The Book of Ezra
Opposition: Part II
1. In what ways does Christianity go against the flow of society today?
2. What sacrifices do you think Christians have to make for their faith today?
3. What would you do if it were illegal to go to church?
4. What sacrifices do you think Christians may have to make in the future?
• Chapter 3 told us of the rebuilding of the altar, the renewed sacrifices and feasts, and the laying of the foundation of the Temple.
• Now, chapter 4 takes a drastic turn.
• In our last study we saw the beginnings of the opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.
• The locals had a two-fold attack:
• The Jews knew that true worship of Jehovah could not be fully enjoyed until the Temple stood again!
• Satan knew this too. And he rears his ugly head to oppose it’s construction.
• Ezra is very quick to remind us of the truth that ...
2 Tim. 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
• While Ezra is recording the opposition to the rebuilding of the temple, he adds material that relates to a much later time.
• Here we find the later opposition to Nehemiah as he rebuilds the walls.
I. Opposition Under Ahasuerus (6)
Ezra 4:6 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.
• Ezra first referred to the opposition from Israel’s enemies under King Ahasuerus (a regal title) or Xerxes (His Greek Name)
• Xerxes ruled at the time of Esther.
• We have all heard of Queen Esther.
• This is the king that made Esther his queen.
• This would be approximately (486-464 b.c.) (MacArthur)
• Since the Jews had already completed the temple in 515 B.C., this shows that the opposition was a constant and enduring obstacle.
QUOTE: "Without this foretaste of history to reveal the full seriousness of the opposition, we would not properly appreciate the achievements recorded in the next two chapters (5 and 6) nor the dangers hidden in the mixed marriages which Ezra would set himself to stamp out (chaps. 7—10)." (Kidner as quoted by Constable)
II. Opposition Under Artaxerxes (7-23)
• Ezra 4:7–23 then recounts opposition in Nehemiah’s day under Artaxerxes I (ca. 464–423 b.c.) expressed in a detailed letter of accusation against the Jews (vv. 7–16).
• Artaxerxes was the successor of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) who ruled the Persian Empire from 464 to 424 B.C.
• As best as we are able to determine, this opposition may be dated to 446 B.C.
• As we will see, this was a very serious and effective opposition.
• Most likely, this opposition is that also spoken of in Neh. 1:3.
A. The Companions in the Letter (7-10)
1. The Samaritans (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.
• The Samaritans vented their hostility by sending letters to Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes.
• The letter to Artaxerxes is outlined in this passage and was written by three Samaritans, Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel.
• These may have been local officials, or perhaps they were spies for the king.
QUOTE: "Near Eastern kings used an elaborate system of informers and spies. Egyptian sources speak of the ’ears and eyes’ of the Pharaoh. Sargon II of Assyria had agents in Urartu whom he ordered, ’Write me whatever you see and hear.’ The efficient Persian intelligence system is described by Xenophon. The King’s Eye and the King’s Ear were two distinct officials who reported to the monarch. But God’s people could take assurance in their conviction that God’s intelligence system is not only more efficient than any king’s espionage network but is omniscient (cf. 2 Chron. 16:9; Zech. 4:10)." (Xenophon, Balcer and Yamauchi, quoted by Constable)
2 Chron. 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
Zech. 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
• The final sentence of this verse probably means that the letter was written in Aramaic (the universal language of the area spoken by Jews and Gentiles alike), then it was translated into Persian for the king.
• Remember that the writer of Ezra wrote all of 4:8—6:18 as well as 7:12-26 in Aramaic originally.
2. The Scribes (8)
 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
• Rehum and Shimshai were probably high Persian officials.
• They either served the king in the Persian court, or in the general region of Judah.
• They wrote the letter in behalf of Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel.
• Perhaps they needed their expertise in the Aramaic language.
• Perhaps they needed the letter to be recognized as authoritative, so they use the kings officers.
ILLUS: The world will often take greater care to do the Devil’s work right than the church will take to do God’s work right!
3. The Signers (9-10)
 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,  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.
NOTE: Osnappar [KJV - Asnapper] (v. 10) is evidently an Aramaic form of Ashurbanipal (669-ca. 660 B.C.), the Assyrian king who succeeded Esarhaddon. The phrase "beyond the river" (vv. 10, 11, 16, 17, 20) refers to the Persian province that lay to the southwest of the upper Euphrates, namely, the one that encompassed Syria and Palestine. (Constable)
• Note the various peoples mentioned.
• These are various groups settled by Asnapper in the general area of Israel.
• The idea was to impress on the Persian king the vast number of different peoples who were opposed to the Jewish settlement.
ILLUS: Preacher, “a lot of people” are upset. That usually means the speaker and one more!
B. The Content of the Letter (11-16)
1. Their Assurance (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. [i.e., “and now”, a transition phrase meaning, “and now to the point”]
• A royal job of brown-nosing royalty!
• They didn’t love the Persian king.
• They simply hated the Jews and needed his help.
• WATCH the winers and diners crowd!
2. Their Accusations (12-16)
a. The Present (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.
NOTE: The Jews mentioned in this letter (v. 12) would have been those who returned with Ezra in 458 B.C., the second group of Jews to leave Babylon. That group attempted to rebuild the walls of the city having received permission from Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. to do so (7:21). (Constable)
1) The Character of the City
“rebellious and bad”
2) The Construction of the City
• A progress report is given.
• The walls have been laid out and the foundations built.
• The foundations have been joined (i.e., one contiguous unit)
b. The Past (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.
• Be assured that your skeletons will come roaring out of the closet just when you don’t need it.
c. The Problems (13-14, 16)
1) A Revenue Problem (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.
• You may remember from our previous studies that the whole reason Cyrus allowed the captive peoples to return was so that he could tax them.
• The “Empirical Kings” were most dependent upon the tax revenue of their provences.
2) A Respect Problem (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;
• Again they feign loyalty to the king to secure his allegiance.
• Selfish, greedy, hostile people can seem so friendly to one another when they are united against God and His Church and His believers!
3) A Rebellion Problem (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.
• Their powerful suggestion to the king is this:
• You let this city build its walls and then it will rebel.
• And if the locals see one city successful in so doing, they will follow suite.
• Ultimately, you will lose control of the entire provence!
• As we will see, this effective method frightens ArtaXerxes to action.
C. The Consideration of the Letter (17-20)
1. The Salutation (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. [i.e., “and now”]
2. The Search (18-20)
a. The Decree (18-19A)
 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.  And I commanded, and search hath been made,
• The Assyrian records against Israel had been carefully preserved and transmitted to successive empires and rulers. So had the Babylonian records against Judah!
• These are brought to the Persian king ArtaXerxes’ officials for examination.
b. The Discovery (19B-20)
[19B] and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.  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.
NOTE: The historical justification for the claim that Jerusalem is a chronically rebellious city will have consisted in such events as Hezekiah’s withholding of tribute from Assyria (2 Kings 18:7, ca. 724 B.C.) and Zedekiah’s abortive bid for freedom from the Babylonians, which led to the [disastrous invasion] of 587 (2 Kings 24:20ff.). And it is clear that a nerve is touched. (McConville as quoted by Constable)
D. The Consequences of the Letter (21-23)
1. The King’s Order Decreed (21-22)
 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.  Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
• This king, in office now for only a few years, is frightened by the warning of the Samaritans.
• He is frightened by the discoveries made in the historical records concerning the Jew’s past rebellions.
• He doesn’t know for sure how to handle this.
• So he orders a temporary (“until another commandment”) halt to the work.
• That “until” would come two years later when he (ArtaXerxes) would commission Nehemiah in 444 B.C. to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.
• Ultimately, he decided that Jerusalem would better serve the kingdom by being protected rather than defenseless.
• But for now, he orders a stop to the work of rebuilding the walls.
2. The King’s Order Delivered (23A)
 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,
• If they served in the king’s court, then they made haste to go to Jerusalem.
• If they were local officials, they assemble their friends and hand deliver the officially sealed declaration.
• It is always a sad day when government forces citizens to choose between loyalty to country and loyalty to God!
3. The King’s Order Demanded (23B)
[23B] and made them to cease by force and power.
• When the Samaritans received Artaxerxes’ reply they immediately forced the Jews to stop building the wall.
• They may even have destroyed part of the rebuilt wall and burned the gates (cf. Neh. 1:3).
QUOTE: "This was a day of great shame to the Jewish population because their honest endeavor was thwarted by their archenemies, the Samaritans, and it was forced on them by Samaritan soldiers." (Fensham, quoted by Constable)
As soon as God starts to bless, the enemy starts to battle. Satan is a destroyer, and he gets angry when God’s people unite to build. He has three favorite weapons.
1. Cooperation (1-3). The people were descendants of the Jews who intermarried with the Gentiles the Assyrians brought to the land (2 Kings 17:24ff.). The “mixed multitude” would have corrupted the Jews and interfered with the work (Exod. 12:38; Num. 11:4). Beware volunteers; they may be working for the enemy!
2. Intimidation (4-5). Discouragement and fear are effective weapons, especially when the work is already difficult. When you start to experience fear, lean on Isaiah 12:2.
3. Legislation (6-24). The people of the world will use “official influence” to hinder God’s work. From their viewpoint, Jerusalem had been a rebellious city, and the king would certainly be concerned about taxes. The tactic worked, and the construction had to stop.
But God was still at work! (Wiersbe, With the Word)
’Philadelphia 11’ fighting PA "hate crimes" law
Attorneys for 11 Philadelphia-area Christians arrested and charged with felonies after protesting at a homosexual event will announce new developments in the case tomorrow and will show a videotape of the controversial arrests.
As WorldNetDaily reported, on October 10, the group was "preaching God’s Word" to the crowd of people attending the outdoor Philadelphia OutFest event and displaying banners with biblical messages.
After a confrontation with a group called the Pink Angels, which was described by protesters as "a militant mob of homosexuals," the eleven Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Eight charges were filed against them, including three felonies and five misdemeanors. The charges were: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and obstructing highways.
The ethnic intimidation charge stems from Pennsylvania’s "hate crimes" law – to which the newest "victim" category of "sexual orientation" was recently added. The protesters say a Philadelphia police officer told them that because they were on a public sidewalk they were permitted to move freely through the event. A few minutes later, however, they were arrested and removed. (Sermon Audio)
Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.