Ezra 4:6-23 – Later Opposition


Ezra 4:6-23


Later accusations registering complaints-about the building of the Jerusalem walls rather than the temple-in the form of letters between the opposition and the Persian throne are cited, perhaps to indicate the persistent nature of the opposition. From 4:8 until 6:18 the text is in Aramaic, the official language of the Persian Empire.


Two of the opposition’s letters are mentioned in passing, with no recorded royal response: one to Ahasuerus (that is, Xerxes I, 486-465 B.C.E., v. 6) and a second to Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.E., v. 7). Rehum’s letter (4:11-16) and Artaxerxes’ reply (4:17-22) are a different matter. Here, Rehum, speaking for the officials of the Persian satrapy of “Beyond the River,” accuses the Jewish community of rebellion and sedition. This can be seen in the Jewish rebuilding of that “rebellious and wicked city,” that is, Jerusalem (v. 12), which will result in loss of revenue in “tribute, custom, or toll” (v. 13). Rehum’s charges conclude with an invitation for the king to search his own records for the rebellious history of this troublesome city that necessitated its destruction in the first place (vv. 14-16). The effectiveness of Rehum’s attack can be seen in Artaxerxes’s response that closes with a work stoppage (v. 23). Verse 24 returns us to the cessation of work on the temple during the reign of Darius. The continuing theme of opposition highlights the tentative nature of the community as well as their continuing dependence upon God.