Artaxerxes

A Persian King

Hebrew name: אַרְתַּחְשַׁ֫שְׂתְּא (artachshasta’)

Name meaning: (Persian) “He who reigns through truth”

Artaxerxes is a figure mentioned in the historical accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah. Though there were multiple kings who took the name Artaxerxes, it is generally believed that Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.) is the king referred to in the Old Testament, as his reign aligns best with the timeline of Ezra/Nehemiah. He was a king of Persia, known for his interactions with the Jewish people and their temple. The Bible provides several references to Artaxerxes in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

In Ezra 6:14, Artaxerxes is mentioned in the context of the completion of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. In Ezra 7:1, 7:7, 7:11, and 8:1, as well as in Nehemiah 2:1, 5:14, and 13:6, Artaxerxes is mentioned in connection with various decrees and actions including a grant of an exorbitant amount of gold and silver. He is portrayed as a king who heartily supported the restoration efforts and the worship of the God of Israel. Artaxerxes is seen as an instrument in the hand of God to fulfill His purposes for His people. Despite being a pagan king, God used Artaxerxes to facilitate the return of the Israelites to their land and the restoration of their worship.

A copy of a letter written by Artaxerxes to Ezra is recorded in Ezra 7. A portion of it reads,

“Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia.” (Ezr 7:12–16).

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