Ezra 4:11-24


Verse 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.


Verse 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.

I.    The Samaritans say that King Artaxerxes sent the Jews to Jerusalem.

A.  He would know this wasn't so, and would probably check to see which king before him did this.

1.   He might assume it was Smerdis, a magician and impostor, who reigned between Cambyses and Darius for a period of seven months.

2.   A careful check of the records would show who sent the Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem and why they were sent.

3.   Artaxerxes didn't go this far in his study.

4.   He only checked out those thing the Samaritans asked him to check.

B.   Smerdis did some rather stupid things for a king.

1.   He sent to every nation he ruled, which means he also sent to the Jews, granting them all freedom from tribute and from serving in his army for a period of three years.

2.   He did this so they would better serve him.

3.   They would like him better at the first.

4.   The nation would be broke by the end of the three years.

5.   When the three years were ended, the captives would desire to continue in the freedom they had just received.


II.   Building the rebellious and bad city.

A.  This salutation gets King Artaxerxes to think bad things about Jerusalem before he ever looks at the facts.

1.   This is a favorite tactic of people who want to influence a persons thinking toward a certain point.

2.   If a person is already thinking one way, it is very difficult to look at any subject objectively.

3.   If we hate a certain person or thing, that hatred will always surface when we come into contact with that person or thing.

4.   If we love a certain person or thing, that love will always surface when we come into contact with that person or thing.

B.   Looking at things objectively is sometimes very difficult.

1.   It involves us looking at all the points, regardless of what we feel or think about it.

2.   We must put our feelings aside, and then let the facts of the case settle the issue.

3.   Our feelings should always be the result of facts, not our personal prejudices.


III. The Jews were not actually building the city of Jerusalem.

A.  They were rebuilding the temple only.

1.   The rebels against God stretch the truth to make their complain sound better.

2.   There is little doubt that the Jews intended to eventually rebuild Jerusalem and this is what is meant by these words.

B.   They had rebuilt some of their houses.

1.   Some of the houses, no doubt, also served as one part of the wall of the city.

2.   When they rebuilt their houses, some parts of the wall would of necessity have to be rebuilt.

3.   This did not mean that the Jews intended to rebuild the wall at this time, for their major concern was to rebuild the temple.

C.   It is very clear that the Jews enemy have kept very careful track of their accomplishments.

1.   Sometimes the lost know more about how a saved person ought to act than a saved person does.

2.   I think it would surprise us how closely the lost watch our lives, and the accomplishments we make toward worshipping God.


Verse 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.

I.    This is a complete lie.

A.  The inhabitants of the land are saying the Jews will do what they would do if they were in their place.

1.   They would be able to defend themselves from Artaxerxes tax collectors.

2.   These three words, toll, tribute, and custom, must include all kinds of various moneys paid to the king Artaxerxes.

B.   Notice that these rebels place the blame on lost revenues on King Artaxerxes, not on themselves, or the Jews.

1.   This will certainly get King Artaxerxes' attention.

2.   It must be also noted that the Samaritans are putting the blame on Artaxerxes if he doesn't do anything about the Jews not paying taxes.

3.   The Samaritans also claim that the revenue lost will endanger the future kings of Persia.


Verse 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;

I.    There are two reasons this letter is written.

A.  Maintenance from the king.

1.   This doesn't necessarily mean they receive money from the king, but that they receive protection from the king in exchange for tribute (taxes) given to him.

2.   Some of these people do receive a salary from King Artaxerxes for keeping track of his business in Samaria.

3.   Since they receive a salary from the king, and they would like to keep receiving that salary, they reason they ought to make sure the king has the money to pay them.

B.   The kings dishonour.

1.   This certainly sounds good on paper that these rebels don't want to see the kings dishonor.

2.   What they really have in mind is to stop the true worship of God, they simply use the kings honor as an excuse.

3.   They do not mention their true intend, for that would certainly put them in a bad light.


II.   The purpose of the letter.

A.  They are appearing as angels of light to king Artaxerxes.

1.   From their own description of themselves, there appears to be no better or greater subjects in all his reign than themselves.

2.   In truth, the world (the kingdom of Artaxerxes) is not worthy of these people, Heb. 11:38.

B.   When Satan and his followers try to stop true worship, they almost always follow this same procedure.

1.   They won't tell the honest truth about what they have in mind, for nobody would follow them.

2.   They will always bring up some small, stupid thing (it may even be something they have made up) to bring accusation against Christians.

3.   The real issue will probably never be talked about.


Verse 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.

I.    The Samaritans declare that the king doesn't have to take their word for this.

A.  They want him to check the records concerning the history of Jerusalem, Judah, and Jerusalem.

B.   This will give King Artaxerxes a double check for "accuracy".

C.   The rebels make no mention of looking for King Cyrus decree, rather they direct the search to how Jerusalem is an independent city, always desiring to be independent.

1.   They direct King Artaxerxes to look at the history of Jerusalem and Israel from a perverted standpoint, not looking from the viewpoint of the Jews, but from the viewpoint of the nations that have tried to subdue the land.

2.   Of course, this viewpoint would show Israel and Jerusalem in a bad light.

3.   If this king would put himself in the shoes of Israel, he would realize they were only trying to do what he himself was doing, be an independent nation, making his own rules and regulations, and serving his on god.

D.  It is interesting that the Samaritans are telling the king what to do, and he does it!

1.   A king is supposed to be the leader, not the follower.

2.   King Artaxerxes shows no initiative in checking any records except those he is instructed to check.

3.   He doesn't check on the people who sent him the letter, accepting them at face value as good and noble citizens.

4.   If he had only opened his brain and checked on the writers of the letter, the outcome might have been different.


II.   How did they know what would be found in the record of the fathers?

A.  Because they know what kind of people the Jews are.

1.   They have always tried to be an independent nation because they were following the commandments of God.

2.   God had given Israel a promise that they would inherit the land of Israel.

3.   This promise included the land the Samaritans were now living on.

4.   The Israelites had taken the land away from the inhabitants before and the Samaritans believe they will try to take it away again.


III. This shows that accurate records were always kept of the activities of other nations.

A.  Sometimes we think that a nation would only keep a record of what they did, but this isn't so.

1.   Most of these nations also kept a record of what other nations did.

2.   These records would come in very handy in checking out the strengths and weakness of a nation before they were invaded.

B.   The search would involve the kings personal involvement, therefore that would be better than if the facts were simply laid out before the king.

1.   He would know the truth of record for himself.

2.   It is always better when you look up something for yourself rather than take the word of another.

C.   For which this city was destroyed.

1.   They tell the story as they see it.

2.   The Bible declares Jerusalem was destroyed because they rebelled against God, not against the governments of this world.


Verse 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.

I.    The Samaritans are declaring that if King Artaxerxes lets the Jews get away with not paying tribute, they won't pay it either.

A.  This leaves the insinuation that Israel would not only rebel against Persia, but also take over all the land of the Samaritans, forcing them to pay tribute to them instead of Persia. 


II.   This would certainly get the kings attention.



Verse 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.

I.    The other letters didn't get a reply, but this one did.

A.  The reason they got a reply was because they talked about the loss of money to the king.

1.   The love of money is the root of all evil.



Verse 18,  The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.



Verse 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.



Verse 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.



Verse 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.

I.    The command from Artaxerxes is that the city not be builded, nothing was said about building the temple.

A.  This shows the deceitfulness of the Samaritans but it also shows us the lack of wisdom on the part of the Jews.

B.   They didn't catch the word city, probably because they were thinking "temple", and applied the command to the temple.


Verse 22,  Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?



Verse 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.



Verse 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.

I.    It must be noted that the work on the temple did stop, because the command said the work on the city should stop.

A.  This was totally unnecessary, as was made plain to the Jews by Haggai who prophesied that the Jews had stopped working on the temple, but continued working on their houses until they had fixed them up real nice, complete with cieled roofs.

B.   If the command had been to stop building the city, the Jews wouldn't have been allowed to work on their own houses, which was in Jerusalem!

1.   I do not know if any of the Jews brought up the fact that the city wasn't being rebuilt.