jeremiah the prophet and the other priests who went into exile had concealed it.' (6) His sons carried him in the midst of the chiefs of the fathers, who asked him about it, and he told them where it was. Then, carrying the old man, and crossing the Brook of Kedron and the Valley of Hinnom, they ascended Mount Olives; and during their descent, when they faced the valley in the plain, the old man showed them a large stone sunk in the earth. Digging up the dust round about the stone, they rolled the stone away, and removing the lime beneath it, they opened the pit.
(7) Then said he to the young priests, 'Descend thither and take the fire, for there it was placed.' He repeated his command, whereupon they descended, and found there at the bottom of the pit something like the lees of oil, and like mud and honey. When they related this to Ezra and the priests, they replied, 'Bring up whatever ye find, and no stranger touch you until ye come to the altar. Then place what ye have carried away upon the altar, upon the burnt-offering, and upon the wood.' They went down and did as they were commanded; (8) and as soon as they did this a great fire suddenly burnt upon the altar, and grew into such huge flames that the priests and the people fled from before it, for they could not endure it. It licked the burnt-offering, and, travelling round the temple, cleansed it, after which it got considerably smaller, so that it remained only on the altar, as usual. From that day thenceforward a continual fire burnt upon the altar, as they placed the wood regularly upon it until the second captivity.
(9) But the ark was not there, because Jeremiah took the ark with all the curtains which Moses, the servant of God,
made in the wilderness, and he carried them up to Mount Nebo and placed them in a cave. The priests of that time pursued him to find out the place of the ark, and of the tablets, of the curtains of the tabernacle, and of the tent of the congregation. When Jeremiah looked behind him and saw the priests, he became angry with them, and swore to them 'you shall never discover the place you desired to know until I and Elijah appear. Then we shall restore the tabernacle and the tent of the congregation to its original place, as well as the ark of the testimony and the two tables of stone which it contains. Then we shall enter the Holy of Holies.'
(10) From that day our ancestors offered their sacrifices and burnt-offerings and continual offerings every day, for the kings of Persia had assisted them with gold and silver, with wheat, oil and wine, with oxen, sheep and rams, everything that they desired, year after year, for the kings of Persia loved the temple of our God, and its sanctuary they greatly honoured.