More than two thousand years ago (in the year 3392 after the creation of the world), King Achashverosh (Ahasuerus) ascended the throne of Persia. He was not the rightful heir to the Persian throne, but he succeeded in impressing the populace with his riches and power, and he established his government throughout all Persian territories. He waged many successful wars, until he ruled over a vast kingdom of 127 countries, extending from India to Ethiopia.

The people of Persia, already in awe of King Achashverosh's wealth, were further impressed when he married Vashti. She was the daughter of the Babylonian King, Belshazzar, and the granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful world ruler. The people now firmly believed that the Nebuchadnezzar dynasty was destined to rule forever.

King Achashverosh proceeded to rule with an iron hand, never hesitating to persecute those he suspected of treason.

Many years before, King Cyrus of Persia issued a royal edict which permitted the Jews to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash - the Holy Temple, in Jerusalem.

The sly enemies of Yehudah - the Samaritans and the Ammonites - who led a movement to abolish the edict of King Cyrus, now took advantage of the situation. They bribed the Persian governors who ruled over Yehudah and the neighboring countries to spread the rumor throughout the Persian court that the Jews intended, with the rebuilding of their Temple, to rebel and free themselves entirely from Persian rule.

Knowing that no law could be nullified without the consent of the king, these unscrupulous Samaritans decided to lie. They declared that the Jews were not only rebuilding the Temple, but that they were also reconstructing around the city the fortress walls that had been destroyed by the Babylonian conqueror, King Nebuchadnezzar.

Since the rebuilding of the fortifications of Jerusalem was forbidden by the decree of King Cyrus, the Samaritans claimed that there was sufficient reason for repealing the edict that had allowed the Jews to start rebuilding the Temple.

Yet they were frightened to tell an untruth that might be easily discovered, and even more frightened at the thought of the consequences when the source of the falsehood would be traced to them.

So they contrived a clever scheme by which they could not be held responsible for the false accusations. As the original accusation was written in the language of the Samaritans, they bribed the corrupt secretaries of the King who were to translate it, to add the words "fortress-walls" to the manuscript which spoke of the Temple. Thus, if caught, it would seem an accidental error in the translation.

The two secretaries who presented the document to the King were Rachum and Shamshi,1 both of whom felt bitter hatred for the Jews. The scheme proved successful, and the Jews were ordered to halt the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.