1. When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that those who had returned from exile were building the sanctuary of Yahweh, the God of Israel,
2. they approached Zerubbabel, Joshua and the heads of the families, and said to them, "Allow us to help you in the work of reconstruction for we are also concerned about your God. We have offered him sacrifices from the time of Esar Haddon, king of Assyria, who brought us here."
3. Zerubbabel, Joshua and the heads of the Israelite families answered them, "We cannot let you join us, for we alone must rebuild it, as Cyrus, king of Persia, has commanded."
4. Then the people of the land set about discouraging the workers of Judah and frightening them to keep them from building.
5. They hired some counselors of the royal court to make the project fail, and they did this all during the time of Cyrus, king of Persia, until the reign of Darius, king of Persia.
6. In the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged a complaint against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
7. Again in the time of King Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues wrote to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. So it began this way:
8. "From Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary,
9. and from the rest of their colleagues, the judges and the legates, and all Persian officials, the people of Erech, Babylon and Susa, that is, the Elamites,
10. and from the rest of the nations whom the great Assurbanipal deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province at the other side of the River..."
11. This is a copy of the letter they sent to King Artaxerxes: "Your servants, the people beyond the River, send greetings.
12. It should be made known to the king that the Jews who came up from your side to ours and have gone to Jerusalem are now building this rebellious and wicked city. They are now rebuilding the walls and have laid the foundation.
13. Be it known, then, to the king, that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, they will no longer pay taxes, tributes or toll duties, and in the end, this city shall bring harm to the kings.
14. Now, as we eat the salt of the palace and we do not wish to see the king dishonored, we are sending this information to the king.
15. If you look into the records of your fathers, you will find that this city is a rebellious city. It has disturbed the kings and the provinces, and has fostered sedition from of old. It is precisely because of this that it was destroyed.
16. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls restored, you will soon lose your territories on that side of the River."
17. The king wrote this in reply: "To Rehum, the governor; to Shimshai, the secretary; and to the rest of their colleagues who are in Samaria and in the other places at the other side of the River: greetings.
18. The letter you sent to me has been read word for word in my presence.
19. I gave orders to inquire into these things, and it has been found that from ancient times that city has rebelled against the kings, and that sedition and rebellions have happened there.
20. There were powerful kings in Jerusalem, masters of all the land at the other side of the River, to whom tribute taxes and toll duties were paid.
21. Therefore, order the people to stop work; they shall not rebuild that city without my authorization.
22. Do not neglect this grave concern, lest further harm be done to the kingdom."
23. When the copy of this letter of King Artaxerxes was read before Rehum, the governor, Shimshai, the secretary, and their colleagues, they went hurriedly to Jerusalem and they used force and violence to make the Jews suspend their work.
24. So the work on the House of God in Jerusalem was interrupted and not begun until the second year of the reign of Darius, king of Persia.