as the date of his death, thereby giving him a rule of some twenty-one years, an earlier date of 475/474 B.C.E. accords with the Bible record and has creditable testimony in its favor from certain of the ancient secular historians.—See ARTAXERXES No. 3.
Artaxerxes (Longimanus) to Darius II
The reign of Xerxes’ successor, Artaxerxes’ (Longimanus), is notable for his authorization of Ezra’s return to Jerusalem with a large contribution for the support of the temple there. This occurred in Artaxerxes, seventh year (469/468 B.C.E. according to the above-mentioned dating). (Ezra 7:1-26; 8:24-36) Some have assumed the reference to “a stone wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9) to mean that Ezra was commissioned by Artaxerxes to rebuild the city walls. However, the Hebrew term does not necessarily refer to a massive wall, such as surrounded a city, but often describes a wall such as encompassed a vineyard (Num. 22:24; Isa. 5:5) or lined a courtyard. (Ezek. 42:7, 10) (The Revised Standard Version of this text says “to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem,” while The Jerusalem Bible reads: “safety and shelter in Judah and in Jerusalem.”) Thus, this protective “wall” evidently refers figuratively to Jehovah’s extension of “loving-kindness before the kings of Persia” on behalf of his people, as mentioned in the same verse.
Thus, it was not until the twentieth year of Artaxerxes that a commission was given to Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, including “the wall of the city.” (Neh. 2:1-8) Artaxerxes appointed Nehemiah as “governor in the land of Judah,” giving him a military escort for the trip there. (Neh. 2:9; 5:14, 15) Nehemiah later returned for a time to the court of Artaxerxes in that king’s thirty-second year. (Neh. 13:6) Historians date Artaxerxes’ death as of 424/423 B.C.E.
An abortive rule by Xerxes II is considered to fit in between the rule of Artaxerxes and that of Darius II. Darius II, Artaxerxes’ son by a concubine, succeeded to the throne after Xerxes II was murdered. His original name was Ochus but he adopted the name Darius upon becoming king in 423 B.C.E., according to secular history. He seems to be the “Darius” referred to at Nehemiah 12:22.
Papyrus documents of Biblical significance
A considerable number of papyrus documents were written in Aramaic by a Jewish colony in Elephantine, an island in the Nile River near Syene (Aswan) Egypt, and these have been recovered and are dated by secular historians as from the reign of Darius I (beginning about 521 B.C.E.) to at least the reign of Darius II (c. 423-404 B.C.E.). The names “Sanballat” and “Johanan” occur in them and are thought to refer to those persons bearing the same names mentioned at Nehemiah 4:1 and 12:22. These papyri demonstrate the accuracy with which the books of Ezra and Nehemiah depict conditions and official communications during the Persian rule. As Professor Wright states: “Now . . . we are able to see that the Aramaic of Ezra is precisely that of its age, while the government documents are of the general type which we have become accustomed to associate with the Persian regime.” (Biblical Archaeology, p. 208) One document, credited to Darius II, contains a royal order concerning the celebration of the Passover by the Jewish colony in Egypt.
DOWN TO THE FALL AND DIVISION OF THE EMPIRE
Following Darius II came Artaxerxes II (called Mnemon), during whose reign Egypt revolted and relations with Greece deteriorated. His reign (dated as from 404 to 358 B.C.E.) was followed by that of his son Artaxerxes III (also called Ochus), who is credited with some twenty-one years of rule (358-338/37 B.C.E.) and is said to be the most bloodthirsty of all the Persian rulers. His major feat was the reconquest of Egypt. Secular history then gives a two-year rule for Arses and a five-year rule for Darius III (Codomannus), during whose reign Philip of Macedonia was murdered (336 B.C.E.) and succeeded by his son Alexander. In 334 B.C.E. Alexander began his attack on the Persian Empire, defeating the Persian forces first at Granicus in the NW corner of Asia Minor and again at Issus at the opposite corner of Asia Minor (333 B.C.E.). Finally, after the Greeks had conquered Phoenicia and Egypt, the Persians’ last stand, at Gaugamela in 331 B.C.E., was crushed and the Persian Empire came to its end.
Following Alexander’s death and the subsequent division of the empire, Seleucus Nicator obtained control of the major portion of the Asiatic territories with Persia as its central part. The Seleucid dynasty of kings, thus begun, continued until 64 B.C.E. Seleucus Nicator seems to be the one with whom the prophetic figure of the “king of the north” of Daniel’s prophecy first begins to manifest itself, opposing the Ptolemaic line of kings in Egypt, who initially appear to fill the role of the symbolic “king of the south.”—Dan. 11:4-6.
The Seleucid kings were restricted to the western part of their domain by the incursions of the Parthians, who conquered the territory of Persia proper during the third and second centuries B.C.E. They were defeated by the Sasanians in 226 C.E. and the Sasanian rule continued until the Arab conquest in 642.
The prophecy of Ezekiel (27:10) includes Persians among the men of war serving in the military force of wealthy Tyre, and contributing to its splendor. Persia is also listed among those nations forming part of the hordes directed by the symbolic “Gog of the land of Magog” against Jehovah’s covenant people.—Ezek. 38:2, 4, 5, 8, 9.
(Perʹsis) [a Persian woman].
A beloved Christian in Rome whom Paul greets and commends for her many Christian works.—Rom. 16:12.
Any rapidly spreading infectious disease capable of attaining epidemic proportions and of causing death. In numerous texts pestilence is related to the execution of divine judgment, as regards both God’s name people and their opposers.—Ex. 9:15; Num. 14:12; Ezek. 38:2, 14-16, 22, 23; Amos 4:10.
BROUGHT BY ABANDONMENT OF GOD’S LAW
The nation of Israel was warned that refusal to keep God’s covenant with them would result in his ‘sending pestilence into their midst.’ (Lev. 26:14-16, 23-25; Deut. 28:15, 21, 22) Throughout the Scriptures, health, either in a physical or in a spiritual sense, is associated with God’s blessing (Deut. 7:12, 15; Ps. 103:1-3; Prov. 3:1, 2, 7, 8; 4:21, 22; Rev. 21:1-4), whereas disease is associated with sin and imperfection. (Ex. 15:26; Deut. 28:58-61; Isa. 53:4, 5; Matt. 9:2-6, 12; John 5:14) So, while it is true that in certain cases Jehovah God directly and instantaneously brought some affliction on persons, as the leprosy of Miriam, of Uzziah, and of Gehazi (Num. 12:10; 2 Chron. 26:16-21; 2 Ki. 5:25-27), it appears that in many cases the diseases and pestilence that came were the natural and inexorable results of the sinful course followed by persons or nations. They simply reaped what they had sown, their fleshly bodies suffering the effects of their wrong ways. (Gal. 6:7, 8) Concerning those who turned to obscene sexual immorality, the apostle states that God “gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them . . . receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.”—Rom. 1:24-27.