Ezra 4

1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel; 2 then they came near to Zerubbabel, and to the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you; for we seek your God, as you do; and we sacrifice to him since the days of Esar Haddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel, said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves together will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 and hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. 6 In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 7 In the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of his companions, to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in Syrian, and delivered in the Syrian language. 8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort: 9 then Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, the Dinaites, and the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Shushanchites, the Dehaites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar brought over, and set in the city of Samaria, and in the rest of the country beyond the River, and so forth, wrote. 11 This is the copy of the letter that they sent to Artaxerxes the king: Your servants the men beyond the River, and so forth. 12 Be it known to the king, that the Jews who came up from you have come to us to Jerusalem; they are building the rebellious and the bad city, and have finished the walls, and repaired the foundations. 13 Be it known now to the king that if this city is built, and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and in the end it will be hurtful to the kings. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not appropriate for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we sent and informed the king; 15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers: so you shall find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful to kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time; for which cause was this city laid waste. 16 We inform the king that, if this city be built, and the walls finished, by this means you shall have no portion beyond the River. 17 Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and in the rest of the country beyond the River: Peace, and so forth. 18 The letter which you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 I decreed, and search has been made, and it is found that this city of old time has made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. 20 There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the country beyond the River; and tribute, custom, and toll, was paid to them. 21 Make a decree now to cause these men to cease, and that this city not be built, until a decree shall be made by me. 22 Take heed that you not be slack herein: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? 23 Then when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. 24 Then ceased the work of God’s house which is at Jerusalem; and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–5

Every attempt to revive true religion will stir up the opposition of Satan, and of those in whom he works. The adversaries were the Samaritans, who had been planted in the land of Israel, 2Ki 17. It was plain that they did not mean to unite in the worship of the Lord, according to his word. Let those who discourage a good work, and weaken them that are employed in it, see whose pattern they follow. (Ezr 4:6-24)

Verses 6–24

It is an old slander, that the prosperity of the church would be hurtful to kings and princes. Nothing can be more false, for true godliness teaches us to honour and obey our sovereign. But where the command of God requires one thing and the law of the land another, we must obey God rather than man, and patiently submit to the consequences. All who love the gospel should avoid all appearance of evil, lest they should encourage the adversaries of the church. The world is ever ready to believe any accusation against the people of God, and refuses to listen to them. The king suffered himself to be imposed upon by these frauds and falsehoods. Princes see and hear with other men’s eyes and ears, and judge things as represented to them, which are often done falsely. But God’s judgment is just; he sees things as they are.

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