Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;Ch. 4. The Record of Opposition. (1) Ezra 4:1-5, from the reign of Cyrus to the reign of Darius. (2) Ezra 4:6, during the reign of Xerxes. (3) Ezra 4:7-23, during the reign of Artaxerxes
1. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin] Here called ‘adversaries’ by anticipation. From the Compiler’s point of view, the Samaritans were never anything but foes of the Jews.
The word ‘adversaries’ is applied to them again Nehemiah 4:11.
Judah and Benjamin] as in chap. Ezra 1:5. The great majority of those who returned, exclusive of priests and Levites, belonged to these two tribes. In view of the use of the expression chap. Ezra 1:5, there is no necessity to see here (as some commentators have done,) an allusion to the old hostility between the Northern and Southern Tribes.
the children of the captivity] i.e. the ‘b’nê hag-gôlah’. The phrase occurs also in Ezra 6:16; Ezra 6:19-20; Ezra 8:35; Ezra 10:7; Ezra 10:16. On ‘the Captivity’ see note on Ezra 1:11. The meaning is the same as ‘the children of the province’ Ezra 2:1. ‘The children of the captivity’ recalls their past calamities; ‘the children of the province’, their new position of subjection in the old homes.
unto the Lord God of Israel] R.V. unto the lord, the God of Israel cf. Ezra 1:3.
Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.2. then they came &c.] R.V. then they drew near to Zerubbabel, and to the heads of fathers’ houses.
for we seek your God, as ye do] The claim to cooperate in the work of building the Temple is based upon the assertion of common worship. The phrase ‘to seek’ in the sense of ‘to worship’ is not uncommon in these books and in Chronicles. Cf. Ezra 6:21; 1 Chronicles 22:19; 2 Chronicles 15:13; 2 Chronicles 17:4; 2 Chronicles 31:21; 2 Chronicles 34:3.
and we do sacrifice unto him] so R.V. text. R.V. margin. ‘Another reading is, yet we do no sacrifice since &c.’ The Hebrew words for “unto him” and “not” though written with a different second letter are pronounced in the same way, ‘lô’. The context as a rule makes it easy to distinguish the meaning. But there are some fifteen instances, in which the Hebrew Bibles preserve the tradition of confusion between the two words. It is even possible that the word ‘lô’ (‘unto him’) may have sometimes been written with the same second letter as the negative (e.g. Exodus 21:8; 1 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 16:18; 2 Kings 8:10).
In this verse the Hebrew text has the letters of the negative; the margin has the letters of the pronoun.
The external evidence is in favour of the pronoun ‘unto him’, being supported by the K’ri, by the LXX. (αὐτῷ), the Vulgate (‘nos immolabimus victimas’ without a negative), the Syriac, Versions and by the parallel text in 1Es 5:69 (‘and do sacrifice unto him’).
Internal evidence may thus be summarized. In favour of the negative (‘yet we do no sacrifice’), it may be alleged
(1) that the statement contained in the alternative reading ‘we do sacrifice unto him’ would have no weight, since the Jews would at once reject as idolatrous sacrifices not offered at Jerusalem:
(2) that the Samaritan argument requires the negative. Having pleaded sameness of worship, they regret the omission of sacrifice and proceed to entreat that they may obtain this privilege by becoming sharers in the work.
In favour of the pronoun (‘unto him’) it may be replied
(1) that had the disputed word been the negative, it would stand in the Hebrew in the wrong place, i.e. before the pronoun ‘we’ instead of before the verb ‘sacrifice’:
(2) that the affirmative clause (‘and we do sacrifice unto him’) expands the force of the plea for common worship. That they had not sacrificed at Jerusalem hitherto, was, they could plead, either due to ignorance or a fault which they now wished to rectify:
(3) that the argument is strengthened by the assertion of long-established custom of sacrifice:
(4) that the pronoun ‘unto him’ was very liable to be altered to the negative by patriotic scribes who could not tolerate or credit the statement that their hated enemies had at such an early time done sacrifice to the God of Israel.
We conclude that the balance of probability preponderates for the reading ‘and we do sacrifice unto him’.
since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur] R.V. Assyria. Esarhaddon succeeded Sennacherib (cf. 2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38) and reigned over Assyria 12 years, 680–668.
His name in the Assyrian Inscriptions appears as ‘Assur-ak-iddin’ or ‘Assur sent a brother’. The Greek attempts to transliterate the name are very strange: the LXX. gives ‘Asbakappas’, 1Es 5:69 ‘Azbazareth’.
In the A.V. ‘Assur’ occurs also in Psalm 83:8, Asshur in Numbers 24:22; Numbers 24:24; Ezekiel 27:23; Ezekiel 32:22; Hosea 14:3. The difference in the spelling is purely arbitrary. The R.V. has altered ‘Assur’ to ‘Assyria’, but has left ‘Asshur’ in the above passages. This is to be regretted, since there is no difference in the original to justify the preservation of ‘Asshur’ by the side of ‘Assyria’ (see Genesis 2:14; Ezekiel 23:7; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 10:6; Hosea 11:11).
But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.3. But Zerubbabel &c.… the chief of the fathers] R.V. … heads of fathers’ houses. Zerubbabel’s name stands first, as in Ezra 3:8, in connexion with the work, with which he had been commissioned by Cyrus.
You have nothing to do with us] literally ‘It is not for you and for us’. A common Hebrew idiom, cf. Jdg 11:12, ‘What hast thou to do with me?’ literally ‘What is there for thee and for me &c.?’ 2 Kings 3:13; for its occurrence in the N. T., cf. Mark 1:24; John 2:4. The A.V. of 1Es 5:70 gives ‘It is not for us and you to build together’.
unto our God] Almost as if they had said ‘our God and not yours’.
ourselves together] The union of the new community and the exclusion of all strangers. The word rendered ‘together’ is not to be understood as if the phrase were an exclusive one, ‘ourselves alone’. It emphasizes the combined action of the true Israelites. Cf. Psalm 2:2 ‘take counsel together’.
unto the Lord God of Israel] R.V. ‘unto the Lord, the God of Israel’, cf. Ezra 4:4, Ezra 1:3. This implies, though it does not assert in so many words, that the applicants were not members of Israel.
as king Cyrus &c.] referring to the words in Ezra 1:3 ‘Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him &c.’
The refusal of the application is thus technically based upon the wording of Cyrus’ decree; the applicants failed to come under the permission which Cyrus had granted, and could not therefore take part in the work. Zerubbabel and his companions evaded the dilemma of having to meet the religious plea either by counter-argument or by direct contradiction. At the same time they made it quite evident that they declined to recognize the identity of worship which was pleaded, or the claim to relationship and political union which underlay the plea.
On the two points (a) who made the overtures? (b) how we are to regard their rejection by the Jewish leaders, see Introduction, § 6. Outline of History.
Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,4. Then the people of the land] i.e. the Samaritans, as opposed to ‘the people of Judah’. It is noteworthy that this expression ‘the people of the land’ (’am haâreç) became a synonym for ‘the ignorant’ or ‘the vulgar’ in contrast to ‘the wise’, with special reference to a knowledge of ‘the law’. Cf. John 7:49 ‘This people who knoweth not the law are cursed’. Buxtorf gives illustrations by the Jewish proverbs ‘Better is the bastard who is the disciple of the wise than the high-priest of the people of the land’ (i.e. who is ‘vulgar’) ‘The people of the land (i.e. the ‘vulgar’) have degrees of morals but none of intelligence’.
weakened the hands] The Hebrew construction gives the idea of a continuous policy of weakening, terrifying, and bribing. For the phrase itself compare Jeremiah 38:4.
the people of Judah] ‘The children of the captivity’ are here given the name of the old southern kingdom. Cf. Ezra 4:12.
troubled] so R.V.: marg. Or ‘terrified’. There are two readings. The reading of the Hebrew text or K’thib gives a word that does not occur elsewhere in the O.T. but is connected with a substantive rendered ‘terror’ (R.V. Isaiah 17:14). The reading of the Hebrew tradition or K’ri, preserved with the text, gives an otherwise unused form of a common word meaning ‘to trouble’. In all probability the letters of the unused root were transposed by a scribe so as to give the familiar root; preference should be given to the harder rendering, ‘terrified them from building’.
And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.5. This verse describes one effectual method of opposition, ‘hired counsellors against them’. This will not necessarily imply that bribes were given to the king’s ministers referred to elsewhere (Ezra 7:28, Ezra 8:25) as ‘his counsellors’. We should in that case have had the word more definitely expressed as ‘the counsellors’ or ‘the king’s counsellors’.
It rather means that ‘the people of the land’ paid officials (probably connected with the satrapy of Syria) to make unfavourable reports at the king’s Court respecting ‘the people of Judah’.
hired] Cf. the application of Samaritan money within the Jewish community, Nehemiah 6:12-13. The word used with special reference to Balaam in Deuteronomy 23:4; Nehemiah 13:2.
to frustrate their purpose] i.e. to render fruitless their cherished scheme of rebuilding the Temple. ‘Frustrate’ = ‘break’, Ezra 9:14. ‘Purpose’ = ‘counsel’ Ezra 10:3; Ezra 10:8; Nehemiah 4:15. The two words occur together Psalm 33:10 ‘The Lord bringeth the counsel of the nations to nought’.
all the days of Cyrus, &c.] Cyrus died in 529.
even until the reign of Darius king of Persia] Cyrus was succeeded by Cambyses, who died in 522. Pseudo-Smerdis then reigned for 7 months, and was succeeded by Darius Hystaspes 522. (Upon the disputed question of chronology raised in this verse, see the note on Ezra 4:7.) Darius, Darayavus, ‘the Preserver’ (Herod. VI. 98 translates ἑρξείης) gave order and system to the Persian Empire, of which he was the second founder. Darius consolidated the successes of Cyrus. Like Augustus following upon Julius Cæsar, he gave, as a statesman, system and cohesion to the Empire, which he had inherited from his predecessor’s military genius.
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.6. Ahasuerus] R.V. margin ‘Or Xerxes. Heb. Ahashverosh’. The well-known Xerxes, the son of Darius, who reigned 20 years (485–465). He is generally identified with the Ahasuerus of the book ‘Esther’.
in the beginning of his reign] i.e. on the death of Darius, who had favoured the Jews.
unto him] R.V. omits these words, which are not found in the Hebrew.
an accusation] Heb. ‘sitnah’, which occurs elsewhere only in Genesis 26:21 as the name of a well called ‘sitnah’ or ‘enmity’ by Isaac on account of the opposition of the Philistines. Akin to the name ‘Satan’, opposer. The LXX. misunderstanding the original renders by ἐπιστολή.
the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem] Another designation, cf. Ezra 4:1 ‘Judah and Benjamin’, Ezra 4:4 ‘the people of Judah’.
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.7. And in the days of Artaxerxes] Artaxerxes Longimanus succeeded his father Xerxes and reigned forty years (465–425). He is mentioned in Ezra 7:1; Nehemiah 2:1.
The name in the inscriptions appears as Artakshathra, compounded of ‘Arta’ meaning ‘great’ (cf. Arta-phernes, Arta-bazus) and ‘Khsathra’ ‘kingdom’.
The view which identifies this Artaxerxes with Pseudo-Smerdis or Gomates, the usurper of the Persian crown on the death of Cambyses, is discussed in the Note on the whole section appended to Ezra 4:23.
wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions] It has been very commonly supposed that this verse introduces the letter which is so fully described in Ezra 4:8-10, and is therefore to be explained in close connexion with Ezra 4:8. According to this view ‘Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of their companions’ are the Samaritans who originate the accusation of the Jews before Artaxerxes, while Rehum, Shimshai &c. (Ezra 4:8-9) are assumed to be the Persian officials of the Province, induced by the bribes or misrepresentations of the Samaritan community to forward to the king in writing their formal complaint against the Jews. Furthermore, as the letter is said to have been written in Aramaic, and we pass immediately from Hebrew into Aramaic, this in itself would be a reason for supposing that Ezra 4:8 &c. described more fully in detail the writing mentioned in Ezra 4:7. But (a) this theory fails to account for the abruptness of style and the want of connexion between Ezra 4:7-8, which is evident even in the English version; (b) the bare statement of Ezra 4:7 that Bishlam and his companions ‘wrote to Artaxerxes’, and of Ezra 4:8 that Rehum and Shimshai also wrote to Artaxerxes, can only by a process of imagination be transformed into private Samaritan information imparted to the Persian officials and then lodged by them before the king in the shape of a departmental complaint; (c) the theory does not explain why the Hebrew is not resumed after the conclusion of the letters (Ezra 4:17; Ezra 4:21). The version preserved in 1Es 2:16 cuts the knot by freely fusing the two verses together ‘But in the time of Artaxerxes king of the Persians, Belemus, and Mithridates, and Tabellius, and Rathumus, and Beeltethumus, and Semellius the secretary, with others that were in commission with them, dwelling in Samaria and other places, wrote unto him against them that dwelt in Judea and Jerusalem these letters following’.
It seems preferable to ascribe the disjointed character of these Ezra 4:6-8 to the roughness of the Compiler’s work, and to suppose that each of these three verses presents us with a separate instance of Samaritan opposition in which the Samaritans ‘wrote’ an indictment against the Jews. Having mentioned what took place in the reign of Xerxes (Ezra 4:6), the Compiler goes on to state that there were two such written accusations in the days of Artaxerxes. The first he says was written by Bishlam &c., the second by Rehum &c. In his mention of the first letter, he either condenses the full document into a brief notice or was only able to discover a short statement in the public chronicles. In his mention of the second, he is able to lay the document before his readers, obtaining it from an Aramaic chronicle, from which he makes a long extract and introduces it without further preface.
This explanation accounts for (a) the abrupt transition from Ezra 4:7 to Ezra 4:8, (b) the mention in both verses of a letter written to Artaxerxes, (c) the continuance of the Aramaic language in the narrative, e.g. Ezra 5:17, Ezra 6:18.
Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel] Names of foreign colonists, ‘Bishlam’ the LXX. renders ‘in peace’ (ἐν εἰρήνη) as if not a proper name. On ‘Mithredath’ see note chap. Ezra 1:8. ‘Tabeel’ perhaps a Syrian name; cf. the name Tabeal (Isaiah 7:6), or a Persian (cf. Tabalus, Herod. I. 153).
the letter] The Hebrew has here (cf. Ezra 4:18; Ezra 4:23) made use of a Persian word, which completely mystified the Versions. The LXX. renders it ‘the tax-collector’ (ὁ φορολόγος), the Vulgate ‘accusationis’. It is pronounced ‘nisht’ewân’ and is compared with a modern Persian ‘nuwischten’ to write. Perhaps the word occurred in the records from which the Compiler obtained his information as to the letter.
was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue] R.V. ‘was written In the Syrian character, and set forth in the Syrian tongue’, margin ‘Or Aramaic’ for ‘Syrian’. This is all we hear about the letter. What occasioned its composition and how it was received we do not know.
We gather from this verse that in the days of Artaxerxes the official correspondence of the Syrian province or satrapy was conducted in Aramaic. This indeed, had been the language of diplomatic communication in the days of the Assyrian monarchy (2 Kings 18:26; Isaiah 36:11). As the language of diplomacy and commerce among the races of Western Asia, it held its own with Greek and was only finally displaced in a much later time by the diffusion of Arabic, which followed upon the successes of the Mahommedans (see Introduction on ‘the Aramaic language’). The strange thing is that its use should have been made the subject of special remark in this verse. But probably the point to which attention is drawn, is the fact of the letter being written in Aramaic characters as well as expressed in the Aramaic tongue. The early Aramaic Alphabet probably differed considerably from the early Hebrew. The mention of the Aramaic characters is perhaps adduced as a proof that the Compiler had either seen the actual letter or obtained the account from a source which mentioned this point particularly. The verse shows conclusively that Aramaic was not yet the language of the Jewish people.
Note on Ezra 4:7-23The names of the Persian kings which occur in this chapter occasion special difficulty. Upon their right identification necessarily depends our understanding of the whole passage.
(a) The Persian kings succeed one another in the following order: (1) Cyrus (died, 529); (2) Cambyses, 529–522; (3) Gomates or Pseudo-Smerdis, 522; (4) Darius Hystaspes, 522–485; (5) Xerxes, 485–465; (6) Artaxerxes I. Longimanus, 465–425; (7, 8) Xerxes II. and Sogdianus; (9) Darius II. Nothus, 424–395, &c.
(b) In chap. Ezra 4:5 we learn that the work of building the Temple was frustrated by the Samaritans “all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.’ Again in Ezra 4:24 (the work) ‘ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia’. The work therefore was frustrated more or less (Ezra 5:16) between the years 536–520.
(c) In Ezra 4:6 is mentioned a letter of opposition to the Jews written ‘in the reign of Ahasuerus’; in Ezra 4:7 a letter to the same purport ‘in the days of Artaxerxes’; in Ezra 4:7; Ezra 4:9 another letter to Artaxerxes with Artaxerxes’ reply.
(d) The name Ahasuerus (Heb. Akhashvêrosh) is admitted to be the same as Xerxes (Khshyarsha). It appears throughout the book Esther as well as in this verse (Ezra 4:6). The name in Hebrew Arta-khshasta (Ezra 4:7-8, Ezra 6:14, Ezra 7:1; Ezra 7:11; Ezra 7:21; Nehemiah 2:1; Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 13:6) is clearly the name Artaxerxes.
(e) The question then arises how the names Xerxes and Artaxerxes occur in this passage, on either side of which stands the mention of the work of the Temple being stopped until the reign of Darius king of Persia; for that this Darius is Darius Hystaspes (521–485) and not Darius Nothus (424) is shown by the whole context and by chap. Ezra 5:1-5.
Only two answers to this question need come under discussion here.
(i) According to one view, the chronological sequence of the chapter is maintained. Ezra 4:5 is considered to be a brief compendium of the Samaritan opposition, which is then described in greater detail (6–23). The names Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes are assigned to the two kings Cambyses and Pseudo-Smerdis, who reigned between Cyrus and Darius. The advantage of this theory is obvious. The narrative flows smoothly on. The events of Ezra 4:6-23 amplify the statement of Ezra 4:5, and belong to the short period 529–521.
The objections that are presented (a) by the interchange of the names, (b) by the mention, in the letter, of the building of the city walls (Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:16), rather than of the Temple, on which the Jews were at work (Ezra 4:1; Ezra 4:4; Ezra 4:14), have been met in the following way. (a) It is said that the names Xerxes and Artaxerxes are appellatives, like Pharaoh and Cæsar, which could be applied to any Persian monarch, e.g. Cambyses is called Artaxerxes by Josephus (Ant. ix. 2. 1). Furthermore it is argued that the Pseudo-Smerdis appears in history under several different names. (b) It is supposed that the Samaritans would represent the Jewish undertaking in the most hostile light, as aggressive fortification rather than Temple building; and it must be remembered that the outer walls and outworks of the Temple were always the strongest fortifications in the city.
On the other hand it seems fatal to this view that even if Xerxes and Artaxerxes are dynastic titles and not strictly names, no well-attested evidence is forthcoming of their promiscuous application. Josephus’ history of this period is notoriously imperfect and inaccurate, and he, it is to be noted, calls Cambyses, Artaxerxes, although the defenders of this view hold that Cambyses is called Xerxes and Pseudo-Smerdis Artaxerxes.—It is surely rather unfortunate, to say the least, that supposing the names to be interchangeable, the interchange is not found elsewhere, and cannot even be proved from Josephus, whose evidence is chiefly relied upon. But the fact is that neither the testimony of Josephus nor, we may add, of Jewish tradition can be relied on for this period of history. The Jewish tradition appended to Nehemiah in the Masoretic note gives ‘the years from the 1st year of Cyrus king of the Persians to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes the king,’ (i.e. from 538–433) as fifty-one: while Hebrew commentary gives the Persian kings as Darius the Mede (1 year), Cyrus his son (2 years), Ahasuerus (14 years), Cyrus his son called Artaxerxes (32 years). Nor is it more satisfactory to see how the Pseudo-Smerdis is identified with Artaxerxes. Gomates or the Pseudo-Smerdis, it is said, appears under very different names, e.g. Mardus in Aeschylus (Pers. 771), Smerdis in Herodotus, Speudadates in Ctesias, and hence, why not as Artaxerxes here? But the very fact that he is called by so many different names, and never once Artaxerxes, is not favourable to the identification. Again, the argument that Pseudo-Smerdis being a Magian would heartily oppose the building of the Temple is strangely at variance with the omission in the letters of any reference to the Temple. It is equally at variance with the other contention, that the Temple building is not referred to because the mention of fortified walls would be more likely to arouse the king’s indignation than that of sacred buildings. If further proof were needed of the improbability that ‘Artaxerxes’ is Pseudo-Smerdis, it would seem to be supplied by a recollection of the troubled time that followed upon the death of Cambyses. Pseudo-Smerdis’ 7 months’ reign was spent in the midst of suspicion, disquiet, and confusion. The hearing of petty complaints and the investigation of ancient chronicles is not what we should expect from a reign which had hardly ceased to be the work of usurpation when it had begun to close in ignominy. The Samaritans were not likely to imperil their cause by approaching, in a time of confusion, a sovereign of doubtful claims whose acts would inevitably be reversed by any successful rival.
But apart from the consideration of its details, the crowning condemnation of this view is to be found in its main hypothesis, that Xerxes and Artaxerxes do not here mean the kings generally known as Xerxes and Artaxerxes but two other kings, the mention of whose names would remove a difficulty from the passage.
(ii) The other view requires us to admit the presence of an interruption in the chronological sequence of the book. Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes are the Xerxes and Artaxerxes (Longimanus) familiar to us under those names. Ezra 4:6-23 do not expand the substance of Ezra 4:5, but they continue the historical treatment of its subject. That subject is the opposition of the Samaritans; and it is shown how their opposition displayed itself in the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes.
The introduction of the times of Xerxes and Artaxerxes into this chapter interrupts, we must admit, the thread of the narrative. The passage, Ezra 4:8-23, is inserted by the Compiler at this point because he imagined it related to the building of the Temple. The names of the kings did not suggest to him his error. Whether this should be charged to mere inadvertency, or to ignorance of the Persian history, we cannot say.
The tone of the letters fully bears out this supposition. There is no allusion to the Temple. The Temple had been erected many years ago. The complaint is made that the people are fortifying the city. Such a complaint, made to the Persian king after the war with Greece, with reference to a city only a day’s march from the coast, had more significance than it could have had in the preceding century. It demanded serious consideration. The description in Nehemiah 1:3 of the condition of the city walls and gates seems to imply devastation more recent than that of the Babylonians 140 years previously. The violent measures of the Samaritans which ‘by force and power’ compelled the Jews to desist from their work may well account for this description. The intercession of Nehemiah procured the favour of ‘the decree’ which the king had declared to be necessary before any building was resumed (Ezra 4:21).
Such an explanation fairly accounts for the presence of the names Xerxes and Artaxerxes. The internal evidence of the passage corresponds with it happily. The insertion of these ‘anticipatory’ fragments seems to us undoubtedly harsh. But it is very questionable whether in a work of such composite character it is not more natural to find occasionally an instance of harshness or inartistic arrangement due to compilation, than everywhere the smooth orderliness of th skilful modern historian.
Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:8. At this verse begins the first long section (Ezra 4:8 to Ezra 6:18) written in the Aramaic language (see Introd.), which the Compiler has probably extracted bodily from Aramaic records.
Ezra 4:8 introduces briefly the description of the letter of accusation against the Jews sent by Rehum and Shimshai.
Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe] Rehum was probably the chief official of the Samaritan community. The name is considered by some to be of Persian origin, and a contraction of some longer Persian name, e.g. Rheomithres, which is found in Arrian. It appears also in Jewish lists (see Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 3:17; Nehemiah 10:25), but that need not exclude its foreign origin.
the chancellor] Literally ‘the lord of judgement’. Sayce suggests ‘lord of official intelligence’, the Aramaic word for ‘judgement’ being practically identical with the Assyrian word ‘dhem’, used of the official reports sent to the king by provincial rulers. Here the title apparently belongs to the chief officer of the district.
In the LXX., Syr. and Vulg. the title not being understood appears as a proper name; 1Es 2:16 makes the same error ‘Rathumus and Beeltethmus’.
Shimshai] Perhaps the same name as the Persian ‘Sisamnes’.
the scribe] i.e. the governor’s secretary. Each governor of a Persian province was attended by this official (Herod. III. 128), who acted as a check upon the governor as well as for administrative purposes.
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,9. then wrote &c.] Although Ezra 4:8 ends with ‘in this sort’, the actual copy of the letter is not given until Ezra 4:11. Ezra 4:9-10 describe more minutely the senders, whose names were perhaps attached to the letter.
Nine of the nationalities from which the Samaritan colonists had been drawn are here mentioned by name; and the existence of many other varieties is implied in Ezra 4:10.
Scholars have been able approximately to identify the names.
the Dinaites] are probably the ‘Dayani’, a tribe mentioned in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pilesar and other Assyrian kings as inhabiting Western Armenia. If this identification be correct, it illustrates the very different sources from which Samaria had been colonised.
the Apharsathchites] These have not yet been recognized with any certainty in the inscriptions. Rawlinson identifies with the Apharsachites (Ezra 5:6, Ezra 6:6) and considers the ‘Apharsites’, the second name below, to be an accidental repetition of the same word. He understands ‘the Persians’ to be meant in each case. Other scholars deny that any Assyrian king was ever in a position to have obtained colonists from Persia. Frid. Delitzsch suggests the inhabitants of one of the two great Median towns ‘Partakka’ and ‘Partukka’ mentioned in Esarhaddon’s inscriptions.
the Tarpelites] Rawlinson identifies with ‘Tuplai’, which name appears in the Inscriptions as equivalent to the Greek τιβαρηνοί, a tribe on the coast of Pontus.
Tripolis in Northern Phoenicia is suggested by another scholar (Hitzig).
the Apharsites] See above. Identified probably with a Median tribe mentioned in the inscriptions of Sennacherib as dwellers in the district of Parsua.
the Archevites] The dwellers in Warka, a town S.E. of Babylon, the same as Erech (Genesis 10:10).
the Babylonians] i.e. dwellers in Babylon,—in Esarhaddon’s days the capital of the subject province of Babylonia, Nineveh being the capital of the Empire. Possibly inhabitants expelled for insurrection.
the Susanchites] The dwellers in Susa, one of the capitals of the Persian Empire, mentioned in Nehemiah 1:1, Daniel 8:2, and Esther, the chief town of Elam.
the Dehavites] Rawlinson identifies with the Dai (? Daghestan), a Persian tribe mentioned by Herodotus (i. 125); Frid. Delitzsch, with the dwellers in the town called ‘Du-ua’ mentioned in an Assyrian inscription (747 b.c.).
the Elamites] dwellers in Elam, ‘the Highlands’ or Elymais, the country lying E. of Babylonia, having Persia on its eastern, Media on its northern frontier.
And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.10. and the rest of the nations] Implying that the number was not nearly exhausted by these nine names.
whom the great and noble Asnappar] R.V. Osnappar. This name is nowhere else mentioned in the O.T. Who this Osnappar was, has been much disputed. Some have identified him with Esarhaddon, conjecturing that this was either another name or an honorific title. Others have supposed him to be a general commanding Esarhaddon’s armies. But the name nowhere occurs in the Inscriptions as a second name or as a title of Esarhaddon, even if it were probable that having been called Esarhaddon in Ezra 4:2 he should here be called by a different name or title without any explanatory word. No general appears of this name. And the manner of the allusion presupposes his royal dignity. Moreover, neither Esarhaddon nor any general of his invaded Elam.
Scholars now begin to accept the ingenious and most probable suggestion that ‘Osnappar’ is the Aramaic attempt to reproduce the name of Assur-bani-pal, the great Assyrian king. He was the only Assyrian king who captured Susa and could carry off ‘Susanchites’; no king so fully deserved the titles of ‘great and noble’; this name (‘Assur the father of the son’) by a strong contraction of the middle word, is not so far removed from the sound of ‘Osnappar’, especially if the final ‘1’ of ‘pal’ is changed to ‘r’ (cf. ‘Pôrus’ for ‘Pul’, or ‘Babiru’ for ‘Babilu’), and the ‘r’ of ‘Assur’ is weakened to ‘n’ (cf. Nebuchadrezzar and Nebuchadnezzar) = Assun … par.
Assur-bani-pal reigned 42 years (668–626). The records of his brilliant and successful reign have recently been deciphered (G. Smith’s Assurbanipal, p. 187). His arms were everywhere victorious. The severest contest in which he was engaged was with his own brother Sassumukem, governor of Babylon, who rebelled against him. The rebel’s death and the capture of Babylon (646) ended the struggle. But this fact in conjunction with his great conquest of Elam explains the joint mention of Babylonians, Susanchites and Elamites among the colonists, whom he transplanted into Samaritan territory.
It appears then that Assur-bani-pal by introducing his colonists into Samaria was the author of the fourth colonization. It would be wasted labour to try to identify the nationalities of Ezra 4:9 with the names recorded in 2 Kings 17:24 in connexion with a different colonization.
in the cities of Samaria] R.V. ‘in the city of Samaria’.—The word in the Aramaic is singular, cf. Ezra 4:17. The other cities are covered by the next phrase.
and the rest that are on this side the river] R.V. and in the rest of the country beyond the river. In these words two things deserve to be noted. (1) The words ‘beyond the river’ clearly indicate the country W. of the Euphrates. The names of the nationalities who send the letter are presented in the light in which they would appear to the receiver, i.e. the king, at Susa to the E. of the Euphrates. The phrase ‘The country beyond the river’ (the Abhar-Nahara) was a recognised geographical name for the Syrian satrapy. (2) The wideness of the expression ‘in the rest of the country’ may be compared with the version given in 1Es 2:17 where ‘the Dinaites, &c.’ are compressed into ‘the judges that are in Cœlesyria and Phœnice’. The word ‘judges’ is a mistranslation. But the mention of Cœlesyria and Phœnica corresponds with the indefinite language used in this verse. It is not impossible that the letter of accusation against the Jews may have been the joint production of many communities throughout the satrapy of Syria, who felt themselves aggrieved at privileges accorded to the Jews, or imperilled by the revival of their strength.
and at such a time] R.V. and so forth. The A.V. regarded this word as a brief way of expressing the date of the letter. The LXX. omitted it. The Vulgate rendered it as a salutation ‘in pace’.—It signifies the suppression of matter that is unimportant = ‘et cætera’.
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.11. unto him, even unto Artaxerxes] R.V. unto Artaxerxes the king.
the men on this side the river] R.V. beyond the river. The A.V. does not recognize that the senders of the letter place themselves in the position of the recipient; the expression “beyond the river” applied to a country would to a Persian subject convey as distinct an idea of a particular district as ‘Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul’ would to a Roman subject whether living in Italy or Gaul.
and at such a time] R.V. ‘and so forth’, i.e. ‘et cætera’. See note on Ezra 4:10. Probably a long and wearisome salutation is thus briefly dispatched.
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.12. the Jews] We have here practically the first application of this name to the new community at Jerusalem. It had been used of the Southern Kingdom (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Kings 25:25; 2 Chronicles 32:18) and of its exiles (Jeremiah 32:12; Jeremiah 34:9; Jeremiah 38:19; Jeremiah 40:11-12; Jeremiah 40:15; Jeremiah 41:3; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 52:28; Jeremiah 52:30; Daniel 3:8; Daniel 3:12). As the return from the Captivity almost exclusively affected the exiles of the Southern Kingdom, the name was naturally applied to the new dwellers in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood, and was quickly adopted as the designation of all members of the race; cf. Zechariah 8:23; Ezra 4:23; Ezra 5:1; Ezra 5:5; Ezra 6:7-8; Ezra 6:14; ten times in Nehemiah, fifty-one times in Esther. The History of Israel had become the History of the Jews.
which came up from thee to us are come] R.V. which came up from thee are come to us, generally expressed; i.e. from exile on the banks of the Euphrates to dwell in Judæa and Jerusalem. The introductory statement of the subject.
building] R.V. they are building. A separate clause, containing an epitome of the charge against the Jews. ‘The rebellious and the bad city’, cf. Ezra 4:15. An appeal to its antecedents was calculated to prejudice the king against Jerusalem.
and have set up the walls] R.V. finished: the verb in the original has the idea of completion.
and joined the foundations] R.V. repaired, which gives the sense of the word better, and is more intelligible than the A.V.
The accusation that the Jews were engaged in rebuilding the city, strengthening and repairing the walls, seems to refer to the days of Artaxerxes and to the work either of Nehemiah or, as is more probable, of Ezra before Nehemiah’s arrival. Those who see Pseudo-Smerdis in Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:7; Ezra 4:11) maintain that the accusation is designedly false, and intended to incense the Government against the Jews for exceeding the instructions of Cyrus’s decree, which limited them to the restoration of the Temple.
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.13. set up again] R.V. finished.
then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom] R.V. they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll. Cf. Ezra 4:20, Ezra 7:24. The R.V. gives the right order according to the Aramaic. The first word denotes the contribution of provinces, and the imperial taxation levied on districts; the second word probably the duties on merchandise or on the produce of the land for maintenance of provincial rule; the third, tolls levied upon travellers, for maintenance of roads and communication.
and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings] R.V. and in the end it will endamage the kings. The A.V. is certainly wrong in translating by the second person singular. The verb refers to the city of ‘Jerusalem’, which would become the author of mischief.
The word rendered by the A.V. ‘the revenue of’ and by the R.V. ‘in the end’, has caused much perplexity. Neither 1Es 2:18 nor the versions LXX., Vulg. and Syr. have attempted to translate it.
In most Hebrew Bibles it is read ‘Aphtôm’. It has been conjectured to be a word of Persian origin (cf. old Persian ‘Apatama’, ‘most remote’: the Pehlevi ‘af-dom’ = ‘end’), and to be used here as an adverb ‘in the end’, ‘eventually’.
Some of the best Hebrew texts however now read ‘Aphtôs’ (? = ‘revenue’).
The rendering ‘revenue was a mere conjecture of the mediæval Hebrew commentators based upon the context, and by some scholars is still preferred.
This expression of loyal interest in the welfare of the king’s treasure was a somewhat transparent method of conciliating the royal favour to their side.
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;14. have maintenance from the king’s palace] R.V. eat the salt of the palace; which preserves the metaphor of the original. The LXX. omitted the clause: Vulg. ‘memores salis, quod in palatio comedimus’: 1Es 2:20, ‘forasmuch as the things pertaining to the Temple are now on hand’, which substitutes a different sentence for one that was not intelligible. The old Jewish translation ‘because we aforetime destroyed the Temple’, adopted by many former commentators (cf. Luther, ‘Nun wir alle dabei sind, die wir den Tempel zerstöret haben’), seems to have been based upon the old symbolical custom of ‘sowing with salt’ the site of a town or place that had been destroyed, e.g. Jdg 9:45, and upon the idea of unfruitfulness associated with salt (cf. ‘a salt land and not inhabited’, Jeremiah 17:6; Deuteronomy 29:23; Zephaniah 2:9; cf. Heb. Job 39:6; Psalm 107:34). Others, with the same conception, ‘we have salted (Jerusalem) with the salt of the palace’, i.e. assisted the Imperial armies in its destruction. ‘The palace’ in the original is the same word (‘heycâl’) as that used for ‘the temple’ in Ezra 3:6, Ezra 5:14. The ambiguity of this word and the use of a rare metaphor has given rise to the difficulty of translation. Literally, the words mean ‘because we have salted the palace’s salt’. The explanation then will be not, as has been suggested, ‘because we have been entertained (guest friends, i.e. are the king’s friends), at the palace’, but ‘because we are in the king’s service’. The writers as representatives of colonies and dependent districts were very probably officials, and therefore members of the great network of Persian government.
The English word ‘salary’ from salarium or salt-money is generally compared with this phrase.
and it was not meet] R.V. and it is not meet.
dishonour] literally ‘nakedness’. A strong metaphor, which the LXX. ἀσχημοσύνη reproduces. Cf. Leviticus 18:7, &c. The order is emphatic, ‘and the shame of the king it is not meet for us to see’. The Vulg. ‘læsiones’ gives the technical Latin word for ‘damage’ in a general sense.
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.15. that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers] Literally, that one may search, i.e. the officials in whose keeping the records were. Perhaps the plural should be read, as in Ezra 4:19.
For this appeal to ‘the book of records’, compare chap. Ezra 6:1-2, and the allusions in the book of Esther to the existence of such an official register recording facts and events of State importance, Esther 2:23; Esther 6:1; Esther 10:2. Rawlinson refers to Diodorus Siculus (II. 32) who speaks of ‘the royal parchments in which the Persians in accordance with some law preserved the record of the deeds of former time’ (ἐκ τῶν βασιλικῶν διφθερῶν, ἐν αἷς οἱ Πέρσαι τὰς παλαιὰς πράξεις κατά τινα νόμον εἶχον συντεταγμένας).
thy fathers] This expression might be adduced to prove that the Artaxerxes addressed could not be Pseudo-Smerdis. But it would be unfair to lay stress upon it. The context shows that the king’s predecessors in the rule of Western Asia are intended, Assyrian and Babylonian no less than Median and Persian.
hurtful] i.e. as a nucleus of revolt.
kings and provinces] i.e. to subject kings as well as to the great king.
‘Provinces’ (cf. the use of the word, Ezra 2:1) applied to the large districts into which the Empire was divided. See Daniel 2:48; Daniel 3:2; Esther 1:22; Esther 3:8, &c. They are described as 127 in number in Esther 1:1; Esther 8:9.
they have moved sedition within the same] i.e. the Jews within the city of Jerusalem; cf. 19.
… of old time: for which cause, &c.] An expression better suited to writers in the days of Artaxerxes than in the reign of Pseudo-Smerdis, only 65 years from the date of the destruction of Jerusalem (586 b.c.).
destroyed] R.V. laid waste.
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.16. be builded again, and the walls thereof set up] R.V. be builded and the walls finished.
by this means] i.e. in consequence of Jerusalem becoming once more a fortified city and so recovering her capacity for rebellion.
thou shalt have no portion on this side the river] R.V. beyond the river. For this expression see note on Ezra 4:12.
no portion] For the use of this phrase cf. Joshua 22:25; Joshua 22:27, 2 Samuel 20:1, John 13:8 (οὐκ ἔχεις μέρος), 2 Corinthians 6:15 (τίς μέρις πιστῷ μετὰ ἀπίστου). The letter concludes with an exaggerated appeal to the king’s alarms.
(1) The Jews would be a centre of rebellion among the Western nations:
(2) A Jewish empire might spring from the fortifications of Jerusalem as an Israelite empire once before had done. In either case the Persian king would find himself deprived of his hold upon the country W. of the Euphrates.
The LXX. read οὐκ ἐστιν σοι εἰρήνη: i.e. thou shalt have no peace. 1Es 2:24, ‘thou shalt from henceforth have no passage into Cœle-Syria and Phœnice’. Both paraphrases of our text.
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.17. an answer] Another Persian word in the original, ‘pithgama’, used also in Esther 1:20, a ‘decree’, and Ecclesiastes 8:11, ‘sentence’. The LXX. omits. Vulg. ‘verbum’. Here = a royal rescript.
Rehum &c.] see Ezra 4:9.
that dwell in Samaria] A detail not mentioned with such directness in Ezra 4:10. A comparison with that verse shows that the city, not the district, is intended.
unto the rest beyond the river] So margin of R.V.—R.V. text in the rest of the country beyond the river. See Ezra 4:10, where the application of the word ‘rest’ is clearly the same. There it follows after the verb ‘set in’ (lit. ‘cause to dwell’), here after the verb ‘dwell’. The district or territory, not the population, is referred to.
and at such a time] R.V. and so forth. Cf. Ezra 4:11.
The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.18. The letter] On the word used here see note on Ezra 4:8.
hath been plainly read before me] So the R.V. The margin of the R.V. gives ‘translated’ as the alternative rendering for ‘plainly’, and this agrees with the general later usage of the word. The same word in Hebrew occurs in Nehemiah 8:8, where the R.V. renders ‘distinctly’, and its margin, ‘with an interpretation’.
‘Plainly’ (Vulg. manifeste) would imply that the allusions &c. of the Samaritan letter had been faithfully explained, not merely that the oral reading of the letter had been distinct.
There is not much to be said for the rendering ‘translated’. A Persian king would be acquainted with the official dialect of his satrapies; a translation of an Aramaic letter would not be required.
before me] Very possibly the king himself could not read. But see Ezra 4:23. The reading was performed by servants; cf. Esther 6:1.
This expression favours the view that the king is claiming to himself credit for having heard the letter and had it carefully explained to him.
And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.19. And I commanded] R.V. decreed. A more authoritative word. Literally, ‘and from me was a decree made’; and they searched, ‘and found’.
of old time] Cf. Ezra 4:15.
hath made insurrection against kings] By the insurrections against kings and the sedition and rebellion of Jerusalem here mentioned as being recorded in the chronicles of the state is probably meant the treacherous and unstable policy of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (see 2 Kings 24:1; 2 Kings 24:10; 2 Kings 24:20). Of this the Babylonian records would preserve the testimony. It is less likely that the more ancient records of the Assyrian Empire containing the account of Hezekiah’s revolt from Sennacherib would have been consulted.
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.20. over all countries] R.V. the country. Literally, ‘over all beyond the river’. The words refer to the warning of the Samaritan letter (Ezra 4:16) that the king might lose the W. bank of the Euphrates.
toll, tribute, and custom] R.V. custom, tribute, and toll. See note on Ezra 4:13.
‘The mighty kings’, here referred to, have been identified with Menahem (2 Kings 15:16) and Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:6-7; 2 Chronicles 35:18). It is, however, needless to restrict the allusion of the present verse to those whose names appear in the Inscriptions or are involved in the ascertained history of Assyria and Babylon. Israelite traditions, oral or written, would probably have been accessible to those whom the king appointed to search into the past history of the race. The tradition of the golden age of David’s rule and Solomon’s empire would be rehearsed with pride by the captive Jew. The remoteness of the period mattered little. It was the boast of this people that their kings had once ruled over all the country W. of the Euphrates. This information coupled with the names of, perhaps, one or two of the other great kings, such as Omri, Jeroboam II., Menahem, Uzziah, Jotham and Josiah would be pretext enough for speaking of ‘the mighty kings’.
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.21. Give ye now commandment) R.V. Make ye now a decree. Cf. 19. The Samaritan officials clearly held some authority over the whole adjoining territory.
and that this city be not builded] See notes on Ezra 4:12-13. The king’s alarm lest a strong city should be made of Jerusalem agrees rather with the time of Nehemiah than with that of Zerubbabel. The naval victories of the Greeks had rendered the Persian coast frontier peculiarly vulnerable.
until another commandment shall be given from me] R.V. until a decree shall be made by me. The A.V. by introducing the word ‘another’ produced a needless ambiguity. The original has ‘the decree’, i.e. the permission to build.
Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?22. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this] R.V. And take heed that ye be not slack herein. The king does not anticipate their disobedience, but warns against remissness or dilatoriness on the part of officials. The decrees of the Government were apparently not always executed with promptness in Syria even in the days of Artaxerxes. This fault is said to be not wholly eradicated yet.
why should damage &c.] The king’s fears had been excited by the possibility of political complications and the weakening of his Western frontier. These apprehensions are intelligible in the light of the events of the great Persian War during the reign of Xerxes. Otherwise they seem exaggerated and insincere, as if the Samaritan letter had been accompanied by some substantial arguments which had won the king’s appreciation.
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, and made them to cease by force and power.23. Now] R.V. Then, i.e. Thereupon.
read before] cf. 18.
they went up in haste] R.V. they went in haste.—Far from being slack in executing the king’s decree: gratified malice made them prompt as well as desirous to stay the work.
made them to cease by force and power] Literally ‘with an arm and with troops’. Vulg. ‘in brachio et robore’, cf. Ezekiel 17:9, ‘without great power’ (lit. arm); Daniel 11:15; Daniel 11:31 (‘arms’ = strength). The LXX. render ‘with horses and force’ (ἐν ἵπποις καὶ δυνάμει). The Samaritans stopped the Jews from building “by main force”. If the Jews resisted, resistance was useless in the face of the royal decree.
Perhaps we may see in the reference to the ruinous condition of the walls and defences of Jerusalem, Nehemiah 1:3, the results of the forcible means taken by the Samaritans to cause the work to cease.
Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.24. This verse resumes the thread of the narrative, which was dropped at the close of Ezra 4:5. It must be admitted that the words ‘then ceased’ refer most naturally to Ezra 4:23. The Compiler, who failed to observe that the preceding passage belonged to the generation of Ezra, and not to that of Zerubbabel, carries on the narrative in his own words.
so it ceased, &c.] R.V. and it ceased. The first clause expresses the fact of the cessation, the second its duration and continuance.
second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia] b.c. 521.
The Samaritans had succeeded only too well in checking the progress of the work. Cyrus occupied in schemes of conquest had little leisure to attend to such matters. The suspicious temperament of Cambyses inclined him to listen to sinister reports. The disturbed condition of the Empire during his reign and that of Gomates, his successor, gave abundant opportunity for petty tyranny and for the withdrawal of state privileges.