The Antiquities of the Jews, 11.19–11.30

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

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191. When the foundations of the temple were laying, and when the Jews were very zealous about building it, the neighboring nations, and especially the Cutheans, whom Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, had brought out of Persia and Media, and had planted in Samaria, when he carried the people of Israel captives, besought the governors, and those that had the care of such affairs, that they would interrupt the Jews, both in the rebuilding of their city, and in the building of their temple. 20Now as these men were corrupted by them with money, they sold the Cutheans their interest for rendering this building a slow and a careless work, for Cyrus, who was busy about other wars, knew nothing of all this; and it so happened, that when he had led his army against the Massagetae, he ended his life. 21But when Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, had taken the kingdom, the governors in Syria, and Phoenicia, and in the countries of Amlnon, and Moab, and Samaria, wrote an epistle to Calnbyses; whose contents were as follow: 22“To our lord Cambyses. We thy servants, Rathumus the historiographer, and Semellius the scribe, and the rest that are thy judges in Syria and Phoenicia, send greeting. It is fit, O king, that thou shouldst know that those Jews which were carried to Babylon are come into our country, and are building that rebellious and wicked city, and its market-places, and setting up its walls, and raising up the temple; 23know therefore, that when these things are finished, they will not be willing to pay tribute, nor will they submit to thy commands, but will resist kings, and will choose rather to rule over others than be ruled over themselves. 24We therefore thought it proper to write to thee, O king, while the works about the temple are going on so fast, and not to overlook this matter, that thou mayest search into the books of thy fathers, for thou wilt find in them that the Jews have been rebels, and enemies to kings, as hath their city been also, which, for that reason, hath been till now laid waste. 25We thought proper also to inform thee of this matter, because thou mayest otherwise perhaps be ignorant of it, that if this city be once inhabited and be entirely encompassed with walls, thou wilt be excluded from thy passage to Celesyria and Phoenicia.”

262. When Cambyses had read the epistle, being naturally wicked, he was irritated at what they told him, and wrote back to them as follows: “Cambyses the king, to Rathumus the historiographer, to Beeltethmus, to Semellius the scribe, and the rest that are in commission, and dwelling in Samaria and Phoenicia, after this manner: 27I have read the epistle that was sent from you; and I gave order that the books of my forefathers should be searched into, and it is there found that this city hath always been an enemy to kings, and its inhabitants have raised seditions and wars. We also are sensible that their kings have been powerful and tyrannical, and have exacted tribute of Celesyria and Phoenicia. 28Wherefore I gave order, that the Jews shall not be permitted to build that city, lest such mischief as they used to bring upon kings be greatly augmented.” 29When this epistle was read, Rathumus, and Semellius the scribe, and their associates, got suddenly on horseback, and made haste to Jerusalem; they also brought a great company with them, and forbade the Jews to build the city and the temple. 30Accordingly, these works were hindered from going on till the second year of the reign of Darius, for nine years more; for Cambyses reigned six years, and within that time overthrew Egypt, and when he was come back, he died at Damascus.

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