Ezra 4:6-24

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Ezra 4

 

  II.     The Restoration of the Worship of the Lord (continued), 3:1 - 6:22

            A.  The Temple rebuilt (continued), 3:1 - 6:15

 

The rebuilding opposed (4:1 - 6:12) (BKC)

INTRODUCTION:

 

Ezra did not record all the events in those 21 years (from 536) till the temple was finished (in 515) . . . (BKC).

 

We have already seen –

Attempts of enemies to stop the building (4:1-5) (BKC)

 

Ezra 4:1 Now when the adversaries [i.e. the enemies] of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity [i.e. the descendants of the captivity, the people of the exile] builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;

 

Ezra 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur [i.e. Assyria], which brought us up hither [i.e. who brought us here].

 

4:1-2 – (RSB) the adversaries. Descendants from the intermarriages of Israelites and foreigners who were transplanted to Samaria by Esar-haddon, king of Assyria, in 669 B.C. in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isa. 7:8, which was uttered in 734 B.C. . . . This procedure by the Assyrians effectively stifled nationalistic spirit and created a syncretistic religion [i.e. a blending of two or more religious systems into one new system]. Zerubbabel and Joshua refused the offer of help.

 

Ezra 4:3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

 

Ezra 4:4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah [i.e. discouraged the people of Judah, tried to discourage the people of Judah], and troubled them in building [i.e. and frightened them from building],

 

Ezra 4:5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

 

4:5 – (RSB) hired counsellors. Probably public relations experts at the court in Shushan.

 

Verses 6-23 form a parenthesis; so, to continue the narrative, skip to verse 24.

 

Ezra 4:24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia [i.e. The work on the temple ceased from 535-520 B.C.].

Back to Ezra 4:6

Parenthetical letters (4:6-23) (BKC)

 

These letters to and from Artaxerxes are out of place chronologically, but they follow here logically to show that the opposition Ezra had begun to describe (vv. 1-5) continued on for many years – to 485 B.C., the year Xerxes began to reign (v. 6) and on into the days of Artaxerxes (464-424). [Remember that the opposition began in 536 B.C.; so, it continued for at least 72 years.] Artaxerxes was the king who was reigning during the events recorded in chapters 7-10. . . . Thus the letters may have been written at the time of Ezra’s return (458 B.C.). Therefore the letters were written nearly 80 years later than the account into which they were placed. Ezra was not being deceptive by placing the letters here in this book since he clearly dated them by the ruler under which they were written. Anyone familiar with the history of that part of the world at that time (as were the inhabitants of Israel when the Book of Ezra was written) would have clearly seen what Ezra was logically doing (BKC).

Ezra 4:6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him [i.e. the adversaries of Israel wrote unto Ahasuerus] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

 

4:6 – (RSB) Ahasuerus = Xerxes I. . . . Nowhere else mentioned, this event took place in 485 B.C.

 

This was seven years before Esther would become queen in 479 B.C.

 

[Verses 7-16 give the content of a letter the enemies of Israel wrote to Artaxerxes who began his reign in 464 B.C. This is at least 51 years after the temple was completed.]

Ezra 4:7 And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions [i.e. colleagues, associates], unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue [i.e. in Aramaic script], and interpreted in the Syrian tongue [i.e. and translated into the Aramaic language].

 

[This letter is not the same one written in verse 6. It is at least 22 years later.]

 

4:7 – (RSB) Artaxerxes (464-424). Tabeel. Perhaps the same person as Tobiah in Neh. 2:19. . . .

 

(Ezra) 4:8 - 6:18 – (RSB) was originally written in Aramaic. . . .

Ezra 4:8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort [i.e. in this fashion, as follows]:

Ezra 4:9 Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions [i.e. colleagues, associates]; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,

 

4:9 – (RSB) This imposing list added authority to their letter.

 

Their complaint was not merely from a single isolated group. Judges and officials from various parts of the Persian Empire . . . and people who had been deported to Samaria under the reign of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal 200 years earlier were opposed to the work (BKC).

Ezra 4:10 And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar [i.e. Onsnapper, Ashurbanipal] brought over, and set [i.e. took captive and settled, deported and settled] in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river [i.e. on this (west) side of the (Euphrates) River], and at such a time [i.e. and so forth or etc.].

 

4:10 – (RSB) Asnapper. Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria (668-626), who completed the transplanting of the people begun by Esarhaddon (vv. 1-2). the river. The Euphrates. and at such a time. Equivalent to “etc.” . . . .

Ezra 4:11 This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river [i.e. on this (west) side of the Euphrates River], and at such a time [i.e. and so forth, etc.].

Ezra 4:12 Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which [i.e. who] came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.

 

The opponents noted that the Jews were restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. Their opposition was obviously not against the rebuilding of the temple, for it had been completed in 515 B.C. The opposition was against an attempt to begin rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem which the opponents called that rebellious and wicked city (cf. vv. 15, 19) (BKC).

 

4:13-16 – (RSB) Notice the three-pronged appeal: if the Jews were not stopped, the king would suffer financially (v. 13), his honor would be damaged (v. 14), and he would lose that part of his kingdom (vv. 15-16). we have maintenance. (that is) we are in the service of.

Ezra 4:13 Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city [i.e. Jerusalem] be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll [i.e. tax], tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage [i.e. damage] the revenue of the kings.

Ezra 4:14 Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace [i.e. because we receive support from the palace], and it was not meet [i.e. it was not proper, it was not fitting] for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified [i.e. and informed] the king;

Ezra 4:15 That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings [i.e. and harmful to kings] and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time [i.e. and that they have incited revolt within the city in former times]: for which cause was this city destroyed.

 

4:15 – (RSB) book of the records. kept sometimes for centuries in archives deposited in various cities. Note also 5:17; 6:1; Est. 2:23; 6:1-2. rebellious city. Not against Persia but against the Assyrians in 701 B.C. and the Babylonians in 600 and 589.

 

Remember that this letter could not have been written before 464 B.C., the first year of the reign of Artaxerxes. Thus, they are referencing things which occurred at least 125-237 years prior to the date of the letter they are writing.

Ezra 4:16 We certify [i.e. we inform] the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river [i.e. the result will be that you will have no dominion west of the Euphrates River].

 

[Verses 17-23 provide Artaxerxes’ answer to the letter sent to him in verses 7-16.]

Ezra 4:17 Then sent the king [i.e. Artaxerxes] an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time [i.e. peace, and so forth or peace, etc.].

Ezra 4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read [i.e. clearly read] before me.

Ezra 4:19 And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings [i.e. has revolted against kings], and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein [i.e. and the city of Jerusalem has been a place of rebellion and sedition].

Ezra 4:20 There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river [i.e. west of the Euphrates River]; and toll [i.e. tax], tribute, and custom, was paid unto them [i.e. to the mighty kings of Jerusalem].

Ezra 4:21 Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me [i.e. that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order].

 

4:21 – (RSB) The king [i.e. Artaxerxes] did in fact revoke this decision later (in 444 B.C.; Neh. 2).

 

The king commanded that the building projects stop . . . until I so order. This was the same king who later (444 B.C.) changed this edict and allowed Nehemiah to return and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-9). However, the immediate result was a forced cessation of the building activity because the enemies used force to back up a legal document from the Persian king.

Ezra 4:22 Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow [i.e. increase] to the hurt of the kings?

Ezra 4:23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power [i.e. by force of arms].

 

The result of the opposition (4:24) (BKC)

Verses 6-23 form a parenthesis, detailing opposition which occurred after the time of Zerubbabel. Verse 24 returns to the thought of verse 5.

 

The narrative now picks up where it left off after verse 5 (vv. 6-23 are a lengthy parenthesis). The result of the opposition during Cyrus’ reign was that work on the temple was suspended until the second year of . . . Darius (520 B.C.), some 18 years after the people had returned to the land for the purpose of rebuilding the house of God (BKC).

The parenthesis has ended; so, we return to the thought of Ezra 4:4-5

 

Ezra 4:4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah [i.e. discouraged the people of Judah, tried to discourage the people of Judah], and troubled them in building [i.e. and frightened them from building],

 

Ezra 4:5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 4:24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia [i.e. Work on the temple ceased from 535-520 B.C.].

 

4:24 – (RSB) The work on the Temple was halted until 520 B.C. In that same year Haggai urged Zerubbabel to begin rebuilding the Temple (5:1). This verse connects chronologically with verse 5 (vv. 6-23 form a parenthesis tracing the history of opposition).

Scriptures
Series

This sermon is the 3rd part of the series, Study of Ezra. Other sermons in this series are: