4 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles had returned and were rebuilding the Temple, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and suggested, “Let us work with you, for we are just as interested in your God as you are; we have sacrificed to him ever since King Esar-haddon of Assyria brought us here.”
3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the other Jewish leaders replied, “No, you may have no part in this work. The Temple of the God of Israel must be built by the Israelis, just as King Cyrus has commanded.”
4-5 Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten them by sending agents to tell lies about them to King Cyrus. This went on during his entire reign and lasted until King Darius took the throne.
6 And afterwards, when King Ahasuerus began to reign, they wrote him a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem 7 and did the same thing during the reign of Artaxerxes. Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel and their associates wrote a letter to him in the Aramaic language, and it was translated to him. 8-9 Others who participated were Governor Rehum, Shimshai (a scribe), several judges and other local leaders, the Persians, the Babylonians, the men of Erech and Susa, 10 and men from several other nations. (They had been taken from their own lands by the great and noble Osnappar and relocated in Jerusalem, Samaria, and throughout the neighboring lands west of the Euphrates River.)
11 Here is the text of the letter they sent to King Artaxerxes:
“Sir: Greetings from your loyal subjects west of the Euphrates River. 12 Please be informed that the Jews sent to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this historically rebellious and evil city; they have already rebuilt its walls and have repaired the foundations of the Temple. 13 But we wish you to know that if this city is rebuilt, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their taxes to you.
14 “Since we are grateful to you as our patron, and we do not want to see you taken advantage of and dishonored in this way, we have decided to send you this information. 15 We suggest that you search the ancient records to 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. 16 We wish to declare that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, you might as well forget about this part of your empire beyond the Euphrates, for it will be lost to you.”
17 Then the king made this reply to Governor Rehum and Shimshai the scribe, and to their companions living in Samaria and throughout the area west of the Euphrates River:
18 “Gentlemen: Greetings! The letter you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I have ordered a search 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! 20 I find, moreover, that there have been some very great kings in Jerusalem who have ruled the entire land beyond the Euphrates River and have received vast tribute, custom, and toll. 21 Therefore, I command that these men must stop their work until I have investigated the matter more thoroughly. 22 Do not delay, for we must not permit the situation to get out of control!”
23 When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop building. 24 So the work ended until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.