Ezra 4

CHAPTER IV

The Samaritans endeavour to prevent the rebuilding of the

temple, 1-5.

They send letters to Artaxerxes, against the Jews, 6-9.

A copy of the letter, 10-16.

He commands the Jews to cease from building the temple, which

they do; nor was any thing farther done in the work till the

second year of Darius, 17-24.

NOTES ON CHAP. IV

Verse 1. Now when the adversaries] These were the Samaritans,

and the different nations with which the kings of Assyria had

peopled Israel, when they had carried the original inhabitants

away into captivity, see Ezr 4:9, 10.

Verse 2. Let us build with you] We acknowledge the same God, are

solicitous for his glory, and will gladly assist you in this work.

But that they came with no friendly intention, the context proves.

Verse 3. Ye have nothing to do with us] We cannot acknowledge

you as worshippers of the true God, and cannot participate with

you in anything that relates to his worship.

Verse 4. Weakened the hands] Discouraged and opposed them by

every possible means.

Verse 5. Hired counsellors] They found means to corrupt some of

the principal officers of the Persian court, so that the orders of

Cyrus were not executed; or at least so slowly as to make them

nearly ineffectual.

Until the reign of Darius] This was probably Darius the son of

Hystaspes.

Verse 6. In the reign of Ahasuerus] This is the person who is

called Cambyses by the Greeks. He reigned seven years and five

months; and during the whole of that time the building of the

temple was interrupted.

Verse 7. In the days of Artaxerxes] After the death of Cambyses,

one of the Magi named Oropaestus by Trogus Pompeius, Smerdis by

Herodotus, Mardus by AEschylus, and Sphendatates by Ctesias,

usurped the empire, feigning himself to be Smerdis, the brother of

Cambyses, who had been put to death. This is the person named

Artaxerxes in the text: or, following the Hebrew, Artachshasta. It

is generally believed, that from the time of Cyrus the great,

Xerxes and Artaxerxes were names assumed by the Persian

sovereigns, whatever their names had been before.

Written in the Syrian tongue] That is, the Syrian or Chaldean

character was used; not the Hebrew.

Interpreted, in the Syrian tongue.] That is, the language, as

well as the character, was the Syriac or Chaldaic.

Verse 8. Rehum the chancellor] With this verse the Chaldee part

of the chapter begins; and the same language continues to the end

of Ezr 6:18. These men wrote to Darius in their own language; and

the king in the same dialect returns an answer, chap. v. This

circumstance adds authenticity to what is written: so scrupulous

was the inspired penman, that he not only gave the words which

each spoke and wrote, but he gave them also in the very language

in which they were conceived and in the character peculiar to that

language.

Verse 10. The great and noble Asnapper] Whether this was

Shalmaneser, or Esar-haddon, or some other person, learned men

and chronologists are not agreed. The Syriac terms him Asphid; but

of this person we know no more than we do of Asnapper. He might

have been the military officer who was appointed to escort this

people to Judea.

Verse 11. And at such a time.] The word ucheeneth has

greatly perplexed all commentators and critics. The versions give

us no light; and the Vulgate translates it et dicunt salutem, "and

they wish prosperity." Some translate it and so forth; and our

translators supposed that it referred to the date, which however

is not specified, and might have been as easily entered as the

words and at such a time.

In our first translation of the Bible, that by Coverdale, in

1535, the passage stands thus: "And other on this syde the water,

and in Canaan."

In that by Becke, 1549, it is thus: "And other on this syde the

water, and in Ceneeth:" and in the margin he enters "or peace,"

"or health."

In Cardmarden's Bible, printed at Rouen, 1566, it stands thus:

"And other that are nowe on thys syde the water."

In that printed by Barker, 1615, we find the text thus: "AND

OTHER that are beyond the river, and Cheeneth;" on which is the

following marginal note: "To wit, Euphrates: and he meaneth in

respect of Babel, that they dwelt beyond it." And the note on

Cheeneth is, "Which were a certain people that envied the Jews."

All this is merely guessing, in the midst of obscurity; most of

these having considered the original word Ceeneth as the name

of a people; and in this they follow the Syriac, which uses the

word Acaneth.

Calmet thinks we should read ubaeth, "and at this time; "

as if they had said, "We wish thee to enjoy the same health and

prosperity at all future times, which thou dost at present." This

is not remote from the meaning of the Chaldee original.

Verse 13. Toll, tribute, and custom] The first term is supposed

to imply the capitation tax; the second, an excise on commodities

and merchandise; the third, a sort of land tax. Others suppose the

first means a property tax; the second, a poll tax; and the third,

what was paid on imports and exports. In a word, if you permit

these people to rebuild and fortify their city, they will soon set

you at naught, and pay you no kind of tribute.

Verse 14. Now because we have maintenance from the king's

palace] More literally: Now because at all times we are salted

with the salt of the palace; i.e., We live on the king's bounty,

and must be faithful to our benefactor. Salt was used as the

emblem of an incorruptible covenant; and those who ate bread and

salt together were considered as having entered into a very solemn

covenant. These hypocrites intimated that they felt their

conscience bound by the league between them and the king; and

therefore could not conscientiously see any thing going on that

was likely to turn to the king's damage. They were probably also

persons in the pay of the Persian king.

Verse 15. The book of the records of thy fathers] That is, the

records of the Chaldeans, to whom the Persians succeeded.

Verse 17. Peace, and at such a time] The word ucheeth is

like that which we have already considered on Ezr 4:10, and

probably has the same meaning.

Verse 19. Hath made insurrection against kings] Mow true is the

proverb, "It is an easy thing to find a staff to beat a dog!" The

struggles of the Israelites to preserve or regain their

independency, which they had from God, are termed insurrection,

rebellion, and sedition: because at last they fell under the power

of their oppressors. Had they been successful in these struggles,

such offensive words had never been used. In 1688 the people of

England struggled to throw off an oppressive government, that was

changing the times and the seasons, and overthrowing the religion

of the country, and setting up in its place the spurious

off-spring of popery and arbitrary government. They were

successful; and it is called the Revolution: had they failed it

would have been called rebellion; and the parties principally

concerned would have been put to death.

Verse 20. Beyond the river] That is, the Euphrates. Both David

and Solomon carried their conquests beyond this river. See

2Sa 8:3, &c., and 1Ki 4:21, where it is said,

Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river (Euphrates)

unto the land of the Philistines; and unto the borders of Egypt.

Verse 21. Until another commandment shall be given from me.] The

rebuilding was only provisionally suspended. The decree was, Let

it cease for the present; nor let it proceed at any time without

an order express from me.

Verse 23. Made them to cease by force and power.] Commanded them

on pain of the king's displeasure not to proceed, obliging all to

remit their labours, and probably bringing an armed force to

prevent them from going forward.

Verse 24. So it ceased unto the second year of-Darius] They had

begun in the first year of Cyrus, B.C. 536, to go up to Jerusalem,

and they were obliged to desist from the building B.C. 522; and

thus they continued till the second year of Darius, B.C. 519. See

the chronology in the margin and the following chapter.

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