Amplified Bible

Ezra 4

Adversaries Hinder the Work

1Now 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, 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.” 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.”

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, 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.

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].

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

Rehum the [Persian] commander [of the Samaritans] and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows— 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.

Footnotes

  1. Ezra 4:4 Lit weakened the hands of.
  2. Ezra 4:6 See Esth 1:1.
  3. Ezra 4:10 I.e. probably Ashurbanipal.
  4. Ezra 4:10 Lit beyond and so throughout.
  5. 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).

New International Reader's Version

Ezra 4

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. Then 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.”

Zerubbabel 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.”

Then the nations around Judah tried to make its people lose hope. They wanted to make them afraid to go on building. So 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

The enemies of the Jews brought charges against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It happened when Xerxes began to rule over Persia.

Then 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.

Rehum 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,

We, 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. 10 And 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.

11 Here 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.

12 We 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.

13 Here 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. 14 We 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. 15 Then 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. 16 We 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.

17 The 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.

18 The letter you sent us has been read to me. It has been explained to me in my language. 19 I 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. 20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings. Some of them ruled over everything west of the Euphrates. Taxes, gifts and fees were paid to them. 21 So give an order to those men. Make them stop their work. Then the city won’t be rebuilt until I give the order. 22 Pay careful attention to this matter. Why should we let this danger grow? That would not be in our best interests.

23 The 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.

24 And 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.