A name or title applied in the Bible to two Persian kings.
1. The Persian ruler who caused the building of Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem to be stopped. (Ezr 4:7-24) Between the reigns of Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (537 B.C.E.), and of Darius the Great, who in 520 B.C.E. removed the ban imposed on the temple construction, possibly three kings ruled: Cambyses II, his brother Bardiya (or possibly a Magian known as Gaumata who is said to have pretended to be Bardiya and ruled for seven months), and Nidintu-Bel (who was defeated and killed by Darius after just two months). Cambyses is evidently represented by the “Ahasuerus” mentioned at Ezra 4:6 to whom the first protest was made by the opposers of the temple reconstruction. Therefore, beginning with Ezra 4:7, the ruler referred to as “Artaxerxes” is either Bardiya or Gaumata, whose rule lasted but seven months (522 B.C.E.).
The people of the cities of Samaria wrote a letter against the Jews to this Persian king. (Ezr 4:7) This was while the Jews were busy building the temple. (Ezr 4:1-3) In order to achieve their goal, the adversaries of the Jews resorted to lies, stating that the Jews were then rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, including its walls. (Ezr 4:11-16) As a result of these false accusations, “the work on the house of God” came to a halt.—Ezr 4:24.
2. Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son of Xerxes I, is the king referred to at Ezra 7:1-28 and Nehemiah 2:1-18; 13:6. Whereas most reference works give his accession year as 465 B.C.E., there is sound reason for placing it in 475 B.C.E.—See PERSIA, PERSIANS (The Reigns of Xerxes and of Artaxerxes).
Artaxerxes Longimanus extended permission to Ezra the priest and also to Nehemiah to make trips to Jerusalem. (Ezr 7:1-7; Ne 2:1, 7, 8) Ancient historians credit him with a generally benign and generous personality. This coincides with his actions during the seventh year of his reign (468 B.C.E.), when Longimanus granted Ezra “all his request” in a decree that provided for silver, gold, and vessels for temple use, as well as provisions of wheat, wine, oil, and salt. (Ezr 7:6, 12-23; 8:25-27) This generous contribution may explain why Artaxerxes is included along with Cyrus and Darius at Ezra 6:14 as one of those whose orders contributed to the ‘building and finishing’ of the temple, although the actual construction had been completed 47 years previously, in 515 B.C.E. The king’s decree even authorized Ezra to appoint magistrates and judges to teach God’s law (as well as that of the king) and to use capital punishment against violators where necessary.—Ezr 7:25, 26.
During the 20th year of his reign (455 B.C.E.), Artaxerxes Longimanus granted permission to Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates of the city. (Ne 2:1-8) Because this is referred to at Daniel 9:25 as relating to the time of the promised coming of the Messiah, the date of Artaxerxes’ 20th year is very important.
Nehemiah 13:6 refers to “the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes,” that is, 443 B.C.E., when Nehemiah returned for a time to the court of this king.