Q: How many Artaxerxes does it take to screw in a lightbulb in the year 530 bc?
A: A ridiculous amount of hours spent on researching which Artaxerxes was which…only to discover it was Darius instead…only to remember…there was no electricity in the 530 bc, so this was a complete lesson in futility.
After countless hours researching the Achaemenid Dynasty, I have come to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t worth the effort in the grand scheme of things. However, it was interesting (in a circular, head-spinning kind of way).
I am not really a history buff, but once I got into the book of Ezra, I realized that I was probably screwing up my study because I really can’t keep my Artaxerxes and Ahasuerus’ straight in my head, and being a detail oriented (almost OCD) kind of person, I had to dig into it way more than is probably healthy.
So, what I really want to know is, “Whose bright idea was it to repeat the same names for all these Kings?” Maybe it was a great idea way back when, but they really had no thought for all of us in the future who would have to sort out which is which. It feels like a game a “Who is on first?”
Ok. I’ve had my little rant. I want this in my notes so I never…NEVER..have to look this up again. The various web sites I looked at gave similar timelines though the years are all only approximates. Some of the sites left out Smerdis, others included him. So the following is kind of pieced together and compared to the Chapters in Ezra and it seems to make the most sense to me. If it’s absolutely accurate or not, I can’t say and apparently neither can the historians with 100% certainty, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
I’ve inserted some events and dates where I think they should be but several never gave the specific years in the text so they really are just guesses in some places.
Here is a quick reference list:
Cyrus II “The Great” – approx. reign 550-529 bc
-In the year 529 or 530 (approx.) decree for exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple
– 7th month (Tishri) Sept/Oct 15th day Celebrated the Feast of Booths.
– 1st day of Tishri, they began burnt offerings Ezra 3
– 2nd year 2nd month Iyyar (April/May) the foundation was laid.
Cambyses II “Ahasuerus” (not the same as Esther’s Ahasuerus) – approx. reign 529-522
-Ezra 4:7 Letter was written to this Ahasuerus, no mention of any reply
Pseudo Smerdia “Artaxerxes” – approx. reign 521 bc (farsinet.com)
– Ezra 4:7-23 This was the Artaxerxes that they wrote to the first time. The one that stopped the Temple rebuild.
-After foundation was laid, the building stopped until 2nd year of King Darius.
Darius I – approx. reign 522-486 bc
– Letter to Darius Ezra 4:24 2nd year of his reign rebuilding of Temple began again.
– 3rd day of the 12 month Adar, in the 6th year of his reign, the Temple was completed…approx. year 516
-14th day of 1st month Nisan, Passover observed.
Xerxes I “Ahasuerus” (Esther’s husband) – approx. reign 486-465 bc
– Gap in Ezra between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, time lapse of 50-60 years.
– See book of Esther 1-10
Artaxerxes I “Artaxerxes” – approx. reign 465-425 bc
– Ezra 7-10 Pick back up in Ezra chapter 7.
– This is the Artaxerxes that Ezra travels to in Chapter 7.