Who is Artaxerxes in the Bible: Uncovering the Identity of a Persian King

Have you ever wondered about the characters populating the ancient world? They might seem distant or mythical, but they represent real personalities who shaped the course of history. Among them, Artaxerxes is one of the most intriguing ones. He is a central figure in the Bible, and his life influenced not only the fate of the Jewish people but also the politics of the Persian Empire.

According to the biblical account, Artaxerxes was the king of Persia who reigned from 464 to 424 BCE. He succeeded his father, Xerxes I, who is famous for his disastrous campaign against the Greeks, famously recorded in the movie “300”. Artaxerxes faced different challenges during his reign, such as internal rebellions, the expansion of the Greek city-states, and the growing influence of Egypt.

One of the most notable events in Artaxerxes’ reign was his decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. This event is recorded in the book of Ezra, and it marks a turning point in Jewish history after the Babylonian exile. Artaxerxes’ decision was not only a gesture of goodwill towards a subjugated people, but also a calculated political move to secure the loyalty of the Jewish leaders. As we’ll see, Artaxerxes was a shrewd ruler who used diplomacy and military power to maintain the stability of his empire.

Artaxerxes’ reign in the Bible

Artaxerxes was a name given to kings of the Persian Empire. There were four different kings with this name who ruled during different periods of the empire’s history. Artaxerxes I, also known as Artaxerxes Longimanus, was the sixth king of the Achaemenid Empire. He served as the king from 465 BC until his death in 424 BC. Artaxerxes II, known as Artaxerxes Mnemon, was the seventh king and ruled the empire from 404 BC to 358 BC. Artaxerxes III, also known as Ochus, was the ninth king and ruled from 358 BC until 338 BC. Artaxerxes IV, known as Arses, was the eleventh king and only ruled for a short period of time from 338 BC until 336 BC.

  • Artaxerxes I was a key figure in the establishment of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. In the Bible, he gave the Jews permission to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. This event is recorded in the book of Ezra, where Artaxerxes is referred to as King Artaxerxes.
  • Artaxerxes II is the king referenced in the book of Nehemiah, where Nehemiah serves as the king’s cup-bearer in the royal court. Nehemiah is granted permission by the king to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls.
  • Artaxerxes III is not mentioned in the Bible, but he is known for his military campaigns against Egypt and his suppression of several rebellions within the empire.

Overall, the reign of the Artaxerxes kings in the Bible is notable for its contributions to the rebuilding and reestablishment of Jerusalem and its place in Jewish history.

Below is a table showing the chronology of the Artaxerxes kings and their reigns.

NameNicknameReign Dates
Artaxerxes ILongimanus465 BC – 424 BC
Artaxerxes IIMnemon404 BC – 358 BC
Artaxerxes IIIOchus358 BC – 338 BC
Artaxerxes IVArses338 BC – 336 BC

The reign of the Artaxerxes kings is a significant period in the Bible’s history. Their contributions to the rebuilding of Jerusalem represent a key moment in Jewish history, and their reigns helped shape the course of the Persian Empire during its heyday.

The Character of Artaxerxes in the Old Testament

Artaxerxes is a prominent figure mentioned in the Old Testament. He was a Persian king who reigned from 465 to 424 BC. Artaxerxes is mentioned by name in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.

In the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Artaxerxes is portrayed as a king who was sympathetic to the Jewish people and supported their efforts to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. He granted them permission to do so and even provided them with resources and protection.

However, in the book of Daniel, Artaxerxes is portrayed in a different light. He is depicted as a harsh and ruthless ruler who appointed Haman, a high-ranking official, to carry out a plot to exterminate the Jewish people.

  • In Ezra and Nehemiah:
    • Supported the Jewish people’s effort to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem
    • Provided resources and protection for the project
    • Issued decrees facilitating the return of exiled Jews to Jerusalem
  • In Daniel:
    • Appointed Haman to carry out a plot to exterminate the Jewish people
    • Used his power to punish those who disobeyed him
    • Had a reputation for being ruthless and cruel

Despite the different portrayals of Artaxerxes in the Old Testament, it is important to understand that these books were written at different times and for different purposes. Moreover, while the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah provide a more favorable view of Artaxerxes, they were written from the perspective of the Jewish people who were grateful for his support.

In conclusion, Artaxerxes was a complex character in the Old Testament. While he was instrumental in supporting the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, he was also responsible for appointing an official who sought to annihilate the Jewish people. It is important to take into account the context and purpose of each book when analyzing his character.

BookPortrayal of Artaxerxes
Ezra and NehemiahSympathetic and supportive of the Jewish people
DanielHarsh and ruthless

Ultimately, Artaxerxes played a significant role in the history of the Jewish people and his legacy in the Old Testament is complex and multifaceted.

Artaxerxes and his role in the book of Nehemiah

Artaxerxes was a Persian king who played a significant role in the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament of the Bible. This book recounts Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Artaxerxes is mentioned several times in the book, and his actions and decisions had a profound impact on Nehemiah’s mission.

  • Artaxerxes’ decree: In the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign, Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins. He was heartbroken and prayed to God for guidance. Eventually, Nehemiah appealed to Artaxerxes for help by asking for permission to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. Artaxerxes granted this request and even provided Nehemiah with resources and protection.
  • Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem: With Artaxerxes’ permission, Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem and began his mission to rebuild the walls. However, he encountered opposition from various groups who did not want the walls to be rebuilt. Nehemiah prayed for strength and protection and continued his work, eventually succeeding in rebuilding the walls.
  • Artaxerxes’ continued support: Throughout Nehemiah’s mission, Artaxerxes continued to support and protect him. He even sent letters to local officials affirming Nehemiah’s authority and the importance of his work. This support was essential, as it allowed Nehemiah to complete his mission despite opposition and challenges.

The relationship between Nehemiah and Artaxerxes is an example of how God can work through people in powerful ways, even those who do not share his faith. Artaxerxes was not a follower of God, but he was used to help rebuild Jerusalem and restore hope to the Jewish people.

In conclusion, Artaxerxes played a crucial role in the book of Nehemiah by granting permission and resources for the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. His support and protection allowed Nehemiah to face opposition and complete his mission. This story is a reminder that God can use anyone to accomplish his purposes, even those who do not believe in him.


Book of NehemiahChapter(s)
6:15-16Nehemiah’s completion of the wall
2:1-9Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah’s request
2:18Nehemiah’s response to his critics

Persian Influence on Judean History During the Reign of Artaxerxes

The reign of Artaxerxes marked a significant period in the history of the Judeans, as it saw the rise of Persian influence on their society and the subsequent changes it brought about. Here are some key subtopics regarding Persian influence during this time:

1. Rebuilding Jerusalem

  • Artaxerxes’ decree allowed for the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, a critical step in the city’s restoration after its destruction by the Babylonians.
  • The Persian king also provided financial assistance and supplies for the project, which would benefit the Judean people greatly.
  • However, the reconstruction was also a complex process that involved political maneuvering and conflicts among the Judeans themselves, as well as neighboring regions.

2. Religious Reforms

  • Artaxerxes’ reign also saw the implementation of various religious reforms, particularly in the worship practices of the Judeans.
  • The Persian influence brought the adoption of some Persian religious practices and influenced the development of the Second Temple and its liturgy.
  • These reforms also led to the compilation of the Hebrew Bible’s final books and new literary genres, such as apocalyptic literature.

3. The Role of Esther

One notable figure during Artaxerxes’ reign was Esther, who according to the Hebrew Bible, became a queen of Persia and played a significant role in saving her people from persecution.

4. Administration of Judea and Persian Provinces

At this time, the Persian empire ruled over several provinces, including Judea. Artaxerxes’ influence was felt through his administration reforms that affected these regions, including Judea. The following table shows Artaxerxes’ administration hierarchy:

SatrapThe Persian governor of a large province, usually responsible for administration, defense, and tax collection.
PrefectA local official responsible for managing affairs in a smaller region, under the satrap’s authority.
Ezra and NehemiahJudean officials appointed by Artaxerxes to oversee Judea’s administration and religious reforms, respectively.

Artaxerxes’ influence was not only felt through his financial support and religious reforms but also through his governance of regions, including Judea. Understanding this political context is necessary in grasping the full extent of the Judeans’ experience during this period.

Artaxerxes’ Relationship with Ezra the Scribe

Artaxerxes was a prominent figure in the Bible, particularly in the book of Ezra. He was the king of Persia during the time of Ezra’s ministry. Ezra was a Jewish scribe who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to help rebuild the city and the temple.

  • Artaxerxes granted Ezra permission to return to Jerusalem and even provided resources for the project.
  • The king also contributed to the religious affairs of Jerusalem by commissioning Ezra to regulate worship practices among the Jewish people.
  • Ezra was regarded as a trusted advisor to Artaxerxes and was given significant authority to carry out his duties in Jerusalem.

The relationship between Artaxerxes and Ezra was a unique one, as it showed that the two had mutual respect and trust for each other. This can be seen in the king’s willingness to invest in Jerusalem’s restoration and to give Ezra the power to enforce religious laws. Furthermore, Artaxerxes’ support allowed Ezra to execute his mission without hindrance or opposition.

It is essential to note that Artaxerxes was not a follower of the Jewish faith, but he understood the significance of maintaining peaceful relations with his diverse subjects. The king’s support of Ezra demonstrated his commitment to religious freedom and acknowledging the importance of the Jewish people’s impact on the empire.

The Importance of Artaxerxes’ Support for Ezra

The support given to Ezra by Artaxerxes played a significant role in the success of his mission. Without the resources and support provided by the Persian king, Ezra’s efforts to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple would have been much more challenging. The partnership between Artaxerxes and Ezra demonstrated the power of a leader’s support in achieving a common goal.

Ezra’s Legacy under Artaxerxes’ Rule

Ezra’s impact under Artaxerxes’ rule went beyond the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. His role as a religious leader helped preserve Jewish traditions and laid the foundation for future generations of Jewish believers. His contributions to Jewish history are remembered and celebrated to this day.

Artaxerxes’ Contributions:Ezra’s Contributions:
Supported the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple.Regulated worship practices among the Jewish people.
Gave Ezra authority to carry out his duties in Jerusalem.Strengthened Jewish faith and traditions.
Demonstrated an understanding of religious freedom and diversity.Laid the foundation for future Jewish generations.

In conclusion, Artaxerxes’ support of Ezra was crucial for the successful rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple and the preservation of Jewish faith and traditions. Their relationship demonstrated the power of mutual respect and the importance of a leader’s support in achieving a shared goal.

The Persian Empire under Artaxerxes’ rule

Artaxerxes I was the fifth king of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, succeeding his father Xerxes I around 465 BC. He ruled for approximately 41 years until his death in 424 BC. During his reign, the Persian Empire experienced significant military and economic expansion, as well as a cultural and religious revival.

One of the notable accomplishments of Artaxerxes was his successful campaign against the rebellious Egyptian province, which had gained support from other rebellious states. His victory over Egypt solidified his position as king, and he was able to maintain control over the Persian Empire’s vast territory.

Here are some other key events that occurred during Artaxerxes’ rule:

  • The construction of the Long Walls of Athens: In response to the Spartan siege of Athens, Artaxerxes provided support to the Athenians in building a defensive wall to protect them from future attacks. The construction of the Long Walls was a major achievement of the Athenian Golden Age.
  • The Babylonian captivity of the Jews: Artaxerxes allowed the rebuilding of the second temple in Jerusalem, but also ordered the exile of Jews who refused to convert to Zoroastrianism. This event is described in the biblical book of Ezra.
  • The revolt of the Satraps: Several Satraps (provincial governors) rebelled against Artaxerxes’ authority, including Cyrus the Younger. However, Artaxerxes was able to quell the rebellions and maintain his control over the empire.

In addition to his military and political achievements, Artaxerxes also played a significant role in reviving the Persian Empire’s cultural and religious practices. He was a patron of the arts, commissioning many impressive buildings and monuments throughout the empire.

One such monument was the Palace of Persepolis, which was constructed during Artaxerxes’ reign and served as the ceremonial capital of Persia. The Palace was adorned with many intricate carvings and reliefs, depicting scenes from Persian mythology and history.

Artaxerxes was also a devout follower of Zoroastrianism, the official religion of the Persian Empire. He oversaw the construction of many temples and shrines dedicated to the Zoroastrian gods, and ordered the restoration of many sacred texts and rituals.

In conclusion, Artaxerxes I was a powerful and influential king of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, who oversaw significant military, political, and cultural achievements during his reign. His legacy can still be seen today in the impressive buildings and monuments that he commissioned, as well as the enduring influence of Zoroastrianism on Persian culture and religion.

The Impact of Artaxerxes’ Decree on the Rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem

Artaxerxes was a prominent figure in the Bible, particularly in the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. His decree had a significant impact on the process of rebuilding the temple and restoring worship in Jerusalem. In this article, we will delve deeper into Artaxerxes’ role and explore the impact of his decree on the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

The Number 7

  • The number 7 played a significant role in the rebuilding of the temple. It took precisely seven months to gather all the resources and materials needed to complete the construction.
  • Additionally, there were seven groups of people involved in the rebuilding process:
  • GroupRole
    LevitesPriestly duties and laborers
    Jeshua and his fellow priestsSupervisors of the temple construction
    Zerubbabel and his assistantsOverall leaders and coordinators of the rebuilding project
    The sons of HassenaahConstruction workers and repairmen
    The sons of Pahath-MoabConstruction workers and repairmen
    The sons of ElamConstruction workers and repairmen
    The sons of ZattuConstruction workers and repairmen
  • Finally, the temple was dedicated on the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, a celebration that lasted seven days.


The impact of Artaxerxes’ decree on the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem was significant, as evidenced by the completion of the temple and its dedication seven months later. The use of the number seven in the rebuilding process is a testament to the attention to detail and symbolism used in the temple’s reconstruction. Overall, Artaxerxes’ decree allowed for the reestablishment of worship in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple as a central place of worship for the Jewish people.

Who is Artaxerxes in the Bible?

1. Who was Artaxerxes?
Artaxerxes was the name of several Persian kings mentioned in the Bible. It can refer to Artaxerxes I, Artaxerxes II, or Artaxerxes III.

2. What is Artaxerxes known for in the Bible?
Artaxerxes is known for allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and city walls, as described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

3. What was Artaxerxes’ relationship with Ezra?
Artaxerxes appointed Ezra as the leader of the second wave of Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem, as described in the book of Ezra.

4. What was Artaxerxes’ decree?
Artaxerxes issued a decree authorizing Ezra to lead a group of Jews back to Jerusalem and provide them with resources to rebuild the Temple and restore worship.

5. What was Artaxerxes’ role in the book of Esther?
Artaxerxes was the king who married Esther and was thwarted by Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. Esther, with the help of Mordecai, was able to reveal the plot and save her people.

6. Was Artaxerxes a supportive ruler for the Jewish people?
Artaxerxes’ support for the Jewish people was mixed. While he gave them permission to return to Jerusalem and provided resources for the Temple and wall, he also gave authority to his officials to interfere with the rebuilding efforts.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know more about Artaxerxes in the Bible, you can better understand his historical significance and role in Jewish history. It is important to continue to study these figures and events to gain a deeper appreciation of the Bible and its impact on our world today. Thank you for reading, and be sure to come back for more informative articles in the future!