Ezra 4:13-24

EZRA 4:13

Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.


Then what they do is hit a politician right where they live and that is finances.  They had warned the king that if the city is rebuilt and the walls are set up again, then they will be in a position to resist all attempts by the king to collect tolls, tribute, or custom.  These three words take into account all the taxes which are levied against the people and merchandise.  The word “endamage” means to “inflict damage, injure or suffer loss.”  If the king continues to allow them to rebuild, then his revenue stream is in danger.  This could also trigger a revolt of the other nations to withhold all revenue.


EZRA 4:14

Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;


These local leaders were paid from the king’s palace as employees of the kingdom of Persia.  They thought it not proper to stand by and allow the king to be treated with dishonor in this matter and therefore they have warned the king and also wanted him to check the history of Jerusalem to confirm what they were saying was correct.


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 and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.


Then they mentioned the historical records which were kept and probably brought from Babylon where Judah had rebelled against the king and refuse to pay tribute.  They already told the king what he would find but they wanted him to read it for himself.  He would probably read about the rebellion of Zedekiah who refused to pay tribute and the Babylonian king had him blinded but not before seeing the death of his children.  And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:7)  Then they stated that the reason the city was destroyed by Babylon was because of their sedition. 


EZRA 4:16

We certify 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.


They certified or made known to the king that if he allowed them to complete their project, then his kingdom would be shortened because he would have no extended kingdom west of the Euphrates River because it would serve as a catalyst for other nations to consider rebelling against the king.  Of course, this letter was a complete lie and had no basis in fact.


EZRA 4:17

Then sent the king 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.


Then the king responded to their letter and sent an answer to Rehum and Shimshai the scribe.  He also sent a copy of his letter to his representatives who were living in Samaria and also the other countries or provinces beyond the Euphrates River.  He bid them peace which was another way of bidding them health and prosperity at the present time.


EZRA 4:18

The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.


The letter which they sent to the king was plainly read before him so there would be no misunderstanding of the contents within the letter.


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, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.


Then the king had a search made of all the old records which probably included the records from both Assyria and Babylon.  They found exactly what they were told they would find but it was not a long period of time, the records probably recorded the rebellions of Zedekiah and Jehoiakim and were probably written in such a way that it made it sound like Judah had mounted major military campaigns against Nebuchadnezzar. 


EZRA 4:20

There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.


No doubt the kings in view were David and Solomon but that would have been close to 500 years prior before the kingdom of Israel was divided.  Many kings paid tribute and gave gifts unto Solomon but they were gifts of friendship because Solomon was not at war with any of them.  The ones who wrote the letter was counting on the fact that the king would make a connection between centuries old history and the present situation and would stop the building of the temple and the repair of the city.


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.


So on a temporary basis the king ordered the men of Judah to stop building the city until the king could issue another commandment concerning this situation.  He probably suspected that he did not receive all the information to make an informed decision and halted the project until further notice.


EZRA 4:22

Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?


As soon as they received the commandment from the king for the work to cease, they were to put that into effect immediately.  The king did not want to take a chance losing any of his tolls and tribute money which would also be important to his successors.  The king did not want to take a chance of having to quell a rebellion because the seeds of rebellion could spread all over his extended kingdom.


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.


As soon as they read the copy of the letter from Artaxerxes, it was immediately read unto Rehum and Shimshai.  Then they quickly went up to Jerusalem unto the Jews and made them cease the work on the temple and the city.  They had compelled the Jews to stop working by bringing with them probably a company of soldiers enforcing the reality that they had the power to make them stop if they didn’t voluntarily stop the work.


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.


So as a result, the work on the house of God had ceased for the time being.  It ceased until the time of the reign of Darius I who reigned from 521-486 B.C.  They once again began to work on the city and the temple in 520 B.C. then the building resumed under the prophet Haggai.  The building hiatus was about two years.