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Ezra 4:1 . The adversaries of Judah. These were the Samaritans; that is, Jews of the ten tribes, apostate from the religion of their fathers, now intermarried with the heathen, who were worshippers of God and of idols. Consequently they could not be admitted into the Jewish church. This people, Asnapper the Assyrian general, had brought and planted in the cities of Samaria. The other adversaries are here named, the principal of whom was Tobias, at the head of the Ammonites. These several reduced nations or colonies, inhabiting the ancient kingdom of David, after some time, took the alarm on seeing Zerubbabel, one of David’s line, invested with the government of Jerusalem.
Ezra 4:6 . Ahasuérus, who is called Cambyses by Herodotus; he reigned during the absence of Cyrus his father. His reign was short, only seven years and five months. He led his army like a fool against Ethiopia, without guides, and without provisions: and they perished in the deserts.
Ezra 4:7 . In the days of Artaxerxes, surnamed Longimanus, or Longhand. During the seven years that Cambyses son of Cyrus reigned, the adversaries had grieved, but kept silence; for they thought the son would not act against his sire. Now, a new prince having usurped the throne, they lost no time to excite his jealousy against the Jews. Learned men cannot fully clear up the names and time that each of the Persian kings reigned. See the notes on chapters 5. 6.
Ezra 4:8 . Wrote a letter against Jerusalem, in the Chaldaic language, and the answer is returned in the same tongue. Therefore Ezra inserts them here untranslated.
Ezra 4:16 . On this side the river; not the Jordan, but the Euphrates.
Ezra 4:24 . Darius king of Persia. This prince is surnamed Bastard by the historians.
How great and grievous is the policy and the wickedness of the human heart. No sooner did the Samaritans see Judah and Benjamin likely to recover from their calamities, and to rise as a nation, than they claimed kindred and covenant with them. They afterwards continued to claim it, when they prospered, but disowned them in adversity. The request to join in worship, and partially to unite as a nation, the Jews could not grant; for Samaria was full of idols, and the small remnant of the ten tribes, apostate before their Syrian captivity, were now dissolute in morals, and so completely intermarried with the heathen, before any of the heathen had been regularly proselyted, that they could not possibly be joined to the Jewish church. Christian, if the world caress you in prosperity, learn of the faithful Jews to give them this short answer, “Ye have nothing to do to build with us.”
The firm refusal of civil and religious connections with the Samaritans was a very strong argument that the Jews had profited by their great affliction in Babylon. They well knew that the morals and worship of the Samaritans would corrupt their young people; and that such an imprudent step would forfeit the covenant which at all times had been their only hope. Christian ministers and elders have here a fine example. They are taught to reject every candidate for church fellowship whose motives are not pure, or whose hearts are not sincere. Increase of number is a curse to the church when the candidates are neither sanctified in their affections, nor holy in their lives.
The Samaritans, disappointed of participating in the prosperity of the Jews, and unable to bear the sight of their rising hopes and distinguished favours, next sought their ruin by daring menaces and open war; but being now all subject to the same monarch, they did not dare to fight in any extensive way. They contented themselves for the present with burning the gates of the city; and the moment an opening presented itself by a change on the throne, they wrote a most false and wicked letter to the king. They said Jerusalem was of old a rebellious city; they pleaded loyalty and gratitude, that having a maintenance from the king’s table it was not meet to see a rebellion fostered to his dishonour. These too are the men who claimed kindred and connection with the Lord’s people but a little before; and yet could pretend to seek the consolations of piety, with malice and murder in their hearts. Yes, they are the same people. And not only the Samaritans, but men in our own age are both ready and willing to slander the purest piety as seditious, and dangerous to the state. They would if possible gain the royal ear, and bring the last of calamities on their christian brethren. Let them remember however, that God has never pardoned the blood of his saints to an impenitent world. Look at Ahaz, at Herod, at Pilate, at Nero; look at certain illustrious houses in Europe, and see what God has done. There is no purging the blood of the saints but by the blood of posterity.
The wicked opposing the righteous are sometimes permitted to succeed. So here: the house of the Lord was stopped when half built; but his altar was not without a sacrifice. Samaria could look on and laugh, but not long. A new king arose, and permitted the work to proceed; and according to prophecy and faith, the headstone was brought forth with shouting, grace, grace unto it. So, believer, will the God of Israel defend and comfort thy soul in all thine afflictions. The measure of thy chastisement and the malice of thy foes have their limits. Thy heaven shall not always be shrouded with darkness, nor thy feet stick fast in the mire and clay. He will turn thy captivity as the rivers of the south, and show thee the light of his countenance in the land of the living.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezra 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
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