Samaritans stop Jews rebuilding Jerusalem
Jews start rebuilding Temple1News spread that Jews from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple. Many locals opposed this. 2Some of them approached Zerubabbel and family elders with an offer: “Let us help you. After all, he’s our God, too. Our people have been sacrificing to him ever since Assyrian King Esarhaddon brought us here.”
3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the family leaders turned them down, saying “No, we need to do this on our own. You can’t help us build a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel. Besides, King Cyrus of Persia ordered us to build it ourselves.”
No welcome wagon here4The locals didn’t like that at all. They harassed the Jews, hoping to scare them away from the work. 5They even bribed officials to oppose the Jews. And continued to do it all through Cyrus’s reign and until Darius became king.
Complaint letter #1 of 36In the first year of King Xerxes of Persia, the locals went so far as to write a letter to him, criticizing the Jews of Jerusalem and Judah.
Complaint letter #27After Xerxes died, local leaders wrote another letter of complaint to the next Persian king, Artaxerxes. Those leaders were Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, along with others. They wrote their letter in Aramaic, which had to be translated.
Complaint letter #38Some officials wrote a separate letter to King Artaxerxes, accusing the Jews. They included the regional governor Rehum and the regional secretary Shimshai.
9A long list of associates joined them, including officials, judges, and ambassadors. Citizens signed on, too. They came from Erech, Babylonia, Elam, Susa, and other lands. 10Persian kings had forced many of these people to move to Samaria west of the Euphrates River as settlers.
11This is what they wrote to the king:
"To King Artaxerxes, from your loyal servants living west of the Euphrates River. Greetings.
Rebel town of tax dodgers12We wanted to inform you that the Jews who moved into Jerusalem are repairing the walls and foundations. This is a city with a long history of rebellion.
13We’re afraid that if they finish rebuilding the city and its walls, they won’t pay you their taxes, tolls, and customs fees. This could hurt the royal treasury.
14You have been generous to us. So, it’s not right for us to stay silent while these people dishonor you. 15We suggest you consider having someone research these people. See what the palace archives have to say about them. You’ll find they have a long history of insurrection and rebelling against kings. That’s why their nation was destroyed.
16We fear that once they rebuild the city and its walls, you will no longer have a province out here, west of the Euphrates River.”
17The king wrote this reply:
“This letter is for Governor Rehum, Secretary Shimshai, and all the associates in Samaria and other parts of the province west of the Euphrates River. Greetings.
18I read your letter, which was translated for me. 19I ordered an investigation. We discovered that Jerusalem has a long history of insurrection. The people have caused a lot of trouble for a lot of kings.
20Also, we found that Jerusalem produced powerful kings. Some ruled all the area west of the Euphrates. And they were the ones collecting taxes, tolls, and duty on customs. 21So, I want you to order these people to stop rebuilding their city until I say otherwise.
22Don’t cut them any slack. Why should you? It would only hurt the king.”
Jerusalem construction: sudden stop23A copy of the king’s letter was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates. Right away a group headed up to Jerusalem where they forced the Jews to stop rebuilding.
24All work on the Jerusalem Temple stopped. Jews did no more construction in Jerusalem until a year after the next king came along, Darius.
Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Levite priests and associates who operated the Jerusalem Temple, were the main Jewish groups Babylonian invaders had exiled in 586 BC. These tribes made up the southern Jewish nation of Judah. The northern Jewish nation of Israel, with the other tribes, were exiled long before that, in 722 BC, by Assyrian invaders. They became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. They never seemed to come back in large groups. They apparently became assimilated into other cultures. Many southern Jews, however, returned home after one generation in exile. They had still maintained a sense of distinction as God’s people, though living in shameful punishment.
King Esarhaddon, son of King Sennacherib, ruled the Assyrian Empire from the time his father died in 681 BC until 669 BC. Assyrian invaders erased the northern Jewish nation of Israel from the political map in 722 BC. They deported many survivors and then resettled the land with people from other countries. This kept the Jewish people from raising their nation from the ruins. While the Jews lived in exile in Iraq, outsiders moved into Jewish lands and married some of the Jews left behind. Some developed what Jews would call a twisted version of the Jewish faith and a heavily edited version of the Jewish Bible. They took the name of the land, Samaria, and became known as Samaritans. Samaria was a territory north of Jerusalem. Samaritans revered the city of Shechem, at the head of the valley between their sacred mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. Samaritans did not want the Jews to resurrect their nation, rebuild walled cities, and eventually threaten to take back all their land. So, they tried to stop the work. Nehemiah tells part of that story in the Bible book that took his name. Samaritans plotted to assassinate him, to keep him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 6:1). They couldn’t get to him.
King Darius the Great reigned from 522-486 BC. The first Jews returned to what was left of Jerusalem around 538 BC. So, by the time Darius came around, locals had harassed the Jews for perhaps 16 years. But it continued much longer. Ezra and Nehemiah faced opposition almost a century after Cyrus let the Jews go home. Ezra returned in 458 BC. Nehemiah, who repaired Jerusalem’s walls, came in about 445 BC.
Xerxes reigned from 486-465 BC. If the story of his marriage to Esther is history instead of fiction (some scholars say it’s a fictional story), Xerxes got the letter complaining about the Jews roughly seven years before he married the Jewish Queen Esther in 479 BC.
Artaxerxes reigned from the time of Xerxes’ assassination in 465 BC until 424 BC.
Aramaic was a language Jews learned during the exile. It may have been the language Jesus spoke most often. It came from Aram, now Syria, but it spread throughout the ancient Middle East. It became an international language. Jews picked up the language when Babylonians from what is now Iraq conquered their Jewish homeland in 586 BC and exiled most of the survivors to Iraq.
Translated into what? Persian, for the king? Or Hebrew, for the writer of Ezra? It’s unclear.
Erech was a city in southern Iraq, today a ruin known as Tall Al-Muqayyar.
Jews probably did nothing more to rebuild the city for roughly 15 years. That’s presuming they stopped work within a couple years after they started it, from perhaps 536-521 BC.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.