Matthew Poole's Commentary
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, being not accepted in the building of the temple with the Jews, endeavour to hinder it, Ezra 4:1-6. Their false and malicious letter to Artaxerxes, Ezra 4:7-16. Artexerxes’s decree: the building is hindered, Ezra 4:17-24.
The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin; the Samaritans, as appears from Ezra 4:2,10.
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.Let us build with you: this they spake not sincerely, as appears from their disposition and designs discovered in the following history; but that by this conjunction with them they might pry into their counsels, and thereby get an opportunity to find some matter or pretences of accusation against them.
We seek your God, as ye do; for so they did, though in a mongrel way: see 2 Kings 17:26, &c.
Esar-haddon king of Assur; son of Sennacherib, and after him king of Assyria, 2 Kings 19:37; who brought or sent these persons hither, either,
1. In the days of Salmaneser, who lived and reigned in Assyria but eight years before Esar-haddon’s reign; and so Esar-haddon might be one of his most eminent commanders, and the man by whom that colony was sent. Or,
2. In the reign of Esar-haddon, who sent this second colony to supply and strengthen the first.
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; as being of another nation and religion, and therefore not concerned in Cyrus’s grant, which was confined to the Israelites and to the worshippers of the true God.
We ourselves together, i.e. who are united together by Cyrus’s grant in this work; or, alone, as this word is sometimes used, as Job 34:29 Psalm 33:15 Hosea 11:7.
Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,The people of the land, Heb. of that land; the present inhabitants of that province, to wit, the Samaritans.
Troubled them in building; by false reports and threats, and other means, described afterwards.
And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.Hired counsellors against them; who by their artifices and interests in the Persian court should give some stop to their work.
All the days of Cyrus king of Persia; for though Cyrus still favoured the Jews, yet he was then diverted by his wars, and his son Cambyses was left his viceroy, who was a very wicked prince, and an enemy to the Jews and their religion.
Even until the reign of Darius, Heb. and until, &c., i.e. not only in the reign of Cyrus, but also of Cambyses, and of the magician, after whom was this Darius; of whom see Ezr 5$ 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.In the reign of Ahasuerus; which is supposed by divers learned men to be from this time a common name to divers succeeding kings of Persia. And this makes it seem doubtful who this was. This was either,
1. Xerxes the fourth and rich king of Persia, as he is called, Daniel 11:2. Or rather,
2. Cambyses the son and successor of Cyrus, as may appear,
1. Because none but he and Smerdis were between Cyrus and this Darius.
2. Because Cambyses was known to be no friend to the Jewish nation nor religion; and therefore it is very improbable that these crafty, and malicious, and industrious enemies of the Jews would omit so great an opportunity when it was put into their hands.
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.In the days of Artaxerxes; either,
1. Artaxerxes the son of Xerxes. Or,
2. Smerdis the magician. Or rather,
3. The same Cambyses, called by his Chaldee name Ahasuems, Ezra 4:6, and here by his Persian name Artaxerxes; by which name he is here called in the inscription of this letter, because so he was called by himself and others in the letters written either by him or to him. Interpreted, or exposed, or declared. The sense is, It was written in the Chaldee or Syrian language, and in the Syrian character; for sometimes the Chaldee or Syrian words are written in the Hebrew character, as Hebrew words are oft written in an English character.
Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:No text from Poole on this verse.
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,Several people thus called from the several places of that vast Assyrian empire, from whence they were fetched, and who were united together into one body, and sent as one colony by the Assyrian monarchs into these parts.
And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.Asnappar; either Esar-haddon, or some other person then of great eminency, especially with his subjects and followers, who was captain of this colony, and conducted them hither.
On this side the river, to wit, Euphrates.
At such a time: the date of the epistle was particularly expressed in the epistle, but here it was sufficient to note it in the general.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Have set up the walls thereof: either,
1. The Jews had begun to build or repair some part of the walls which Nebuchadnezzar had left, which they aggravate in this manner. Or,
2. This is a mere fiction, which, being confidently affirmed, they thought would easily find belief with a king whose heart and ears they possessed by their hired counsellors, and others of their friends, or the enemies of the Jews.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;Thus they pretend the king’s service to their own malicious designs and private interests.
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.The records of thy fathers; political fathers, i.e. thy predecessors, the former emperors of this empire, namely, in the Assyrian and Babylonish records, which together with the empire were now in the hands of the Persian kings, to be searched or read as the king’s pleasure was, or as the affairs of the empire required.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Then ceased the work of the house of God; for they neither could nor might proceed in that work against their king’s prohibition, without a special command from the King of heaven, which they had, Ezra 5:1,2.
Darius king of Persia, to wit, Darius the son of Hystaspes, successor of Cambyses; not, as some would have it, Darius Nothus, the son of Artaxerxes Longimanus, who was not emperor till above one hundred years after Cyrus, and consequently from the beginning of the building of the temple to the finishing of it must be about one hundred and thirty years, which is not credible to any one that considers,
1. That the same Zerubbabel did both lay the foundations and finish the work, Zechariah 4:9.
2. That some of the same persons who saw the finishing of this second house, had seen the glory of the first house, Haggai 2:3.