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Ezra 4:8-24

Context

4:8 Rehum the commander 1  and Shimshai the scribe 2  wrote a letter concerning 3  Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows: 4:9 From 4  Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues – the judges, the rulers, the officials, the secretaries, the Erechites, the Babylonians, the people of Susa (that is, 5  the Elamites), 4:10 and the rest of nations whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal 6  deported and settled in the cities 7  of Samaria and other places in Trans-Euphrates. 8  4:11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)

“To King Artaxerxes, 9  from your servants in 10  Trans-Euphrates: 4:12 Now 11  let the king be aware that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and odious city. 12  They are completing its walls and repairing its foundations. 4:13 Let the king also be aware that if this city is built and its walls are completed, no more tax, custom, or toll will be paid, and the royal treasury 13  will suffer loss. 4:14 In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, 14  and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, 15  we are sending the king this information 16  4:15 so that he may initiate a search of the records 17  of his predecessors 18  and discover in those records 19  that this city is rebellious 20  and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts 21  from long ago. 22  It is for this very reason that this city was destroyed. 4:16 We therefore are informing the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will not retain control 23  of this portion of Trans-Euphrates.”

4:17 The king sent the following response:

“To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and other parts of Trans-Euphrates: Greetings! 24  4:18 The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence. 4:19 So I gave orders, 25  and it was determined 26  that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in 27  rebellion and revolt. 4:20 Powerful kings have been over Jerusalem who ruled throughout the entire Trans-Euphrates 28  and who were the beneficiaries of 29  tribute, custom, and toll. 4:21 Now give orders that these men cease their work and that this city not be rebuilt until such time as I so instruct. 30  4:22 Exercise appropriate caution so that there is no negligence in this matter. Why should danger increase to the point that kings sustain damage?”

4:23 Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerxes was read in the presence of Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they proceeded promptly to the Jews in Jerusalem 31  and stopped them with threat of armed force. 32 

4:24 So the work on the temple of God in Jerusalem came to a halt. It remained halted until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. 33 

1 tn Aram “lord of the command.” So also in vv. 9, 17.

2 sn Like Rehum, Shimshai was apparently a fairly high-ranking official charged with overseeing Persian interests in this part of the empire. His title was “scribe” or “secretary,” but in a more elevated political sense than that word sometimes has elsewhere. American governmental titles such as “Secretary of State” perhaps provide an analogy in that the word “secretary” can have a broad range of meaning.

3 tn Or perhaps “against.”

4 tn Aram “then.” What follows in v. 9 seems to be the preface of the letter, serving to identify the senders of the letter. The word “from” is not in the Aramaic text but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

5 tn For the qere of the MT (דֶּהָיֵא, dehaye’, a proper name) it seems better to retain the Kethib דִּהוּא (dihu’, “that is”). See F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 25, §35; E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 36.

6 tn Aram “Osnappar” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV), another name for Ashurbanipal.

sn Ashurbanipal succeeded his father Esarhaddon as king of Assyria in 669 B.C. Around 645 B.C. he sacked the city of Susa, capital of Elam, and apparently some of these people were exiled to Samaria and other places.

7 tc The translation reads with the ancient versions the plural בְּקֻרְיַהּ (bÿquryah, “in the cities”) rather than the singular (“in the city”) of the MT.

8 tn Aram “beyond the river.” In Ezra this term is a technical designation for the region west of the Euphrates river.

9 tn The Masoretic accents indicate that the phrase “to Artaxerxes the king” goes with what precedes and that the letter begins with the words “from your servants.” But it seems better to understand the letter to begin by identifying the addressee.

10 tn Aram “men of.”

11 tn The MT takes this word with the latter part of v. 11, but in English style it fits better with v. 12.

12 sn Management of the provinces that were distantly removed from the capital was difficult, and insurrection in such places was a perennial problem. The language used in this report about Jerusalem (i.e., “rebellious,” “odious”) is intentionally inflammatory. It is calculated to draw immediate attention to the perceived problem.

13 tn Aram “the treasury of kings.” The plural “kings” is Hebrew, not Aramaic. If the plural is intended in a numerical sense the reference is not just to Artaxerxes but to his successors as well. Some scholars understand this to be the plural of majesty, referring to Artaxerxes. See F. C. Fensham, Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT), 74.

14 tn Aram “we eat the salt of the palace.”

15 tn Aram “the dishonor of the king is not fitting for us to see.”

16 tn Aram “and we have made known.”

17 tn Aram “the book of the minutes.”

18 tn Aram “of your fathers.”

19 tn Aram “discover…and learn.” For stylistic reasons this has been translated as a single concept.

20 tn Aram “is a rebellious city.”

21 tn Aram “revolts they are making in its midst.”

22 tn Aram “from olden days.” So also in v. 19.

23 tn Aram “will not be to you.”

24 tn Aram “peace.”

25 tn Aram “from me was placed a decree.”

26 tn Aram “and they searched and found.”

27 tn Aram “are being done.”

28 sn The statement that prior Jewish kings ruled over the entire Trans-Euphrates is an overstatement. Not even in the days of David and Solomon did the kingdom of Israel extend its borders to such an extent.

29 tn Aram “were being given to them.”

30 tn Aram “until a command is issued from me.”

31 tn Aram “to Jerusalem against the Jews.”

32 tn Aram “by force and power,” a hendiadys.

33 sn Darius I Hystaspes ruled Persia ca. 522–486 b.c.



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