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the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 4

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 1


‘The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.’

Ezra 4:1

I. The return from captivity would be viewed with mingled feelings by the Samaritans and those transplanted from the East by Esar-Haddon, king of Assyria.—Since they are termed ‘the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin,’ it is not necessary to suppose that the offer made to Zerubbabel to join with him in building the Temple was sincere, as some have supposed. It was rather a crafty endeavour, as the sequel reveals, to join in the work with the intention of effectively blocking it. It was their selfish aim to keep Jerusalem weak. Even yet nations too readily assume that the prosperity of others must mean disadvantage to themselves, and try to retard their development.

II. The claim that they, too, sought Jehovah and sacrificed unto Him was specious.—It contained an element of truth which made it the more dangerous. ‘They combined their own idolatrous religion with that of the newly adopted indigenous divinity of Palestine.’ Therefore co-operation would have meant deterioration. Such an addition in the number of helpers would have meant subtraction of real devotion to Jehovah, multiplication of faction, and division of power. Zerubbabel and the chiefs of Israel were wise, therefore, to decline co-operation so fraught with material and moral danger. The Christian must ever be on his guard against dubious co-operation which means the sacrifice of truth on the altar of charity. To compromise integrity of devotion and simplicity of truth in order to augment the number of associates is to court certain failure and just condemnation.

III. Failing in their first cunning attempt, the veil of conciliation was cast off.—They revealed the real hostility of spirit by hindering in every possible way the erection of the Temple. They sought that a decree should be made to stop the work. In this clever stratagem they were successful. The people were made to cease ‘by force and power’ from building, and their purpose was frustrated, until the days of Darius, the king of Persia, fifteen to twenty years after. Evil is active to hinder the good in every generation. No man ever attempted a good work without finding opposition in some form or other. Still, in the end the Temple was built. If evil is powerful, God is all-powerful. Whatever difficulties and adversaries arise, God’s Will is the greatest force this world knows, and to Him belongeth victory.


(1) ‘We must beware of the proposal to join in with the ungodly. Their arguments may sound very fair, and appeal to a false liberality of sentiment, but the golden cup contains poison, and beneath the kiss is the traitor’s hand. This is why so many fair enterprises have miscarried. They have afforded common ground for co-operation between the true and counterfeit Israel, whilst God has been alienated.’

(2) ‘ “Ye have nothing to do with us.” That is the answer we must make to men who want to co-operate with us externally before they have co-operated with us spiritually and sacrificially. When they would assist us in our works of benevolence and in spreading some particular practical aspect of religion our reply should be, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God.” Grander would be the Church, more virgin in her beauty and loveliness, more snow-like in her incorruptibleness, if she could say to every bad man who offers her assistance, “Ye have nothing to do with us in building the house of our God: the windows shall remain unglazed, and the roof beams unslated, before we will touch money made by the sale of poison, or by practices that are marked by the utmost corruption and evil.” ’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezra 4". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/ezra-4.html. 1876.
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