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.
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(6) In the beginning of his reign.—This Ahasuerus, another name for Cambyses, reigned seven years; and his accession to the throne was the time seized by the Samaritans for their “accusation,” of which we hear nothing more; suffice that the building languished.

Ezra 4:6. In the reign of Ahasuerus — A common name of divers kings of Persia. This Ahasuerus was probably Smerdis, one of the magi who seized the kingdom after Cambyses. Wrote they unto him an accusation against Judah and Jerusalem — Importing that they intended to set up for themselves, and not to depend upon the king of Persia.

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.Ahasuerus - Or, Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus. Persian kings had often two names. 6. in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they … an accusation—Ahasuerus was a regal title, and the king referred to was successor of Darius, the famous Xerxes. In the reign of Ahasuerus; which is supposed by divers learned men to be from this time a common name to divers succeeding kings of Persia. And this makes it seem doubtful who this was. This was either,

1. Xerxes the fourth and rich king of Persia, as he is called, Daniel 11:2. Or rather,

2. Cambyses the son and successor of Cyrus, as may appear,

1. Because none but he and Smerdis were between Cyrus and this Darius.

2. Because Cambyses was known to be no friend to the Jewish nation nor religion; and therefore it is very improbable that these crafty, and malicious, and industrious enemies of the Jews would omit so great an opportunity when it was put into their hands.

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign,.... According to Jarchi, this was Ahasuerus the husband of Esther; but, as most think (d), was Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus; so Josephus (e); who was an enemy to the Egyptians; and, fearing the Jews might take part with them, was no friend to them; their enemies therefore took the advantage of the death of Cyrus, and the first opportunity after Cambyses reigned in his own right:

and wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem; full of hatred and enmity, spite and malice, charging them as a turbulent, disobedient, and rebellious people.

(d) Spanhem. Introduct. Chron. ad Hist. Eccl. p. 54. & Universal History, Vol. 5. p. 203. Prideaux, p. 175. (e) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 11. c. 4.) sect. 4, 6. Vid. R. David Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 2. fol. 8. 2. So Dr. Lightfoot, Works, vol. 1. p. 139.

And in the reign of {d} Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

(d) He was also called Artaxerxes which is a Persian name, some think it was Cambises Cyrus' son, or Darius, as in Ezr 4:5.

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’.

Verse 6. - And in the reign of Ahasuerus. Some critics regard this Ahasuerus as identical with the Ahasuerus of Esther, who is generally allowed to be Xerxes, the son and successor of Darius Hystaspis, and the invader of Greece. In this case the Artaxerxes of the next verse is taken to be Artaxerxes Longimanus, and the entire passage, from ver. 6 to ver. 23 inclusively, is regarded as parenthetic, having reference to events which happened later than any of those recorded in ch. 6. But the evident nexus of vers. 23, 24 is fatal to this view, which has nothing in its favour beyond the sequence of the royal names, an uncertain argument in this instance, since we know that Persian kings had often more than one name. If on these grounds we reject the proposed identification, and regard the chapter as chronologically consecutive, Ahasuerus here must be explained as Cambyses, and the Artaxerxes of ver. 7 as Smerdis. This is the view most usually taken, and it seems to the present writer to present fewer difficulties than any other. In the beginning of his reign. As soon as ever a new king mounted the throne, fresh representations were made to him by the "adversaries," lest the work should be recommenced. Wrote they an accusation. Comp. vers. 12-16, by which we see the sort of "accusation that could be plausibly brought.

CHAPTER 4:7-116. Ezra 4:6Complaints against the Jews to Kings Ahashverosh and Artachshasta. - The right understanding of this section depends upon the question, What kings of Persia are meant by Ahashverosh and Artachshasta? while the answer to this question is, in part at least, determined by the contents of the letter, Ezra 4:8-16, sent by the enemies of the Jews to the latter monarch.

Ezra 4:6-7

And in the reign of Ahashverosh, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. שׂטנה, not to mention the name of the well, Genesis 26:21, occurs here only, and means, according to its derivation from שׂטן, to bear enmity, the enmity; hence here, the accusation. ישׁבי על belongs to שׂטנה, not to כּתבוּ; the letter was sent, not to the inhabitants of Judah, but to the king against the Jews. The contents of this letter are not given, but may be inferred from the designation שׂטנה. The letter to Artachshasta then follows, Ezra 4:7-16. In his days, i.e., during his reign, wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions. כּנותו, for which the Keri offers the ordinary form כּנותיו mrof yra, occurs only here in the Hebrew sections, but more frequently in the Chaldee (comp. Ezra 4:9, Ezra 4:17, Ezra 4:23; Ezra 5:3, and elsewhere), in the sense of companions or fellow-citizens; according to Gesenius, it means those who bear the same surname (Kunje) together with another, though Ewald is of a different opinion; see 117, b, note. The singular would be written כּנת (Ewald, 187, d). And the writing of the letter was written in Aramaean (i.e., with Aramaean characters), and interpreted in (i.e., translated into) Aramaean. נשׁתּון is of Aryan origin, and connected with the modern Persian nuwishten, to write together; it signifies in Hebrew and Chaldee a letter: comp. Ezra 4:18, where נשׁתּונא is used for אגּרתּא of Ezra 4:11. Bertheau translates הנּשׁתּון כּתב, copy of the letter, and regards it as quite identical with the Chaldee אגּרתּא פּרשׁגן, Ezra 4:11; he can hardly, however, be in the right. כּתב does not mean a transcript or copy, but only a writing (comp. Esther 4:8). This, too, does away with the inference "that the writer of this statement had before him only an Aramaean translation of the letter contained in the state-papers or chronicles which he made use of." It is not כּתב, the copy or writing, but הנּשׁתּון, the letter, that is the subject of ארמית מתרגּם, interpreted in Aramaean. This was translated into the Aramaean or Syrian tongue. The passage is not to be understood as stating that the letter was drawn up in the Hebrew or Samaritan tongue, and then translated into Aramaean, but simply that the letter was not composed in the native language of the writers, but in Aramaean. Thus Gesenius rightly asserts, in his Thes. p. 1264, et lingua aramaea scripta erat; in saying which תרגם does not receive the meaning concepit, expressit, but retains its own signification, to interpret, to translate into another language. The writers of the letter were Samaritans, who, having sprung from the intermingling of the Babylonian settlers brought in by Esarhaddon and the remnants of the Israelitish population, spoke a language more nearly akin to Hebrew than to Aramaean, which was spoken at the Babylonian court, and was the official language of the Persian kings and the Persian authorities in Western Asia. This Aramaean tongue had also its own characters, differing from those of the Hebrew and Samaritan. This is stated by the words ארמית כּתוּב, whence Bertheau erroneously infers that this Aramaean writing was written in other than the ordinary Aramaean, and perhaps in Hebrew characters.

This letter, too, of Bishlam and his companions seems to be omitted. There follows, indeed, in Ezra 4:8, etc., a letter to King Artachshasta, of which a copy is given in Ezra 4:11-16; but the names of the writers are different from those mentioned in Ezra 4:7. The three names, Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel (Ezra 4:7), cannot be identified with the two names Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4:8). When we consider, however, that the writers named in Ezra 4:8 were high officials of the Persian king, sending to the monarch a written accusation against the Jews in their own and their associates' names, it requires but little stretch of the imagination to suppose that these personages were acting at the instance of the adversaries named in Ezra 4:7, the Samaritans Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, and merely inditing the complaints raised by these opponents against the Jews. This view, which is not opposed by the כּתב of Ezra 4:7, - this word not necessarily implying an autograph, - commends itself to our acceptance, first, because the notion that the contents of this letter are not given finds no analogy in Ezra 4:6, where the contents of the letter to Ahashverosh are sufficiently hinted at by the word שׂטנה; while, with regard to the letter of Ezra 4:7, we should have not a notion of its purport in case it were not the same which is given in Ezra 4:8, etc.

(Note: The weight of this argument is indirectly admitted by Ewald (Gesch. iv. p. 119) and Bertheau, inasmuch as both suppose that there is a long gap in the narrative, and regard the Aramaean letter mentioned in Ezra 4:7 to have been a petition, on the part of persons of consideration in the community at Jerusalem, to the new king, - two notions which immediately betray themselves to be the expedients of perplexity. The supposed "long gaps, which the chronicler might well leave even in transcribing from his documents" (Ew.), do not explain the abrupt commencement of Ezra 4:8. If a petition from the Jewish community to the king were spoken of in Ezra 4:7, the accusation against the Jews in Ezra 4:8 would certainly have been alluded to by at least a ו adversative, or some other adversative particle.)

Besides, the statement concerning the Aramaean composition of this letter would have been utterly purposeless if the Aramaean letter following in Ezra 4:8 had been an entirely different one. The information concerning the language in which the letter was written has obviously no other motive than to introduce its transcription in the original Aramaean. This conjecture becomes a certainty through the fact that the Aramaean letter follows in Ezra 4:8 without a copula of any kind. If any other had been intended, the ו copulative would not more have been omitted here than in Ezra 4:7. The letter itself, indeed, does not begin till Ezra 4:9, while Ezra 4:8 contains yet another announcement of it. This circumstance, however, is explained by the fact that the writers of the letters are other individuals than those named in Ezra 4:7, but chiefly by the consideration that the letter, together with the king's answer, being derived from an Aramaean account of the building of the temple, the introduction to the letter found therein was also transcribed.

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