Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 4:7-16

Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 4:7-16


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.


8 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:


9 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, 10 and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates.


11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.)


To King Artaxerxes,

From your servants, the men of Trans-Euphrates:


12 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.


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. 14 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, 15 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. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.


Ezra does something interesting here in his book. Verse 7 (about 463 BC) picks up about sixty years after verse 6 (about 520 BC). The letter here to King Artaxerxes describes the building of the wall around Jerusalem, not the rebuilding of the altar or of the temple. So why does Ezra suddenly switch gears? Ezra wanted to show the people that their ancestors faced problems similar to what they were experiencing. Tomorrow we’ll see the letter that King Artaxerxes sends in response to this letter.

For Christians today, the letters in Ezra (there are 7 of them) help show how the Lord fulfilled his promise to deliver his Old Testament people. As God’s News Testament saints, we see how this deliverance segues into the coming of Christ. Jesus is God’s ultimate fulfillment of his promise to deliver his people, to which all other fulfilled prophecies point. God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us that he will be faithful today. God will surely deliver also us from our foes, trials, and sufferings, either now in time or most certainly in eternity. He promises us so in his Word.

(Note: This one is for all you literary buffs out there. The question has arisen, “Why did Ezra include letters in non-chronological order?” It actually serves an important function. It makes use of a literary device called “resumptive repetition,” which inserts present events into the past to show how the events are related.)