Enemies Against
Rebuilding the Temple
1-2 Many people living in the area were against the people of Judah and Benjamin. These enemies heard that the people who had come from captivity were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel. So they came to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders and said, “Let us help you build. We are the same as you, we ask your God for help. We have offered sacrifices to your God since the time King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other family leaders of Israel answered, “No, you people cannot help us build a temple for our God. Only we can build the Temple for the LORD. He is the God of Israel. This is what King Cyrus of Persia commanded us to do.”
So the enemies began to discourage them and tried to frighten them in order to stop them from building the Temple. These enemies hired government officials to work against the people of Judah. The officials constantly did things to stop the Jews’ plans to build the Temple. This continued the whole time that Cyrus was the king until Darius became the king of Persia.
These enemies even wrote letters to the king of Persia trying to stop the Jews. They wrote a letter the year that Xerxes* became the king of Persia.
Enemies Against Rebuilding Jerusalem
Later, when Artaxerxes became the new king of Persia, some of these men wrote another letter complaining about the Jews. The men who wrote the letter were Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the other people in their group. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated.
Then Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against the people of Jerusalem. They wrote the letter to Artaxerxes the king. This is what they wrote:
From Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, and from the judges and important officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, and from the Elamites from Susa, 10 and from the other people who the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved to the city of Samaria and other places in the country west of the Euphrates River.
11 This is the copy of the letter sent to King Artaxerxes:
From your servants living in the area west of the Euphrates River.
12 King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that the Jews you sent from there are now in Jerusalem. They are trying to rebuild that terrible city. The people there have always rebelled against other kings. Now they have almost finished repairing the foundations and building the walls.§
13 Also, King Artaxerxes, you should know that if Jerusalem and its walls are rebuilt, the people of Jerusalem will stop paying their taxes. They will stop sending money to honor you. They also will stop paying customs fees, and the king will lose all that money.
14 We have a responsibility to the king. We don’t want to see this happen, so we are sending this letter to inform the king.
15 King Artaxerxes, we suggest that you search the writings of the kings who ruled before you. You will see in the writings that Jerusalem always rebelled against other kings. It has caused much trouble for other kings and nations. Many rebellions have started in this city since ancient times. That is why Jerusalem was destroyed.
16 King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that if this city and its walls are rebuilt, you will lose control of the area west of the Euphrates River.
17 Then King Artaxerxes sent this answer:
To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary, and all the people with them living in Samaria and other places west of the Euphrates River.
18 The letter you sent us has been translated and read to me. 19 I gave an order for the writings of the kings before me to be searched. The writings were read, and we found out that Jerusalem has a long history of rebellion against kings. Jerusalem has been a place where rebellion and revolt has happened often. 20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over it and over the whole area west of the Euphrates River. Their kings received taxes, customs, fees, and tribute.
21 Now, you must give an order for these men to stop work. That order must be given to keep Jerusalem from being rebuilt until I say so. 22 Be careful not to overlook this matter. We should not let the building of Jerusalem continue. If that work continues, I will not get any more money from Jerusalem.
23 So a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes sent was read to Rehum, Shimshai the secretary, and the people with them. They went very quickly to the Jews in Jerusalem and forced them to stop building.
The Work on the Temple Stopped
24 So the work stopped* on God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The work did not continue until the second year that Darius was king of Persia.
* 4:6 Xerxes King of Persia about 485–465 B.C. 4:7 The letter … translated Or “The letter was written in the local language, but with Aramaic characters, and then translated into Aramaic.” This would mean the scribe used the “modern” Aramaic alphabet rather than the older alphabet that was still being used in Judah. 4:8 Here, the original language changes from Hebrew to Aramaic. § 4:12 building the walls This was a way of protecting a city. These men wanted the king to think that the Jews were preparing to rebel against the king. * 4:24 the work stopped Here, this refers to the time of Xerxes, when work on the Temple was stopped, not to the time of Artaxerxes, when work on the walls around Jerusalem was stopped. 4:24 second year That is, 520 B.C.