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Artaxerxes of Persia

Artaxerxes I of Persia was the fifth king of the Achaemenid Dynasty. His father was the former King Xerxes and he ruled the Persian Empire from 465 B.C. to 425 B.C. which is where he appears on the Biblical Timeline Chart.  King Xerxes was murdered shortly before King Artaxerxes ascended the throne. The assassin who killed the former king claimed that King Artaxerxes oldest brother Darius told him to eliminate the king. King Artaxerxes then killed his brother and took over the throne.

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Most of King Artaxerxes rule was problem free and he didn’t make any major changes to the empire. The current system that was established by the former King Darius proved to be effective for governing the land. The people enjoyed prosperity and peace during his reign because he was able to keep control of the lands of Persia. Since he kept the system of government in place that was started by King Darius I, he was able to keep a vast network of trade and tribute flowing throughout the empire. He used the Phoenicians to control overseas trade routes to foreign lands, all of the provinces inside of the Persian Empire had to pay him an annual tribute and he established vast markets that covered the empire.

The religion of Zoroastrianism was popular in Persia and it still remained a viable worship system during the reign of King Artaxerxes. Other Persian gods were worshipped as well. One thing that all Persian kings did when they conquered a kingdom or empire is allowed the people to continue to worship their gods and King Artaxerxes continued this practice. He was also influenced by the gods of other nations including the god of the Jewish people. King Artaxerxes acknowledged God in the Bible though he might not have fully worshiped him.

Artaxerxes I of Persia
Artaxerxes I of Persia

King Artaxerxes also had another name known as Longimanus because his right hand was longer than his left one. He had a wife named Damaspia who was popular among the people. King Artaxerxes was considered an extremely kind and good hearted ruler. He always appeared to be fair and just. The king could also deal effectively with his enemies such as Artabanus who conspired to take his throne. King Artaxerxes defeated this military commander in a personal duel in front of everybody.

One way his kindness was shown was through the decree that he made for the people of Jerusalem. He allowed them to go back to their kingdom and assisted them with their journey and the rebuilding of the temple. King Artaxerxes personally knew of Ezra and Nehemiah. He also returned the treasures that taken from the temple under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Some historians trace the demise of the Persian Empire beginning with his reign. A few provinces within his empire tried to rebel, but they did not succeed. They state that the uprisings that he experienced during his time in power had planted seeds for future revolts and rebellions and it didn’t matter if he put an end to them. Greece was a kingdom that revolted against Persia during his reign and they would come back to defeat the Persians at a future date. The Greeks also encouraged the Egyptians to revolt as well. On the outer fringes of the Persian Empire, the people were conspiring to rid themselves of Persian domination. Once again King Artaxerxes kept control of the rebellious regions but he didn’t completely or wasn’t able to stop the people from conspiring against Persia. King Artaxerxes died in 425 B.C.

Biblical References:
Ezra 7 King Artaxerxes gives the decree for the Jewish people to return home and he also informs the rest of his empire to accommodate Jews with their return journey and the rebuilding of the temple.