Ezra 4:1-12

EZRA 4:1

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;


As soon as the work of the LORD commences, the children of Satan are right there to attempt to hinder and stop the work.  Here we have the adversaries which were the Samaritans.  The Samaritans were the mixed inhabitants whom Esarhaddon (B.C. 677), the king of Assyria, brought from Babylon and other places and settled in the cities of Samaria, instead of the original inhabitants whom Sargon (B.C. 721) had removed into captivity.  And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.  (2 Kings 17:24)  These strangers merged with the Jews still remaining in the land, and gradually abandoned their old idolatry and adopted partly the Jewish religion.  Since they were not fully Jews they were considered polluted.


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 Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.


They tried the same trick the Gibeonites pulled on Joshua so he wouldn’t destroy them.  (Joshua 9)  They had come to Zerubbabel and the chief fathers asking them if they could build the temple with them.  They had pretended to be true followers of God but their motives were to find out what they were really up to and then to bring accusations against them.  They had been in Samaria for about 150 years and they probably feared that they would be removed from their homes and that the Jews would destroy them.  Esar-Haddon was the king of Assyria and made Samaria one of his conquered territories.


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.


Then Zerubbabel and Jeshua the High Priest did not trust them and rejected their attempt to combine with them in the building of the temple.  Then they told them that they have nothing to do with them especially in the building of the house of God but Zerubbabel was the one who received the commandment from Cyrus and that they would build the temple without any outside help, especially from heathens who were vassals of Assyria.  It is like unbelievers who donate to churches or ministries thinking they are somehow joining with God and winning some kind of points so they can get into Heaven through their altruism instead of the cross of Christ.


EZRA 4:4

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,


Then the Samaritans had begun to use threats and intimidation to weaken the hands of the people causing them troubles.  They created an atmosphere of fear.  The word “weakened” in the Hebrew carries with it the meaning of “cease or leave” the work.  That is why at this point they did not go past the laying of the foundation.  The goal of the Samaritans was to stop Judah from constructing the temple.


EZRA 4:5

And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.


Then within the provinces which were ruled by Cyrus, there were local officers who ruled and reported back to the king as to what was taking place in those areas.  So the Samaritans tried to get these local officers to withhold the needed materials to build the temple and they wanted to get the edict revoked so the temple would not be built.  They did what they could to hinder the progress on the temple.  There was also bribery to these officers to get them to stop the work.  These attacks continued all the days of Cyrus the king for the next eight years till 529 B.C. who was succeeded by his son Cambyses who died in 522 B.C. until Darius the son of Hystaspes began to rule.  He was known as the first Darius.


EZRA 4:6

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.


Ahasuerus was another name for Cambyses who reigned a total of seven years.  The Samaritans had continued their tirade against the Jews by continual accusations against them.  It was probably during this time that the building of the temple had stopped for the time being.  They had charged the Jews as disobedient and rebellious people.


EZRA 4:7

And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.


Artaxerxes was also the name of Cambyses and was the name given to many of the Persian kings.  It is not uncommon for the same person to have three names.  Jethro the father-in-law of Moses was also known by Hobab (Numbers 10:29) and Reuel (Exodus 2:18).  Bishlam was an officer in the court of Artaxerxes.  Mithredath was another officer but it is not clear if this is the same one mentioned in Ezra 1:8 who restored all the temple utensils.  Tabeel was a Persian official in Samaria who opposed the temple rebuilding by the Jews.  The Syrian tongue would have been the Aramaic tongue which was also written in Hebrew letters.  They had attempted to prejudice the king against the rebuilding of the temple.


EZRA 4:8

Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:


Rehum was the counselor of the Persian king which was a title for a civil governor and Shimshai was his scribe or secretary.  These two also opposed the work of the Jews in the building of the temple.


EZRA 4:9

Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,


The letter began with the naming of many of the allies of Rehum showing solidarity by many people who were in opposition to the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.   The Dinaites were the people who occupied the land where the ten tribes had lived.  The Apharsites and the Dehavites were Persian people.  The Susanchites came from the province of Susa.  The Apharsathchites were from Media.  Tarpelites were from Samaria in an unknown location.  The Archevites were people removed from Assyria and sent to Samaria.  The Elamites were inhabitants of Elam which was east of Babylon also where Susa was located.


EZRA 4:10

And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.


Asnappar was probably a chief in the army of Assyria who was under Esar-haddon and had moved people from Assyria to the area of Samaria.  The river in view here would have been the Euphrates and at the timing of the king who commanded these people be moved.


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, and at such a time.


Then we are given the contents of the letter which was sent to Artaxerxes the king.  The river here is also the Euphrates.  “And at such a time” may have been the greeting which preceded the body of the letter.


EZRA 4:12

Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which 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 intent of the letter was to inform the king with as much information as they could even if it was fabricated.  They especially name the Jews as the ones who came from the Persians.  In a roundabout way, they are blaming the Persian king for sending them.  Sound familiar?  Remember when Adam said to God “The woman which thou gavest to be with me.”  (Genesis 3:12)  They accused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be rebellious and bad or wicked.  They have come to the point where they set up the walls and had joined the foundations of the wall meaning they now have a protective barrier between them and any outside invaders.  This was a false statement because the walls were still in disrepair until the time of Nehemiah when he began to repair and rebuild the walls.  They had just set up the walls of their houses and the foundation of the temple because some of the houses were attached to the walls of the city.