Ezra 4

Enemies do not want the work to continue

1 The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the Israelites had begun to build. They were building the temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 Then the enemies went to speak to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders. ‘Let us help you to build,’ they said. ‘We want to worship your God. We have lived in this country since Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, brought us here. All this time we have made sacrifices to your God.’

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and Israel's family heads said, ‘No. You cannot help us to build the temple to our God. We alone must build it. That is what Cyrus, king of Persia, asked us to do.’

4 Then the people round them tried to make the Israelites afraid. They did not want Judah's people to continue building. 5 They paid men to work against them and to say bad things about the building. They did this all the time that Cyrus was king of Persia. They went on until Darius became king.

6 They wrote to Xerxes when he became king. They said that the people of Judah and Jerusalem were doing a wrong thing.

7 Later, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and their friends wrote a letter to Artaxerxes, king of Persia. They wrote in the Aramaic language. 8 Rehum, the most important officer and Shimshai wrote this letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes. This is what it said.

9 Rehum, your officer and Shimshai, his helper and many other men are writing to you. They are judges and officers with authority over Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon. We are sending this letter also to those who have authority over the people in Susa. (Those people are called Elamites.) 10 We include other people who live in or near the cities in Samaria. The great King Ashurbanipal had sent those people there. Some came from the other side of the River Euphrates.

4:10The kings of Assyria moved prisoners a long way from their homes. Foreign people had come to live in Samaria, part of Israel's country. They did not want the Israelites to take back their land.

11 This is the letter that they sent to Artaxerxes:

‘To King Artaxerxes,

from your servants in the land across the Euphrates.

12 The king should know what the Jews here are doing. You sent them here. They are building Jerusalem's city again. It was a bad city whose people did not obey its rulers. They are building the walls and they are beginning to start other buildings.

13 And you should know this. If they build this city and its walls, they will not pay any more money to you. They will take away some of your people's money. 14 We are your servants. We do not want you to lose honour. So we have sent this letter to you. 15 Find the books that your ancestors wrote about Jerusalem. Then you will read many things about that city. You will see that Jerusalem's people always did what they wanted. For many years Jerusalem's people did not obey its rulers. They did not listen to the kings or their officers. That is why the soldiers from Babylon destroyed the city. 16 We are telling the king that nobody should let these people build up this city and its walls. If they do, you will have no authority on this side of the Euphrates.’

17 This is the king's reply:

‘To Rehum my officer, Shimshai his helper and all their friends in Samaria and across the River Euphrates.

I thank you for your news.

18 They have translated the letter that you sent into my language. Then they read it to me. 19 I caused them to look in the old letters and they told us about Jerusalem's people. They have always caused trouble to their rulers. They never obeyed their rulers. 20 In past days the kings of Jerusalem were powerful. They ruled all the land on their side of the Euphrates. The people there gave money and other things to them because their kings had authority. 21 Now you must cause them to stop their work. They must not build the city again until I let them. 22 You must be careful to do this. We do not want the danger to become any greater. Our authority as kings must continue.’

23 Rehum, Shimshai and their friends took the king's letter to the Jews in Jerusalem. They went as fast as they could. They caused the Jews to stop their work. They would do bad things to them if they did not stop.

24 So the people did no work on God's house in Jerusalem. The work stopped until Darius, Persia's king, had ruled over them for more than one year.