Ezra 5:6
The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent to Darius the king:
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(6) The copy of the letter.—This letter of Tatnai is introduced much in the same way as Helium’s; but its dispassionateness and good faith are in striking contrast with the latter.

Apharsachites.—Probably here the same as the Apharsites before, and suggesting some kind of Persian guard. But the reason of their introduction specifically here is obscure.

5:3-17 While employed in God's work, we are under his special protection; his eye is upon us for good. This should keep us to our duty, and encourage us therein, when difficulties are ever so discouraging. The elders of the Jews gave the Samaritans an account of their proceedings. Let us learn hence, with meekness and fear, to give a reason of the hope that is in us; let us rightly understand, and then readily declare, what we do in God's service, and why we do it. And while in this world, we always shall have to confess, that our sins have provoked the wrath of God. All our sufferings spring from thence, and all our comforts from his unmerited mercy. However the work may seem to be hindered, yet the Lord Jesus Christ is carrying it on, his people are growing unto a holy temple in the Lord, for a habitation of God through the Spirit.Apharsachites, like Apharsites, and Apharsathchites Ezra 4:9, are thought by some to be forms of the word "Persians," which is applied here generally to the foreign settlers in Samaria. (Others identify the first and the third names with the "Paretaceni," a people on the Medo-Persian border.) 5-17. But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, &c.—The unusual presence, the imposing suite, the authoritative enquiries of the satrap appeared formidable, and might have produced a paralyzing influence or led to disastrous consequences, if he had been a partial and corrupt judge or actuated by unfriendly feelings towards the Jewish cause. The historian, therefore, with characteristic piety, throws in this parenthetical verse to intimate that God averted the threatening cloud and procured favor for the elders or leaders of the Jews, that they were not interrupted in their proceedings till communications with the court should be made and received. Not a word was uttered to dispirit the Jews or afford cause of triumph to their opponents. Matters were to go on till contrary orders arrived from Babylon. After surveying the work in progress, he inquired: first, by what authority this national temple was undertaken; and, secondly, the names of the principal promoters and directors of the undertaking. To these two heads of enquiry the Jews returned ready and distinct replies. Then having learned that it originated in a decree of Cyrus, who had not only released the Jewish exiles from captivity and permitted them to return to their own land for the express purpose of rebuilding the house of God, but, by an act of royal grace, had restored to them the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried off as trophies from the former temple, Tatnai transmitted all this information in an official report to his imperial master, accompanying it with a recommendatory suggestion that search should be made among the national archives at Babylon for the original decree of Cyrus, that the truth of the Jews' statement might be verified. The whole conduct of Tatnai, as well as the general tone of his despatch, is marked by a sound discretion and prudent moderation, free from any party bias, and evincing a desire only to do his duty. In all respects he appears in favorable contrast with his predecessor, Rehum (Ezr 4:9). The Apharsachites; a people so called, sent hither as a colony. As the other people, mentioned Ezra 4:9 they seem to have had a greater power with Rehum and Shimshai that with these new officers, who made choice of other companions.

Which were on this side the river, whereby they are distinguished from those of their brethren who yet continued in their native country beyond the river, and were not transplanted hither. The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river,.... Which is thought by some to be one of the nations mentioned, Ezra 4:9 the name being pretty near alike to two of them; but perhaps might be a distinct colony in those parts Tatnai was governor of:

these sent unto Darius the king; and is as follows.

The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:
6. Tatnai, the governor on this side the river] R.V. Tattenai, the governor beyond the river, and Shethar-bozenai. See note on Ezra 5:3.

the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river] R.V. the Apharsachites which were beyond the river. Who the Apharsachites of the ‘Abhar Nahara’ were is not known. Possibly the same as the ‘Apharsathcites’ of chap. Ezra 4:9 (where see note), represented officially by Shethar-bozenai, whose companions they are called.Verse 6. - The Apharsachites recall the "Apharsites" and the "Apharsathchites" of Ezra 4:9. Possibly all the three forms are provincial variants of the more correct Parsaya, which appears in Daniel (Daniel 6:28) as the Chaldaean equivalent of "Persian." Here the Apharsachite "companions" of Tatnai and Shethar-boznai are perhaps the actual Persians who formed their body-guard and their train. "Then ceased the work of the house of God at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of Darius king of Persia." With this statement the narrator returns to the notice in Ezra 4:5, that the adversaries of Judah succeeded in delaying the building of the temple till the reign of King Darius, which he takes up, and now adds the more precise information that it ceased till the second year of King Darius. The intervening section, Ezra 4:6, gives a more detailed account of those accusations against the Jews made by their adversaries to kings Ahashverosh and Artachshasta. If we read Ezra 4:23 and Ezra 4:24 as successive, we get an impression that the discontinuation to build mentioned in Ezra 4:24 was the effect and consequence of the prohibition obtained from King Artachshasta, through the complaints brought against the Jews by his officials on this side the river; the בּאדין of Ezra 4:24 seeming to refer to the אדין of Ezra 4:23. Under this impression, older expositors have without hesitation referred the contents of Ezra 4:6 to the interruption to the building of the temple during the period from Cyrus to Darius, and understood the two names Ahashverosh and Artachshasta as belonging to Cambyses and (Pseudo) Smerdis, the monarchs who reigned between Cyrus and Darius. Grave objections to this view have, however, been raised by Kleinert (in the Beitrgen der Dorpater Prof. d. Theol. 8132, vol. i) and J. W. Schultz (Cyrus der Grosse, in Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1853, p. 624, etc.), who have sought to prove that none but the Persian kings Xerxes and Artaxerxes can be meant by Ahashverosh and Artachshasta, and that the section Ezra 4:6 relates not to the building of the temple, but to the building of the walls of Jerusalem, and forms an interpolation or episode, in which the historian makes the efforts of the adversaries of Judah to prevent the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under Xerxes and Artaxerxes follow immediately after his statement of their attempt to hinder the building of the temple, for the sake of presenting at one glance a view of all their machinations against the Jews. This view has been advocated not only by Vaihinger, "On the Elucidation of the History of Israel after the Captivity," in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1857, p. 87, etc., and Bertheau in his Commentary on this passage, but also by Hengstenberg, Christol. iii. p. 143, Auberlen, and others, and opposed by Ewald in the 2nd edition of his Gesch. Israels, iv. p. 118, where he embraces the older explanation of these verses, and A. Koehler on Haggai, p. 20. On reviewing the arguments advanced in favour of the more modern view, we can lay no weight at all upon the circumstance that in Ezra 4:6 the building of the temple is not spoken of. The contents of the letter sent to Ahashverosh (Ezra 4:6) are not stated; in that to Artachshasta (Ezra 4:11) the writers certainly accuse the Jews of building the rebellious and bad city (Jerusalem), of setting up its walls and digging out its foundations (Ezra 4:12); but the whole document is so evidently the result of ardent hatred and malevolent suspicion, that well-founded objections to the truthfulness of these accusations may reasonably be entertained. Such adversaries might, for the sake of more surely attaining their end of obstructing the work of the Jews, easily represent the act of laying the foundations and building the walls of the temple as a rebuilding of the town walls. The answer of the king, too (Ezra 4:17), would naturally treat only of such matters as the accusers had mentioned.

The argument derived from the names of the kings is of far more importance. The name אחשׁורושׁ (in Ezra 4:6) occurs also in the book of Esther, where, as is now universally acknowledged, the Persian king Xerxes is meant; and in Daniel 9:1, as the name of the Median king Kyaxares. In the cuneiform inscriptions the name is in Old-Persian Ksayarsa, in Assyrian Hisiarsi, in which it is easy to recognise both the Hebrew form Ahashverosh, and the Greek forms Ξέρξης and Κυαξάρης. On the other hand, the name Cambyses (Old-Persian Kambudshja) offers no single point of identity; the words are radically different, whilst nothing is known of Cambyses having ever borne a second name or surname similar in sound to the Hebrew Ahashverosh. The name Artachshasta, moreover, both in Esther 7:1-10 and 8, and in the book of Nehemiah, undoubtedly denotes the monarch known as Artaxerxes (Longimanus). It is, indeed, in both these books written ארתּחשׁסתּא with ס, and in the present section, and in Ezra 6:14, ארתּחששׁתּא; but this slight difference of orthography is no argument for difference of person, ארתחשׁשׁתא seeming to be a mode of spelling the word peculiar to the author of the Chaldee section, Ezra 4-6. Two other names, indeed, of Smerdis, the successor of Cambyses, have been handed down to us. According to Xenophon, Cyrop. viii. 7, and Ktesias, Pers. fr. 8-13, he is said to have been called Tanyoxares, and according to Justini hist. i. 9, Oropastes; and Ewald is of opinion that the latter name is properly Ortosastes, which might answer to Artachshasta. It is also not improbable that Smerdis may, as king, have assumed the name of Artachshasta, Ἀρταξέρξης, which Herodotus (vi. 98) explains by μέγας ἀρήΐος. But neither this possibility, nor the opinion of Ewald, that Ortosastes is the correct reading for Oropastes in Just. hist. i. 9, can lay any claim to probability, unless other grounds also exist for the identification of Artachshasta with Smerdis. Such grounds, however, are wanting; while, on the other hand, it is priori improbable that Ps. Smerdis, who reigned but about seven months, should in this short period have pronounced such a decision concerning the matter of building the temple of Jerusalem, as we read in the letter of Artachshasta, Ezra 4:17, even if the adversaries of the Jews should, though residing in Palestine, have laid their complaints before him, immediately after his accession to the throne. When we consider also the great improbability of Ahashverosh being a surname of Cambyses, we feel constrained to embrace the view that the section Ezra 4:6 is an episode inserted by the historian, on the occasion of narrating the interruption to the building of the temple, brought about by the enemies of the Jews, and for the sake of giving a short and comprehensive view of all the hostile acts against the Jewish community on the part of the Samaritans and surrounding nations.

The contents and position of Ezra 4:24 may easily be reconciled with this view, which also refutes as unfounded the assertion of Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, i. p. 303, and Schrader, p. 469, that the author of the book of Ezra himself erroneously refers the document given, Ezra 4:6, to the erection of the temple, instead of to the subsequent building of the walls of Jerusalem. For, to say nothing of the contents of Ezra 4:6, although it may seem natural to refer the בּאדין of Ezra 4:24 to Ezra 4:23, it cannot be affirmed that this reference is either necessary or the only one allowable. The assertion that בּאדין is "always connected with that which immediately precedes," cannot be strengthened by an appeal to Ezra 5:2; Ezra 6:1; Daniel 2:14, Daniel 2:46; Daniel 3:3, and other passages. בּאדין, then ( equals at that time), in contradistinction to אדין, thereupon, only refers a narrative, in a general manner, to the time spoken of in that which precedes it. When, then, it is said, then, or at that time, the work of the house of God ceased (Ezra 4:24), the then can only refer to what was before related concerning the building of the house of God, i.e., to the narrative Ezra 4:1. This reference of Ezra 4:24 to Ezra 4:1 is raised above all doubt, by the fact that the contents of Ezra 4:24 are but a recapitulation of Ezra 4:5; it being said in both, that the cessation from building the temple lasted till the reign, or, as it is more precisely stated in Ezra 4:24, till the second year of the reign, of Darius king of Persia. With this recapitulation of the contents of Ezra 4:5, the narrative, Ezra 4:24, returns to the point which it had reached at Ezra 4:5. What lies between is thereby characterized as an illustrative episode, the relation of which to that which precedes and follows it, is to be perceived and determined solely by its contents. If, then, in this episode, we find not only that the building of the temple is not spoken of, but that letters are given addressed to the Kings Ahashverosh and Artachshasta, who, as all Ezra's contemporaries would know, reigned not before but after Darius, the very introduction of the first letter with the words, "And in the reign of Ahashverosh" (Ezra 4:6), after the preceding statement, "until the reign of Darius king of Persia" (Ezra 4:5), would be sufficient to obviate the misconception that letters addressed to Ahashverosh and Artachshasta related to matters which happened in the period between Cyrus and Darius Hystaspis. Concerning another objection to this view of Ezra 4:6, viz., that it would be strange that King Artaxerxes, who is described to us in Ezra 7 and in Nehemiah as very favourable to the Jews, should have been for a time so prejudiced against them as to forbid the building of the town and walls of Jerusalem, we shall have an opportunity of speaking in our explanations of Nehemiah 1:1-11. - Ezra 4:24, so far, then, as its matter is concerned, belongs to the following chapter, to which it forms an introduction.

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