The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel.
So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, "Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here."
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, "You may have no part in this work, for we have nothing in common. We alone will build the Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us."
Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work.
They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their aims. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne.
Years later when Xerxes a began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote him a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
And even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, b the enemies of Judah, led by Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, sent a letter to Artaxerxes in the Aramaic language, and it was translated for the king.
Rehum c the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem.
They greeted the king for all their colleagues -- the judges and local leaders, the people of Tarpel, the Persians, the Babylonians, and the people of Erech and Susa (that is, Elam).
They also sent greetings from the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal d had deported and relocated in Samaria and throughout the neighboring lands of the province west of the Euphrates River.
This is a copy of the letter they sent him: "To Artaxerxes, from your loyal subjects in the province west of the Euphrates River."
"Please be informed that the Jews who came here to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city. They have already laid the foundation for its walls and will soon complete them.
But we wish you to know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their tribute, customs, and tolls to you."
"Since we are loyal to you as your subjects and we do not want to see you dishonored in this way, we have sent you this information.
We suggest that you search your ancestors' records, where you will discover what a rebellious city this has been in the past. In fact, it was destroyed because of its long history of sedition against the kings and countries who attempted to control it.
We declare that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the province west of the Euphrates River will be lost to you."
Then Artaxerxes made this reply: "To Rehum the governor, Shimshai the court secretary, and their colleagues living in Samaria and throughout the province west of the Euphrates River."
"Greetings. The letter you sent has been translated and read to me.
I have ordered a search to be made of the records and have indeed found that Jerusalem has in times past been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings. In fact, rebellion and sedition are normal there!
Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and the entire province west of the Euphrates River and have received vast tribute, customs, and tolls.
Therefore, issue orders to have these people stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command.
Do not delay, for we must not permit the situation to get out of control."
When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop building.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)