Scriptures

Ezra 4

Introduction

‘When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 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.’ But Zerubbabel, Joshua 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.’ Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials 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.’ Ezra 4:1-5

Opposition To The Rebuilding

As the Jews were building the temple, enemies arose against the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It appears that the Samaritans, 2 Kings 17:24-28, and others, who had been brought into Palestine after the initial deportation of the Assyrian captivity, 2 Kings 17:5-6, assumed that the reestablishment of the Jews in the land would pose a threat to them.

These people weren’t happy that Judah and Benjamin had come back to Judea, 2 Kings 17:33 / Luke 10:25-37. Isaiah had prophesied that Northern Israel would cease to be a distinct people within sixty-five years, Isaiah 7:8. This was fulfilled by 669 B.C., during the reign of Esarhaddon, 680-668 B.C.

The enemies asked to get involved in the building of the temple because they sought God, however, their motives weren’t totally pure, this is seen in their response to Zerubbabel.

In other words, they weren’t seeking the God of Israel, they didn’t really want to help in the building of the temple and institute the proper worship of God according to God’s commands. All they really wanted to do was to bring the Jews back into idolatry by worshipping their gods, 2 Kings 17:24-41.

It’s clear that the local people didn’t fully understand that Cyrus had allowed the captives to return home, in order to rebuild their temple. When Israel’s leaders rejected their offer of help, the locals turned on the Jews in an effort to frustrate their work.

The good news is that Israel are now showing a real commitment to God, they’ve obviously learned their lesson concerning idolatry from their seventy years in captivity.

Judah’s enemies went about discouraging them and frustrated their work on the temple. Sadly, their efforts succeeded and the construction work on the temple came to an end, this frustration continued through to the reign of Darius.

The situation remained like this until the arrival of God’s prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, however, instead of getting back to building the temple, they were more focused on building their own homes, Haggai 1:4.

Later Opposition Under Xerxes And Artaxerxes

‘At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. 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. Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates—the judges, officials and administrators over the people from Persia, Uruk and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa, and the other people whom the great and honourable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates. (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.) To King Artaxerxes, From your servants in Trans-Euphrates: The king should know that the people 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. 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 eventually the royal revenues will suffer. Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonoured, we are sending this message to inform the king, 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 with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. 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 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. The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. 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. Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests? 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.’ Ezra 4:6-23

Ezra 4:1-5 dealt with the Jews who begun the building of the temple in 536 B.C. but Ezra 4:6-23 refers to the building of city walls.

The Samaritan accusations against the people of Judah sought to stop the work through influencing the king against the builders was when Ahasuerus reigned in 485-465 B.C. The resistance under the reign of Artaxerxes I, happened in 464-424 B.C.

Notice that everything is written in Aramaic, instead of Hebrew, beginning at Ezra 4:8 all the way through to Ezra 6:18. Ezra 7:12-26 is also written in Aramaic.

Please note that this was resistance to the work of rebuilding the city and its walls. We know because Zerubbabel started the work and he also finished it, Zechariah 4:9 / Haggai 2:3.

The N.I.V. has the name ‘Ashurbanipal’, in verse 10, but the K.J.V has the name ‘Asnappar’ but that name isn’t named anywhere else in the Scriptures. He was probably the king of Assyria who allowed Manasseh to return from exile, 2 Chronicles 33:11-13, and possibly the unnamed Assyrian king who brought people from other countries into the land of Palestine, 2 Kings 17:24.

The letter they wrote was filled with some truths but also filled with some lies. Yes, Jerusalem had a sinful past but not at this point in time after they returned from captivity. The biggest lie in all of this was they said that the Jews had rebellious intentions.

After reading the letter the Persian king focused on the truth, which was Jerusalem’s sinful past. He acknowledges that Israel once had great kings ruling over Jerusalem and he acknowledges that these kings had great power to tax the people and impose tributes on those nations around them.

He’s well aware of how vast Israel’s territories were in times past, 2 Samuel 8:3 / 1 Kings 4:21. It’s no wonder he begun to see the Jews as a great threat, if they were once like that, they could easily rise up and become like that again. and so, he commands the work to stop.

‘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.’ Ezra 4:24

Coffman, in his commentary says the following about this verse.

‘Chronologically, this verse comes exactly after Ezra 4:5, above, where it was stated that, ‘The people of the land hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose … all the days of Cyrus king of Persia.’ In fact, this lobbying against the rebuilding of the temple went on throughout the remainder of the reign of Cyrus, through all the days of Cambyses, and until the second year of Darius I in 520 B.C.’

‘A little later in Ezra 6, we shall have a detailed report of how the opposition of the Samaritans was successfully checkmated and how Darius I ordered the temple to be rebuilt. One of the significant revelations of the chapter is the racial makeup of what we have loosely called the ‘Samaritans’. A remnant of those people was descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel; but as the letter to Artaxerxes shows, there were not less than nine different nationalities besides Israelites who constituted the population of Samaria.’

Here we find that the writer reverts back to 520 B.C., the second year of King Darius when the Jews renewed their efforts to rebuild the temple with the encouragement of Haggai, and Zechariah, Haggai 1:1-5 / Ezra 4:24 / Ezra 5:1-2 / Haggai 1:4-15. It then that they begin to rebuild the city walls.

Go To Ezra 5

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Ephesians 2:10

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