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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 4

Verses 1-24

Feud Between the Jews and Samaritans

This chapter describes the desire of the Samaritans to take part in the rebuilding of the Temple, and their successful opposition to the Jews on their request being refused.

1. The adversaries] The term is here anticipatory of the opposition subsequently displayed. The people thus designated were the Samaritans, who, in the main, were the descendants of the immigrants who, to replace the Israelite population that had been deported after the fall of Samaria, had been introduced, first of all by Sargon, from Babylon, Cuthah, and other places (2 Kings 17:24), and also at a later date by Esarhaddon and Asshurbanipal (Ezra 4:2, Ezra 4:10). But there must likewise have been mingled with them a certain number of native Israelites, who had been left behind in the country by their Assyrian conquerors.

2. We seek your God] A priest had been brought back from captivity to teach them how to fear the Lord (2 Kings 17:28, 2 Kings 17:32-33). We do sacrifice unto Him] so one reading of the Heb., followed by the LXX, the clause expanding the plea of common worship. Another reading is ’yet we do no sacrifice,’ the argument implying that they had hitherto had no opportunity of offering acceptable sacrifices, but now desired to do so at Jerusalem, the only lawful sanctuary. Esar-haddon] the successor of Sennacherib (681-668 b.c.). Assur] i.e. Assyria.

3. As king Cyrus, etc.] The fact that they were not authorised to extend to others the privileges conferred upon them by Cyrus was probably not the only motive that actuated the Jews. They no doubt felt that to admit to closer association such a hybrid community as the Samaritans, with their mixture of Hebrew and heathen rites of worship, would neutralise the impulse in the direction of purity of religion which they had derived from their experiences as exiles.

4. The people of the land] i.e. the Samaritans and the other hostile neighbours of the Je ws; the annoyances they caused are referred to in Zechariah 8:10.

5. The reign of Darius] i.e. Darius Hystaspis, the third in succession to Cyrus, who was followed on the throne by Cambyses, Gomates (who personated Smerdis, and is consequently often styled Pseudo-Smerdis), and Darius, in the order named. Darius reigned from 521-485, so that the rebuilding of the Temple was interrupted for fifteen or sixteen years (536-520).

6. Ahasuerus] i.e. Xerxes (485-464), the successor of Darius Hystaspis.

7. Artaxerxes] i.e. Artaxerxes Longimanus (464-424), the successor of Xerxes. Since both Xerxes and Artaxerxes lived after Darius Hystaspis, to whom Ezra 4:24 probably refers, and to whose reign the contents of Ezra 5 belong, the section, Ezra 4:6-23, departs from the chronological succession of events either in consequence of some accidental misplacement, or because the writer has in view a comprehensive summary of the several occasions when opposition was offered to the Jews by their enemies. The charge made in this section against the Jews is not the building of the Temple (the subject of which is resumed in Ezra 4:24 and Ezra 5), but the fortification of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:12), either by Nehemiah (as related in the book of Neh) or by a body of Jews who came from Babylon before him, perhaps those who accompanied Ezra (see Ezra 7). Some, who consider the chronological sequence in this chapter to be unbroken, identify the ’Darius’ of Ezra 4:24 with Darius Nothus (423-405); whilst others, who take Ezra 4:6-23 to be a detailed explanation of the opposition summarised in Ezra 4:5, identify Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes with Cambyses and Gomates, the two kings who came between Cyrus and Darius Hystaspis.

7. In the Syrian tongue, etc.] RV ’written in the Syrian (Aramean) character, and set forth in the Syrian (Aramean) tongue.’Aramean was the chief medium of communication between the different peoples of the East: cp. 2 Kings 18:26.

8. Rehum.. Shimshai] It is not clear whether Ezra 4:7-8 refer to more than one letter sent on different occasions by the enemies of the Jews, or to a single letter written by the persons named in Ezra 4:7 (who were presumably Samaritans) and communicated through the Persian officials named in Ezra 4:8.

9. Dinaites] The identification of most of the peoples mentioned in this v. is uncertain. The Susanchites were the natives of Shushan, the capital of Elam.

10. On this side] RV ’beyond’ (and so in Ezra 4:11, Ezra 4:16, Ezra 5:3, Ezra 5:6; Ezra 8:36), regarded from the point of view of the Persian court.

11. At such a time] RV ’and so forth’ (and so in Ezra 4:11 and Ezra 4:17).

12. Joined the foundations] RV ’repaired the foundations.’

13. So thou shalt endamage] RV ’in the end it will endamage.’

14. We have.. palace] Mt. ’we have salted the salt of the palace’: cp. the term ’salary,’ from salarium, ’money given to provide salt.’

15. The book of the records] For such see Ezra 6:2. A rebellious city] This, so far as it was true, applied to Jerusalem only under Babylonian rule (see 2 Kings 24:1-20). But the circumstances of the time rendered the walling of the city suspicious, since Egypt, which lay so near, had recently been in revolt.

24. The second year.. Darius] 520 b.c., if, as is most probable, Darius Hystaspis is meant, as in Ezra 4:5 (the closing words of which are here repeated). But some suppose Darius Nothus (423-405) to be intended.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ezra 4". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.