Enemies Oppose the Rebuilding of the Temple
1The people who had returned from Babylon were building a temple to honor the Lord. He is the God of Israel. The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard about it. 2Then those enemies came to Zerubbabel. The family leaders of Israel were with him. The enemies said, “We want to help you build. We’re just like you. We worship your God. We offer sacrifices to him. We’ve been doing that ever since the time of Esarhaddon. He was king of Assyria. He brought our people here.”
3Zerubbabel and Joshua answered them. So did the rest of the family leaders of Israel. They said, “You can’t help us build a temple to honor our God. You aren’t part of us. We’ll build it ourselves. We’ll do it to honor the Lord, the God of Israel. Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us to build it.”
4Then the nations around Judah tried to make its people lose hope. They wanted to make them afraid to go on building. 5So those nations paid some of the Jewish officials to work against the people of Judah. They wanted their plans to fail. They did it during the whole time Cyrus was king of Persia. They kept doing it until Darius became king.
Later Enemies Also Oppose the Jews
6The enemies of the Jews brought charges against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It happened when Xerxes began to rule over Persia.
7Then Artaxerxes became king of Persia. During his rule, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and their friends wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. It was written in the Aramaic language. And it used the Aramaic alphabet.
8Rehum and Shimshai also wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes. Rehum was the commanding officer. Shimshai was the secretary. Their letter was against the people of Jerusalem. It said,
9We, Rehum and Shimshai, are writing this letter. Rehum is the commanding officer. Shimshai is the secretary. Our friends join us in writing. They include the judges, officials and managers in charge of the people from Persia, Uruk and Babylon. They are also over the Elamites from Susa. 10And they are over those who were forced to leave their countries. The great King Ashurbanipal, who is worthy of honor, forced them to leave. He moved them to the city of Samaria. He also moved them to other places west of the Euphrates River.
11Here is a copy of the letter sent to Artaxerxes.
We are sending this letter to you, King Artaxerxes.
It is from your servants who live west of the Euphrates River.
12We want you to know about the people who left you and have come up to us. They have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil city. It has caused trouble for a long time. Those people are making its walls like new again. They are repairing the foundations.
13Here is something else we want you to know. Suppose this city is rebuilt. And suppose its walls are made like new again. Then no more taxes, gifts or fees will be collected. And sooner or later there will be less money for you. 14We owe a lot to you. We don’t want to see dishonor brought on you. So we’re sending this letter to tell you what is going on. 15Then you can have a search made in the official records. Have someone check the records of the kings who ruled before you. If you do, you will find out that Jerusalem is an evil city. It causes trouble for kings and countries. For a long time the city has refused to let anyone rule over it. That’s why it was destroyed. 16We want you to know that this city shouldn’t be rebuilt. Its walls shouldn’t be made like new again. If that happens, you won’t have anything left west of the Euphrates River.
17The king replied,
I am writing this letter to Rehum, the commanding officer. I am also writing it to Shimshai the secretary. And I am writing it to your friends living in Samaria and in other places west of the Euphrates River.
I give you my greetings.
18The letter you sent us has been read to me. It has been explained to me in my language. 19I gave an order. I had a search made. Here is what we found out. Jerusalem has a long history of turning against the kings of the countries that have ruled over it. It has refused to remain under their control. It is always stirring up trouble. 20Jerusalem has had powerful kings. Some of them ruled over everything west of the Euphrates. Taxes, gifts and fees were paid to them. 21So give an order to those men. Make them stop their work. Then the city won’t be rebuilt until I give the order. 22Pay careful attention to this matter. Why should we let this danger grow? That would not be in our best interests.
23The copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary. It was also read to their friends. Right away they went to the Jews in Jerusalem. They forced them to stop their work.
24And so the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a stop. No more work was done on it until the second year that Darius was king of Persia.