1- 2Many people living in the area were against the people of Judah and Benjamin. Those enemies heard that the people that had come from captivity were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel. So those enemies came to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders and said, “Let us help you build. We are the same as you, we ask your God for help. We have offered sacrifices to your God since the time Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here.” 3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other family leaders of Israel answered, “No, you people can’t help us build a temple for our God. Only we can build the temple for the Lord. He is the God of Israel. This is what King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us to do.” 4˻This made those people angry˼. So those people started bothering the Jews. They tried to discourage them and stop them from building the temple. 5Those enemies hired government officials to work against the people of Judah. Those officials constantly did things to stop the Jews’ plans to build the temple. This continued the whole time that Cyrus was the king of Persia until Darius became the king of Persia. 6Those enemies even wrote letters to the king of Persia trying to stop the Jews. They wrote a letter the year that Xerxes became the king of Persia. 7And later, at the time Artaxerxes became the new king of Persia, some of those men wrote another letter complaining about the Jews. The men who wrote the letter were: Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the other people in their group. They wrote the letter to King Artaxerxes in Aramaic using the Aramaic way of writing. 8Then Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against the people of Jerusalem. They wrote the letter to Artaxerxes the king. This is what they wrote: 9From Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, and from the judges and important officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, and from the Elamite people from Susa, 10and from the other people that the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved to the city of Samaria and other places in the country west of the Euphrates River. 11This is the copy of the letter sent to King Artaxerxes: From your servants living in the area west of the Euphrates River. 12King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that the Jews you sent away from you have come here. Those Jews are now trying to build that city again. Jerusalem is a bad city. The people in that city have always rebelled against other kings. Now those Jews are fixing the foundations and building the walls. 13Also, King Artaxerxes, you should know that if Jerusalem and its walls are built again, the people of Jerusalem will stop paying their taxes. They will stop sending money to honor you. They also will stop paying duty taxes. And the king will lose all that money. 14We have a responsibility to the king. We don’t want to see those things happen. So we are sending this letter to inform the king. 15King Artaxerxes, we suggest that you search the writings of the kings that ruled before you. You will see in those writings that Jerusalem always rebelled against other kings. It has caused much trouble for other kings and nations. Many rebellions have started in this city since ancient times! That is why Jerusalem was destroyed! 16King Artaxerxes, we wish to inform you that if this city and its walls are built again, you will lose control of the area west of the Euphrates River. 17Then King Artaxerxes sent this answer: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary, and all the people with them living in Samaria and other places west of the Euphrates River. Greetings. 18The letter you sent us has been translated and read to me. 19I gave an order for the writings of the kings before me to be searched. The writings were read, and we found out that Jerusalem has a long history of rebellion against kings. Jerusalem has been a place where rebellion and revolt has happened often. 20Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over it and over the whole area west of the Euphrates River. Taxes and money to honor kings, and duty taxes have been paid to those kings. 21Now, you must give an order for those men to stop work. That order must be given to keep Jerusalem from being built again until I say so. 22Be careful not to overlook this business. We should not let the building of Jerusalem continue. If that work continues, I will not get any more money from Jerusalem. 23So a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes sent was read to Rehum, Shimshai the secretary, and the people with them. They went very quickly to the Jews in Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop building. 24So the work stopped on God’s temple in Jerusalem. The work did not continue until Darius’ second year as king of Persia.