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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 4

 

 

Verses 1-24

PRETENDED FRIENDSHIP AND OPPOSITION

(vv. 1-5)

Satan is subtle in the way he attacks a work of God. He appears to be friendly, as is seen in the way the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin came to Zerubbabel and other leaders of Judah, offering to help them to build the temple. They say they have been brought there by the King of Assyria (which was true), and that they had sacrificed to the Lord since that time (v. 2).This may have some semblance of truth in it, but they were Gentiles who had come into the land and adopted some of Israel's forms of worship, but we are told, "They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods" (2 Kings 17:33).

Zerubbabel and Jeshua discerned their true character and told them firmly that they could not accept their help, but they alone (Judah and Benjamin) would do this work according to the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia (v. 3). Believers today too must not accept the help of unbelievers (however friendly they seem) in building that which speaks of the recovery of the truth of the Assembly of God.

Then the people of the land changed their tactics, showing that their offer of help in building was deceitful, for they did not want the temple rebuilt at all.They tried to discourage the Jews from their work, causing all the trouble they could and even hiring counselors with the object of frustrating their labors. Their opposition continued throughout the reign of Cyrus until Darius king of Persia.

LETTER OF ACCUSATION AGAINST JUDAH

(vv. 6-16)

The friction was long continued, for inverse 6 we read of these adversaries writing a letter to King Ahasuerus, accusing the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, though nothing is said about the results of their letter, But in the days of Artaxerxes also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel and others wrote a letter to that current king of Persia (v.7). It seems this was in addition to the letter of Rehum the commander and Shimshi the scribe, whose letter is quoted in verses 11 to 16. They speak of themselves as representatives of a number of peoples who had been taken captive by Osnapper and settled in the cities of Samaria (vv. 9-10).Whether they actually represented those nations in writing as they did, maybe very questionable, but they wanted their letter to appear convincing.

They first remind the Persian king that the Jews now in Jerusalem had come up from Persia and were building what they call "the rebellious and evil city," finishing its walls and repairing its foundations (v. 12).They did not inquire of Artaxerxes as to the reason for Cyrus sending the Jews back, nor did Artaxerxes think of inquiring into this himself. But they write positively to the effect that if the city was rebuilt the inhabitants would not pay tax, tribute or custom to Persia (v. 13).Were they really concerned about Persia? Only insofar as they could benefit through Persia.This was like the Pharisees telling Pilate concerning the Lord Jesus, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend" (John 19:12). They had no love for Caesar, but used his name to frighten Pilate. But these adversaries of Judah only wanted Artaxerxes to surmise that the Jews would not pay tribute to Persia. They suggest a mere pleasing platitude to the king when they wrote that it was not proper for them to see the kings's dishonor (v. 14).

They asked the king for a search of there cords to find out that Jerusalem was a rebellious city, causing harm to kings (of course such Gentile kings as Nebuchadnezzar).It was true that Zedekiah had rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar after having sworn allegiance to him, and for this reason Jerusalem was destroyed. But they did not ask for records of Cyrus having sent the Jews back to rebuild the temple. Instead they declare that if Jerusalem was rebuilt the king would lose his dominion on the west side of the River Euphrates (v. 16).

THE KING'S ANSWER

(vv.17-24)

Artaxerxes replied to this letter,telling Rehum, Shimshi and their companions that their letter had beenclearly read to him, so the he gave command to search the records, whichconfirmed the fact that Jerusalem had on occasion revolted against Gentilekings and also that Jerusalem had had mighty kings whocollected tax, tribute and custom from others (v. 20). Since this wastrue, the king did not want to see Jerusalem revive in such a way as torequire tribute from others rather than to pay tribute to Persia.

Therefore, he commanded that the Jews beforced to cease their building until a command should be given by him toallow it (v. 21). His reason was simply that he was thus guarding againstany damage the kings might suffer (v. 22). He ought to have realized that any rebellion against Persia was extremelyunlikely, for the Jews were reduced so greatly to a state of weakness thattheir former state would never be recovered.

Having this authority from the king,these adversaries went immediately to Jerusalem and by force of armsstopped their work. Thus the work of rebuilding was discontinued until thesecond year of Darius king of Persia. This connects with verse 5 of this chapter. Thus Satan gained his object for the time,but God was not defeated.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/ezra-4.html. 1897-1910.

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