The Building Hindered.
1. the adversaries of Judah and
Benjamin—that is, strangers settled in the land of
2. we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice
unto him since the days of Esar-haddon … which brought us up
hither—A very interesting explanation of this passage has
been recently obtained from the Assyrian sculptures. On a large
cylinder, deposited in the British Museum, there is inscribed a long
and perfect copy of the annals of Esar-haddon, in which the details are
given of a large deportation of Israelites from Palestine, and a
consequent settlement of Babylonian colonists in their place. It is a
striking confirmation of the statement made in this passage. Those
Assyrian settlers intermarried with the remnant of Israelite women, and
their descendants, a mongrel race, went under the name of Samaritans.
Though originally idolaters, they were instructed in the knowledge of
God, so that they could say, "We seek your God"; but they served Him in
a superstitious way of their own (see on 2Ki
3. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua … said …
Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our
God—This refusal to co-operate with the Samaritans, from
whatever motives it sprang, was overruled by Providence for ultimate
good; for, had the two peoples worked together, familiar
acquaintanceship and intermarriage would have ensued, and the result
might have been a relapse of the Jews into idolatry. Most certainly,
confusion and obscurity in the genealogical evidence that proved the
descent of the Messiah would have followed; whereas, in their hostile
and separate condition, they were jealous observers of each other's
proceedings, watching with mutual care over the preservation and
integrity of the sacred books, guarding the purity and honor of the
Mosaic worship, and thus contributing to the maintenance of religious
knowledge and truth.
4, 5. Then the people of the land weakened the
hands of the people of Judah, &c.—Exasperated by this
repulse, the Samaritans endeavored by every means to molest the workmen
as well as obstruct the progress of the building; and, though they
could not alter the decree which Cyrus had issued regarding it, yet by
bribes and clandestine arts indefatigably plied at court, they labored
to frustrate the effects of the edict. Their success in those underhand
dealings was great; for Cyrus, being frequently absent and much
absorbed in his warlike expeditions, left the government in the hands
of his son Cambyses, a wicked prince, and extremely hostile to the Jews
and their religion. The same arts were assiduously practised during the
reign of his successor, Smerdis, down to the time of Darius Hystaspes.
In consequence of the difficulties and obstacles thus interposed, for a
period of twenty years, the progress of the work was very slow.
6. in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of
his reign, wrote they … an accusation—Ahasuerus was a
regal title, and the king referred to was successor of Darius, the
Letter to Artaxerxes.
7. in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam,
&c.—The three officers named are supposed to have been deputy
governors appointed by the king of Persia over all the provinces
subject to his empire west of the Euphrates.
the Syrian tongue—or Aramæan
language, called sometimes in our version, Chaldee. This was made use
of by the Persians in their decrees and communications relative to the
Jews (compare 2Ki 18:26; Isa 36:11). The object of their letter was to
press upon the royal notice the inexpediency and danger of rebuilding
the walls of Jerusalem. They labored hard to prejudice the king's mind
against that measure.
9. the Dinaites—The people named were
the colonists sent by the Babylonian monarch to occupy the territory of
the ten tribes. "The great and noble Asnappar" was Esar-haddon.
Immediately after the murder of Sennacherib, the Babylonians, Medes,
Armenians, and other tributary people seized the opportunity of
throwing off the Assyrian yoke. But Esar-haddon having, in the
thirtieth year of his reign, recovered Babylon and subdued the other
rebellious dependents, transported numbers of them into the waste
cities of Samaria, most probably as a punishment of their revolt [Hales].
12. the Jews which came up from thee to
us—The name "Jews" was generally used after the return from
the captivity, because the returning exiles belonged chiefly to the
tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Although the edict of Cyrus permitted all
who chose to return, a permission of which some of the Israelites
availed themselves, the great body who went to settle in Judea were the
men of Judah.
13. toll, tribute, and custom—The first
was a poll tax; the second was a property tax; the third the excise
dues on articles of trade and merchandise. Their letter, and the edict
that followed, commanding an immediate cessation of the work at the
city walls, form the exclusive subject of narrative at Ezr 4:7-23. And now from this digression [the
historian] returns at Ezr 4:24 to
resume the thread of his narrative concerning the building of the
14. we have maintenance from the king's
palace—literally, "we are salted with the salt of the
palace." "Eating a prince's salt" is an Oriental phrase, equivalent to
"receiving maintenance from him."
24. Then ceased the work of the house of
God—It was this occurrence that first gave rise to the strong
religious antipathy between the Jews and the Samaritans, which was
afterwards greatly aggravated by the erection of a rival temple on