“At that time the work on the house of God in Jerusalem stopped. It was discontinued until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.”
Now we have a problem. There was nothing about stopping the building of the Temple in these 2 letters. It was about the fortifications of the city. On top of that we are back at King Darius who preceded King Artaxerxes by 20 years. Is this a reference to King Darius II, who followed King Artaxerxes? Here are the dates for the ruling kings of Persia. This would put the building of the temple around 423 BCE not 521 BCE. The Persian kings ruled from the following years.
Cyrus the Great – 559-530 BCE – letter to go back to build Temple
Cambyses – 530-522 BCE – no comments
Darius I – 522 -486 BCE – complaints to him
Xerxes I – 485-465 BCE – complaints to him
Artaxerxes I – 465-424 BCE – letter saying to stop wall building
Darius II – 424-400 BCE – rebuilding Temple
“Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah. They made them afraid to build. They bribed officials to frustrate their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, even until the reign of King Darius of Persia.”
The ‘people of the land’ was the derogatory phrase often used to describe the Samaritans. These were part of the poor landless people who were not taken into captivity. Somehow they made the returning Israelites afraid. They discouraged them. It is not clear what they did. They, however, did hire or bribe officials to present their cause to King Cyrus of Persia. See, those city planning boards are over 2,500 years old. Bribery is as old as anything. Apparently, they were successful as long as King Cyrus and King Darius were alive. This would bring us to about 485 BCE. Somehow they were able to frustrate this project of the Jerusalem temple for over 50 years. Clearly this area was still under Persian rule with the local Persian seat of power in Samaria, not Jerusalem.