The letter to King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:11-4:16)

“This is a copy of the letter that they sent. ‘To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. Now may it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now may it be known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll. The royal revenue will be reduced. Now because we share the salt of the palace, it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor. Therefore we send and inform the king, so that a search may be made in the annals of your ancestors. You will discover in the annals that this is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces. Sedition was stirred up in it from long ago. On that account the city was laid waste. We make known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.’”

This supposedly is a copy of the letter that the Persian officials at Samaria had sent to the king of Persia. It is written from the Province Beyond the River that is west of the Euphrates River. They recited the history of Jerusalem that led to its destruction in the 6th century BCE because of its rebellious way, about a century earlier. They referred to the annals or books where things were written down. There must have been some king of history of each king in the various countries. The objection here is not to the temple being built, but to the fortification of the city walls of Jerusalem. If the walls were rebuilt there would be no revenue from there.

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