There is history that must be understood, so that we can comprehend a later decision made by the Jewish leaders. “In 722 B.C., the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and deported many of the residents of Samaria and its surroundings to other Assyrian provinces. They brought deportees from other conquered territories to Samaria to take their place. Excavations at Tel Hadid, near Lod in Israel, have unearthed material remains that contribute to our understanding of these transformative years.” (Source) The below artifact is from that same time period.
Ashurbanipal later became the king of the Neo-Assyrian empire. At the time of his reign (669–c. 631 BC) it was the largest empire in the world, stretching from Cyprus in the west to Iran in the east, and at one point it even included Egypt.
Ashurbanipal had resettled Samaria with foreigners, as was his typical strategy for nations that he had defeated in war. He carried defeated people (like the ancient Israelites) away and relocated them far from their homeland by placing them in Samaria. This allowed Ashurbanipal to strip them of their religion to insert his own.
Now it is 538 B.C. to 515 B.C.
These resettled peoples believed they could simply add the God of all creation to their long list of idols, and so they invented their own syncretistic religious practices, a type of Yahwism.
These people whom the Assyrians had moved into the area around Jerusalem while the Jewish people were in captivity asked if they could help the Jews build their temple. These Assyrians claimed that they also worshiped God.
Knowing the history of the people of Samaria and their worship of any number of idols, Zerubbabel and Jeshua the priest told the Assyrians that they did not want their help. Only the Jews could build and they would be under the instruction of the priests.
Of course, the Assyrian men then began to harass and to threaten them, doing everything they could to frighten and to discourage the Jewish people who were working so hard to build and to restore the temple.
These evil men bribed people to frustrate their purposes all during Cyrus the Persian’s remaining days and even throughout the reign of Darius the next King of Persia.What would you do if, seventy years later, you were repairing the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and now, you still face opposition on every side? #Faith #OldTestament Click To Tweet
The Letter to King Artaxerxes
The Assyrian king Osnapper, a king similar to the ancient Assyrian king Ashurbanipal of 669-633 B.C., wrote to King Artaxerxes in the universal language of Aramaic, including a list of other men who had important titles, who all wanted to stop the Jews’ building project: (Ezra 4:9-10 ESV). He wrote:
“11a (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.)
“11bTo Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations.13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired.14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king,15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste.16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River” (Ezra 4:11b-16 ESV).
The threat was, of course, exaggerated. They left and the king then performed his due diligence.
What would you do if you were the king?
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