Study Guide

Artaxerxes in Ezra and Nehemiah

Artaxerxes

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah present the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes in a fairly confusing and non-chronological way. For instance, Ezra says that Artaxerxes—thanks to the influence of some devious locals—stops the building project, contradicting King Cyrus's previous order. Then Darius comes along and gives them permission again. But Darius actually ruled before Artaxerxes. So what gives? We know there were two Artaxerses-es, cleverly named Artaxerxes I and Artaxerxes II. Some commentators think the guy in these books is #II.

Anyway, Artaxerxes is sort of a mixed bag. He bans the people from finishing the temple. But he also permits Nehemiah to head to Judah and start setting things straight, giving him tons of money from the treasury to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He seems like a basically good guy, but Israel's devious enemies convince him to stall the temple project.