Ezra 4

Opposition to the Building Efforts

4:1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles1 were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel, 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders2 and said to them, “Let us help you build,3 for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him4 from the time5 of King Esarhaddon6 of Assyria, who brought us here.”7 4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right8 to help us build the temple of our God. We will build it by ourselves for the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.” 4:4 Then the local people9 began to discourage10 the people of Judah and to dishearten them from building. 4:5 They were hiring advisers to oppose them, so as to frustrate their plans, throughout the time11 of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius12 of Persia.13

Official Complaints Are Lodged Against the Jews

4:614 At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus15 they filed an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.16 4:7 And during the reign17 of Artaxerxes, Bishlam,18 Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues19 wrote to King Artaxerxes20 of Persia. This letter21 was first written in Aramaic but then translated.

[Aramaic:]22

4:8 Rehum the commander23 and Shimshai the scribe24 wrote a letter concerning25 Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From26 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues – the judges, the rulers, the officials, the secretaries, the Erechites, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is,27 the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal28 deported and settled in the cities29 of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates.30 4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)

“To King Artaxerxes,31 from your servants in32 Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now33 let the king be aware that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and odious city.34 They are completing its walls and repairing its foundations. 4:13 Let the king also be aware that if this city is built and its walls are completed, no more tax, custom, or toll will be paid, and the royal treasury35 will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king,36 and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage,37 we are sending the king this information38 4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records39 of his predecessors40 and discover in those records41 that this city is rebellious42 and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts43 from long ago.44 It is for this very reason that this city was destroyed. 4:16 We therefore are informing the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will not retain control45 of this portion of Trans-Euphrates.”

4:17 The king sent the following response:

“To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and other parts of Trans-Euphrates: Greetings!46 4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders,47 and it was determined48 that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in49 rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates50 and who were the beneficiaries of51 tribute, custom, and toll. 4:21 Now give orders that these men cease their work and that this city not be rebuilt until such time as I so instruct.52 4:22 Exercise appropriate caution so that there is no negligence in this matter. Why should danger increase to the point that kings sustain damage?”

4:23 Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerxes was read in the presence of Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they proceeded promptly to the Jews in Jerusalem53 and stopped them with threat of armed force.54

4:24 So the work on the temple of God in Jerusalem came to a halt. It remained halted until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.55

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