EZRA 3-4 part 3

 

Ezra 3:1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

 

The children of Israel were led to Judah by Zerubbabel. This would have been about a 4 month journey from Babylon. As we begin in chapter 3, it is the seventh month of the Jewish year, which is called Tishri. This corresponds to our late September and early October. Notice that they gathered together as one man. This shows how they were unified in purpose. They learned from their captivity that it was time to focus on being right with God.

 

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 

We can see that these Jews had learned from the chastening they received for 70 years that loving God and obeying His laws must be their first priority just like it should be our first priority as Christians.

 

Ezra 3:2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.4 They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day.5 Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD.6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, although the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid.7 They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

 

This proves that these Jews had learned their lesson because they began to restore things as they should be. First, they rebuilt the alter so that burnt offerings could be made on it. Please notice that the did this according to the Law of Moses. They didnít have to guess at what God wanted them to do or how they were to do it because they had a pattern to follow after and they understood that if they were going to keep God happy and avoid His wrath they were going to do it just like He laid out in His Word.

 

Now this is a principle that every Christian today needs to take to heart because God has given us a clear pattern to follow in the New Testament on how we are to worship and conduct ourselves as Christians. If we are going to be pleasing to God, we must go to His instruction book and we must live our lives by it.

 

We learn from out text that these Jews feared those people that were around them. They were their enemies and this caused them to set up the alter as fast as they could because they wanted to make sure that God knew they were putting Him first and so He would protect them from their enemies.

 

As part of their restoration movement, they started keeping the Holy Days as well. They kept the feast of the Tabernacle also known as the feast of the booths, which began on the 15th day of Tishri. Again, notice they kept this feast and they kept burnt offerings as described in the Law of Moses. This is what true restoration is all about. They didnít have to guess or make up their own rituals or ways, they simply had to read the Law of Moses and follow it and they would be doing exactly what God wanted them to do.

 

In this same way, we can have true restoration today. Jesus said that the seed is the Word of God in Luke 8:11. What we do we know about seeds? Well, we know that one seed will produce after it own kind. In other words when you plant a bean you get a bean plant and when you plant a tomato seed you get a tomato plant. However, you will never plant bean seed and grow a strawberry or a cucumber. I remember reading one time that they found some wheat grain in some Egyptian artifacts that were several thousands years old and they decided to plant them to see what would happen. Guess what? Not only did those old seeds grow, they produced wheat.

 

Now this is an easy concept to understand. If we take the seed, which is the Word of God and allow it grow in our lives. Guess what is going to produce every time? Christians. But, we cannot change the seed by adding to it or taking away from it because then you will end up with some man-made hybrid concoction. So, if we want to have true restoration, we have to be willing to allow the Word of God to be our only pattern.

 

Now these Jews had not laid the foundation of the temple yet, but they were hiring people to build it and they were gathering the necessary supplies to begin and this was all made possible through the providence of God and the decree that King Cyrus had made.

 

Ezra 3:8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel (sheal-tile), Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites.

 

The work began in the second month of the Jewish year and that was the same time Solomon began to build the first temple as well (1 Kings 6:1). Now building the temple was more complex job and so the Levites were appointed and they would be the best ones to oversee the building since they were the one that had access to the Law of Moses. Also we can see that Jeshua and the other men listed there oversaw the men that were working. They wanted to make sure that the temple was built according to Godís Word and that the men were working as they should.

 

Ezra 3:10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel.11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel." Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

 

We are not told how long it took them to lay the foundation of the temple, but we can see what they did when it happened. The priest put on their special cloths and the people shouted and praised God. They were singing the Psalm found in Psalm 136. However, not all of them were pleased with what they saw as we see in the next few verses.

 

Ezra 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy,13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.

 

Those who were old enough to have seen the original temple were sad because Solomonís temple was much more grand in appearance than this one, so this made the older people weep at the same time the others were rejoicing. When it says that you could not discern between the noise of the weeping and the joyful noise was because there shouting for joy and their wailing sounded similar and they would have blended together.

 

Ezra 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel,2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here."3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers' houses of Israel said to them, "You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us."

 

Now you might want to write this down in your Bible because it not specifically stated. These adversaries are the Samaritans. We learned about this in 2 Kings 17. When the Assyrians defeated the Northern kingdom it took most of the Jews away, but some of the workers of the field and the women and children would have remained behind. Then the Assyrians brought in various groups of people as stated in,

 

2 Kings 17:24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.

 

These foreigners would end up marrying one another along with the Jews that had remained behind and they became known as the Samaritans. In 2 Kings 17 God sends a lion to eat some of them because the did not fear God. Then the king sends one of the priests from the northern kingdom to teach them about God. This was like sending a Buddhist to teach people about Christianity because the priest of the northern kingdom had become to corrupt. These Samaritans decided to try and please God, but at the same time they worshipped their other false gods as well (2 Kings 17:33).


Since they had a desire to be pleasing to God, they wanted to help build His house, but Zerubbabel would not let them and he a legal reason not to let them because King Cyrus had decreed that they children of Israel were the ones that were supposed to rebuild the temple. As we are about to see that didnít go over to well.

 

Ezra 4:4 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building,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.

 

Around 14 years of opposition is recorded in these few verses.These years included the remaining years of Cyrus' dominion, the twelve year reign of Cambyses, the short reign of Artazerxes and into the second year of Darius I. They hired counselors against them. Most scholars believe that they bribed high officials in the government to work against the Jews while other believethese were men they hired to work against them in the Persian court much like our lobbyist are used today. Before move into our next section I want to give you a list of the Persian kings and their approximate dates.

 

The Persian Rulers from 559-358 B.C.

 

†††† ††††559-530†††† Cyrus

†††††††† 530-522†††† Cambyses

†††††††† 522-522†††† Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) (the Pseudo-Smerdis)

†††††††† 522-486†††† Darius I (Hystaspes)

†††††††† 486-465†††† Xerxes I (Ahashuerus)

†††††††† 465-424†††† Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) (Longimanus)

†††††††† 424-423†††† Xerxes II

†††††††† 423-404†††† Darius II (Nothus)

†††††††† 404-358†††† Artaxerxes (Mnemon)

 

 

 

 

 

Ezra 4:6 In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.7 ∂ In the days of Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language.

 

It not known for sure who this Ahasuerus is referring to. Most believe it referring to Xerxes the Persian king in the book of Esther, while some believe it refers to King Cyrus son Cambyses. If it Ahasuerus is referring to King Xerxes then the these king are not in chronological order because the King Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees), refers to the king that only reigned 7 Ė 10 months after King Cambyses, which happened before the reign of King Xerxes.

 

One way this is explained is that the writer wasnít concerned about the chronological order, but just wanting to show how the Jews enemies were consistently trying to write to the various kings to try and stop them from supporting the Jews. They finally had some success when they wrote to king Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees). We can get an idea of the kind of letters that were writting by the one that we have recorded for us in out next verses,

 

8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) in this fashion:9 From Rehum the commander, Shimshai (shim-shigh) the scribe, and the rest of their companions -- representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites (a-far-sath-kites), the Tarpelites, (tar-puh-lights) the people of Persia and Erech (eh-wreck) and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites,10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River -- and so forth.11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent him) To King Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations.13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king's treasury will be diminished.14 Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king's dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king,15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.16 We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.

 

This was a convincing letter. First we need to keep in mind that King Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) is reigning several years after Cyrus had made his decree, so he probably doesnít know all the details involved in that decision and probably wasnít personal involved in it.

 

The first thing they do is call the city the Jews were building a rebellious evil city. The last the thing a king wants to be in support of is a rebellions people. The Jews had started working on the walls of the city, but they had not finished them yet.

 

So the second thing they tell him is that if the do finish their wall, they will not pay their taxes or tribute to the king and your treasury will diminish. A king was know by his wealth and ability to control the people around him, so again this was a good tactic to get the king to pay attention and react.

 

Third they show that they are honoring the king by not taking matters into their own hands since the Jews were protected by the decree of King Cyrus.

 

The fourth thing they do to make their argument strong was they asked the king to look through the old records, so they could see that the Jews were a rebellious people. When the King looked through their records, he find where the Jews had rebelled against the king of Babylon and others. This would be enough evidence to cause any king to take notice.

 

Then their 5th and finally argument is that not only will the king treasury be diminished he will lose his dominion over their land. Now letís take a look at the kingís response.

 

Ezra 4:17 The king sent an answer: To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai (shim-shigh) the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River: Peace, and so forth.18 The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me.19 And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it.20 There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them.21 Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me.22 Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings?

 

The King does his research about the Jews and he is convinced that building their city must cease for now. Notice he didnít say that it would never be built, but that it would not continue until he commanded it to be so. The Persian kings had to be careful at how they made commands because once their order was sealed with their ring not even the king could change it. This rule that they followed will play in important part during King Darius reign as we will see next week in chapter 5.

 

Ezra 4:23 Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes (ar-tuh-zerk-sees) letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai (shim-shigh) the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease.24 Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

 

The Samaritans who were made up of about 9 different nations were temporally victorious. They had done their best to slow the Jews down from building their city and now by the order of the king their rebuilding was stopped for about a 2 years until the 2nd year of King Darius.

 

Now if the story ended here, it would be sad indeed, but it does not. This was just a temporary setback and we will see that the Jews will eventually be successful and that God will continue to help them through His providence.