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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 4

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Adversaries - i. e., the Samaritans, a mixed race, partly Israelite but chiefly foreign, which had replaced to some extent the ancient inhabitants after they were carried into captivity by Sargon (see 2 Kings 17:6 note).

Verse 2

Compare 2 Kings 17:24-28 notes.

Since the days - Esar-haddon reigned from 681-668 B.C. Thus, the Samaritans speak of what had taken place at least 130 years previously. There appear to have been at least three colonizations of Samaria by the Assyrian kings. The first is mentioned in 2 Kings 17:24. Later in his reign Sargon added to these first settlers an Arabian element. Some 30 or 40 years afterward, Esarhaddon, his grandson, largely augmented the population by colonists drawn especially from the southeast parts of the Empire Ezra 4:10. Thus, the later Samaritans were an exceedingly mixed race.

Verse 3

Ye have nothing to do with us - Because the Samaritans had united idolatrous rites with the worship of Yahweh 2 Kings 17:29-41. To have allowed them a share in restoring the temple would have been destructive of all purity of religion.

As king Cyrus ... commanded us - The exact words of the edict gave the right of building exclusively to those who should “go up” from Babylonia to Judaea Ezra 1:3.

Verse 5

Hired counselors - Rather, “bribed” officials at the Persian court to interpose delays and create difficulties, in order to hinder the work.

Darius - i. e., Darius, the son of Hystaspes

Verse 6

Ahasuerus - Or, Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus. Persian kings had often two names.

Verse 7

Artaxerxes - Gomates, the Pseudo-Smerdis. He succeeded Cambyses (521 B.C.), and reigned for seven months, when he was deposed and executed by Darius Hystaspis.

Written in the Syrian tongue ... - Or, “written in Syriac characters and translated into Syriac.” On the use of this tongue as a medium of communication between the Jews and their Eastern neighbors, see 2 Kings 18:26 note.

Verse 8

The chancellor - literally, “Lord of judgment;” the title, apparently, of the Persian governor of the Samaritan province. Every Persian governor was accompanied to his province by a “royal scribe” or “secretary,” who had a separate and independent authority.

Verses 9-10

These verses form the superscription or address of the letter (Ezra 4:11, etc.) sent to Artaxerxes.

The Dinaites were probably colonists from Dayan, a country often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions as bordering on Cilicia and Cappadocia. No satisfactory explanation can be given of the name Apharsathchites (see Ezra 5:6 note). The Tarpelites were colonists from the nation which the Assyrians called Tuplai, the Greeks “Tibareni,” and the Hebrews generally “Tubal.” (It is characteristic of the later Hebrew language to insert the letter “r” (resh) before labials. Compare Darmesek for Dammesek, 2 Chronicles 28:23 margin). The Apharsites were probably “the Persians;” the Archevites, natives of Erech (Warka) Genesis 10:10; the Susanchites, colonists from Shushan or Susa; the Dehavites, colonists from the Persian tribe of the Dai; and the Elamites, colonists from Elam or Elymais, the country of which Susa was the capital.

Ezra 4:10

A snapper was perhaps the official employed by Esar-haddon Ezra 4:2 to settle the colonists in their new country.

On this side the river - literally, “beyond the river,” a phrase used of Palestine by Ezra, Nehemiah, and in the Book of Kings, as designating the region west of the Euphrates.

And at such a time - Rather, “and so forth.” The phrase is vague, nearly equivalent to the modern use of et cetaera. It recurs in marginal references.

Verse 13

Toll, tribute, and custom - Rather, “tribute, provision, and toll” (so Ezra 4:20). The “tribute” is the money-tax imposed on each province, and apportioned to the inhabitants by the local authorities; the “provision” is the payment in kind, which was an integral part of the Persian system; the “tolI” is probably a payment required from those who used the Persian highways.

The revenue - The word thus translated is not found elsewhere, and can only be conjecturally interpreted. Modern commentators regard it as an adverb, meaning “at last,” or “in the end,” and translate, “And so at last shall damage be done to the kings.”

Verse 14

We have maintenance - See the margin. The phrase “to eat a man’s salt” is common in the East to this day; and is applied not only to those who receive salaries, but to all who obtain their subsistence by means of another. The Persian satraps had no salaries, but taxed their provinces for the support of themselves and their courts.

Verse 15

The book of the records - Compare Esther 2:23; Esther 6:1; Esther 10:2. The existence of such a “book” at the Persian court is attested also by Ctesias.

Of thy fathers - i. e., thy predecessors ripen the throne, Cambyses, Cyrus, etc. If Artaxerxes was the Pseudo-Smerdis (Ezra 4:7 note), these persons were not really his “fathers” or ancestors; but the writers of the letter could not venture to call the king an impostor.

Verse 18

Hath been ... read - It is doubtful if the Persian monarchs could ordinarily read. At any rate, it was their habit to have documents read to them (compare Esther 6:1). This is still the ordinary practice in Eastern courts.

Verse 19

The archives of the Babylonian kingdom would contain accounts of the insurrections raised, or threatened, by Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah 2Ki 24:1, 2 Kings 24:10, 2 Kings 24:20. It does not appear that there had ever been any rebellion against Persia.

Verse 20

Mighty kings ... - If this reference can scarcely have been to David or Solomon (see marginal reference), of whom neither the Babylonian nor the Assyrian archives would be likely to have had any account - it would probably be to Menahem 2 Kings 15:16 and Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:6-7; 2 Chronicles 35:18).

Verse 24

It ceased - The stoppage of the building by the Pseudo-Smerdis is in complete harmony with his character. He was a Magus, devoted to the Magian elemental worship, and opposed to belief in a personal god. His religion did not approve of temples; and as he persecuted the Zoroastrian so would he naturally be hostile to the Jewish faith. The building was resumed in the second year of Darius (520 B.C.), and was only interrupted for about two years; since the Pseudo-Smerdis reigned less than one year.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ezra 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/ezra-4.html. 1870.
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