Ezra 4



                                       OPPOSITION MADE


                             BYTHE SAMARITANS (vs. 1-24)


In this world, whenever a good work is begun, some kind of opposition is sure to

show itself, since Satan will never suffer any attack upon his kingdom without

resenting it. The opposition may, however, be of two kinds. It may be open and

proclaimed, or it may take the subtler and more dangerous shape of seeming

approval and patronage. In the case before us, the opposition to Zerubbabel’s

mission was, at the first, of this latter kind. The mixed race, partly Israelite

but mainly heathen, which had been settled by the Assyrian monarchs in

central Palestine (ch. 4:9-10; II Kings 17:24), made a specious proposition to the

Jewish prince, acceptance of which would have been fatal to the entire movement.

The movement was one for the reestablishment of God’s peculiar people in their

own land, under their own system, as a witness to the nations against:


o       polytheism,

o       idolatry,

o       materialism and

o       sensualism in religion.


As the Samaritans had adopted a mixed or mongrel worship, uniting idolatrous

rites with the acknowledgment of Jehovah (II Kings 17:29-41), their admission

by Zerubbabel to a partnership in his work would have been equivalent to the

abandonment of pure religion, and the acceptance of a syncretism

inherently vicious, and sure to develop into pronounced forms of impurity

and corruption. Zerubbabel therefore declined the offer made him — most

properly, since there is no “communion between light and darkness” (II

Corinthians 6:14), no “agreement between the temple of God and idols”

(ibid. v. 16). His determination was bitterly resented. Unable to seduce

him into alliance with them, the Samaritans became his open and avowed

enemies; during three reigns — the remainder of the reign of Cyrus, the

reign of Cambyses (Ahasuerus), and that of the Pseudo-Smerdis

(Artaxerxes) — they so worked upon the Persian court that the rebuilding

of the temple was almost wholly stopped; no progress was made until the

second year of Darius, when a new opposition showed itself, as appears by

the next section.


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;”  The adversaries. Notwithstanding the friendly guise in which

they came, the historian sees from the first that the Samaritans are in reality

“adversaries,” or “persecutors” (tsazey), identical in spirit with Sanballat

and his followers, whom Nehemiah designates by the same word

(Nehemiah 4:11).


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.”  We seek your God, as ye do.

We seek your God” was true; “as ye do” was not true. The Samaritans

worshipped Jehovah, but not, as the Jews did, exclusively. “They feared the

Lord, and worshipped their own gods (II Kings 17:33). Such worship

dishonors Jehovah almost more than total neglect of Him. Since the days

of Esar-haddon. There was more than one colonisation of Central Palestine

by the Assyrians.  Sargon relates that he placed Arabians in the country; the

writer of Kings tells us that it was occupied by Babylonians, Cuthaeans,

Avites, Hamathites, and Sepharrites (II Kings 17:24); the Samaritans

themselves said that they were “Dinaites, Apharsathchites, Tarpelites,

Apharsites, Archevites, Babylonians, Susanchites, Debarites, and Elamites

(here - v. 9). They attributed this last colonization to Esar-haddon. We

may suspect that the second colonization was by Sennacherib, who appears

to have taken Babylon, Hamath, Sepharvaim, and Ivah or Avah (II Kings

18:34). The result was that the Samaritans were a very mixed race.


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.” Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our

God. You have no ground on which to rest your claim of uniting with us in

this matter. You do not really wish to build to our God simply and singly;

nor were you mentioned in the decree of Cyrus, which is our warrant for

what we are doing.



                        The Work Endangered (vs. 1-3)


Moses was exposed to danger whilst still in his cradle. The same was true

about Christ. There is yet another parallel in this passage. No sooner is the

foundation-stone of the restored temple laid, than we hear of that branch of

the great work of Restoration being in imminent peril. To profit rightly by

this story of danger, two things must be pondered, viz., the nature of the

danger, in the first place; and the manner of the deliverance, in the second.




Ø      Serious in itself. It was a serious thing for the Jews, in their

                        circumstances, that their work should have so strongly attracted the

                        notice of their “adversaries.” “The adversaries” (see v.3) “heard” of

                        their doings. This was bad, to begin. Such hearing was only too likely to

                        lead to “doing;” and to unfriendly doing, of course. So, in fact, it turned

                        out. After unfriendly notice came unfriendly interference. The people

                        referred to “came.” How unwelcome a sight to the Jewish builders and

                        rulers. How far from “beautiful” the “feet” of these strangers on the

                        “mountains round about Jerusalem” (Psalm 125:2). “What have they come

                        for?” Not merely to inquire and observe; but to interfere, and that not for

                        good (compare I Samuel 16:4; II Kings 9:17-23). Still more serious, when

                        these adversaries did come, was the course which they took. We must bear

                        in mind who they were. A “mixed multitude” in every sense. Of various

                        stocks; of various creeds. The descendants of men brought to the cities and

                        hills of Samaria from widely-distant provinces of the great Assyrian

                        empire; bringing with them, in all cases, their old idols and creeds; but

                        grafting on to these afterwards, through the mere motive of fear,

                        something of that already grievously-corrupted worship of Jehovah

                        which had prevailed in the kingdom of the ten tribes previously to its

                        final overthrow and dispersion (see II Kings 17:7-18, 24-33). Such

                        mingled worship, being in violation of the very first of the ten

                        commandments, was especially displeasing to the one true God; and

                        had, indeed, in this instance, been already condemned by Him as no

                        true worship of His name (see ibid. vs. 34-39). It was the children then

                        of these men, walking in the steps of their fathers, who now came to

                        Mount Zion. To whom had they come? To those “children of the

                        captivity” who had been so careful to prove themselves of the stock

                        of Israel only (see ch. 2:59), and who had been brought back to that

                        holy mountain to restore there, in a for ever purified form, the

                        worship of Jehovah alone. To such men came this mixed multitude, as

                        though brothers in blood and religion. “We seek your God; we would

                        help in your work; let us build by your side.” A serious proposal, indeed;

                        being a proposal virtually to break down the very division which they

                        were engaged in constructing, and for neglecting and despising which

                        that long, just-completed Babylonian exile had come upon their race.

                        To consent to such a proposal would be to consent to their ruin. They

                        could never so build the house of Jehovah. What could they so build,

                        in fact, but a Babel, a monument of displeasure and disaster to

                        themselves, and of no benefit even to their adversaries? Better not

                        build at all than build thus. At the same time this danger was:


Ø      Most treacherous as to its form. After all, the proposal made came in the

                        shape of an offer of help. Better to have that help than be without it. So

                        many would think. Better to have such neighbors for us than against us

                        (see II Chronicles 25:9); especially they being so many and we so few.

                        Besides which, to all appearance, it was an offer of help made in perfect

                        good faith; and by men even of tried sincerity, it also appeared. “We seek

                        your God, as ye do; we have done so ever since coming to these regions,

                        some 150 years from this date.”How harsh it would seem to reject such

                        assistance! How bigoted! How “narrow!” How opposed indeed to true

                        religion ! Even supposing these men to be seeking Jehovah in a somewhat

                        ignorant and unacceptable way, might they not be won over to the truth by

                        a little brotherly kindness? Might not the influence of the Jews tell for

                        good on them, if they two were associated in so good a work? Whereas,

                        if rejected and driven away from the work, would they not also be

                        driven away even more from the truth? In a word, be servants to them

                        so far; afterwards they will be your servants — and, what is more, the

                        servants of Jehovah — for ever. So plausible, and, therefore, so doubly

                        dangerous, was this offer of help.  (In reality, a synopsis of their

                        history was “these nations fered the Lord, and served their graven

                        images, both their children, and their children’s children:  as did

                        their fathers, so do they unto this day.”  - II Kings 17:41 – CY – 2015)


  • THE DELIVERANCE vouchsafed from this danger has, next, to be

            marked. God, who allowed this great and subtle temptation to come on His

            servants, made them also a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). This

            He did by granting to them:


Ø      A spirit of discrimination. Ye have nothing to do with us to build.” In

                        other words, This is not a task “for you and us in common” (see

                        Judges 11:12; II Kings 3:13).  The root or foundation

                        of the proposal made lay in the assumption that there was much in

                        common between the Samaritans and the Jews. In reality, so far as this

                        matter was concerned, there was nothing in common except a name.

                        The Samaritans worshipped other gods first, and Jehovah only second.

                        The Jews worshipped Jehovah first, and no one else second.

                        This was not holding common ground, but being at opposite poles. How

                        could forces thus intrinsically antagonistic work efficiently together?


Ø      A spirit of decision. Besides seeing the truth thus clearly, the Jewish

                        leaders were also enabled to act on it boldly. Was it indeed for “them

                        alone” to undertake this enterprise? They alone, as one body, would

                        do so.  They would say so openly, and in so many words. Let their

                        Samaritan neighbors at once understand that so their minds were

                        made up. “We ourselves together” will be responsible for this task.


Ø      A spirit of discretion. God gave them this in conclusion, so that they put

                        the matter, in concluding, on a very wise ground. The decision arrived at

                        might not be pleasing to the Samaritans; but at any rate it ought not to be

                        regarded by them as an injury or a grievance; for it was only in strict

                        accordance with the will of one whom they were all bound to obey.

                        “King Cyrus, the king of Persia — King Cyrus, our common ruler —

                        has given express commands on this point, as you know. He has

                        commanded us to erect this building. He has commanded us alone to

                        do so (see ch. 1:3). That being so, let us all obey him; some by laboring,

                        some by abstaining. Possibly, also, this further thought can be traced in

                        their words: — “If Cyrus himself as a Gentile did not engage personally

                        in this work, but only commissioned us Israelites to perform it, why

                        should any others who are not Israelites put their hands to the task?”

                        At any rate the reply answered the immediate purpose in hand. It

                        delivered the Jews completely from that great danger to which they

                        were at that moment exposed. The Samaritans were compelled

                        thereby to retire, and, like another adversary in another case on a

                        subsequent occasion, to leave them alone “for a season” (Luke 4:13).


Amongst other general lessons the following may be noted:


Ø      The need of patience in Gods work. True progress, from its very

                        nature, creates resistance and opposition. This applies to our work for

                        others (I Corinthians 16:9). Also to much of the skepticism of the day.

                        That skepticism is not a wholly desperate sign (see Revelation 12:12).

                        Also to our own spiritual progress (Luke 9:42; Acts 13:7-8). Per

                        aspera ad ardua tendo is a very wide rule.


Ø      The need of firmness in Gods work. True toleration will not go out of

                        its way to interfere with others; but it will not allow others to interfere

                        with it. Neither will it prevent us from telling others the truth. Compare,

                        in connection with certain later Samaritans, “They went to another

                        village” (Luke 9:56), and, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).


Ø      The need of scrutiny in Gods work. Scrutiny, first, as to faith.

      There are some errors of doctrine which affect the root of the tree.

      There are some which only tend to hinder its full development and

      fruitfulness. These must be dealt with in different ways. Scrutiny,

      next, as to persons. Those who are altogether “without” we leave in

      God’s hands. Not so those who, though really aliens, claim to be

      considered as brethren (compare I Corinthians 5:9-13). None are so

      truly the enemies of the Church as those “who call themselves Jews

                        but are not” (see Revelation 3:9).



                                    Peace and Purity (vs. 1-3)


No sooner had the “children of the captivity” begun their good work of

rebuilding the house of the Lord than difficulties began to arise. They

found, as we find, that the work of God does not proceed smoothly from

beginning to end, as, at the outset, we are apt to think it will; that from

without and from within obstacles and discouragements spring up and

beset us. They soon found that they had to do with:


  • A PROFFERED ALLIANCE (vs. 1-2). Their neighbors, the

            Samaritans, a mixed people, composed in part of the remnant of the ten

            tribes and in part of the Assyrians deported by Esar-haddon from their own

            country and planted there, made offers of alliance. Moved by jealousy,

            thinking that the name and fame of a temple at Jerusalem would eclipse

            anything of the kind they had, perhaps fearing lest it should win the hearts

            of the people away from the “mongrel religion” which they had adopted —

            a miserable compromise between pure religion and gross superstition —

            they came proposing to make common cause with the returned Israelites.

            “Let us unite our forces,” they said. “We will build together; this temple,

            erected by our joint labors, shall be common property: we worship the

            same God whom you worship, and there need not be any separation

            between us.” Thus impurity approaches purity; thus error seeks alliance

            with truth; thus worldliness addresses piety. “Let us walk together,” it says.

            “We will sink our differences; we will keep unpleasant divergencies of

            conviction in abeyance, and stroll together in sweet communion along the

            path of life.” Here was:


  • A POWERFUL TEMPTATION. Jeshua — and still more Zerubbabel,

            who was answerable for the peace and order of the community — may

            well have thought that it was a time for conciliation. The little state was

            not yet fairly established. It was still in its very infancy, and might well

            shrink from the field of contention. It was a time when they might

            excusably go far in the direction of peace. Would it not be wrong, by any

            churlishness or obstinacy on small points or narrowness of view, to plunge

            the infant Church into strife, perhaps mortal strife, with those who had so

            much in common with them, and whom charity might consider brethren?

            What a pity to endanger the work in hand and, it might be, bring everything

            to failure when the prospects of success were so bright, if, by entering on

            an alliance with these men, they could insure the consummation of their

            hopes! Perchance, too, they might win these men to a purer faith; the sight

            of the temple on its old site, the performance of the old rites, the singing of

            the old psalms, etc. might purge their hearts of the evil leaven that had

            crept in, etc. Thus their minds may have been agitated by doubt and

            distraction, questioning whether they should have a perilous alliance or a

            defiant and dangerous isolation. So purity, truth, piety find themselves

            courted by those who are their adversaries, but who speak with the voice

            and use the language of friendship. And often do they find themselves

            greatly tempted to make peace and enter into alliance. Sometimes they do,

            and disastrous is the’ result. Like the Rhone and the Arve outside Geneva,

            the pure blue waters of the one flow for some time side by side, without

            mingling, with the muddy and earth-discolored waters of the other; but

            farther down they intermix, and the blueness and the purity are gone!



                                                Rhone - left – Arve – right

                                                (Courtesy – Wikipedia)          


            But here we have:


  • A STOUT-HEARTED REFUSAL (v. 3). Zerubbabel and Jeshua

            peremptorily declined the offered alliance. “Ye have nothing to do with

            us.” “We ourselves will build,” etc. (v. 3). Whatever inward conflict

            there might have been, there was no vagueness or hesitancy in their

            answer. It was explicit and downright, as an answer should be to a

            deceitful offer. It was seen to be their duty to keep apart from men whose

            association would too probably have ended in corruption, and they dared

            all consequences. First purity, then peace (James 3:17). Let there be no

            compromise when the maintenance of principle is at stake. There is far

            more to lose than to gain in having the help of those who are not really and

            heartily at one with us. Mere matters of detail are things for arrangement,

            and it is often wise and Christian to forego our preferences for the sake of

            brotherly accord. But when great and vital truths are at stake, truths on

            which human hearts live, truths which heal and save and sanctify the soul,

            truths for the purity and integrity of which we exist to testify, then let us

            put our foot firmly down, and, risking misrepresentation and attack, say,

            “Ye have nothing to do with us.” We must walk apart.


4 “Then the people of the land (the Samaritans) weakened the hands

of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,”

As aiding is called “strengthening the hands” (ch. 6:22; Isaiah 35:3;

Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 16:49, etc.), so hindering is expressed by “weakening

 the hands” (Jeremiah 38:4), though this latter phrase is, comparatively

speaking, unusual. And troubled them in building. Probably as Sanballat

and his followers troubled the builders of the wall in Nehemiah’s time

(Nehemiah 4:1-12).


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.”  And hired counselors against them. It is always possible at

an Oriental court to bribe some of the royal favorites, and induce them to

use their influence with the monarch for the furtherance, or hindrance, of

any work that is being proceeded with in any part of the country. The

Samaritans now had recourse to this system, and employed it with great

success for a considerable period. All the days of Cyrus. i.e. “all the

remaining days,” from B.C. 537 to B.C. 529, when Cyrus died, and was

succeeded by his son Cambyses. Even until the reign of Darius. It is

implied that the reign of Darius did not immediately follow on that of

Cyrus. Profane history tells us of two intermediate kings, via, Cambyses,

son of Cyrus, who reigned from B.C. 529 to B.C. 522, and Smerdis, or

Bardes, a usurper, who occupied the throne for about ten months in the

years B.C. 522, 521. Darius became king in this last-named year, but seems

to have counted his reign from the date of the decease of Cambyses.



                        A Sinful Alliance Sought and Rejected (vs. 1-5)


  • A SINFUL ALLIANCE SOUGHT. “Let us build with you” (v. 2).


Ø      The people. “The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (v. 1). These

                        were a mixed race, partly Israelitish but chiefly foreign. The more

                        dangerous because the more nearly related to Israel; error is more

                        dangerous when allied with truth.


Ø      The pretext.


o       Utility. “Let us build.” They would help in the enterprise of Israel.

                                    Sinful alliances always seem advantageous.

o       Religion. “For we seek your God” (v. 2). Those who seek sinful

                                    alliances often assume the garb of piety; they come as angels of


o       Community of interest. The Samaritans wanted to make a common

                                    cause with Israel; what fellowship hath light with darkness?

                                    (II Corinthians 6:14)


Ø      The plan.


o       Secret, and not open. They concealed their real intentions.

      Suspect the world.

o       Friendly, and not hostile. They came not as warriors, but as

      helpers. Be not deluded by the smiles of sin.

o       Dangerous, and not safe. The kiss of sin is perilous; the

      dagger is behind.


  • A SINFUL ALLIANCE REJECTED. “Ye have nothing to do with us” (v. 3).


Ø      Wisdom. The hypocrisy was detected by the leaders of Israel. We need

                        spiritual discernment in dealing with the world; we must try the spirits.

                        (I John 4:1)  Be wise as serpents.  (Matthew 10:16)


Ø      Independence. “But we ourselves together will build” (v. 3). The

                        Church can do its own work; it needs not the aid of the unholy. God

                        requires the good man to be independent of carnal helpers and of

                        worldly compacts; dare to reject apparent advantage.


Ø      Determination. A most decided reply was given to the proposed allies,

                        and Israel was prepared to brave the result. Hesitation would have been



Ø      Disaster. The professed friends soon reveal their enmity: reject the

                        world, and it will soon “trouble you in building.” The enmity of sin is

                        better than its friendship; sin triumphs for a time.



                                    The Friendship of the World (vs. 1-5)


Two classes, strongly contrasted, divide the human race (see Ephesians

5:8; I Thessalonians 5:4-8; I John 3:10). There is no intermediate

class (see Matthew 12:30). Between these classes genuine sympathy is

impossible. The siren voice of “charity” must not be heeded here; it is

treachery to Christ. “The friendship of the world,” however this may be

taken, “is enmity against God.”  (James 4:4)  Selfishness and hypocrisy

often guide the policy of malignity. Hence:





Ø      The world is cold to them in their adversity.


o       No sympathy came to Israel from the Samaritans when nothing

                                    apparently was to he gained. They were only “children of the

                                    captivity” — born in captivity, scarcely emerging from bondage,

                                    impoverished by a four months’ march; comparatively few, 50,000

                                     persons, scattered over the south, and likely to be absorbed into

                                    the mass of “the people of the land.”


o       There were even signs of hostility. For the elders of Israel did not

                                    venture to build the altar of the Lord until encouraged by the

                                    demonstration of strength in the universal response to their

                                    summons to the convocation (see ch. 3:1-3). Lesson:  It is folly

                                    to look to the wicked for help. Even Rabshakeh spoke truly

                                    (II Kings 18:21; compare Ezekiel 29:6-7).


Ø      But when prosperity comes this policy is changed.


o       The “children of the captivity” had made rapid progress

      towards national consolidation. Not content to become

      gradually absorbed in other nationalities, they have raised

      a national altar, and laid the foundations of their national

      temple. Note:  Religion is the strongest bond of national

                                    union. It touches the deepest sympathies of our nature

                                    (see Proverbs 14:31).  (This explains America’s decline

                                    with such anti-christian sentiment of the last forty years.

                                    CY – 2015)


o       This made its impression upon “the people of the land.” They

      discerned in Israel the elements of future greatness. By the laws

      of association the value of the patronage of Cyrus would gain in

      importance, and the traditions of the ancient greatness of Israel

      would revive.


o       Therefore they now volunteered their friendship. They said,

      “Let us build with you.” Let us share your labors and the

      charges, and we will reap with you also. “We seek your God

      as you do.” “Do not hesitate to trust us.” “We do sacrifice to

      him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which

      brought us hither.” “We will not cause you embarrassment by

                                    any disagreement with your worship.” Lesson:  First, be aware

                                    of worldly plausibility. Why was not all this pleaded earlier?

                                    Secondly, discern the selfishness which guides the policy of

                                    worldly friendship. Thirdly, never lose sight of the nature of

                                    the carnal mind (Romans 8:7).





Ø      The reply discovered to the Samaritans that they were comprehended

                        (v. 3).


o       “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God.”

      You say, “We seek your God as ye do.” This we do not accept.

      You say, “We do sacrifice to him,” etc. This also we dispute.

      We have too good reason to do so (see II Kings 17:34-38).


§         The true God is not worshipped at all if other gods are

      worshipped along with him (see also John 4:22).

§         No sacrifice to God is true that is associated with spurious

      sacrifices.  Is not the sacrifice of Christ “made of none

      effect” to those who associate with it the sacrifice of the

      mass and works of supererogation?  (doing more than is



o       Therefore “we ourselves together,” in a unity of faith and love

      which we would not have interrupted by your heresy and

      malignity, “will build unto the Lord God of Israel,” our own

      covenant God, “as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath

      commanded us.” So, take notice that in thus serving God

      we are countenanced by the pleasure of the king. Note, here,

      the lawful mingling of the wisdom of the serpent with the

      harmlessness of the dove.  (Matthew 10:16)


Ø      They now appear as the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin. They

                        have now no policy of selfishness to restrain their malignity. So:


o       “the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of

      Judah.”  They stirred up dissension. Their proposition would

      be variously viewed by the people; worldly men would no

      doubt think that the Samaritans’ offer should have been

      accepted by the chiefs, who with advancing years were

                                    grown too conservative and narrow. Note:  Dissension in

                                    sentiment is a weakening of the hands.


o       “They troubled them in the building.” This would be the effect of

                                    dissension. They would aggravate the embarrassment by ridicule,



o       “They hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose.”

      Some of these would operate upon the workmen; others in the

      Persian court.


o       This was continued “all the days of Cyrus.” To what extremities

      will the malignity of the wicked carry them! Reflect — The

      worst enemies of Judah and Benjamin were those “who said they

      were Jews and were not” (Revelation 3:9). Let those who

                                    discourage a good work consider whose example they follow.



                                    The Work Checked (vs. 4-5)


The incidents related in the previous verses would happen some time after

the second month of the second year of King Cyrus, that being about the

date of laying the foundation-stone of the restored temple (see ch.

3:8, 10). Tidings of these incidents, and of the discouragement and

intrigues which they led to, as described in the present passage, would

probably reach the Persian court towards the end of that year. In the

beginning of the next year — so we find from Daniel 10:1, etc. — the

aged prophet Daniel was still alive, but in a state of much sorrow and

perplexity, near the river Hiddekel or Tigris. Also we find that his last

recorded vision was given to him at that time. The two passages, therefore,

seem sufficiently contemporaneous in character to be considered together;

and may serve to give us thus a more complete conception of what was

then coming to pass. We will first consider the human view, and then the

superhuman view, of the scene.


  • THE HUMAN VIEW of the story. What was being done,


Ø      In the province. What were men doing now at Jerusalem, or, on that

                        side the Euphrates, in connection with it? Were the Samaritans quiet after

                        their recent rebuff? Were they likely to be, if like other men? The Jews did

                        right, and did wisely, as we have seen, in rejecting their help; but who

                        could expect things to end in that manner? Such a repulse, however

                        justifiable, would be felt as an insult, a moral soufflet. The more justified,

                        in fact, by the circumstances, the more galling it would seem, and the

                        more insulting. The greater the truth, in this sense, the greater the libel

                        (compare Genesis 19:9). We cannot wonder, therefore, that Samaritan

                        feeling now took a different turn. If they cannot help on the terms they

                        had offered, — the virtually destructive terms they had offered, —

                        they will do the next best (in their view) — they will thwart. The Jews

                        are anxious to do all by themselves. Let us take care they do none. Such

                        was their inward resolve. Their outward actions accorded. They contrived,

                        e. g., to “weaken the hands of the people of Judah.” The “hands” of the

                        people, figuratively speaking, may mean those persons on whose manual

                        labor the work of building depended. Just so we often speak now of

                        “factory hands.” By weakening their hands, therefore, is not improbably

                        meant causing those who labored for them to retire from the work:

                        whether those hired carpenters and masons, of whom we have read,

                        on the spot (ch.3:7); or those Tyrian laborers, of whom we have also

                        read, on Mount Lebanon (ibid.); or those seafaring men who would

                        be necessary to convey to Jerusalem what was cut down at Lebanon.

                        It would not be difficult for the Samaritans, as long-established

                        Gentiles of superior wealth and influence, either by bribes or threats

                        to draw or drive many of such men away from their work; and it

                        would not be easy for the Jews to go on with it in that case.

                        But, besides this, the Samaritans are said to have “troubled them in

                        building.” Besides depriving them of laborers, they deprived them,

                        that is, of peace. Besides weakening the “hands,” they distracted

                        the heads; most probably by such measures as those we read of,

                        many years afterwards, in the story of Nehemiah (see Nehemiah

                        4:2-3, 7-9, 16-23; 6.). But, above all:


Ø      They seem to have directed their chief endeavors, with true military

                        instinct, against the key of the position before them. To human eyes the

                        chief Jewish reliance was on the assured favor of Cyrus. Hence the edict,

                        and all its consequences. Hence this whole attempt of theirs to rebuild the

                        temple, and their very presence there, on its ancient site. Deprive them of

                        that imperial favor, and you deprive them of all. Moved, apparently, by

                        such considerations, the Samaritans, as we said, delivered their chief

                        assault at the great (human) center of Jewish hope. They secured those (for

                        they were able to do so) who could speak “against the Jews at the court of

                        the king; they sought out the most fitting men (counselors) to do this; they

                        secured them by proper fees; they instructed them as to the object wished

                        for; and they urged their point with a spirit of pertinacity which nothing

                        seemed to wear out. What must have been the original vigor of that

                        impetus which survived “all the days” described in v. 5? And what, on

                        the whole, therefore, the Jewish prospects, humanly speaking, when first it

                        took place? How weak, how distracted the builders! How powerful, how

                        united, how embittered, how skilful, how unsparing, how determined their

                        opponents! The deadly Samaritan friendship had, no doubt, been escaped.

                        But was not this furious Samaritan enmity almost as great a ground for

                        despair? And was not the whole work, in short, if not dead already, at

                        least ready to die?


  • THE SUPERHUMAN VIEW of the juncture. Just at this time, as we

            have seen, the prophet Daniel, who, of all the Israelites then alive, would

            be most concerned and confounded at this condition of things (compare

                        Daniel 9:16-19), was in great sorrow and deep perplexity (ibid. ch.10:2-3,12).

            Just at this time, also, a vision was sent him, having for its

            object to give him instruction respecting the destiny of his people (ibid.

            14). We believe, therefore, that we have in that vision a superhuman view

            of that time of trouble — a light from heaven itself on that day of

            disappointment and fear. Here was the work for which he had prayed and

            labored all his lifetime, and for which God had done so much, and which

            He had treated as so important, almost brought to a stand. What did it all

            mean? This the vision seems to explain. It meant:


Ø      So much we can see without going into any of the disputed features

                        of this remarkable vision — that the matter now perplexing him was one

                        exceedingly deep. It had to do, e.g., with that glorious Person before

                        whom he fell as one dead (vs. 5-9), and so with that great and all-

                        restoring kingdom which that Holy One was to set up upon earth

                        (Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 3:21). Being so, it was a matter of great

                        interest to angelic intelligences of all kinds (Matthew 8:29; I Peter

                        1:12); even leading in consequence (so we understand the passage) to

                        long-continued contentions and struggles among them (see Daniel

                        10:13, 20-21; and compare Ephesians 5:11-12; II Peter 2:11; Jude

                        1:9; Revelation 12:7).


Ø      A purpose thus deep would naturally appear sometimes exceedingly

                        deliberate in its rate of progress. Such great contending forces, such

                        wide embracing operations, such evidently intricate and far-seeing

                        methods, could not do otherwise than take time. Hence the language

                        of Daniel 10:1, 14, and the repeated reference to the future, and the

                        “end” and the “time of the end,” and the blessing pronounced on

                        “waiting” in (ibid. 12:1, 4, 6, 8, 12-13 (compare also II Peter 3:9).


Ø      But if deliberate, it was also sure — all the surer, in fact, on that ground.

                        See again Daniel 10:21 about the “Scripture of truth” (a purpose, it

                        would seem, “written” down in order that the exact terms of the

                        purpose and the exact nature of its fulfillment might afterwards be

                        compared); also ibid. 11:2; also the solemn oath in ibid. 12:7; also,

                        as showing the effect left on Daniel’s mind when he began recording

                        the vision, the opening declaration, “the thing was true,” in ibid. 10:1.

                        Thus we see how the prophet was lifted up in order that he might see

                        things from above.  And thus, as it were, in his company, we are enabled

                        to take a like view. We learn from it:


o       How great is our natural ignorance. “There are more things”

      indeed “in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy”

      yes, in our philosophy, with all its talk. More things, by far, are

      concealed than are revealed, both by our sight and by our search.


o       How false the estimate of our senses. The assaults of earthly

      enemies, disputes of Jews and Samaritans, the doings of kings

      and counselors, the delays of years and centuries, only seem

      great to us because we see them so close. Viewed from a proper

      distance, as the mount of prophecy enables us to view them,

      they almost shrink out of sight — only important because

                                    of those larger issues of which they form part. At the same time,

                                    we also see:


o       How great is Gods care for His people. Even in these smaller

      matters His eye is on them for good. Even in the darkest days

      He is shaping their path towards the light. The things of earth

      are not too petty, the things above earth are not too lofty, all

      together are not too intricate for His omnipotent care (see Psalm

      97:11; Romans 8:28). What was said of Gad is true of all Israel

      (Genesis 49:19) — They “shall overcome at the last.”


o       How great is God’s concern even for the comfort of those who

      fear Him.  How affecting, on this view, at this crisis, is this

      seasonable vision to the afflicted prophet. How significant, also,

      that it should have been recorded and preserved to us as a kind

      of standing illustration to us of GOD’S WAYS ON THIS

      MATTER!   He is not only always caring for His people; He is

      always wishing them to know that He is. Never more so than

      when it seems to them, as it probably seemed to Daniel and the

      Jerusalem Jews in this day of rebuke and blasphemy, that He had

                                    “forsaken His people” (see Judges 6:13).



                                                Human Hatred (vs. 4-5)


Whatever drops of neighborly kindness there may have been in the cup of

friendship offered by the Samaritans to “the children of the captivity,”

these, on the refusal of Zerubbabel to enter into alliance with them, turned

into bitterest animosity. Thenceforward they “breathed threatening” and

made opposition to those whom they had courted. We have illustration or

suggestion here of the character and out-workings of human hatred.


  • ITS BLINDNESS. Like all cruelty, and indeed like all sin, “it knew not

            what it did.” It thought it was only indulging in a natural and proper

            resentment; in truth it was lifting up its hand against the people of God,

            and was doing its best (which was indeed its worst) to undermine and bring

            to naught the good work of God. Anger is always blind. It does not see its

            own hideousness; nor does it perceive the end of its doing. Its eye is

            darkened or discolored, and its hand is a suicidal, a self-injuring hand.


  • ITS DELIBERATENESS. These men deliberately set themselves to

            undo what their neighbors had begun. No mere out-flash of indignation

            theirs, but deep, steady, well-cherished purpose to be avenged. Nothing

            was left undone, no stone unturned, that these new-comers might feel the

            full weight of their wrath. They found means to hinder them in their work,

            and they got up all the evidence they could collect of past excitements and

            disturbances in Jerusalem, and “hired counselors” to represent them at the

            court of Babylon (v. 5), that they might frustrate and overthrow the

            purpose of Israel. There is no more painful-sight in this world, and no more

            saddening evidence and consequence of sin, than the fact of men cherishing

            and nursing a rancorous hatred in their hearts against their fellows, and

            plotting and scheming, month after month, to do them injury, to break their

            schemes, to disappoint their hopes.


  • THE MISCHIEF WHICH IT WORKS (v. 4). These angry

            interferers had all too much success. They did weaken the hands of those

            whom they sought to hinder; “they troubled them in building;” they

            succeeded in gaining the ear and winning the support of Cyrus, and

            ultimately they caused the work of building the temple to cease. There is a

            prevalent belief that persecution defeats its own ends — and this is true.

            We say that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” — and

            often it is. The fires it lights are often, if not always, purifying, cleansing

            the gold of its dross, and making the vessels of the Lord more “meet for

            the Master’s use.” (II Timothy 2:21)  Yet, on the other hand, it often works

            most serious mischief to the Church and the world, from which they painfully

            and only gradually recover. History shows that human rage against the truth

            and cause of God has done injury on a large scale, and doubtless it is

            continually making its evil power felt on a small one: it is “weakening the

            hands” (v. 4) of the people of God; it is troubling them in building up His

            kingdom; it is causing “the work to cease;” it is “hindering the gospel.” This

            instance of unrighteous anger, like all other illustrations of it, reminds us of:


  • ITS ESSENTIAL UNNATURALNESS. No doubt it seemed natural

            enough to these Samaritans to indulge in this bitter wrath and to take these

            vindictive measures. One of the greatest of the Romans, writing only a few

            years before Christ, declared that “war was the natural relation between

            neighboring nations.” But how really and essentially unnatural it is for one

            human heart, made to be the home of love and kindness and compassion,

            made to be the spring and source of beneficence and generosity, to be

            harboring hatreds, to be finding pleasure in another’s pain, to be rejoicing

            in the humiliation and disappointment of another human heart! What blank

            contradiction to the will of our Creator! What a wretched departure from

            His design! How utterly unbeautiful, how infinitely repugnant to His eye!


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.” And in the reign of Ahasuerus. Some critics regard this

Ahasuerus as identical with the Ahasuerus of Esther, who is generally

allowed to be Xerxes, the son and successor of Darius Hystaspis, and the

invader of Greece. In this case the Artaxerxes of the next verse is taken to

be Artaxerxes Longimanus, and the entire passage, from v. 6 to v. 23

inclusively, is regarded as parenthetic, having reference to events which

happened later than any of those recorded in ch. 6. But the evident nexus

of vs. 23-24 is fatal to this view, which has nothing in its favor beyond

the sequence of the royal names, an uncertain argument in this instance,

since we know that Persian kings had often more than one name. If on

these grounds we reject the proposed identification, and regard the chapter

as chronologically consecutive, Ahasuerus here must be explained as

Cambyses, and the Artaxerxes of v. 7 as Smerdis. This is the view most

usually taken, and it seems to the present writer to present fewer

difficulties than any other. In the beginning of his reign. As soon as ever

a new king mounted the throne, fresh representations were made to him by

the “adversaries,” lest the work should be recommenced. Wrote they an

accusation. Compare vs. 12-16, by which we see the sort of “accusation

that could be plausibly brought.


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.”  And in the days of Artaxerxes. See the

comment on v. 6. If Artaxerxes be the Pseudo-Smerdis, we can readily understand

why an application was not made to him at once, and how it came about that the

Jews recommenced their building, as they appear from vs. 12-13 to have

done. The Pseudo-Smerdis was a usurper; his reign was a time of partial

anarchy; in a distant part of the empire it would not be known for a while

who was king. Men would be thrown on themselves, and would do as it

seemed good in their own eyes. Later, there may have been some doubt

whether a king, who was known to be a religious reformer, would follow

the policy of his predecessor with respect to the Jews, or reverse it. Hence

a delay, and then a more formal application than before for a positive

decree to stop the building (see v. 21). The rest of their companions.

Literally, of their companies — the abstract for the concrete. The writing

of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue. Rather, “in the Syrian

fashion,” i.e. in Syriac characters. And interpreted in the Syrian tongue.

Or “translated into the Syriac language.” The character and the words were

alike Syriac (compare II Kings 18:26). Ezra gives the letter in Chaldee.


8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter

against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:”

Rehum the chancellor. Literally, “the lord of judgment.” It

may be conjectured that Rehum was the sub-satrap (ὑποσατράπῃς  -

huposatrapaes p Xen.), of the province of Samaria. And Shimshai the scribe.

Or “secretary.”  Herodotus tells us that in every Persian province the governor

had a secretary attached to him, who was appointed by the crown, and acted

as a check upon his nominal master (Herod., 3:128). The position assigned to

Shimshai in this chapter (see especially vs. 9, 17, 23) is such as might be

expected under these circumstances.


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 Dinaites, etc. It is curious that the Samaritans, instead of

using a general appellation, describe themselves under the names of the

various nations and cities which had furnished the colonists of whom they

were the descendants. It would seem that they were not yet, in the time of

the Pseudo-Smerdis, amalgamated into a single people. From the list of

names we may gather that the colonists of Esar-haddon’s time had been

derived chiefly from Southern Babylonia and the adjacent regions of

Susiana, Persia, and Elymais. The Babylonians, Susanchites, and Elamites

speak for themselves, and require no explanation. The Archevites are the

people of Ereeh or Orchoe (now Warka), a city to the southeast of

Babylon. The Apharsites are no doubt Persians; the Dehavites, Dai or

Dahae, a tribe located in Persia Proper (‘Herod.,’ 1:125). If uncertainty

attaches to any of the names, it is to two only — the Dinaites and the

Tarpelites. Of these, the Dinaites are probably the people of Dayan, a

country bordering on Cilicia, whose inhabitants are often mentioned by the

Assyrian monarchs. The Tarpelites have been regarded as the people of

Tripolis; but it is improbable that that city had as yet received its Greek

name. Perhaps they are the Tuplai, or people of Tubal, mentioned in

Scripture and the Assyrian inscriptions, the letter r being a euphonic

addition, as in Darmesek for Dammesek sharbith for shebeth, and the like.


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.”  The rest of the nations whom

 the great and noble Asnapper brought over. Nothing more is known of

“the great and noble Asnapper,” who is here mentioned as bringing the colonists

and setting them in the cities of Samaria. We must suppose him to have been an

officer employed by Esar-haddon on this service. The name is Assyrian in form,

and may have meant “Asshur pursues.” The rest that are on this side the

river. Rather, “across the river.” As Romans in North Italy, writing to

Rome, would have spoken of themselves as “Transpadani,” so Persian

subjects, writing to Susa from the west of the Jordan, speak of their

country as “across the Jordan.” And at such a time. Rather, “and so

forth.” This and the preceding verse set forth the address of Rehum’s

letter. The whole address not being given, the writer ends with the phrase

ukeneth, which means “and so forth,” or “et cetera” (compare ch.7:12).


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.”  This is the copy of the letter. The address having been

given, the writer now proceeds to the contents of the letter. Thy servants the

men on this side the river, etc. This was a sort of heading inside the letter,

a repetition in brief of the address.


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 Jews which came up from thee. i.e. from the central

provinces — from that part of the empire where thou dwellest. To us. To

our part of the world — to Palestine. Are… building the rebellious and

the bad city. The ground of this accusation must be sought in the various

revolts of the Jews from the Babylonians recorded in II Kings 24., 25.

There had been one, or perhaps two, previous revolts from Assyria (II

Kings 18:7; II Chronicles 33:11); but of these the Samaritans probably

knew nothing. They would, however, be likely to know that before

Nebuchadnezzar took the extreme measure of removing the Jews from

their own land to Babylon, they had rebelled against him three several

times — once under Jehoiakim (II Kings 24:1), once under his son

Jehoiachin (ibid. vs. 9-10), and once under Zedekiah, the last king (ibid.

v. 20). Thus they had a basis of truth on which to ground their charge

that Jerusalem was “the rebellious and the bad city.” And have set up the

walls thereof. It appears very clearly from the book of Nehemiah that the

walls of Jerusalem were not restored till his time, seventy-five years after

this. The Samaritans, however, would naturally exaggerate, and call the

rebuilding of the temple, and of a certain number of dwelling-houses, a

fortifying of the place. The exaggeration, however, is not so great in the

Chaldee text as in the Authorized Version. What is said seems to be, that

“they are setting up the walls and joining the foundations.” That the work

was far from complete is admitted in the next verse. We may doubt

whether it was really begun.


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.”

Then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom. This was

plausible reasoning. In Greece, if a subject city set to work to fortify itself,

rebellion was immediately anticipated, not unfairly. But the circumstances

of the Persian empire were different. In the remoter parts of that empire the

central government was weak, and disorders frequently occurred. A city

might need fortifications to protect it against its immediate neighbors,

when it had not the slightest intention of asserting independence. Judging

from the later history, which shows no revolt of the Jews against Persia,

we may say that the accusation now alleged was unfounded, though

perhaps it was not made in bad faith. Toll, tribute, and custom represent

the chief heads of Persian taxation, which, however, did not include

“custom” in our sense of the word. The three terms used by the Samaritans

really represent, respectively, “tribute,” or the money payment required

from each province, “provision,” or the payment in kind equally required

(Herod., 1:192; 3:91), and “toll,” or contributions from those who made

use of the Persian highways. According to the Samaritans, none of these

would be paid by the Jews if Jerusalem was once fortified. And so thou

shalt endamage the revenue. The general meaning is given correctly

enough by this rendering, but “revenue” is not expressly mentioned.

Aphthom, the word so translated, means really “at length,” “at last.”

Translate, “And so at last thou shalt endamage the kings.”


14 “Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it

was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we

sent and certified the king;”  We have maintenance from the king’s palace.

The marginal rendering is better, and shows the true sense. “Eating a man’s salt”

in the East is deriving one’s subsistence from him. The man who eats another’s

salt is bound to look after his interests. It was not meet for us to see the

king’s dishonour. Rather, “the king’s detriment or loss” — it was not

meet for us to stand by tamely and see the king stripped of his due.


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.”  That search may be made in the

book of the records of thy fathers. It was the practice at the Persian court to

register all important events in a book, which from time to time was read to

the kings (Esther 2:23; 6:1). The Samaritans suggest a consultation of this book,

which would at any rate contain their own previous accusations against Jerusalem

(supra, vs. 5-6), and might make some mention of the revolts from

Babylon (see the comment on v. 12). For which cause was this city

destroyed. This was the great fact on which the Samaritans relied.

Nebuchadnezzar had only destroyed Jerusalem in consequence of repeated

rebellions. True; but no sufficient indication that there would be revolt

from Persia, which was anti-idolatrous, and had proved herself so true a

friend to the Jews.


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.”  Thou shalt have no portion on this side the river. It is not

quite clear whether the river intended here and in v. 10 is the Euphrates

or the Jordan. Generally in the Old Testament hannahar means the

Euphrates, but the exaggeration is gross if that river was intended here.

Only twice in their history had the Israelites advanced their frontier as far

as that stream — under Solomon (I Kings 4:21) and under Menahem

(II Kings 15:16); in their present depressed condition it was absurd to

imagine that they could rival those early glories. But jealousy does not stop

to weigh the reasonableness of its accusations.



            The World’s Opposition to the Church (vs. 4-16)


We observe, in reference to the world’s opposition to the Church:



            These Samaritans sought to “trouble them in building” (v. 4). As Israel

            was employed in rebuilding the ruined temple, so the Church is engaged in

            erecting a great spiritual temple; this noble enterprise is hindered by the

            varied enmity of the world. The moral building is hindered as well by the

            pleasures as by the enmity of men: how sinful to hinder the work of God.




Ø      Costly. “And hired counselors against them” (v. 5). The world

      often expends much time and money in its opposition to the work

      of God; it always has “counselors” ready to take its unprofitable pay.

      The Church opposes with the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Ø      Numerous. The enemies of the Church are legion; but more are for it

                        than all that can be against it.

Ø      Competent. The men here named were capable of the most effective

                        method of obtaining their end; the enemies of the Church are often

                        socially great and mentally gifted. Learning is sometimes arrayed

                        against the Church. But God hath chosen the weak things of the

                        earth to confound the mighty.  (I Corinthians 1:27)

Ø      Influential. These men have influence with the king, and stay the work

                        of Israel. But a faithful Israel has power with God, and shall prevail.

                        Strange are the intellectual and social elements allied against the Church.



            “And in the reign of Ahasuerus (v. 6). During the former reign the

            Samaritan enmity did not obtain much favor; but it is more successful

            with the new king. This opposition is:


Ø      Persistent. Kings may die, but it continues.

Ø      Vigilant. It is ever on the outlook for new opportunity.

Ø      Flattering. Thus it seeks to win its way with the new monarch. The

                        Church must remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today,

                        and ever (Hebrews 13:8); His purpose standeth sure.

Ø      An appeal to self-interest. Endamage the revenue of the kings”




            MISREPRESENTATION. “They will not pay toll” (v. 13). The worldly

            opposition represents the Church of God as injurious to the state.


Ø      Rebellious. “Building the rebellious” (v. 12). That the Church will

                        obey God rather than the king; true if their laws come into collision;

                        but are not Christians the most law-abiding subjects?

Ø      Defrauding. “They will not pay toll.” But does not the Church render

                        unto God the things that are His, and to Caesar the things that are


Ø      Hypocritical. They build not the walls of Jerusalem for God, but to shut

                        out the king.

Ø      Wicked. They designate Jerusalem a “bad city.” Thus the world maligns

                        the Church; it spoke evil of Christ; it will undervalue His followers.



            MOTIVE. “It was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour (v. 14).

            The world will not allow that its opposition is angry or jealous. The most

            wicked plans seek the aid of righteous pleas. This opposition appears:


Ø      Disinterested. It does not seek its own, but the king’s welfare.

Ø      Loyal. They had “the king’s maintenance,” and therefore inform the

      king of his peril.

Ø      Open. They will tell the king plainly of the matter, and he can decide.

                        Thus would the world conceal its hatred to the Church.



            HISTORY. “That search may be made in the book of the records of thy

            fathers” (v. 15).


Ø      The historical record. The history of the Church is blended with the

                        history of the world; the Divine and human records move together.

Ø      The historical argument.

Ø      The historical perversion. History, rightly interpreted, is on the side of

                        the Church.  (This the main reason for the rewriting of modern United

                        States history by the Progressive Movement!  CY – 2015)

Ø      The historical vindication. We justify Israel now and condemn the

                        Samaritans; time will surely vindicate the Church.


                                    The Work Maligned (vs. 6-16)


Besides “hiring counselors,” as mentioned in v. 5; or, it may be, in order

to provide these counselors with documents to present and act on; we are

here told that the Samaritan “adversaries” sent various letters to the

Persian kings against the temple builders at Jerusalem. One of these, sent

to a king here styled Ahasuerus, is merely referred to as an “accusation.”

Another and more successful one, sent “in the days of Artaxerxes,” is

described at full length. With many commentators of note and of various

schools, we shall assume these two kings, notwithstanding the apparent

diversity of their names, to be Cambyses and the Pseudo-Smerdis, the son and

pretended son, and two next successors, of Cyrus. In any case the latter-named

letter (v. 23), if not an exact copy, may be regarded as a fair sample, of what was

sent. Looked at thus from the Jewish side of the question, it was a most formidable

production:  equally so whether we now consider, on the one hand, its writers; or, on

the other hand, its contents.


  • THE WRITERS. Much of the importance of a letter turns, of course, on

            this point. Were they:


Ø      persons of note? It is evident that they were in this case. Bishlam,

                        Mithredath, Tabeel  (v. 7) were clearly well-known names at that time.

                        No one then was required to be told who they were. It is also evident

                        that they were:


Ø      persons of much acuteness. They had their letter written in the Syrian

                        or Aramaic language and characters, as being those used in Western

                        Persia in all official documents. Such a plan, of course, would give

                        their letter all the better chance of perusal. Further, it was so contrived

                        that some of those signing the letter should be:


Ø      men of rank. Every Persian governor (so Herodotus, quoted by

                        Rawlinson) was accompanied to his province by a royal secretary,

                        having an independent authority of his own. These correspond in this

                        instance to the “chancellor” and the “scribe” who are described in

                        v. 8 as writing the “letter against Jerusalem.” Bishlam, Mithredath,

                        Tabeel  in all probability, were its concocters and framers; Rehum and

                        Shimshai its official senders. Both sets appear also to have been:


Ø      men of much influence. Mention is made both of them and their

                        “companions. They acted for others besides themselves; for others who

                        could be named, but are not. At the same time, there were others named by

                        them, as persons joining with them in sending this letter, whose names

                        were such as to give it much additional weight. These were men, for

                        example, who, in the matter of origin, represented very various cities,

                        provinces, and races in the wide empire of Persia; such as ancient Erech

                        (Genesis 10:10), mighty Babylon, royal Susa, and others. Yet they

                        were men, again, who, as to recent history and present position,

                        represented only the province from which the letter came, having been

                        brought long ago to where they were by the same kind of imperial

                        authority as that to which they appealed (v. 10). All these things made

                        them the right persons to address the ruler of the whole empire respecting

                        a matter affecting the welfare of the whole empire, yet arising exclusively

                        in that province of it in which they all dwelt. Not only so, these same

                        individuals, as a matter of fact, represented the whole of that province.

                        With the exception of those they wrote about, they were able to speak of

                        themselves as all “the men on that side the river.” In a word, numbers,

                        rank, influence, authority, character, origin, situation — the writers of the

                        present letter had all these things on their side. It was, indeed, a great

                        league; reminding us of what we read of in Psalm 83:3-8, and Acts

                        4:27, and (as something to happen hereafter) in Revelation 20:7-9. In

                        the presence of such a league the temple builders were like the two flocks

                        described in I Kings 20:27; or like the disciples when the Saviour said

                        to them as in Matthew 10:16 to be wise as serpents and harmless as



  • THE CONTENTS OF THE LETTER. These also were very formidable,

            because both weighty and well put. They comprised:


Ø      A severe accusation. The returned Jews were described as rebuilding a

                        city always notorious for its evil name — Jerusalem “the rebellious”

                        (v.12). Such a charge no chief governor could afford to pass by. Such a

                        charge, also, in this instance, had a very plausible look. Situated as the

                        temple was, at the eastern edge of the city heights, the building of its

                        foundation and enclosures (the real work of the men of Jerusalem) might

                        easily be misrepresented as a “making ready” of the “walls” of the

                        “city” itself.


Ø      A plain warning. “In the judgment of us who live on the spot, this thing

                        is even worse than it seems. The building of this city means, in reality, the

                        building of a fortress against the king; and that means, in turn, serious loss

                        of revenue; for no taxes of any sort will that city pay, whether in money,

                        or kind, or for using the highways.”


Ø      A skilful apology. Why do we refer at all to so unpleasant a

                        contingency? Simply as a matter of duty, and because of our loyalty.

                        Having eaten of the king’s salt (margin), being his dependents and

                        subjects (possibly also his covenanted servants, II Chronicles 13:5),

                        we could not see even such possibility of hurt without speaking.


Ø      An appeal to history. Besides, the king can judge for himself on this

                        subject. He has only to inquire for himself in the government records, and

                        see what has always been said there about this city. Why, in fact, if not

                        thus“rebellious,” was it ever destroyed?


Ø      An appeal to reason. If things be thus, what must be the consequence,

                        the inevitable consequence of such a city being again established? Has

                        our warning gone far enough, in reality? There will not only be rebellion

                        here, but a rival sovereignty; not only some revenue, but a whole

                        province, lost. Such, at any rate (so we assure the king), is our fear.


This subject illustrates:


1. The perilous nature of Christian warfare. All the neighbors of the Jews

were against them; all that could be urged was urged against them, and in

the very best way. It would be difficult to improve the letter before us,

considering the purpose in view. So many, so powerful, so subtle always

are the enemies of the Church. (Compare Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:16-17;

Acts 28:22.) Consider also, in a different sphere, Job 1:9-11; 2:4-6;

Revelation 12:10; and the very meaning of the name Diabolus (devil).


2. The secret of Christian vitality. How has the Church survived all this

except by help from above? Could Jerusalem have survived this present

league and letter if left to itself? Compare “I have reserved to myself

seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of

Baal” in Romans 11:4; I Kings 19:18.


3. The proper direction of Christian trust. With such enemies, with such

accusers, to whom must we look for defense? Not to other men, not to

ourselves, but only to the appointed “Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous”

(I John 2:1). He is more than all that are against us (Numbers 14:9;

Psalm 27:1-3; 118:6). Also, being our “propitiation” (I John 2:2),

He can say more for us than they against us. (Compare “I have prayed for

thee,” in Luke 22:31-32; and see Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 7:25.)


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.”  Then sent the king an answer. The complaint made was of

such importance that an answer was returned without delay. It was

addressed both to Rehum and Shimshai, since they were independent

authorities.. Peace, and at such a time. “Peace” (sheldm) is the ordinary

Oriental salutation. The other word, uketh, is taken by our translators to

refer to the date; but it really means, like ukeneth (v. 10), “and so forth,”

or “et cetera.”


18 “The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.”

The letter hath been plainly read before me. Dispatches are

read to, not by, Oriental sovereigns, who have often no literary education.

(Compare Esther 6:1.)


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.”  I commanded, and search has

 been made. The Pseudo- Smerdis, who was a fanatical adherent of Magism, which

disallowed temples altogether (Herod., 1:130), and who had already destroyed the

temples of Ormuzd in Persia (‘Behistun Ins.,’ col. 1. par. 14, 5), was

naturally willing enough to do as the Samaritans desired, and stop the

restoration of the Jewish temple. Accordingly, he had a search made

among the state records, and found, as they had expected he would,

evidence of insurrections on the part of the Jews against the foreign

countries to which they had been subject, as Assyria (II Kings 18:7) and

Babylon (ibid. 24:1; Jeremiah 52:3), and also proof of the formidable

power possessed by certain Jewish or Israelite kings; upon which he

thought himself justified in complying with the Samaritan request, and

ordering the work that was going on at Jerusalem to cease (see v. 21).


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.”  Mighty kings. David and Solomon best answer

to this description, possessing as they did a kingdom which extended from the

Euphrates to the borders of Egypt (I Kings 4:21, 24), and drawing

tribute from the various petty princes or chiefs of the nations dwelling

within those limits (II Samuel 8:6-12; I Kings 10:14, 25). Josiah

had perhaps, more recently, possessed an almost equally extensive sway.


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.  22  Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should

damage grow to the hurt of the kings?” Until another commandment shall

be given. It can scarcely be supposed that the Pseudo-Smerdis had any intention

of issuing “another commandment;” but, since “the laws of the Medes and

Persians,”  as a general rule, “altered not” (Esther 1:19; Daniel 6:15), it may well

be that the clause before us was one inserted as a matter of form in most

decrees, to prevent them from being irrevocable.


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.”  They went up in haste. The “adversaries” lost no time.

Having obtained the decree which forbad further building, they proceeded

with it to Jerusalem, and by a display of force compelled the Jews to

submission. No doubt resistance might have been made, but resistance

would have been rebellion.


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.”  The interval of compelled inaction was not long. The Pseudo-

Smerdis reigned, at the utmost, ten months; after which a revolution

occurred, and the throne was occupied by Darius, the son of Hystaspes. If

the work was resumed early in this monarch’s second year, the entire

period of suspension cannot have much exceeded a year and a half. King

of Persia. There is probably no intention of distinguishing the Darius of

this book from “Darius the Mede” (Daniel 5:31; 6:1). “King of Persia

is appended to his name merely out of respect and honor, as it is to the

names of Cyrus (ch.1:1-2, 8), Artaxerxes I. (ch.4:7), and

Artaxerxes II.  (ch.6:14). Such a superfluous attachment to his

name of the style and title of a monarch is common throughout the Old

Testament, and generally marks a distinct intention to do the individual

honor (see Genesis 41:46; I Kings 3:1; 9:11, 16; 11:18; II  Chronicles

36:22, etc.).




                        Three Thoughts from Old Documents (vs. 6-24)


The determined attempts made by the Samaritans to prevent the Jews from

building the temple and the walls of Jerusalem are well illustrated in the

correspondence between them and the king of Persia. Documents passed

between the two of which we have the superscription and contents in these

verses. They remind us:




            These men, “in the days of Artaxerxes (v. 7), secured the sympathy and

            cooperation of the Persian “chancellor” and “scribe” (v. 8); also of their

            “companions,” various Persian colonists then living in Samaria (v. 9),

            with “the rest of the nations” whom “Asnapper brought over and set in

            their cities” (v. 10): with their aid and through their medium they gained

            access to King Artaxerxes, and induced him to listen to a long statement of

            complaint. They had a momentary success, as the king granted their prayer

            and arrested the work; but in the end their evil designs were defeated, and

            those against whom they plotted gained their end. All that these malignant

            Samaritans did was to annoy and delay without defeating their neighbors,

            while they have earned for themselves a most unenviable immortality. This

            document is only read now by those who will condemn their conduct. How

            often do we see men putting forth patient energy, expending great

            ingenuity and labor, to compass that in which it is best for them to fail, of

            which they will live to be ashamed. If there be a sense in which “all labor

            is profit” (Proverbs 14:23), it is also painfully true that thousands of

            men are laboriously engaged in doing work which will perish, and had

            better perish; in making a name and repute which they would be glad

            afterwards to hide. Well for those who are doing that which really serves,

            that which will stand, that for which other generations will not rebuke but

            bless them.



            PROVE A TIME OF UNUSUAL ENDURANCE (vs. 12-16). The Jews

            at this time were actively engaged in building — not merely in erecting

            stone walls, but in rebuilding a nation, in relaying the foundations of the

            kingdom and cause of God. Thus employed, they found themselves

            exposed to bitter hostility and deadly machination. Their nearest

            neighbors were plotting against them; and now they were doing that

            which is always found very difficult to endure — they were

            misrepresenting and maligning them; they were reporting them to the king

            as a “rebellious and bad city” (v. 12), bent on refusing to “pay toll,

            tribute, and custom” (v. 13), “hurtful unto kings and provinces,”

            intending to break off their allegiance, so that the king “would have no

            portion on this side the river.” Though not incapable of turbulence, and not

            indisposed to throw off a foreign yoke when that should be possible, the

            Jews were not cherishing any purpose of this kind; they had been faithful

            subjects when in Persia, and they had honorable and loyal intentions now.

            This “accusation” (v. 6) was essentially false; it was a malignant

            misrepresentation. When men are actively engaged in building the kingdom

            of Christ, they may expect Samaritan misrepresentations. Things will be

            said-by the ill-disposed which, as here, may have a coloring of truth, but

            which are essentially false. We must not mind misrepresentation when we

            are doing earnest and faithful work. The very excellence of our effort will

            bring down the hatred and opposition of those who are enemies of the

            truth, and our work and ourselves will be slandered; we may find ourselves

            members of a “sect everywhere spoken against.”  (Acts 28:22)  We shall not,

            then, forget who it was that was charged with sedition, and so far from being

            surprised that “the disciple is not above his master”  (Luke 6:40); we shall

            rejoice that we are counted worthy to “partake of the sufferings of Christ.”

            (I Peter 4:13)  No truly great work has ever been wrought which has not been

            covered at times with black clouds of misrepresentation.



            ASSOCIATED TOGETHER. The king listened to those who seemed so

            desirous of serving him; he was inclined to believe those that were anxious

            his “revenue should not be endamaged (v. 13), who did not wish to “see

            the king’s dishonour(v. 14), and who took measures that he should not

            lose his “portion on one side the river” (v. 16). And search being made, it

            was easy to find some incidents which might be construed in the sense of

            these complainants: the city “of old time had made insurrection,” etc. (v.

            19); there had been “mighty kings” to whom “toll, tribute, and custom” had

            been paid, etc. — there might be some possible danger too in the future; let

            the work cease for the present (v. 21), for “why should damage grow to

            the hurt of the kings?” (v. 22). Rather send bitter disappointment to the

            holiest hopes of a province than endanger the prosperity of kings. Thus

            does self-interest pervert justice. To save themselves from slight, remote,

            and contingent harm, men will cause much present and certain injury to

            their fellows. Selfishness is unfair and often cruel. To be true and just one

            must be disinterested.



                                    The Work Stopped (vs. 17-24)


The ostensible object of the letter to Artaxerxes (vs. 11-16) was to stop

the building of the walls of Jerusalem. Its real object was to put a stop to

the building of God’s house. In this for a time it succeeded, as our present

passage records. Two things are to be especially noticed in the story of this

grievous success. The weapon obtained was most efficient; the use made of

it was most effectual.


  • AN EFFICIENT AID IN AN EVIL PLAN. This the Samaritans found

            provided for them in the reply of King Artaxerxes. Besides the bare fact of

            having a reply at all, which was satisfactory so far as showing that their

            accusation had reached headquarters (as they had planned), the reply itself,

            when examined, turned out all they could wish. For example, its language

            showed that their representations had met


Ø      with most favourable attention. The number and character of those

                        making them (as noted in our last) had been duly observed (v. 17). Their

                        friendly object in doing so was acknowledged by the usual friendly

                        salutation (“Peace,” etc. ) in return. Also, the contents of the letter had

                        been submitted carefully to the notice of the king (v. 18; compare

                                                Esther 6:1). As a beginning, therefore, what could be better? Next, we

                        find that the recommendations of the letter had met:


Ø      with most ready compliance. The suggested “search” had been

                        formally ordered (observe word “decree” in margin), and properly

                        instituted and carried out. Further, the result of that search had proved

                        such as to give their words of warning:


Ø      most ample support. All that they had said was found true.

                        Jerusalem,was found described in the government archives as

                        “seditious,” and that “of old” (v. 19). Also their fears as to the loss

                        of revenue, and even of the province, had been fully justified by the

                        search. Jerusalem, so it was found, had formerly both ruled and taxed

                        all “beyond the river;” and might do so again, of course, if rebuilt (v. 20).

                        Not only so, but it may perhaps be noticed that, so far as the search went,

                        nothing of an adverse nature had been found; or, at any rate, if found, had

                        not been referred to. Esther 6:2, 4 are at least sufficient to show how

                        different a complexion the results of this search might have had, if

                        thorough and earnest. Also, that, had it been so, the designs of the

                        Samaritans would probably not have met, as we find them doing,


Ø      with such signal success. For example, the builders at Jerusalem were

                        to be made to “cease,” the very upshot wished for. Not only so, they

                        were not to begin again, except by express permission for it from the

                        king himself. This “commandment” was to continue binding until

                        there should be “another commandment” in its place. Added to which,

                        the Samaritans themselves were not only at liberty, as though by a kind

                        of “permissive legislation,” to see to the execution of this decree of the

                        king, but they were strongly urged, and almost entreated in fact, to

                        prevent its infraction.  One can see, in that concluding remonstrance,

                        how well their misrepresentations had told; and how fully they had

                        succeeded in alarming and arousing the jealous covetousness of the king.

                        “Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to

                        the hurt of the king?” Must they not have read this language with a smile

                        of triumph as well as joy?  Here was the king, in urging his own desires,

                        forwarding theirs even more.  Here was that which could be used against

                        the Jewish elders at their only. strong point — as it seemed. The one thing,

                        as noted before, which appeared to give any strength to the builders of the

                        temple, was the edict of Cyrus. Here was a similar edict, still more urgent

                        and quite as explicit, on the exactly opposite side. Surely the means of

                        success, if not success itself, was now placed in their power.



            EMPLOYED. Were the Samaritans able to use the aid thus placed in their

            hands? Were they satisfied with merely obtaining so welcome a decree?

            Unless a weapon is effectually wielded, it might as well remain hanging up

            in the armory. Unless a decree is made known and enforced, it differs

            nothing from one not yet passed — so far, at any rate, as its results are

            concerned? The Samaritan leaders and council, to whom came, in the first

            instance, the above-described decree of the king, seem to have been fully

            alive to these truths. They appear to have met together (v. 23) in order to

            hear its contents. It was doubtless “read before” them with all proper state.

            After this, there was:


Ø      no delay. They proceeded to take action on it “in haste.” They

                        determined to strike, as we say, while the iron was hot. Also, they did

                        this, we find,


Ø      in person; not deputing action, it seems, on so pressing a matter, to any

                        kind of subordinates. “They” themselves, who had thus received the

                        letter, and heard it read, at once proceeded to act. May we not notice,

                        too, in what way they did so? Namely, on the one hand,


Ø      as to place. They went to Jerusalem, the city in question, the place

                        which the king’s letter and their wishes had both so plainly in view.

                        Also, on the other hand,


Ø      as to persons. They went “to Jerusalem to the Jews,” it is stated; i.e., as

                        we take it, to the Jewish rulers and elders (so the expression “the Jews” is

                        constantly used by John in his Gospel); in other words, to those men at

                        Jerusalem who were actually engaged in directing and overseeing the

                        erection of the temple, and so were those really responsible, in fact, for

                        the whole of that work. Nor is this quite all we are told. We are told,

                        further, of these Samaritan authorities — and the point being expressly

                        mentioned seems worthy of a special note, at least, in passing — that

                        they “made” the Jewish authorities “to cease” from their work; and that

                        they did so, also, “by force and power” — that is to say, no doubt, with

                        a very considerable exhibition of ill-usage and threat. In a word, it is as

                        though, with this decree from Shushan in their hands, they had rushed

                        all the way from Samaria and struck these Jerusalem Jews as they worked;

                        and that with so much force and such a degree of skill as to deprive them

                        of all power to go on. Nothing, in fact, could be better aimed, nothing

                        more effectual, than this their stroke. It utterly destroyed the thing

                        struck; at any rate for so long a time, and so completely, that there was

                        nothing more to be said.  “Then ceased the work of the house of God

                        which is at Jerusalem.” Not till a year and a half have passed by, not

                        till a new king and even a new dynasty have appeared on the scene,

                        shall we hear of it again! See, therefore, in this matter:


o       The mystery of Gods ways. The omnipotent God Himself

      allowed His own work to be stopped! Not merely His own

      workmen. That is another thing, and often the case (see

            Matthew 14:3; Mark 9:18; Acts 16:6-7; Revelation 11:7-10).

      Even such a stoppage, however, is, not uncommonly, a

      sufficiently mysterious thing in our eyes. The Baptist,

                                    apparently, felt this himself (Matthew 11:2-6). Who, again,

                                    without marvel, can see the glorious sunrise of Stephen’s

                                    ministry (Acts 6:8-13) so suddenly set before men (Jeremiah

                                    15:9; Acts 7:59). But this phenomenon of the cessation of

                                    the work itself is more marvelous still, because it appears at

                                    first hardly consistent with God’s own attributes and

                                    nature. Does it mean that He has changed His purposes

                                    (I Samuel 15:29; Romans 11:29; James 1:17)? Or that He

                                    cannot carry them out (Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36)? Especially

                                    may we ask thus where the work in question is one for which

                                    He has done so much and so triumphantly, as in this instance

                                    (see chps, 1.-3., almost throughout). And still more where the

                                    cessation of the work is brought about by the enemies

                                    of Himself and His people, and that with such a spring-tide

                                    of success as our eyes have just seen. The greatest things and

                                    the smallest (so our attention to some of the very minutiae of

                                    this case has served to show us), the “stars in their courses”

                                    and the dust of the desert have seemed in league here with

                                    God’s foes And the end has been — what? The open failure,

                                    in the eyes of His enemies, and in the eyes of His friends as

                                    well, of the undertaking on which He had set His heart.

                                    That is what that deserted temple enclosure,

                                    with its manifestly interrupted labors, and its sorry wealth

                                    of unused materials, seemed to say for so long. It was like

                                    the flag of the enemies of Jehovah waving triumphantly over

                                    the very citadel of His strength (Psalm 74:7)!


o       The mercy of Gods ways. After all, the case was not desperate.

      There was just a gleam of light in the darkness; a gleam, it is

      possible, that would never have been noticed unless the

      surrounding darkness had been so extreme; a gleam, however,

      all the more worthy of notice on that very account. Why that

      singular suggestion of a possible second “commandment” in

      the (otherwise) unfaltering royal decree of this chapter?

                                    Does Scripture tell us of anything like it in any other document

                                    of this nature (compare ch. 1:2-4; 6:6-12; 7:11-26; Daniel 3:29;

                                    6:25-27)?  Considering, indeed, the almost excessive value

                                    attached by the ancient Persian government to the idea of

                                    “finality” in its legislation (Daniel 6. throughout), is not this

                                    curious hint in the exactly opposite direction a

                                    feature of most singular note? And may we not believe,

                                    therefore, with all reverence, that we see in it the special

                                    handiwork and the special mercy of God Himself? Often

                                    does He give such dim but priceless glimmerings of

                                    hope to those on the very verge of despair (see Judges 13:22-23;

                                    II Samuel 24:12-14; Jeremiah 4:27; 5:9-10, 18; Luke 8:49-50;

                                    24:17, 32; Acts 20:9-10). This is equally true of His Church

                                    (Psalm 12:1), and of souls (Psalm 27:13). So often may it be

                                    said of both of them, as in II Corinthians 4:8-9.




                        Man Hindering the Work of God (vs. 17-24)



            GOD. “Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that

            this city be not builded” (v. 21).


Ø      Presumptuous. “Then ceased the work of the house of God.” How

                        could presumption be greater than to stop the work of God; let men

                        pluck the stars from the heavens, but let them not injure the Church

                        of Christ.

Ø      Perplexing. Is it not a mystery that the Eternal will allow frail and

      sinful men to impede the work of His people?

Ø      Prejudicial. The walls of Jerusalem required restoration. The temple

                        must be built and the old worship restored. This hindrance is injurious

                        to the Jewish commonwealth. How do men prejudice great interests by

                        staying the beneficent ministries of the Church.

Ø      Permitted. These hindrances were allowed for a time, that new energy

                        might be stimulated, that the mercy of God might be seen in the aid

                        given to the dejected workers, and His glory in the final defeat of all


Ø      Preparatory. To greater success; the pent-up stream will soon flow on

                        more rapidly.

Ø      Patient. The work of the Church is patient; it will outlive all enmity.



            THE WORK OF GOD. The letter to the king caused the work to cease.

            The impediments to Church work are:


Ø      External. The political may hinder the moral; unjust law, civil

                        persecution, and the force of circumstances may sometimes cause

                        the work of God to cease

o       Haste.

o       Force (v. 23).

Ø      Internal. The work of God is more often hindered by a low spiritual

                        condition, by a quarrelsome temper, by a critical spirit, by the

                        thoughtless word; it is indeed sad to cause moral work to cease from

                        within. See the responsibility of conduct, when a word may, like this

                        letter to the king, stay the work of God.



            OF GOD IS HINDERED.


Ø      Disappointment. After the generous edict of Cyrus how disappointing

                        this order to cease work. How often is the Church disappointed in her

                        best efforts.

Ø      Complaint. No doubt many Israelites would indulge a complaining spirit.

                        The Church should not grumble when its work is hindered, but pray.

Ø      Sorrow. That the good work should be unfinished.

Ø      Hope. That God will yet undertake their cause.



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