Ezra 4:4
Whatever drops of neighbourly kindness there may have been in the cup of friendship offered by the Samaritans to "the children of the captivity," these, on the refusal of Zerubbabel to enter into alliance with them, turned into bitterest animosity. Thenceforward they "breathed threatening" and made opposition to those whom they had courted. We have illustration or suggestion here of the character and outworkings of human hatred.

I. ITS BLINDNESS. Like all cruelty, and indeed like all sin, "it knew not what it did." It thought it was only indulging in a natural and proper resentment; in truth it was lifting up its hand against the people of God, and was doing its best (which was indeed its worst) to undermine and bring to nought the good work of God. Anger is always blind. It does not see its own hideousness; nor does it perceive the end of its doing. Its eye is darkened or discoloured, and its hand is a suicidal, a self-injuring hand.

II. ITS DELIBERATENESS. These men deliberately set themselves to undo what their neighbours had begun. No mere outflash of indignation theirs, but deep, steady, well-cherished purpose to be avenged. Nothing was left undone, no stone unturned, that these new-comers might feel the full weight of their wrath. They found means to hinder them in their work, and they got up all the evidence they could collect of past excitements and disturbances in Jerusalem, and "hired counsellors" to represent them at the court of Babylon (ver. 5), that they might frustrate and overthrow the purpose of Israel. There is no more painful-sight in this world, and no more saddening evidence and consequence of sin, than the fact of men cherishing and nursing a rancorous hatred in their hearts against their fellows, and plotting and scheming, month after month, to do them injury, to break their schemes, to disappoint their hopes.

III. THE MISCHIEF WHICH IT WORKS (ver. 4). These angry interferers had all too much success. They did weaken the hands of those whom they sought to hinder; "they troubled them in building;" they succeeded in gaining the ear and winning the support of Cyrus, and ultimately they caused the work of building the temple to cease. There is a prevalent belief that persecution defeats its own ends - and this is true. We say that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church" - and often it is. The fires it lights are often, if not always, purifying, cleansing the gold of its dross, and making the vessels of the Lord more "meet for the Master's use." Yet, on the other hand, it often works most serious mischief to the Church and the world, from which they painfully and only gradually recover. History shows that human rage against the truth and cause of God has done injury on a large scale, and doubtless it is continually making its evil power felt on a small one: it is "weakening the hands" (ver. 4) of the people of God; it is troubling them in building up his kingdom; it is causing "the work to cease; it is "hindering the gospel." This instance of unrighteous anger, like all other illustrations of it, reminds us of -

IV. ITS ESSENTIAL UNNATURALNESS. No doubt it seemed natural enough to these Samaritans to indulge in this bitter wrath and to take these vindictive measures. One of the greatest of the Romans, writing only a few years before Christ, declared that "war was the natural relation between neighbouring nations." But how really and essentially unnatural it is for one human heart, made to be the home of love and kindness and compassion, made to be the spring and source of beneficence and generosity, to be harbouring hatreds, to be finding pleasure in another's pain, to be rejoicing in the humiliation and disappointment of another human heart! What blank contradiction to the will of our Creator! What a wretched departure from his design! How utterly unbeautiful, how infinitely repugnant to his eye! - C.

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah.
I. THE TACTICS OF THE WICKED. If they cannot bend the good to their wishes and aims by plausible pretences, they alter their tactics and betake themselves to unscrupulous opposition in various forms.

II. THE VENALITY OF THE WICKED. The Samaritans "hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purposes." It is reasonable to infer that these counsellors were men of some skill and resource and power of persuasion who deliberately exercised their abilities in an evil cause for gain.



(William Jones.)

This antagonism as here illustrated is —






1. In their profession of loyalty to the king.

2. In their presentation of proof of their assertions.

(J. Parker, D. D).

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