Ezra 4:13
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Toll, tribute, and custom.—Toll for the highways; custom, a provision in kind; tribute, the money tax.

The revenue.—Rather, at length; literally and at length damage will be done to the kings.

Ezra 4:13. Then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom — “By the first of these, Grotius understands that which every head paid to the king, and which we call poll-money; by the second, the excise, as we now speak, which was upon commodities and merchandise; and by the last, the land- tax.” — Dodd.

4:6-24 It is an old slander, that the prosperity of the church would be hurtful to kings and princes. Nothing can be more false, for true godliness teaches us to honour and obey our sovereign. But where the command of God requires one thing and the law of the land another, we must obey God rather than man, and patiently submit to the consequences. All who love the gospel should avoid all appearance of evil, lest they should encourage the adversaries of the church. The world is ever ready to believe any accusation against the people of God, and refuses to listen to them. The king suffered himself to be imposed upon by these frauds and falsehoods. Princes see and hear with other men's eyes and ears, and judge things as represented to them, which are often done falsely. But God's judgment is just; he sees things as they are.Toll, tribute, and custom - Rather, "tribute, provision, and toll" (so Ezra 4:20). The "tribute" is the money-tax imposed on each province, and apportioned to the inhabitants by the local authorities; the "provision" is the payment in kind, which was an integral part of the Persian system; the "tolI" is probably a payment required from those who used the Persian highways.

The revenue - The word thus translated is not found elsewhere, and can only be conjecturally interpreted. Modern commentators regard it as an adverb, meaning "at last," or "in the end," and translate, "And so at last shall damage be done to the kings."

13. toll, tribute, and custom—The first was a poll tax; the second was a property tax; the third the excise dues on articles of trade and merchandise. Their letter, and the edict that followed, commanding an immediate cessation of the work at the city walls, form the exclusive subject of narrative at Ezr 4:7-23. And now from this digression [the historian] returns at Ezr 4:24 to resume the thread of his narrative concerning the building of the temple. No text from Poole on this verse.

Be it known now unto the king,.... And let it be seriously and thoroughly considered by him and his counsellors:

that if this city be builded, and its walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom; being able to defend themselves against the king's forces, sent to reduce them to their obedience; these three words take in all sorts of taxes and levies on persons, goods, and merchandise:

and so thou shall endamage the revenue of the kings; not only his own, but his successors':

this they thought would be a very striking and powerful argument with him.

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 {k} custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.

(k) Meaning, the gifts that are wont to be given to kings when they pass by any country.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.

Verse 13. - Then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom. This was plausible reasoning. In Greece, if a subject city set to work to fortify itself, rebellion was immediately anticipated, not unfairly. But the circumstances of the Persian empire were different. In the remoter parts of that empire the central government was weak, and disorders frequently occurred. A city might need fortifications to protect it against its immediate neighbours, when it had not the slightest intention of asserting independence. Judging from the later history, which shows no revolt of the Jews against Persia, we may say that the accusation now alleged was unfounded, though perhaps it was not made in bad faith. Toll, tribute, and custom represent the chief heads of Persian taxation, which, however, did not include "custom" in our sense of the word. The three terms used by the Samaritans really represent, respectively, "tribute," or the money payment required from each province, "provision," or the payment in kind equally required (Herod., 1:192; 3:91), and "toll," or contributions from those who made use of the Persian highways. According to the Samaritans, none of these would be paid by the Jews if Jerusalem was once fortified. And so thou shalt endamage the revenue. The general meaning is given correctly enough by this rendering, but "revenue" is not expressly mentioned. Aphthom, the word so translated, means really "at length," "at last." Translate, "And so at last thou shalt endamage the kings." Ezra 4:13"Now be it known unto the king, that if this city be built up and ... they will not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and it (the city) will at last bring damage to the king." The three words מנדּה בלו והלך occur again, Ezra 4:20 and Ezra 7:24, in this combination as designating the different kinds of imposts. מנדּה, with resolved Dagesh forte, for מדּה (Ezra 4:20), signifies measure, then tax or custom measured to every one. בּלו, probably a duty on consumption, excise; הלך, a toll paid upon roads by travellers and their goods. The word אפּהם, which occurs only here, and has not been expressed by old translators, depends upon the Pehlevi word אודום: it is connected with the Sanscrit apa, in the superl. apama, and signifies at last, or in the future; comp. Haug, p. 156. מלכים, a Hebraized form for מלכין, Ezra 4:15, is perhaps only an error of transcription.
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