1The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel.
2They came to Zerubbabel and the family leaders and said, “Please let us help you with the building work, for we worship your God like you do. In fact we have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the family leaders of Israel replied, “You can't share with us in building a Temple for our God. Only we can build it for the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has ordered us to do.”
4Then the local people set out to intimidate the people of Judah and make them too scared to go on building.
5They bribed officials to oppose them and to obstruct their plans. This continued during the whole reign of Cyrus king of Persia up until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
6When Ahasuerus became king the local people sent him a written accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
7During the time of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their fellow officers wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic.
8Rehum the officer in command and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes condemning Jerusalem stating,
9This comes from Rehum the officer in command, Shimshai the scribe, and fellow officers: the judges and officials and those in charge of Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa,
10and the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria and other places west of the Euphrates.
11The following is a copy of the letter they sent to him. To King Artaxerxes, from your servants, men beyond the River Euphrates:
12Your Majesty should be informed that the Jews who came from you to us have returned to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city, completing repairs to the walls, and mending its foundations.
13Your Majesty should realize that if this city is rebuilt and its walls repaired, they will not pay tax, tribute, or fees, and the king's revenue will suffer.
14Now because we are in the king's service and it is not right for us to see Your Majesty disrespected, we are sending this letter so that you can be informed,
15and order a search of the royal archives. You will discover in these records that this is a rebellious city, damaging to kings and countries, having often risen up in revolt in the past. That is what led to this city being destroyed.
16We wish to inform Your Majesty that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, you will lose this province west of the Euphrates.
17The king replied as follows: “To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and fellow officers living in Samaria and in other areas west of the Euphrates: Greetings.
18The letter you sent to us has been translated and read to me.
19I ordered a search to be conducted. It was discovered that this city has often risen up in revolt against kings in the past, frequently promoting insurrection and rebellion.
20Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and throughout the whole area west of the Euphrates, and they received tax, tribute, and fees.
21Issue an immediate order for these men to stop work. This city is not to be rebuilt until I authorize it.
22See that you do not neglect this matter. Why should this problem be allowed to grow and damage royal interests?”
23As soon as this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their fellow officers, they rushed to the Jews in Jerusalem and used their power to forcibly make them stop work.
24Consequently work on God's Temple in Jerusalem came to a halt. The stoppage continued until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.