Ezra 4:1-10


Verse 1-4, Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;

I.    Who are these adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.

A.  Our first clue is that they were brought to the land of Israel by Esarhaddon, King of Assur.

1.   Assur is Assyria.

2.   Assyria under King Shalmaneser (II Kings 17:3) took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive in the year 722 B. C.

a.   Sargon was the next king of Assyria and ruled immediately after Shalmaneser took Israel captive.

b.   Some history claims that Sargon took Israel captive.

3.   These people all claim that Esarhaddon moved them to Israel because:

a.   he was the most famous of the Assyrian kings,

b.   and it was simpler to state that one king brought them in rather than go into all the history.

B.   Assyrians kings who immigrated people into northern Israel.

1.   In 722 B. C., the Assyrians moved some people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and placed them in the cities of Samaria and the region around about, II Kings 17:24.

a.   Babylon - a city located on the Euphrates River, the capital city of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom.

b.   Cuthah - an area located some 200 miles to the southeast of Babylon, sometimes called Cuth.

c.   Ava - a city located in the area of Cuthah.

d.   Hamath - A Syrian city almost 200 miles due north of Jerusalem.

e.   Sepharvaim - A city located on the Euphrates River about 50 miles upstream (northwest) from Babylon.

2.   Some time later, another Assyrian king named Sargon, added to this immigration some people from an Arabian element.

3.   Later, probably near the year 675 B. C., Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, brought over some people from his kingdom.

4    The mixture of people is recorded in Ezra 4:10, by the mixed multitude themselves.


II.   According to II Kings 17:24-34, what were the people like who were migrated to the area of Samaria?

A.  Verse 24-26 - They were a people who believed God was a topical God, dwelling only in that area.

1.   They were a superstitious people, believing that every god was served different, according to the area he governed.

2.   They didn't know how to get God to stop sending lions among them, so they informed the King of Assyria about the situation.  If they knew anything at all, they would have talked to that "god" about it!

B.   Verse 27-28 - The king of Assyria sent one of the captive priests back to Samaria to teach them about God.

1.   It is obvious to me that this priest was ill informed about God, for he is not a prophet of God, and has gone into captivity because of his rebellion.

2.   All he could teach the people would be the traditional religious worship the Jews had which caused them to go into captivity.

3.   The result of his instruction was not a separation from other gods, but a mingling of true worship with false.

4.   This is an abomination to God.

C.   Verse 29-34 - When the people learn about God, they commit themselves to His worship, only to keep the lions away.

1.   This is a worship "under the law", and not "under grace", or because of love.

2.   In addition to worshipping God, they also worship various other gods, according to their nationality.


III. How did the locals hear about Israel building the temple.

A.  There is no doubt the people hear the decree of King Cyrus.

1.   Ezra 1:1 - Cyrus "...made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,".

2.   This decree would give them knowledge of the building of the temple.

B.   Ezra 3:13 declares that the noise of the worship when the foundation was laid was hear afar off.

1.   The locals would have a natural curiosity about the noise.

2.   The people would think about what was going on and make speculation about its outcome on them.

3.   These people worshipped God, along with their own gods, so naturally, they wanted to "get in on" this new activity.


Verse 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 Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.

I.    They come to the leaders of Israel.

A.  This is as it should be.

B.   If they had gone to the people, they might have got a different answer.

1.   There are always some weaker members who would accept almost anything.

2.   Satan knows who these weak ones are and will often direct his assaults against them.


II.   Is there anything wrong with their request?

A.  First of all, we must say there is not necessarily anything wrong with those who want to join in building the temple.

1.   I am very sorry to say that most church members today would find nothing at all wrong with this ungodly request.

2.   Most church members are so engrossed with the world, that they think it is unusual to be separated unto Godly living.

3.   There is not necessarily anything wrong with people wanting to join in helping a true church of Jesus Christ worship God.

4.   The trouble comes when they want to keep on doing the same old things there were doing.

5.   A person cannot be a true member of one of the Lord's churches and be a member in good fellowship with the world.

B.   The leaders of Israel thought there was something wrong with the request.

1.   These Jews saw right away that something was wrong.  They understood the error because they had just spent the last 70 years in captivity.

2.   They understood why Israel went into captivity in the first place, and they didn't want to get involved in that same old compromising again.

3.   They did see accepting these people into the work was a compromise against God.

4.   They didn't count refusing to accept them as against the people at all, but as a compromise against god.

5.   Their only thought was to "do it God's way".

6.   A lot of church members today wouldn't see anything wrong to compromising a little to gain a few church members.

7.   After all, how can you teach people if they won't come to church?

8.   The problem reveals itself in trying to teach spiritual truths to people who are spiritually dead.

C.   Some "foreigners" who were accepted by the Jews.

1.   Joshua 6 - Rahab the harlot and her household were saved alive, not because some men decided to save a whore, but because she was now a believer, and willingly joined herself to Israel, God's chosen people.  She became the wife of Salmon and bore Booz, the husband of Ruth.

2.   Ruth - Ruth was a Moabite, and a Moabite was an abomination to the Lord.  She was accepted by the Jews, not because she was a hard worker, but because she showed her faith by leaving her country, and family behind, and embracing the Jews as God's chosen people.

3.   Actually anybody who accepted by faith the Jewish religion was accepted by the Jews, allowed to live with them and worship God, being included in the promises God gave to Israel.


III. Their desire to join with Israel.

A.  They do not understand the difference between their religion and the religion of the Jews.

1.   Most people today do not understand the difference between religions.

2.   Most people will say they go to church, and one church is as good as another.

3.   Some will say that one Bible translation is as good as another.

4.   Some will even say that there is no basic difference between a cult and true worship of God.

B.   It is true that they do sacrifice unto God.

1.   According to II Kings 17:29-36, they not only do sacrifice to God, they also do sacrifice to many other gods.

2.   Verse 32 states, "So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places,..."

3.   Verse 33 states, "They feared the LORD, and served their own gods..."

4.   Verse 34 states, "Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD..."

C.   These people have a mixed religion already.

1.   They have joined the worship of God and the worship of their own gods for so long their minds cannot conceive of worshipping only one God.

2.   They don't understand that God hasn't accepted them or their worship for the past 140 years.


IV. Since the days of Esarhaddon.

A.  The year these immigrants learned about the "god of the land" was probably about 675 B. C.

B.   It is now the year 536 B. C.

C.   This means they had done sacrifice (not true worship) to God for some 140 years.

1.   They had "worshipped" God all of their lives and the lives of their parents.

2.   Their grandparents might be able to remember when God wasn't "worshipped".

D.  They are very proud of their heritage.

1.   They think the Jews will be impressed by them.

2.   The Jews weren't impressed at all.


Verse 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.

I.    Here is a major turning point for the Jews.

A.  If they accept these people as equals they have done exactly as their forefathers.

B.   It would have been good to have the good will of the local people.

1.   When the Jews refused to include these people, they are running the risk of much trouble, and that is exactly what they get.

2.   It is very clear that these immigrants are not fully for the worship of Jehovah because they do all they can to hinder the building of the temple.


Verse 4,5,  Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, {5} And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Why did the people of the land try to stop the building?

A.  It was doing them no harm at all.

1.   The same thing happens today when people want to stop us from worshipping as God directs us, when our worship doesn't hurt them at all.

2.   People make fun of us because we live the way we do, when what we are doing doesn't hurt them at all.

3.   People laugh at a school that only has 10 or so students, and try to stop that school from operating, when they are perfectly free to send their children to any school they so choose.

B.   One point is that the wicked don't want anything going on that they don't have control of.

1.   Wicked people don't want God to have control of their lives.

2.   Wicked people have a great desire to be "in charge" or "in control" of their lives.

3.   This belief is taught in many popular magazines, and is really an effort to destroy God's authority over individuals, communities, and nations.

C.   Another point is that righteousness is a rebuke to wickedness.

1.   The light that shines in a dark place lights up the sin in that place.

2.   The lost hate righteousness because it shows how wicked they really are.


II.   They actually bribed government officials to stop the work.

A.  These counsellors seem to be government officials, and others of power, who were able to do various things to slow down the work and generally discourage the builders. 

B.   We must notice that Satan was not able to stop the work completely, but he was able to discourage the workers.

1.   The same thing is true today.

2.   Satan cannot completely stop the work of God from going forward, but he sure can discourage the workers, and even cause them to quarrel with one another.


III. I think it is very obvious that this mixed multitude was against Israel from the very beginning.

A.  Their not being accepted by the Jews should have encouraged them to wait and watch, and try to show that they were truly sincere in their desire to help build the temple.

B.   If they had been for them, they wouldn't have turned so quickly and begun to fight them.

1.   Therefore, the true meaning of their trying to join Israel is brought to light.

2.   They fully intended to join with them, then lead Israel into compromising true worship with the mixed worship they had.

3.   It must be noted that it might not have been the "plan" of these Samaritans to compromise the Jewish religion, but that would have been the eventual result.


IV. Another thing that needs to be noted is the unrelenting opposition.

A.  The rebels didn't try just one or two things against Israel, but continually tried various things over a period of 16 years.

B.   The sixteen years would be the entire reign of Cyrus (over Israel {7 years}) plus the 9 years of Campyses.


Verse 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.

I.    This Ahasuerus is probably Campyses.

A.  There is a lot of doubt as to who this Ahasuerus is.

B.   I believe he is different from Artaxerxes in verse 7 because verse 7 begins with the word "and".

1.   The word "and" tells me these are two separate events.

2.   This seems to indicate that the Samaritans continually wrote to Ahasuerus, then when he died and Artaxerxes came to the throne, they begin writing to him.

3.   Ahasuerus continually stayed with the decree of Cyrus for he understood the command was from God.

4.   The next king of Persia was Darius I, and he didn't know about God, or care for the Jewish people.


II.   They didn't waste any time informing their new king of the "terrible" things done by these Jews!

A.  They wrote in the beginning of his reign.

1.   Those that oppose God's work usually do not waste any time setting things in motion to hinder that work.

2.   Those that God choses for His work often wait for a more convenient season before they begin God's work.

3.   The combination of these two things often causes God's work to be very slowly done, and sometimes not at all.

B.   They wrote an accusation against the Jews.

1.   They failed to tell Artaxerxes that they had asked the Jews to let them help build the temple, but they had refused their help.

2.   I suppose it is reasonable to tell only the part of the story that makes the teller look good.

3.   If we follow our fleshly natures, this is the way we tell things.

4.   If we follow our spiritual natures, we will look at all things honestly, and tell them honestly.

5.   For the nature of the accusation see the comments on the verses that contain the letter.

C.   Rev. 12:10, Satan is the accuser of the brethren, so these people are doing Satan's work.

1.   Prov. 11:21, 16:5,  Though hand join in hand, Satan's work shall not be accomplished.

2.   Ps. 2:1-4, God laughs when the nations of this world take counsel together trying to stop His will.


Verse 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.

I.    This is obviously the same letter, or at least the same type of letter written in verse 6.  Artaxerxes is the common name of the Persian kings.

A.  These people just don't give up trying to disturb the Jews.

1.   Satan doesn't give up trying to disturb those people who desire to serve God.

2.   The only people Satan doesn't bother are those who are already in his clutches.

B.   It must be noted that they don't pay any attention to government laws or edicts.

1.   King Cyrus made a decree in the law of the Medes and Persians, which could not be revoked, but it made no matter to them.

2.   They will continue battling the government until the government gives them what they desire.

3.   There are a lot of people who do exactly the same thing today.

4.   They are not content to simply let God's people do what they want to do.

5.   They think the things we do are strange and try to get all kinds of government laws written so we can't do like God wants us to do.


II.   The people who wrote the letter.

A.  It must be noted that their names are written in the Bible.

1.   This shows that God knows who these people are.

2.   God knows who to judge, and how to judge them.

3.   Those people that fight God's people will face that judgment, and those people that help God's people will be judged for that.

4.   It is a privilege to have our names written in the Bible, but not like this.

5.   Satan's name is also written in the Bible, but I certainly wouldn't want to be in his shoes when the judgment day comes.

B.   Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, the rest of their companions.

1.   There is no record in the Bible as to who these people are.

2.   Some believe this is a general name for all the opposers of God's people.

3.   Some believe they are actual people.

4.   There is really no way to tell, but we can rest assured that God knows exactly who they are.

C.   Mithredath.

1.   According to Ezra 1:8, Mithredath is a treasurer of Cyrus.

2.   This can't be the same person.

D.  Tabeel.

1.   This names appears only one time the Bible.

2.   So there is nothing about who he is.

E.   The rest of their companions.

1.   There is no record of who all these people are.

2.   We might not know who they are, but we are always rest assured that Satan will always have his followers.


III. The letter was written and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.

A.  Some believe this was some sort of dialect of the Hebrew language.

B.   Some believe there was a post script which explained some things in the letter.

C.   II Kings 18:26 seems to explain the meaning perfectly.

1.   When the king of Assyria had taken Israel (the northern tribes) captive (B. C. 722), he also tried to take Jerusalem captive.

2.   The Assyrian army camped outside the gates of Jerusalem and shouted (in the language of the Jews) toward the city that they were going to take them captive.

3.   Eliakim, the spokesman for the Jews at that time, shouted back that instructions should be given in the Syrian language because the common Jew didn't understand that language.

4.   Therefore we understand that this letter was written and interpreted in the Syrian language because if the letter fell into the hands of the common Jew, he would be unable to know what it was about.

D.  It must be noted that Satan always works in secret, hoping to surprise God's people.

1.   It should also be noted that the Jews did find out about the letter and what was in it.

2.   A copy of the letter is found in verses 11-22.

3.   This shows us that the Jews will find out all the details when somebody hurts them.

4.   They will take care of it eventually.


Verse 8, Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:

I.    Rehum the chancellor.

A.  There is really no record of who Rehum is.

B.   The word "chancellor" means the total master, judge, and one who controls the accounts (money) of the area.

1.   Him being a part of the letter is very important to put emphases on the part of the letter that says the Jews will refuse to pay taxes, thus there will be hurt to the kingdom of the Persians.

2.   When Artaxerxes understands who has written him concerning this matter, he will certainly listen.

3.   It is also very interesting to note that Cyrus and Campyses pay no attention to the same sort of letter.


II.   Shimshai the scribe.

A.  There is no record of who this man is.

B.   The word scribe tells what this person does for a living.

1.   A scribe is one who marks down, keeps tally or score, writes in a book.

2.   He is probably the official record keeper.

3.   We would call this person a secretary today.

4.   He would be the one to keep up with where the records are stored so they would be available.


Verse 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,

I.    For a description of Rehum and Shimshai see the comments on verse 8.


II.   The rest of their companions:  (This information is taken from Barnes Notes on Ezra 4:9,10)

A.  The Dinaites were probably colonists from Dayan, a country often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions as bordering on Cilicia and Cappadocia. 

B.   The Apharsathchites.  I do not know who they are. 

C.   The Tarpelites were colonists from the nation which the Asssyrians called Tuplai, the Greeks "Tibareni," and the Hebrews generally "Tubal". 

D.  The Apharsites were probably "the Persians". 

E.   The Archevites were natives of Erech, Genesis 10:10. 

F.   The Babylonians were from Babylon. 

G.   The Susanchites were from Shushan or Susa. 

H.  The Dehavites were colonists from the Persian tribe of the Da‹. 

I.    The Elamites were from Elam or Elyma‹s, the country of which Susa was the capital.

J.    Verse 10 mentions the rest of the nations.

1.   This means that every nation that inhabited the area surrounding Samaria signed the letter.

2.   It is very amazing how Satan can always get people involved in fighting God's people, but often God's people can't get involved enough to fight the Devil.


III. This is a very impressive list of people.

A.  When King Artaxerxes read this letter and saw the vast number of people who signed it, he would know that this was no small matter.

B.   The impression the Samaritans wanted to leave was that everybody was against what the Jews were doing.

1.   They didn't mention that King Cyrus had commanded the temple to be build.

2.   Wicked people don't seek the truth, they look for something that everybody can agree on.

3.   Even if everybody in the whole wide world agreed that God was dead, that wouldn't make it so.

4.   The truth is still the truth, regardless of who believes it.


Verse 10,  And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.

I.    This Asnapper is one of several people.

A.  Some say he was Sennacherib, others say he was Shalmaneser.

B.   Some say he was Esarhaddon.

C.   Some say he was the commander who was in charge of bringing the people over.


II.   At such a time.

A.  This simply sets the date of the letter.

B.   The phrase "on this side of the river" is probably speaking about the nations on the west side of the river who inhabit the land God gave to Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben.