1When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the families and said to them, “Let’s build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we’ve been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Assyria’s King Esarhaddon, who brought us here.”
3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of the families in Israel replied, “You’ll have no part with us in building a house for our God. We alone will build because the LORD, the God of Israel, and Persia’s King Cyrus commanded us.”
4The neighboring peoples#4.4 Or peoples of the lands discouraged the people of Judah, made them afraid to build, 5and bribed officials to frustrate their plan. They did this throughout the rule of Persia’s King Cyrus until the rule of Persia’s King Darius.
Writing to King Artaxerxes
6In the rule of Ahasuerus, at the beginning of his rule, they composed an indictment against those who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. 7In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their associates wrote to Persia’s King Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated.#4.7 Heb adds in Aramaic, reporting that 4:8–6:18 is written in Aramaic. 8Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter concerning Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows:
9From Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues, the judges, the administrators, the officials, the Persians, the people of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, the Elamites), 10and the rest of the nations whom the great and famous Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River.
(11This is a copy of the letter they sent to him.)
To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River. 12May it be known to the king that the Jews who left you and came to us have arrived in Jerusalem. They are rebuilding the rebellious and wicked city; they are completing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13May it be known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, they will not pay tribute or tax or dues, and the royal revenue will be reduced.
14Since we receive our salary from the palace,#4.14 Or since we have salted the salt of the palace and since it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, we now send this letter#4.14 Heb lacks this letter. and inform the king 15so that you may search the records of your ancestors. You will discover in the records that this is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that it has been in revolt over a long period of time. As a result, this city was laid waste. 16We tell the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls completed, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.
17The king sent this answer:
Greetings to Rehum the royal deputy and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and elsewhere in the province Beyond the River. 18The entire letter that you sent to us has been read in translation for me. 19I issued an order; they searched and discovered that this city has revolted against kings over a long period of time. There has been much rebellion and revolt there. 20However, there have been mighty kings over Jerusalem who also ruled over the whole province Beyond the River. Tribute and taxes and dues were paid to them.
21Therefore, issue an order to stop these people: this city is not to be rebuilt until I make a decree. 22Be sure to carry out this order! Why should danger grow and threaten the king?
23When the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem to oppose the Jews and made them stop by force of arms.#4.23 Or power and force 24At that time the work on God’s house in Jerusalem stopped and was suspended until the second year of the rule of Persia’s King Darius.