Ezra 4:2
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.
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(2) As ye do.—“They feared the Lord, and worshipped their own gods” (2Kings 17:33): thus they came either in the spirit of hypocrites or with an intention to unite their own idolatries with the pure worship of Jehovah. In any case, they are counted enemies of the God of Israel.

We do sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esar-haddon.—He ended his reign B.C. 668, and therefore the Samaritans speak from a tradition extending backwards a century and a half.

Which brought us up hither.—Thus they entirely leave out of consideration what residue of Israel was yet to be found among them.

Ezra 4:2. They came to Zerubbabel, &c., and said, Let us build with you — Hearing that the temple was in building, they were presently aware that it would be a fatal blow to their superstition, and therefore set themselves to oppose it. But as they had not power to do it openly and by force, they endeavoured to do it secretly and by wiles. They offer their service to build with them, but only that by this conjunction with them they might pry into their counsels, find some matter of accusation against them, and thereby retard the work, while they pretended to further it. For we seek your God, as ye do — This was false; for though they sought the same God, they did not seek him only, nor seek him in the way he had appointed, as the true Jews did. And we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon — Son of Sennacherib, and after him king of Assyria, who brought or sent these persons thither, either, 1st, in the days of Shalmaneser, who reigned in Assyria but eight years before Esar-haddon, and so Esar-haddon might be one of his commanders, and the man by whom that colony was sent; or, 2d, in the reign of Esar-haddon, who sent a second colony to strengthen the first.

4:1-5 Every attempt to revive true religion will stir up the opposition of Satan, and of those in whom he works. The adversaries were the Samaritans, who had been planted in the land of Israel, 2Ki 17. It was plain that they did not mean to unite in the worship of the Lord, according to his word. Let those who discourage a good work, and weaken them that are employed in it, see whose pattern they follow.Compare 2 Kings 17:24-28 notes.

Since the days - Esar-haddon reigned from 681-668 B.C. Thus, the Samaritans speak of what had taken place at least 130 years previously. There appear to have been at least three colonizations of Samaria by the Assyrian kings. The first is mentioned in 2 Kings 17:24. Later in his reign Sargon added to these first settlers an Arabian element. Some 30 or 40 years afterward, Esarhaddon, his grandson, largely augmented the population by colonists drawn especially from the southeast parts of the Empire Ezra 4:10. Thus, the later Samaritans were an exceedingly mixed race.

2. we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon … which brought us up hither—A very interesting explanation of this passage has been recently obtained from the Assyrian sculptures. On a large cylinder, deposited in the British Museum, there is inscribed a long and perfect copy of the annals of Esar-haddon, in which the details are given of a large deportation of Israelites from Palestine, and a consequent settlement of Babylonian colonists in their place. It is a striking confirmation of the statement made in this passage. Those Assyrian settlers intermarried with the remnant of Israelite women, and their descendants, a mongrel race, went under the name of Samaritans. Though originally idolaters, they were instructed in the knowledge of God, so that they could say, "We seek your God"; but they served Him in a superstitious way of their own (see on [486]2Ki 17:26-34, 41). Let us build with you: this they spake not sincerely, as appears from their disposition and designs discovered in the following history; but that by this conjunction with them they might pry into their counsels, and thereby get an opportunity to find some matter or pretences of accusation against them.

We seek your God, as ye do; for so they did, though in a mongrel way: see 2 Kings 17:26, &c.

Esar-haddon king of Assur; son of Sennacherib, and after him king of Assyria, 2 Kings 19:37; who brought or sent these persons hither, either,

1. In the days of Salmaneser, who lived and reigned in Assyria but eight years before Esar-haddon’s reign; and so Esar-haddon might be one of his most eminent commanders, and the man by whom that colony was sent. Or,

2. In the reign of Esar-haddon, who sent this second colony to supply and strengthen the first.

Then they came to Zerubbabel, and the chief of the fathers,.... These they addressed, as knowing that if they could not prevail with them, they could never succeed in their design; and these were no doubt the principal of the Samaritans that applied:

and said unto them, let us build with you; that is, the temple, they proposed to join with them, and assist them in it; which proposal at first sight might seem very agreeable and welcome, and would have been so had they been sincere, but they were not; they hoped, by getting among them, to have sown discord among them, and disunited them; and so by these or other means to have retarded the building; or if it went forward, that they might have a claim to it as theirs, at least as to set up their own idols in a part of it; the reasons they gave follow:

for we seek your God as ye do; which was false, for they did not worship him alone, but with idols, nor in the same manner as the Jews did:

and we do sacrifice unto him; but even that could not recommend them to the Jews, since they ought not to sacrifice, even to the Lord himself, but at Jerusalem: there is a various reading here; the textual reading is, "we do not sacrifice"; that is, to idols; the marginal reading is, "we sacrifice to him", which we follow; Aben Ezra takes in both, perhaps most rightly; "we do not sacrifice to any other, but to him"; which was also false:

since the days of Esarhaddon, king of Assur, who brought us up hither; to Samaria, from Babylon, and other places; see 2 Kings 17:24.

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).

Verse 2. - We seek your God, as ye do. "We seek your God" was true; "as ye do" was not true. The Samaritans worshipped Jehovah, but not, as the Jews did, exclusively. "They feared the Lord, and worshipped their own gods" (2 Kings 17:33). Such worship dishonours Jehovah almost more than total neglect of him. Since the days of Esar-haddon. There was more than one colonisation of Central Palestine by the Assyrians. Sargon relates that he placed Arabians in the country; the writer of Kings tells us that it was occupied by Babylonians, Cuthaeans, Avites, Hamathites, and Sepharrites (2 Kings 17:24); the Samaritans themselves said that they were "Dinaites, Apharsathchites, Tarpelites, Apharsites, Archevites, Babylonians, Susanchites, Debarites, and Elamites" (infra, ver. 9). They attributed this last colonization to Esar-haddon. We may suspect that the second colonisation was by Sennacherib, who appears to have taken Babylon, Hamath, Sepharvaim, and Ivah or Avah (2 Kings 18:34). The result was that the Samaritans were a very mixed race. Ezra 4:2The adversaries of the Jews prevent the building of the temple till the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:1, Ezra 4:2). When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the community which had returned from captivity were beginning to rebuild the temple, they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chiefs of the people, and desired to take part in this work, because they also sacrificed to the God of Israel. These adversaries were, according to Ezra 4:2, the people whom Esarhaddon king of Assyria had settled in the neighbourhood of Benjamin and Judah. If we compare with this verse the information (2 Kings 17:24) that the kings of Assyria brought men from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria, and that they took possession of the depopulated kingdom of the ten tribes, and dwelt therein; then these adversaries of Judah and Benjamin are the inhabitants of the former kingdom of Israel, who were called Samaritans after the central-point of their settlement. הגּולה בּני, sons of the captivity (Ezra 6:19, etc., Ezra 8:35; Ezra 10:7, Ezra 10:16), also shortly into הגּולה, e.g., Ezra 1:11, are the Israelites returned from the Babylonian captivity, who composed the new community in Judah and Jerusalem. Those who returned with Zerubbabel, and took possession of the dwelling-places of their ancestors, being, exclusive of priests and Levites, chiefly members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, are called, especially when named in distinction from the other inhabitants of the land, Judah and Benjamin. The adversaries give the reason of their request to share in the building of the temple in the words: "For we seek your God as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, which brought us up hither." The words זבחים אנחנוּ ולא are variously explained. Older expositors take the Chethiv ולא as a negative, and make זבחים to mean the offering of sacrifices to idols, both because לא is a negative, and also because the assertion that they had sacrificed to Jahve would not have pleased the Jews, quia deficiente templo non debuerint sacrificare; and sacrifices not offered in Jerusalem were regarded as equivalent to sacrifices to idols. They might, moreover, fitly strengthen their case by the remark: "Since the days of Esarhaddon we offer no sacrifices to idols." On the other hand, however, it is arbitrary to understand זבח, without any further definition, of sacrificing to idols; and the statement, "We already sacrifice to the God of Israel," contains undoubtedly a far stronger reason for granting their request than the circumstance that they do not sacrifice to idols. Hence we incline, with older translators (lxx, Syr., Vulg., 1 Esdras), to regard לא as an unusual form of לו, occurring in several places (see on Exodus 21:8), the latter being also substituted in the present instance as Keri. The position also of לא before אנחנוּ points the same way, for the negative would certainly have stood with the verb. On Esarhaddon, see remarks on 2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38.
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