Ezra 4:1-24 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Opposition to Rebuilding
Comments for Study 3

Ezra 4:1-24
Memory Verse: 4

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I. Opposition During Cyrus' Reign (4:1-5)

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>1. Who noticed that the temple was being built?

* Ezra 4:1 "When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel,"

* "the enemies of Judah and Benjamin"

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>How did they come to live in the land?

* Ezra 4:2 "they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, "Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here."

* "since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here"

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>What did they want to do?

* "Let us help you build because"

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>Why might their enemies suddenly want to do this?

* "like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him"

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>2. What was the Israelites response to their request? (3)

* Ezra 4:3 "But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, "You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us."

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>Was this a wise response?

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>3. What shows the motives of the enemies of God's people? (4)

* Ezra 4:4 "Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building."

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>To what extent did they seek to stop the work?

* Ezra 4:5 "They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia."

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>How is this like what happens today? (Matt. 7:15-20; Acts 15:23-24; and 1 John 2:18-19)

* Matthew 7:15-20 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

* Acts 15:23-24 "With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said."

* 1 John 2:18-19 "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

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II. Opposition During Xerxes' Reign (4:6)

>4. What did they do in Xerxes reign?

* Ezra 4:6 "At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem."

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>How did similar actions happen in Jesus ministry? (Matt. 9:34, 12:24)

* Matthew 9:34 "But the Pharisees said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."

* Matthew 12:24 "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."

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>Can we expect this in out ministry? (Matt. 24:9-14)

* Matthew 24:9-14 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

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III. Opposition During Artaxerxes Reign (4:7-24)

>5. What did they do in Artaxerxes reign? (7)

* Ezra 4:7 "And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language."

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>Who were they and where were they from? (8-9)

* Ezra 4:8-9 "Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates--the judges and officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa,"

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>How had they come to settle in Trnas-Euphrates? (10)

* Ezra 4:10 "and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates."

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>6. What did they call Jerusalem? (11-12)

* Ezra 4:11-12 "(This is a copy of the letter they sent him.) To King Artaxerxes, From your servants, the men of Trans-Euphrates: The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations."

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>What did they say would eventually happen? (13)

* Ezra 4:13 "Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer."

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>Why do most governments issue taxes?

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>What did Jesus teach about taxes? (Matt. 22:17-21, 17:24-27)

* Matthew 22:17-21 "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

* Matthew 17:24-27 "After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes--from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

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>7. What did they imply would happen if the temple and the rest of Jerusaelm would be restored? (14-16)

* Ezra 4:14-16 "Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates."

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>What did they base this claim on?

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>Was building the temple a real threat to the Persian empire?

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>8. What did the king do when he got the message? (17-19)

* Ezra 4:17-19 "The king sent this reply: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates: Greetings. The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition."

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>What did he discover? (20)

* Ezra 4:20 "Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them."

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>9. What did the king decide to do? (21-22)

* Ezra 4:21-22 "Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?"

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>How did Israel's enemies respond? (23)

* Ezra 4:23 "As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop."

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>10. How long did the work of the house of God stop?

* Ezra 4:24 "Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia."

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>What must have the people of God believed?

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>What should we do when it seems like the enemy is winning? (John 14:1)

* John 14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."

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