(24 verses, 4:17 to read)
What I am about to READ
- The returned exiles face opposition in rebuilding the temple.
- vv. 1-6 give a record of the opposition of the current inhabitants of Judah as beginning with an offer to assist in building the temple and ending with letters written to halt the project entirely.
- vv. 7-16 is the letter sent to King Artaxerxes to get him to stop the construction of the temple.
- vv. 17-24 is the letter King Artaxerxes sent in response to the above letter, wherein he halts the construction of the temple by royal decree.
- As construction on the temple continues after the laying of the foundation in chapter three, the “people of the land” initially offer to help in reconstruction, saying they have been sacrificing to the God of Israel from the days of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (v. 2). These people are descendants of those people resettled in Israel after the Northern Kingdom’s downfall in 722 B.C. The Assyrians, like the Babylonians, often deported their conquered enemies to other parts of their empire in order to remove any remaining national identity and prevent future uprising by assimilating them into the culture of the empire. When this happened initially, the Lord sent lions to punish those the Assyrians brought in to settle Samaria and the rest of the Northern Kingdom. In response, the Assyrian king sent Israelite priests back to the area in an effort to appease God. This resulted in a mixture of worship that featured many different gods from the ancient world (see II Kings 17:24-41). We refer to this today as syncretism, which is engaging in joint worship with those who believe in a different god. It is no wonder those in charge of rebuilding the temple rejected this offer, seeing that it could result in worship of false gods in the Jerusalem temple–the very reason they were cast out of the land in the first place.
- The people of the land (later known in the New Testament as Samaritans) bribed their local officials and wrote to the king to halt the project. Their reasoning includes accusations that the old inhabitants of Jerusalem were rebellious and would disrupt the commerce of the empire. King Artaxerxes himself decrees that the project be halted. This shows the lengths to which the enemies of God will go to stop His people from hallowing His name and letting His kingdom come. But the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that God breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature in this regard. God not only keeps His promises to His people, but He also desires to plant the Church, where the means of grace are available for sinners to have access to Him that they might have eternal life.
- Prayer:Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. Curb those who feign by craft and sword would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son and bring to naught all He hath done. Amen.
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-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN
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