The cessation of the construction of the wall in Jerusalem (Ezra 4:23-4:23)

“Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and the scribe Shimshai and their associates, they hurried to the Jews at Jerusalem. By force and power they made them cease building the wall.”

In all this exchange there was never a mention of the temple. It was all about the fortifications of the city of Jerusalem, the wall. Once the people at Samaria found out what the king said, they went to Jerusalem and told them to stop building the wall.


The response of King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:17-4:22)

“King Artaxerxes sent an answer. ‘To Rehum, the royal deputy, and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. Now the letter that you sent to us has been read in translation before me. So I made a decree. Someone searched and discovered that this city has risen against kings from long ago. Rebellion and sedition have been made in it. Jerusalem had mighty kings who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore issue an order that these people be made to cease. This city shall not be rebuilt, until I make a decree. Moreover, take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?’”

The king had an answer. He had the letter read to him in translation. He had someone check the annals or records. Sure enough, there was a mighty king of Jerusalem who ruled beyond the river. This might have been a reference to King David or King Solomon. Therefore he told them to issue an order to make them stop building the wall. Nothing should be built without his decree. He warned them not to be slack in this matter.

Accusations of the Samaritans to King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:7-4:10)

“In the days of King Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel with the rest of their associates wrote to King Artaxerxes of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the royal deputy commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows. The address was, Rehum the royal deputy, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the envoys, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa, that is, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River.”

This next section was in Aramaic, not Hebrew. King Artaxerxes ruled from 464-423 BCE. There does not seem to be any dispute about his name. Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel may have been Persian officials in Samaria. They sent a letter to King Artaxerxes in Aramaic. This letter was written by Shimshai the scribe under the direction of the Persian deputy commander Rehum in Samaria to the king in Persia. This was an official letter from the local government in Samaria to the king. This was in the Province Beyond the River, which actually means west of the Euphrates River, not the Jordan River. So this was an important place. Apparently it was King Osnappar who had established this rule in Samaria at the time of the Babylonian captivity. This probably refers to King Assurbanipal who ruled from 668-630 BCE.