1 Esdras iv.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Enemies; Samaritans, and others, ver. 9.
Ver. 2. Asor Haddan sent a priest to instruct these people, but Salmanasar had transported them into the country. (Calmet) — They continued for some time worshipping idols alone, and afterwards they consented to pay the like adoration to the Lord, 4 Kings xvii. 24, &c. (Haydock) — It is clear, from their petition, that they had as yet no temple. The first was erected by them on Garizim, by leave of Alexander the Great, as a retreat for Manasses, brother of the Jewish high priest, and others who would not be separated from their strange wives. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] xi.) — Yet the Samaritan Chronicle, lately published, seems to give a higher antiquity to that temple, and pretends that a miracle declared in favour of the place. (Calmet) — The fathers indeed adored there, (John iv. 20., and Genesis xii. 6,) and Josue erected an altar on Hebal, but the Samaritan copy says it was to be on Garizim, Deuteronomy xxvii. 4., and Josue viii. 30. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. You, &c. Literally, “It is not for you and us to build.” But why might not these people assist in the work, as well as king Hiram or Darius? (Haydock) — Schismatics and heretics must not communicate in sacrifices with Catholics, (Worthington) nor must the latter have society with them, in matters of religion. The Jews feared lest the Samaritans might introduce the worship of idols, or claim a part of the temple, or at least boast of what they had done. (Tirinus) — They were aware of the insincerity of these people. (Menochius) — The permission was moreover only granted to the Jews: (Calmet) but Cyrus had exhorted all to contribute; (chap. i. 4,) and Darius, as well as his pagan governors, were not repelled with disdain, chap. vi. 13. This treatment caused the Samaritans to be more inveterate, though the Jews were always more unwilling to come to a reconciliation. (Haydock) — “For the Scripture did not say, the Samaritans have no commerce with the Jews,” says St. Chrysostom in John iv. The Jewish authors inform us, that “Ezra, &c., gathered all the congregation into the temple, and the Levites sung and cursed the Samaritans,…that no Israelite eat of any thing that is a Samaritan’s, nor that any Samaritan be proselyted to Israel, nor have any part in the resurrection,” &c. (R. Tanchum) (Lightfoot i. p. 598.) (Kennicott) — If this were true, it would be carrying their resentment too far; as we ought to promote the conversion of the greatest reprobates. But we have no reason to condemn such great men. They knew the character of the Samaritans, and wished to bring them to a sense of their duty, by this rebuke. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Counsellors; ministers of the king, (Calmet) or governors of the provinces. (Tirinus) — Cyrus, who was ignorant of their machination, (Josephus) being engaged in war with the Scythians. We may easily conceive what ill-disposed ministers may do, against the inclinations of their prince. (Calmet) — Darius, son of Hystaspes, who succeeded the false Smerdis, after five months’ usurpation. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Assuerus; otherwise called Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus. He is also, in the following verse, named Artaxerxes, by a name common to almost all the kings of Persia, (Calmet) after Memnon. (Diodorus xv.) Septuagint, “Arthasastha.” Arta signifies “great,” and xerxes, “warriour.” (Herodotus vi. 98.) — After Assuerus, some copies add, “he is Artaxerxes;” and Assuerus is so called in the Septuagint of Sixtus, 3 Esdras ii. 16. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Artaxerxes may be the Oropastes of Trogus, (Calmet) or the false (Haydock) Smerdis. (Herodotus) — Beselam, &c. These governed the provinces on the west side of the Euphrates. — Syriac comprises the Chaldean, with which it has a great resemblance. It was spoken at the court of Babylon. (Xenophon vii.) See 4 Kings xviii. 26., and 2 Machabees xv. 37., and Daniel ii. 4.
Ver. 8. Beelteem. Syriac, “the son of Baltam.” The term designates the office of Reum, “the master of reason,” president of the council, treasurer, &c. (Calmet) — Protestants, “chancellor.” — From. Protestants, “against.” (Haydock) — Hebrew, “concerning.”
Ver. 9. Counsellors. Septuagint and Syriac, “of our fellow-servants.” Chaldean, “colleagues.” This letter, and as far as chap. vi. 16, is in the Chaldean language. — Dinites, perhaps the Denarenians. (Junius) (4 Kings xvii. 24.) (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Asenaphar, commonly supposed to be the Asarhaddon, though we know not that he caused any of these nations to remove thither, as Salmanasar certainly did. (Calmet) — The name of the latter occurs in some copies. (Lyranus) — River, Euphrates. — In peace. (Haydock) — The original, ceheneth, is neglected by the Septuagint and Arabic. The Syriac reads, “Acheeneth.” Others translate, “at that time,” as if the date had been lost. (Junius, &c.) — Protestants, “and at such a time.” (Haydock) — Others suppose the writers lived “at Kineeth.” (Pagnin) — But who ever heard of such a place? Le Clerc takes it to mean “and the rest,” as if the title were curtailed. But it is more probable that the text ought to be Ceheth, as [in] ver. 17, and that we should translate, “beyond the river, (Calmet) as now, (11) unless this word ought to be here omitted, (Haydock) to Artaxerxes, the king, peace (and prosperity) as at present.” (Calmet) — Chaldean sslum ucath, “peace even now.” (Haydock) — So Horace says, suaviter ut nunc est, wishing a continuation of happiness. 3 Esdras (ii. 17.) joins the last word with ver. 12, “And now be it,” &c. Canoth may have this sense, (Calmet) and consequently no change is necessary. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Him. This is a gloss. (Calmet) — Greeting. Protestants, “and at such a time.”
Ver. 12. Rebellious. The Jews had shewn themselves impatient of subjection, contending with the kings of Assyria and Babylon, whose territories were now possessed by the successors of Cyrus, ver. 15. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Revenues. Septuagint, &c., include all under the term of “tribute.”
Ver. 14. Eaten. Chaldean, “on account of the salt, with which we have been salted, from the palace.” The king’s officers were fed from his table. Salt is put for all their emoluments; (Calmet) and hence the word salary is derived. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxi. 7.) We may also translate, “because we have demolished the temple, and because,” &c. (Kimchi; Grotius, &c.) But this seems to refined. (Calmet) — Protestants, “Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it is not meet,” &c. To have neglected their master’s interests, would have betrayed great ingratitude and perfidy; particularly if they had entered into a covenant of salt, or solemnly engaged to be ever faithful servants, as the nature of their office implied, Numbers xviii. 19., and 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 5. (Haydock) — Palace, being honoured with much distinction. (Delrio, adag. 215.)
Ver. 15. Fathers, the preceding emperors, Nabuchodonosor, Salmanasar, &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Possession. Septuagint have simply, “peace.”
Ver. 17. Greeting. Protestants, “peace, and at such a time,” which has no great meaning. (Haydock) See ver. 10.
Ver. 19. Seditions: so are styled the just efforts of the Jews, to keep or to regain their liberty. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Kings; only David and Solomon. (Menochius) — They had made some on the east side of the river pay tribute, though the king may speak of the countries on the west.
Ver. 21. Hear. Chaldean, “give command,” &c. — Further: literally, “perhaps.” (Haydock) — This was a private edict, which might be rescinded, Daniel vi. 7.
Ver. 23. Beelteem, is not in Chaldean. — Arm, or “force.” (Protestants) (Haydock)
Ver. 24. House. They went beyond the order, which only forbade the building of the city, ver. 21. — Darius, the year of the world 3485. (Calmet) — He was the son of Hystaspes, (St. Jerome) and not Nothus, the sixth from Cyrus, as Sulpitius and Scalinger believe. (Tirinus)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The Samaritans, by their letter to the king, hinder the building.
1 Now *the enemies of Juda and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel.
2 And they came to Zorobabel, and the chief of the fathers, and said to them: Let us build with you, for we seek your God as ye do: behold we have sacrificed to him, since the days of Asor Haddan, king of Assyria, who brought us hither.
3 But Zorobabel, and Josue, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said to them: You have nothing to do with us to build a house to our God, but we ourselves, alone, will build to the Lord, our God, as Cyrus, king of the Persians, hath commanded us.
4 Then the people of the land hindered the hands of the people of Juda, and troubled them in building.
5 And they hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their design all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of the Persians.
6 And in the reign of Assuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Juda and Jerusalem.
7 And in the days of Artaxerxes, Beselam, Mithridates, and Thabeel, and the rest that were in the council, wrote to Artaxerxes, king of the Persians: and the letter of accusation was written in Syriac, and was read in the Syrian tongue.
8 Reum Beelteem, and Samsai, the scribe, wrote a letter from Jerusalem to king Artaxerxes, in this manner:
9 Reum Beelteem, and Samsai, the scribe, and the rest of their counsellors, the Dinites, and the Apharsathacites, the Therphalites, the Apharsites, the Erchuites, the Babylonians, the Susanechites, the Dievites, and the Elamites,
10 And the rest of the nations, whom the great and glorious Asenaphar brought over, and made to dwell in the cities of Samaria, and in the rest of the countries of this side of the river, in peace.
11 (This is the copy of the letter, which they sent to him) To Artaxerxes, the king, thy servants, the men that are on this side of the river, send greeting;
12 Be it known to the king, that the Jews, who came up from thee to us, are come to Jerusalem, a rebellious and wicked city, which they are building, setting up the ramparts thereof, and repairing the walls.
13 And now be it known to the king, that if this city be built up, and the walls thereof repaired, they will not pay tribute nor toll, nor yearly revenues, and this loss will fail upon the kings.
14 But we, remembering the salt that we have eaten in the palace, and because we count it a crime to see the king wronged, have, therefore, sent and certified the king,
15 That search may be made in the books of the histories of thy fathers, and thou shalt find written in the records: and shalt know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful to the kings and provinces, and that wars were raised therein of old times: for which cause also, the city was destroyed.
16 We certify the king, that if this city be built, and the walls thereof repaired, thou shalt have no possession on this side of the river.
17 The king sent word to Reum Beelteem, and Samsai, the scribe, and to the rest that were in their council, inhabitants of Samaria, and to the rest beyond the river, sending greeting and peace.
18 The accusation, which you have sent to us, hath been plainly read before me;
19 And I commanded: and search hath been made, and it is found, that this city of old times hath rebelled against kings, and seditions and wars have been raised therein.
20 For there have been powerful kings in Jerusalem, who have had dominion over all the country that is beyond the river: and have received tribute, and toll, and revenues.
21 Now, therefore, hear the sentence: Hinder those men, that this city be not built, till further orders be given by me.
22 See that you be not negligent in executing this, lest by little and little the evil grow to the hurt of the kings.
23 Now the copy of the edict of king Artaxerxes was read before Reum Beelteem, and Samsai, the scribe, and their counsellors: and they went up in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews, and hindered them with arm and power.
24 Then the work of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem was interrupted, and ceased till the second year of the reign of Darius, king of the Persians.
1: Year of the World 3469.