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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezra 4

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

The enemies of the Jews send letters to king Artaxerxes; he commands the Jews to desist from building the temple: the work ceases till the second year of Darius.

Before Christ 535.


Verse 1

Ver. 1. The adversaries of Judah That is, the Samaritans, who were planted in the several cities of Israel in the room of the Israelites, whom Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, had long before carried away captive.


Verse 3

Ver. 3. Ye have nothing to do with us, &c.— The Jews esteemed these people no better than idolaters; for, although from the time that they had been infested with lions, in the days of Ezar-haddon, they had worshipped the God of Israel, yet it was only in conjunction with their other gods whom they worshipped before; and therefore, notwithstanding their worship of the true God, since they worshipped false gods also at the same time, they were in this respect idolaters; which was reason enough for the true worshippers of God to have no communion with them.


Verse 4

Ver. 4. Weakened the hands See Nehemiah 6:9. Jeremiah 38:4.


Verse 5

Ver. 5. Until the reign of Darius The most probable opinion is, that the Darius here meant was Darius Hystaspes, whose second year was the eighteenth after the first of Cyrus, according to Huet. And it is plain that Ahasuerus, mentioned in the sixth verse, was Cambyses; and Artaxerxes, mentioned in the seventh, the false Smerdis; because they were kings of Persia, who reigned between the time of Cyrus and the time of that Darius by whose decree the temple was finished. But, as that Darius was the son of Hystaspes, between whom and Cyrus there reigned none in Persia but Cambyses and Smerdis, it must hence follow, that none but these could be the Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes that are said in this chapter to have put a stop to the work. See Prideaux, Ann. 522. Houbigant renders this verse thus: And because they had determined that they would prevent their undertaking, they hindered them all the days of Cyrus, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—Whoever sets his heart zealously to serve God, must expect opposition. Christ's church is never built, but Satan rages. No sooner do Zerubbabel and the children of the captivity (for yet the scars of this yoke were not healed) begin to build, than the Samaritans throw obstacles in their way. Note; Pretenders to religion are generally the bitterest enemies to true godliness.

1. They first, under pretence of joining in the work, desired to be incorporated among them professing to serve the same God; but they were liars, and meant only to sow discord, or to mar the service by introducing their own mongrel worship. Note; We must not believe every spirit; the darkest designs often lurk under the fairest professions.

2. The chief of the fathers, with Zerubbabel and Jeshua, aware of their design, refused any connection with them, and resolved to keep united among themselves; and while the law of God enjoined them to separate themselves from the nations, the king's commission authorized them. Note; (1.) Nothing so dangerous as bad connections. (2.) It is prudent to make use of our privileges as men, when they serve as a barrier to guard our religion.

3. The failure of this plot discouraged not their restless foes: at home, they sought to discourage the building, by ridiculing the attempt, or threatening to fall upon them, or preventing the necessary supplies from Tyre; while by bribing the counsellors who were about the persons of the king of Persia's governors, or the great men at his court, they sought to retard or stop the work; and this they continued till the reign of Darius. Note; (1.) The devil and his servants are restless in their attempts; the people of God must expect no truce. (2.) Many a wicked counsellor, for the sake of the fee, little cares how bad the cause is that he is engaged in.


Verse 10

Ver. 10. The great and noble Asnapper Grotius supposes, that Asnapper is another name for Salmanasar, or Ezar-haddon, who sent these colonies hither; but it is more probable, that he was some principal commander, who was intrusted by one or both of those kings to conduct them over the Euphrates, and see them settled in those countries. See Bishop Patrick. Instead of at such a time, in this, the 11th, 12th, and 17th verses, Houbigant, after the Vulgate, reads, dicunt salutem, send health, or greeting.


Verse 12

Ver. 12. The Jews After the return from the captivity, the people in general came to be called Jews, because, though there were many Israelites among them, yet they chiefly consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; and though the edict of Cyrus gave all permission to return when they pleased, yet the sacred writers take notice only of those who returned in a body.


Verse 13

Ver. 13. Toll, tribute, and custom By the first of these, מנדה mindah, Grotius understands that which every head paid to the king, and which we call poll-money; by the second, בלו belo, the excise, as we now call it, which was levied upon commodities and merchandize; and by the last, הלךֶ halak, the land-tax. But Witsius, in his Miscell. part 2 is of opinion, that the first word rather signifies that part which every man paid out of his estate, according as it was valued; the second, that which was paid for every head; and the third, that which was paid upon the highway by every traveller who went about the country with any kind of merchandize.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, No sooner was Cyrus, the professed friend of the Jewish people, asleep in the grave, and Ahasuerus advanced to the throne of Persia, than the enemies of God's people determined to improve the opportunity. Happy were it, if the church's friends were as watchful to serve her interests, as her enemies are to do her mischief.

1. The general design was, to render them odious to the government, by representing them as a turbulent seditious people; and the vouchers for the accusation were, the Samaritan governors whom the king of Persia had appointed, backed and supported by all the colonies of different nations settled in Samaria. Note; (1.) Lying accusations are the lot of all God's people. (2.) When godliness is to be oppressed, subscriptions will not be wanting to support any charge, however malicious or unjust. (3.) The many join in the general cry, usually without knowing why or wherefore.

2. The particulars of the letter are here recited, and show as much of the old serpent's cunning and malice as we might expect to find. [1.] To ingratiate themselves, and obtain the easier credit, they profess a high zeal for the king's honour, and deep gratitude for the maintenance or salaries which they received from him; and therefore they could not unconcerned see his government injured. Note; Pretended fears of danger to the state, are a common plea for the oppression of God's people. [2.] They brand the Jews as a people infamously disloyal; call Jerusalem the rebellious and bad city, which had in all times past been dangerous to kings and provinces; and, for the confirmation of their assertion, appeal to the records which contain Zedekiah's rebellion. Note; (1.) The enemies of God's people will not spare hard names; and the most are so easily influenced, that they conclude that a bad name must imply a bad thing. (2.) Dangerous designs are often imputed to God's people, when they of all others mean to be quiet in the land. (3.) If once an evil thing has been done by professors of religion an age ago, they are sure to have it laid at their door ever after, however much they disapprove and condemn it. (4.) When men desire occasion to stumble, the devil will not fail to supply them with it. [3.] They make a most lying report of the state of Jerusalem, and give a most malicious insinuation of the consequences: they declare that the walls of the city are set up, when it does not appear that a stone had been taken from the rubbish; that the temple alone engaged them; and that it was soon to be feared, there would be a general revolt of all the conquered provinces on this side the Euphrates, encouraged by the example of the Jews, to the dismembering of his kingdom, and the great loss of his revenue. Note; They who set their hearts against God's people hesitate not at lies; and, gross or improbable as they are, the world is always ready to swallow them.

2nd, God in wisdom sometimes permits innocence to be oppressed, and suffers the lying misrepresentations of the enemies of his people to prevail. But the day is coming when the lying lips shall be put to silence; and they who have loved as well as they who made a lie shall lie down together in the pit.

1. The king, without sending persons to the spot to make inquiry, credits the representations which his counsellors. who had been probably bribed, strenuously reported (for in a court what will not gold do?); and having found in the records Zedekiah's and Jehoiakim's struggle for liberty, and that former kings of Jerusalem had extended their dominions to the river Euphrates, he readily concludes that the danger was imminent, orders an immediate stop to be put to the building of the city, and appoints his governors in Samaria to see his orders executed. Note; It is difficult for kings, beset with courtiers and flatterers, to know the truth.

2. With delight and eagerness their enemies run to execute, yea to exceed their orders. They were only enjoined to cause the Jews to cease building the city, which was never begun; this, however, was easily construed to extend to the temple; and, having power on their side, there could be no resistance: thus the work continued at a stand, till the second year of Darius Hystaspes. Note; (1.) Nothing gives greater pleasure to a carnal world, than the suppression of God's cause and truth. (2.) Patient submission under unjust oppression, is a hard lesson. (3.) Though for a while God permits wicked men and oppressors to ride over our heads, their triumphing is but for a moment.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ezra-4.html. 1801-1803.

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