ARTAXERXES (ar-ta-zûrk’sēz). A proper name or possibly a title, like Pharaoh or Caesar for several kings of Persia. The name is variously derived by scholars but perhaps “strong king” (Gesenius) is as good as any. Herodotus said it meant “great warrior.” It is the name or title of three Persian kings in the OT.

1. The pseudo-Smerdis of Ezra.4.7-Ezra.4.23, a Magian usurper who claimed to be Smerdis, a son of Syrus who had died. This false Smerdis took the title Artaxerxes and reigned about seven months in 522-521 b.c. He was opposed to the liberal policies of Cyrus and Cambyses (called Xerxes, niv; Ahasuerus, kjv, rsv in Ezra.4.6) and was glad to prohibit the Jews from building the temple.

2. A Persian king (Ezra.7.1-Ezra.7.8; Neh.2.1; Neh.5.14; Neh.13.6) who was nicknamed “Longimanus” (“Long-handed”) because of a deformity of his right hand. He granted the requests of Ezra (Ezra.7.6) in 457 b.c. and of Nehemiah (Neh.2.1-Neh.2.8) in 444 to go to Jerusalem and gave them power, supplies, and authority.

3. Possibly another king who must have reigned before 516 b.c. (Ezra.6.14).——WSLS

ARTAXERXES är’ tə zûrk’ sez (אַרְתַּחְשַׁ֥סְתְּא, LXX ̓Αρταξέρξης, Pers. Artakhshathra, Arta’s Kingdom). There were three kings with the name of Artaxerxes, but external evidence indicates which of the three was Nehemiah’s patron. The Elephantine papyri show that in 408 b.c. Sanballat was an old man, whose work as governor of Samaria was to all intents and purposes in the hands of his two sons (Sachau, Pap. i. 29). This means that the Artaxerxes in whose reign Nehemiah lived must have been Artaxerxes I (464-424 b.c.), since obviously Sanballat was then in the prime of life. It would be impossible to identify the reigning king with Artaxerxes II or III. Therefore, in making Ezra overlap Nehemiah, the Chronicler intended to place Ezra also in the same reign. Ezra came to Jerusalem in 458 b.c., i.e. the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (Ezra 7:7), and Nehemiah in 445 b.c., i.e. the twentieth year of the same reign (Neh 1:1) (J. S. Wright, The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem, pp. 5, 6).

This means, then, that the Artaxerxes of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah was Artaxerxes I Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes I (the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6 and the Book of Esther). He is prob. the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7-23, but this identification presupposes that vv. 6-23 are somewhat parenthetical, providing further information on the subject of opposition from a later period (for a defense of such an understanding of that problematic passage, cf. ibid., pp. 17-26). It should be added that several years after the events of Ezra 4:7-23, Artaxerxes was generous to the Jews in general and to Ezra and Nehemiah in particular. The latter was even the royal cupbearer. It was Artaxerxes’ decree (445 b.c.) permitting Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem as governor of civil affairs and to rebuild the walls and fortifications (Neh 2) that marked the beginning of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9:24-27 (cf. Walvoord’s comments on these vv.).


A. T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire (1948); J. S. Wright, The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem (1958); J. Bright, A History of Israel (1959); A History of Israel reviewed by K. A. Kitchen, Supplement to the Theological Students’ Fellowship Bulletin (Summer, 1964), particularly pp. vi, vii; J. F. Walvoord, Daniel (1970).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Is the Greek and Latin form of one, and perhaps of two or three kings of Persia mentioned in the Old Testament.

(1) All are agreed that the Artaxerxes at whose court Ezra and Nehemiah were officials is Artaxerxes I, the son of Xerxes, commonly called Longimanus, who reigned from 465 to 424 BC. This Artaxerxes was the third son of Xerxes and was raised to the throne by Artabanus, the murderer of Xerxes. Shortly after his accession, Artaxerxes put his older brother Darius to death; and a little later, Artabanus, who perhaps aimed to make himself king, was killed. Hystaspes, the second brother, who seems to have been satrap of Bactria at the time of his father’s death, rebelled, and after two battles was deprived of his power and probably of his life. The reign of Artaxerxes was further disturbed by the revolt of Egypt in 460 BC, and by that of Syria about 448 BC.

The Egyptians were assisted by the Athenians, and their rebellion, led by Inarus and Amyrtaeus, was suppressed only after five years of strenuous exertions on the part of the Persians under the command of the great general Megabyzus. After the re-conquest of Egypt, Artaxerxes, fearing that the Athenians would make a permanent subjugation of Cyprus, concluded with them the peace of Callias, by which he retained the island of Cyprus; but agreed to grant freedom to all Greek cities of Asia Minor. Shortly after this Megabyzus led a revolt in Syria and compelled his sovereign to make peace with him on his own terms, and afterward lived and died in high favor with his humiliated king. Zopyrus, the son of Megabyzus at a later time, while satrap of Lycia and Caria, led a rebellion in which he was assisted by the Greeks. It is thought by some that the destruction of Jerusalem which is lamented by Nehemiah occurred during the rebellion of Syria under Megabyzus. Artaxerxes I died in 424 BC, and was succeeded by his son Xerxes II, and later by two other sons, Sogdianus and Ochus, the last of whom assumed the regnal name of Darius, whom the Greeks surnamed Nothus.

(2) Ewald and others have thought that the Artaxerxes of Ezr 4:7 was the pseudo-Smerdis. The principal objection against this view is that we have no evidence that either the pseudo-Smerdis, or the real Smerdis, was ever called Artaxerxes. The real Smerdis is said to have been called Tanyoxares, or according to others Oropastes. Ewald would change the latter to Ortosastes, which closely resembles Artaxerxes, and it must be admitted that many of the Persian kings had two or more names. It seems more probable, however, that Artaxerxes I is the king referred to; and there is little doubt that the identification of the Artaxerxes of Ezr 4:7 with the pseudo-Smerdis would never have been thought of had it not been for the difficulty of explaining the reference to him in this place.

(3) The Greek translation of the Septuagint renders the Ahasuerus of the nodetitle by Artaxerxes, and is followed in this rendering by Josephus. There is no doubt that by this Artaxerxes Josephus meant the first of that name; for in the Antiquities, XI, vi, 1 he says that "after the death of Xerxes, the kingdom came to be transferred to his son Cyrus, whom the Greeks called Artaxerxes." He then proceeds to show how he married a Jewish wife, who was herself of the royal family and who is related to have saved the nation of the Jews. In a long chapter, he then gives his account of the story of Vashti, Esther and Mordecai. In spite of this rendering of the Septuagint and Josephus, there is no doubt that the Hebrew achashwerosh is the same as the Greek Xerxes; and there is no evidence that Artaxerxes I was ever called Xerxes by any of his contemporaries. The reason of the confusion of the names by the Septuagint and Josephus will probably remain forever a mystery.

R. Dick Wilson