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and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, as Solomon did; according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia, who had commanded these people to assist them.
Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, (the first being taken up in preparing the ground, providing materials, and celebrating their feasts) in the second month began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD, to encourage the workmen, and promote the work in the best 9 manner they could. Then stood Jeshua, the Levite mentioned in ch. ii. 40. (not the high priest) [with] his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, 10 [with] their sons and their brethren the Levites. And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel; they celebrated this event with 11 great joy, while the sacrifice was offering. And they sang together by course, that is, alternately, answering one to another, in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because [he is] good, for his mercy [endureth] for ever toward Israel.* And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was 12 laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, [who were] ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, 13 wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.†
1. is to enter T
new settlements with solemn
Our first care should be to build an altar and begin with God; especially when peculiar difficulties and hazards are before us.
Their subject were those psalms of David, especially the hundred and thirty sixth, where this is the chorus. Those who had skill expressed their joy in music, and others by shouting.
All this was very natural. The young people, who were bred up in Babylon, had only beard of the former temple, and were glad to see one now erecting. But some of the old people, who remembered the first, wept; partly on account of its destruction, and the calamities of the nation, which now came fully to their remembrance; and partly, to think how far this would come short of the former; for though it had the same dimensions, the stones were less costly, and it had not such ornaments. But especially as the chief things were wanting, the ark, and the Shekinah. the Urim, and the holy fire, and the spirit of prophecy. As it was but between fifty and sixty years since the first temple was destroyed, many might remember this. Had Ezra forged the books of Moses and the rites of the Jewish worship, as some have intimated, here were enow to discover the fraud, and it is not likely he could have engaged so many priests and Levites in it.
When going into new settlements, relations, occupations or houses, we should take God with us; keep up a sense of his presence, and our dependence on him; and this will make every thing go on prosperously.
2. No fear of enemies ought to retard us in the service of God, but, on the contrary, excite us to it. Fear should drive us to our knees, to make God our friend; for he shall be kept in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on God. Happy is he who trusts in the Lord, for he shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. Psalm cxii. 7.
3. Let us labour to do the duty of every day in its proper course and order. So these Jews did, ch. iii. 4. as the duty of every day required; with prudent thought and forecast. Let us think what is the duty of every day to God and man; what our stations and circumstances call for; and what is the proper business of every day. The Lord's day is for devotion and religion; in working days, we must keep up secret and family prayer; a sense of God; and be diligent in our callings. There are duties of prosperous and afflictive days! It is a great part of christian wisdom and prudence to think of these things; and it will tend much to the order, regularity, credit, and happiness of our lives and families to do so.
4. Let us all do what we can in our several stations to set forward he work of God's house, and promote the interest of religion. Magistrates, like Zerubbabel, and ministers, like Jeshua, should act vigorously, and encourage others. It is the business of every one to do something; the poorest and meanest may be helpers by their prayers, examples, and exhortations. And those in better stations, by all those means, and by their purses too, should strengthen others' hands; set forward every good design, and quicken others to love and to all good works.
5. When God gives us a prospect that he is raising his temple and reviving religion, let us praise him for these mercies. We should not despise the day of small things; but rejoice in every appearance of the divine favour. Though the circumstances should be distressing, and the work great and hazardous, still let us give thanks to God, for he is good. This should be the burden of every song, on earth and in heaven too. O that our hearts were always in tune for it!
6. How different is the most joyful day of the church on earth, from its triumph in heaven! This motley scene is an emblem of what will happen amidst the church's greatest prosperity and tri umph on earth. Many weep, while many rejoice. We must expect a mixture of joy and sorrow in this world. Let us learn to weep, as though we wept not; and to rejoice as though we rejoiced not; and long for that day when the spiritual temple shall be finish ed; when the top stone shall be laid with rejoicing, and not one weeping eye or sorrowful heart be found in all the general assembly of the church of the firstborn in heaven. In the prospect of this, Let us give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever.
The building is hindered by those whose assistance the Jews had refus ed; they write to Artaxerxes; who orders the progress of the work to be stopped.
TOW when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin* heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto 2 the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you for we seek your God, as ye [do ;] and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither; they wanted to partake of the privileges granted them by Cyrus, with whom the Jews seemed to be a favourite people. They praised their religion and their zeal, and professed to worship the same God as they did, but said nothing of the 3 other gods which they worshipped with him. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. They refused for two reasons; because they were not of the same religion, but worshipped other gods as well as Jehovah, and because Cyrus had granted a license only to the Jews, ⚫and therefore they would not give him offence by taking those people 4 into alliance with them. Then the people of the land weakened
the hands of the people of Judah, by false reports, slanders, and threatenings, and troubled them in building, hindering them from getting materials and provision, enticing away the workmen, and 5 the like, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, bribed some of the king of Persia's counsellors and officers in these parts, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until 6 the reign of Darius king of Persia.† And in the reign of Ahasuerus, or Cambyses, the son and successor of Darius, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they [unto him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, but they did 7 not prevail with him to grant any prohibition. And in the days of Artaxerxes, or, Smerdis, his successor, whose reign was but a few months, wrote Bishlam, Mithridath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter [was] written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue, in the Syrian characters and words; or rather, it was interpreted from the Syrian tongue into 8 the Persian. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this
•These adversaries of the Jews were the nations which the king of Assyria had sent to people the land of Israel, and were afterward called Samaritans.
†Their solicitations had no effect in the time of Cyrus, who was much prejudiced in their favour; yet there was but little done: the Samaritans drew off the working people, and prevented their having materials; the officers of Cyrus were corrupted. All these discouragements, and their own growing indolence, prevented the work going forward with any vigour.
9 sort: Then [wrote] Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the chief men of the nation united to send it; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, 10 the Susanchites, the Dehavites, [and] the Elamites,* And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappert brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria and the rest [that are] on 11 this side the river, and at such a time. This [is] the copy of
the letter that they sent unto him, [even] unto Artaxerxes the king; and a very artful one it is; there is some truth, but much falsehood, and more suspicion; Thy servants the men on this 12 side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king,
that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city; this was partly true, as some of their last kings had rebelled against the king of Babylon; and have set up the walls [thereof,] and joined the foundations; this was false, for they had not yet attempted to 13 build the walls. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be
builded, and the walls set up [again, then] will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, they will set up to be independent, and [so] 14 thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from [the king's] palace, receive a salary from the court, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dis15 honour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city [is] a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time : for which cause was this city destroyed; there was some truth, but much falsehood in this; they had rebelled latterly, but in former times they were obedient enough, and there was no such attempt as 16 they pretended. We certify the king that, if this city be builded [again,] and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river; they will conquer all the adjacent country, or drive them to rebellion against the Persian king.
[Then] sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and [to] Shimshai the scribe, and [to] the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and [unto] the rest beyond 18 the river, Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us, hath been plainly read before me, probably read in the 19 council. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and
it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and [that] rebellion and sedition have been made therein; an instance or two just before the destruction of the city, 20 had laid this odious character upon them. There have been
These are names of towns in Assyria, whose inhabitants were transported to people the Jand of Israel.
He was a person ef eminence, employed by the king of Assyria to conduct and settle this colony.
in the margin of our biodes it is, we are salted with the salt of the palace. Some sup pose that the ir stipend was in salt, which they sold; or salt may be put for provisions in general.
mighty kings also over Jerusalem, David and Solomon, which have ruled over all [countries] beyond the river; and toll, tribute and custom, was paid unto them, as now, to the king of 21 Persia. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to
cease, and that this city be not builded, until [another] com22 mandment shall be given from me Take heed now that ye
fail not to do this: why should damage grow to, the hurt of 23 the kings? Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter [was]
read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and 24 made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. There was nothing in the king's orders about the temple; but the Samaritans prevented that work as much as possible, having a spite against it; they thought if that was rebuilt, and the worship continued, it would be a fatal blow to their superstition. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia; Darius Hystaspes who succeeded Cambyses about two years after the last decree.
HE work of God seldom goes on but Satan will stir up of Cyrus, to grant them such an edict, they thought themselves happy; but they find enemies at home, first to cajole, and then to terrify them, and they used all the arts of cunning and falsehood to effect their purposes. Religion will meet with struggles and opposition; the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman are still at variance; and those who are remarkably zealous for God will be sure to meet with discouragements. If we have less of this than our fathers had, it is not because Satan and the world are mended, but because our zeal is less, and our opposition to Satan's kingdom not so formidable.
2. We are taught hence not to wonder if false accusations and slanders are thrown on the faithful servants of God. It has been so of old; the enemy is the accuser of the brethren, and too many now are like him, accusing them of being enemies to Cesar, seditious, and rebellious. They have need of the wisdom of the serpent and the innocence of the dove to guard against such designs. Let us faithfully attend to the present duty, the duty of the day in its day; and trust in God to deliver us from those who shoot out their arrows, even bitter words, against us.
3. Having all from God, let us not see him dishonoured without vigorous endeavours to prevent it. The argument of these officers, v. 13, was good in itself, but ill applied. If they thought themselves obliged to support the honour and revenues of the crown, because they had their maintenance from the king's palace, surely we who have our maintenance from God, owe all to him, and depend on him for all we wish and hope, should not see or hear him dishon 6