Ezra 4:20
There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid to them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Mighty kings.—David and Solomon, and some few kings down to Josiah, had extended their sway and made nations tributary (2 Samuel 8; 1 Kings 10). The earlier kings’ names would perhaps be referred to historically, though not immediately connected with Persian annals.

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.Mighty kings ... - If this reference can scarcely have been to David or Solomon (see marginal reference), of whom neither the Babylonian nor the Assyrian archives would be likely to have had any account - it would probably be to Menahem 2 Kings 15:16 and Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:6-7; 2 Chronicles 35:18). 14. we have maintenance from the king's palace—literally, "we are salted with the salt of the palace." "Eating a prince's salt" is an Oriental phrase, equivalent to "receiving maintenance from him." No text from Poole on this verse. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river,.... As David and Solomon; and the account of these they had in their records, see 2 Samuel 8:1

and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them; as appears from the places referred to; and this served to strengthen the insinuation made to the king, that if these people were suffered to go on building, he would lose his tribute and taxes in those parts.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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’.Verse 20. - Mighty kings. David and Solomon best answer to this description, possessing as they did a kingdom which extended from the Euphrates to the borders of Egypt (1 Kings 4:21, 24), and drawing tribute from the various petty princes or chiefs of the nations dwelling within those limits (2 Samuel 8:6-12; 1 Kings 10:14, 25). Josiah had perhaps, more recently, possessed an almost equally extensive sway. "Now, because we eat the salt of the palace, and it does not become us to see the damage of the king, we send (this letter) and make known to the king." מלח מלח, to salt salt equals to eat salt. To eat the salt of the palace is a figurative expression for: to be in the king's pay. See this interpretation vindicated from the Syriac and Persian in Gesen. thes. p. 790.

(Note: Luther, in translating "all we who destroyed the temple," follows the Rabbis, who, from the custom of scattering salt upon destroyed places, Judges 9:45, understood these words as an expression figurative of destruction, and היכלא as the temple.)

ערוה, deprivation, emptying, here injury to the royal power or revenue. אריך, participle of ארך, answering to the Hebrew ערך, means fitting, becoming.

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