The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel. They came to Zerubbabel and the family leaders and said, “Please let us help you with the building work, for we worship your God like you do. In fact we have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the family leaders of Israel replied, “You can't share with us in building a Temple for our God. Only we can build it for the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has ordered us to do.”
Then the local people set out to intimidate the people of Judah and make them too scared to go on building. They bribed officials* to oppose them and to obstruct their plans. This continued during the whole reign of Cyrus king of Persia up until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
When Ahasuerus became king the local people sent him a written accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
During the time of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their fellow officers wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic.
Rehum the officer in command and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes condemning Jerusalem stating,
This comes from Rehum the officer in command, Shimshai the scribe, and fellow officers: the judges and officials and those in charge of Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa, 10 and the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria and other places west of the Euphrates. 11 The following is a copy of the letter they sent to him.
To King Artaxerxes, from your servants, men beyond the River Euphrates:
12 Your Majesty should be informed that the Jews who came from you to us have returned to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city, completing repairs to the walls, and mending its foundations. 13 Your Majesty should realize that if this city is rebuilt and its walls repaired, they will not pay tax, tribute, or fees, and the king's revenue will suffer. 14 Now because we are in the king's service and it is not right for us to see Your Majesty disrespected, we are sending this letter so that you can be informed, 15 and order a search of the royal archives. You will discover in these records that this is a rebellious city, damaging to kings and countries,§ having often risen up in revolt in the past. That is what led to this city being destroyed. 16 We wish to inform Your Majesty that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, you will lose this province west of the Euphrates.
17 The king replied as follows: “To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and fellow officers living in Samaria and in other areas west of the Euphrates: Greetings. 18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read to me. 19 I ordered a search to be conducted. It was discovered that this city has often risen up in revolt against kings in the past, frequently promoting insurrection and rebellion. 20 Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and throughout the whole area west of the Euphrates, and they received tax, tribute, and fees. 21 Issue an immediate order for these men to stop work. This city is not to be rebuilt until I authorize it. 22 See that you do not neglect this matter. Why should this problem be allowed to grow and damage royal interests?”
23 As soon as this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their fellow officers, they rushed to the Jews in Jerusalem and used their power to forcibly make them stop work.
24 Consequently work on God's Temple in Jerusalem came to a halt. The stoppage continued until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.
* 4:5 These would be local officials whose chain of command stretched back to the Persian king. 4:7 The passage from 4:8 to 6:18 is in Aramaic. 4:14 “King's service”: literally, “eat the salt of the palace.” § 4:15 “Countries”: literally, “provinces.”