Adversaries Hinder the Work
4 Now when [the Samaritans] the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles from the captivity were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel [who was now governor] and to the heads of the fathers’ households and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God [and worship] just as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.”(A) 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.”
4 Then [the Samaritans and others of] the people of the land [a]discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them [to deter them] from building, 5 and hired advisers [to work] against them to frustrate their plans during the entire time that Cyrus king of Persia reigned, [and this lasted] even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
6 Now in the reign of [b]Ahasuerus (Xerxes), in the beginning of his reign, the Samaritans wrote [to him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem [who had returned from exile].
7 Later, in the days of [King] Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the text of the letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic.
The Letter to King Artaxerxes
8 Rehum the [Persian] commander [of the Samaritans] and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows— 9 then wrote Rehum the [Persian] commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the lesser governors, the officials, the secretaries, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble [c]Osnappar deported and settled in the city of Samaria, and in the rest of the region [d]west of the [Euphrates] River. Now 11 this is a copy of the letter which they sent to him:
“To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men in the region west of the [Euphrates] River; and now: 12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem. They are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now let it be known to the king, that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, then they will not pay tax, custom, or toll, and the revenue of the kings will be diminished. 14 Now because we are in the service of the palace, and it is not proper for us to witness the king’s dishonor, for that reason we have sent word and informed the king, 15 in order that a search may be made in the record books of your fathers. And you will discover in the record books and learn that this is a rebellious city, damaging to kings and provinces, and that in the past they have incited rebellion within it. That is why that city was laid waste (destroyed). 16 We are informing the king that if that city is rebuilt and its walls finished, it will mean that you will have no possession in the province west of the [Euphrates] River.”
The King Replies and Work Stops
17 Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the [Persian] commander, to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and in the rest of the provinces west of the River: “Peace (Greetings). And now, 18 The document which you sent to us has been translated and read before me. 19 I have issued a command and a search has been made, and it has been discovered that this city [Jerusalem] in earlier times has revolted against the kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been perpetrated in it. 20 There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem who have ruled over all the provinces west of the [Euphrates] River, and tax, custom, and toll were paid to them. 21 So, now issue a decree to make these men stop [work], so that this city is not rebuilt until a [new] command is issued by me. 22 Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter. Why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?”
23 Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ document was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they went up hurriedly to Jerusalem to the Jews, and made them stop [work] by force of arms.
24 Then the [e]work on the house of God in Jerusalem stopped. It was suspended until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
- Ezra 4:4 Lit weakened the hands of.
- Ezra 4:6 See Esth 1:1.
- Ezra 4:10 I.e. probably Ashurbanipal.
- Ezra 4:10 Lit beyond and so throughout.
- Ezra 4:24 The long digression in Ezra 4:6-23 describes later opposition to Jewish efforts to restore the walls and rebuild the city during the reigns of Xerxes (486-465 b.c.) and Artaxerxes I (465-424 b.c). Here in Ezra 4:24 Ezra reverts back to the time of Darius I (522-486 b.c) and the rebuilding of the temple, which ceased because of the discouragement described in Ezra 4:4, 5, resumed again (Ezra 5:2), and was completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius I (Ezra 6:15).