King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ezra 4

The adversaries of the temple. (1-5) The building of the temple is hindered. (6-24)

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The adversaries of the temple

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;

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.

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.

4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,

5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

The building of the temple is hindered

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.

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.

8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:

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,

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.

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.

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.

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.

14 Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Enemies; Samaritans, and others, v. 9.

Ver. 2. Asor Haddan sent a priest to instruct these people, but Salmanasar had transported them into the country. C. — They continued for some time worshipping idols alone, and afterwards they consented to pay the like adoration to the Lord. 4 K. xvii. 24, &c. H. — It is clear, from their petition, that they had as yet no temple. The first was erected by them on Garizim, by leave of Alexander the Great, as a retreat for Manasses, brother of the Jewish high priest, and other who would not be separated from their strange wives. Joseph. xi. — Yet the Sam. Chronicle, lately published, seems to give a higher antiquity to that temple, and pretends that a miracle declared in favour of the place. C. — The fathers indeed adored there, (Jo. iv. 20. Gen. xii. 6,) and Josue erected an altar on Hebal, but the Samaritan copy says it was to be on Garizim. Deut. xxvii. 4. Jos. viii. 30. H.

Ver. 3. You, &c. Lit. “It is not for you and us to build.” But why might not these people assist in the work, as well as king Hiram or Darius? H. — Schismatics and heretics must not communicate in sacrifices with Catholics, (W.) nor must the latter have society with them, in matters of religion. The Jews feared lest the Samaritans might introduce the worship of idols, or claim a part of the temple, or at least boast of what they had done. T. — They were aware of the insincerity of these people. M. — The permission was moreover only granted to the Jews: (C.) but Cyrus had exhorted all to contribute; (C. i. 4,) and Darius, as well as his pagan governors, were not repelled with disdain. C. vi. 13. This treatment caused the Samaritans to be more inveterate, though the Jews were always more unwilling to come to a reconciliation. H. — “For the Scripture did not say, the Samaritans have no commerce with the Jews,” says S. Chrys. in Jo. iv. The Jewish authors inform us, that “Ezra, &c. gathered all the congregation into the temple, and the Levites sung and cursed the Samaritans,…that no Israelite eat of any thing that is a Samaritan’s, not that any Samaritan be proselyted to Israel, nor have any part in the resurrection,” &c. R. Tanchum. Lightfoot i. p. 598. Kennicott. — If this were true, it would be carrying their resentment too far; as we ought to promote the conversion of the greatest reprobates. But we have no reason to condemn such great men. They knew the character of the Samaritans, and wished to bring them to a sense of their duty, by this rebuke. H.

Ver. 5. Counsellors; ministers of the king, (C.) or governors of the provinces. T. — Cyrus, who was ignorant of their machination, (Josephus) being engaged in war with the Scythians. We may easily conceive what ill-disposed ministers may do, against the inclinations of their prince. C. — Darius, son of Hystaspes, who succeeded the false Smerdis, after five months’ usurpation. C.

Ver. 6. Assuerus; otherwise called Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus. He is also, in the following verse, named Artaxerxes, by a name common to almost all the kings of Persia, (C.) after Memnon. Diod. xv. Sept. “Arthasastha.” Arta signifies “great,” and xerxes, “warriour.” Herod. vi. 98. — After Assuerus, some copies add, “he is Artaxerxes;” and Assuerus is so called in the Sept. of Sixtus. 3 Esd. ii. 16. M.

Ver. 7. Artaxerxes may be the Oropastes of Trogus, (C.) or the false (H.) Smerdis. Herodot. — Beselam, &c. These governed the provinces on the west side of the Euphrates. — Syriac comprises the Chaldee, with which it as a great resemblance. It was spoken at the court of Babylon. Xenoph. vii. See 4 K. xviii. 26. and 2 Mac. xv. 37. and Dan. ii. 4.

Ver. 8. Beelteem. Syr. “the son of Baltam.” The term designates the office of Reum, “the master of reason,” president of the council, treasurer, &c. C. — Prot. “chancellor.” — From. Prot. “against.” H. — Heb. “concerning.”

Ver. 9. Counsellors. Sept. and Syr. “of our fellow-servants.” Chal. “colleagues.” This letter, and as far as C. vi. 19, is in the Chaldee language. — Dinites, perhaps the Denarenians. Junius. 4 K. xvii. 24. C.

Ver. 10. Asenaphar, commonly supposed to be the Asarhaddon, though we know not that he caused any of these nations to remove thither, as Salmanasar certainly did. C. — The name of the latter occurs in some copies. Lyran. — River, Euphrates. — In peace. H. — The original, cehenth, is neglected by the Sept. and Arab. The Syr. reads, “Acheeneth.” Others translate, “at that time,” as if the date had been lost. Jun. &c. — Prot. “and at such a time.” H. — Others suppose the writers lived “at Kineeth.” Pagnin. — But who ever heard of such a place? Le Clerc takes it to mean “and the rest,” as if the title were curtailed. But it is more probable that the text ought to be Ceheth, as v. 17, and that we should translate, “beyond the river, (C.) as now, (11) unless this word ought to be here omitted, (H.) to Artaxerxes, the king, peace (and prosperity) as at present.” C. — Chal. sslum ucáth, “peace even now.” H. — So Horace says, suaviter ut unc est, wishing a continuation of happiness. 3 Esd. (ii. 17.) joins the last word with v. 12, “And now be it,” &c. Cánoth may have this sense, (C.) and consequently no change is necessary. H.

Ver. 11. Him. This is a gloss. C. — Greeting. Prot. “and at such a time.”

Ver. 12. Rebellious. The Jews had shewn themselves impatient of subjection, contending with the kings of Assyria and Babylon, whose territories were now possessed by the successors of Cyrus, v. 15. H.

Ver. 13. Revenues. Sept. &c. include all under the term of “tribute.”

Ver. 14. Eaten. Chal. “on account of the salt, with which we have been salted, from the palace.” The king’s officers were fed from his table. Salt is put for all their emoluments; (C.) and hence the word salary is derived. Pliny xxxi. 7. We may also translate, “because we have demolished the temple, and because,” &c. Kimchi. Grot. &c. But this seems to refined. C. — Prot. “Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it is not meet,” &c. To have neglected their master’s interests, would have betrayed great ingratitude and perfidy; particularly if they had entered into a covenant of salt, or solemnly engaged to be ever faithful servants, as the nature of their office implied. Num. xviii. 19. 2 Par. xiii. 5. H. — Palace, being honoured with much distinction. Delrio, adag. 215.

Ver. 15. Fathers, the preceding emperors, Nabuchodonosor, Salmanasar, &c. H.

Ver. 16. Possession. Sept. have simply, “peace.”

Ver. 17. Greeting. Prot. “peace, and at such a time,” which has no great meaning. H. See v. 10.

Ver. 19. Seditions: so are styled the just efforts of the Jews, to keep or to regain their liberty. C.

Ver. 20. Kings; only David and Solomon. M. — They had made some on the east side of the river pay tribute, though the king may speak of the countries on the west.

Ver. 21. Hear. Chal. “give command,” &c. — Further: lit. “perhaps.” H. — This was a private edict, which might be rescinded. Dan. vi. 7.

Ver. 23. Beelteem, is not in Chal. — Arm, or “force.” Prot. H.

Ver. 24. House. They went beyond the order, which only forbade the building of the city, v. 21. — Darius, A. 3485. C. — He was the son of Hystaspes, (S. Jer.) and not Nothus, the sixth from Cyrus, as Sulpitius and Scalinger believe. T.