KING CYRUS lived only a few years after the Jews returned to Jerusalem. After Cyrus died, Cambyses reigned over the Persian empire. In the Bible, this king is called A-has-u-e-rus; but Ahasuerus is only a title of honor, and was given to several other kings as well as to Cambyses. Cambyses reigned only eight years, and then wicked Smerdis came to the throne. In the Bible, Smerdis is called Artaxerxes [Ar-tax-erx- es]; but there were at least three other Persian kings that had this title. It means: great king; and so when we wish to show which king we refer to, we have to put his real name with the title. For instance, we say Artaxerxes Lon- gim'-a-nus, Artaxerxes Memnon, etc.

All this time the Samaritans kept trying to hinder the building of the temple. They wrote letters both to Cambyses and to Smerdis. In these letters, they made complaints against the Jews, saying that Jerusalem had been a rebellious and bad city; and that if the Persian king allowed the Jews to build it up, they would rebel against him and refuse to pay tribute. 

They said that if the king would search the records, he would find that the Jews had done just so in former times, and had made so much trouble that their city had to be destroyed. 

When King Smerdis read the letter, he searched the records of history that were laid up in his palace, and found that the Jews had formerly refused to pay tribute, and that they had had some "mighty kings" who had ruled overall the countries west of the Euphrates River. So Smerdis sent a decree that the Jews must not build; and the work on the house of God had to cease. 

But Smerdis reigned only a few months, when another king, called Da-ri'-us Hys-tas'-pes, took his place. This king was more kind and generous; and in the second year of his reign, the Lord put it into the minds of his prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to urge the people to resume their work on the temple.

The people thought it a bad time to take hold of the work; for there had been a drought, and although they had sown much, they had brought in but little, and they did not seem to be prospered in anything. But the prophets encouraged the people, telling them that if they would take hold of the work, the Lord would bless and prosper them, and that in spite of their enemies the house of God would be finished; for the Lord had said that the same Zerubbabel who had laid the foundation of the house should finish it.

So the people took hold of the work; but as soon as the Persian governor who was set over the countries west of the Euphrates heard of it, he came to inquire who had given them permission to build. Then they told him about the decree which the great king Cyrus had made. 

So the governor wrote to Darius, king of Persia, telling him what the Jews had said. As soon as Darius received this letter, he sent men to search the records; and when the decree of Cyrus was found and brought before him, it was seen, by the reading of it, that Cyrus had not only given the Jews permission to build the temple, but had ordered that the expenses of the building should be paid out of the king's treasury.

Then Darius made a decree that no one should hinder the Jews in building the temple, and that money should be given them to pay the expenses of the work. From this time on, the Jews were not disturbed; and the house of God was finished in the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, twenty years from the time of its commencement.