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Ezra 4

EZRA CHAPTER 4

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

 1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel,

2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

 4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.

5 They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes

6 At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

 7 And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language.

 8 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:

 9 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates—the judges and officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa,

10 and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal  deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates.

 11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.)
       To King Artaxerxes,
       From your servants, the men of Trans-Euphrates:

 12 The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.

 13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer.

14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king,

15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed.

16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.

 17 The king sent this reply:
       To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:
       Greetings.

 18 The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.

19 I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition.

20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them.

21 Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.

22 Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?

 23 As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop.

 24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

INTRODUCTION TO EZRA 4

As the exiles rebuild they were approached by their enemies who volunteered to help them with their project.  But Zerubbabel and the leaders told them that they had neither part nor lot in the matter.  These same people did everything possible to stop the work.  First they tried to frighten them and then tried bribery.  This went on during the administration of Cyrus and Darius.  Later after Cyrus is dead and Xerxes came to the throne the enemies tried to get the new king to shut the project down.  We are told that the letter was in Aramaic language and the king responded by shutting the job down.  The work had stopped and would not resume for the next sixteen years.

EXPOSITION TO EZRA 4

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

 1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel,

Esarhaddon ruled Syria from BC 681-669.  After conquering Israel he removed its inhabitants and transported them to an area beyond the Euphrates, he then repopulated the land with foreigners who in turn intermarried with the Jews and this half-bread become known as the Samaritans.

2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

The Samaritans claimed to worship the same God as Israel but their religion was a mixture of heathenism and Judaism.

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

Under the hypocrisy pretense of wanting to help build the temple Zerubbabel will have no part of their help.  He knew that the motive was to destroy the work.

4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.

Perhaps with threats to cut off their supplies and threatening to send lawyers to the kings court.   

5 They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

They began a campaign of false accusation and scare tactics.  They sent their lawyers to the king and lobbied him for support.

Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes

6 At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

The present King Darius died BC486 and now his son Ahasuerus comes to the throne in Persia BC 485-465.  The enemies write a letter to Ahasuerus (same king as the book of Esther) but nothing was done at this time.

7 And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language.

Artaxerxes BC 464-424 who succeeded his father Xerxes receives a complaint from the Samaritans alleging that the Jews would rebel.

8 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:

This letter is designed to bring political pressure on the Jews. 

9 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates—the judges and officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa,

This letter states that the other countries are in full agreement with the contents of the letter. 

10 and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal  deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates.

This letter was a smear tactic to undermine the building project and shut off all funds from Persia.  The letter supposes to represent all the provinces east of the Euphrates.  Mention is made of Asnapper who was known by another name (Ashurbanipal).

11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.)
       To King Artaxerxes,
       From your servants, the men of Trans-Euphrates:

The term servants really mean that they were government officials ruling over a province in the Persian Empire.

12 The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.

They tell the king that the track record of the Jews is rebellious and that he can expect the same when the walls and foundations are finished.

13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer.

The enemies contend that this city was known for its rebellion and they wanted the king to issue a mandate to stop the work.  According to this verse the walls were being set up.  This is not the city walls which were built under Nehemiah but the temple walls.

14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king,

This letter is filled with rhetoric and is designed to bring action from the king against the work. 

15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed.

The letter suggests that the king take into account the past track record of these Jews and look at the official historical records.

16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.

The letter warns the king that the tax he is receiving from this territory is in jeopardy and that control of all territory east of the Euphrates would be lost.  This letter urges the king to put a stop to the building project immediately.

17 The king sent this reply:
To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:
Greetings.

Rehum and his associates were waiting for a reply.

18 The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.

The king replies to the letter which had been read to him.

19 I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition.

The allegations made by the Samaritans were confirmed by official records.  Here are some of the revolts that were probably looked at by the king’s staff.  Re-revolt of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedikiah.  2 Kings 24:1-20.  The report was serious enough to move the king to action.

20 Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them.

Artaxerxes was heir to the territory that was formerly ruled over by the Babylonians and this was a super power or world empire.  He takes a hard look at the David-Solomon Empire and can readily see that this new settlement in Jerusalem might aspire to the same greatness.

21 Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.

This project was red tagged—a cease and desist order is issued.

22 Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?

The king and his advisors realize that this could be a detriment to the Persian rule and therefore order that the work be discontinued. 

23 As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop.

They came with enough show of force and an official order from Persia to stop the work.

24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

The king’s letter gave the enemy the impetus to enforce the king’s edict.  So they came to Jerusalem with enough show of force to stop all work on the walls of the temple.  This project will be shut down for the next 15 years.

 

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