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©Michael Player

Chapter 4:1-6 (ESV)

Posted on October 10, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 4:1-6 (ESV) - Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers' houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

Question to consider: Why was it a good idea for Zerubbabel to reject the help that was offered to him?

In case you are tempted to fault Zerubbabel for refusing help from people who told him they worshiped the God of Israel, we are given the first clue that those who made the request were known adversaries of Judah and Benjamin. If it was the case that these adversaries had repented of their past conflicts, they should have understood why Zerubbabel would desire to leave the task of building the temple to the Israelites.

King Cyrus had not made a decree that allowed for this kind of help. I’m sure Cyrus figured that with only 42,360 Israelites working with the materials he supplied for the project, the city and temple would be limited in its size and scope and not become a threat to his kingdom. However, if they received help from the surrounding nations, it could be seen as Israel colluding with the nations to overthrow the Medes and the Persians.

I think we should also consider the fact that rebuilding their city and temple was a big part of Israel rebuilding their relationship with God. Each brick that was laid served as part of the healing process, and inviting outsiders into the project could serve to short circuit this. It would also be difficult to tell outsiders that they were not allowed in the temple after they took part in building it.

We know that their plan “to help” would probably have looked more like sabotage considering their reaction to Zerubbabel. Most likely, they heard the loud cry of the people celebrating the completion of the foundation, and they were afraid of what a strong Israel would look like. Without being given the chance to sabotage them from within, they exerted external pressure on them. This replaced the spirit of gratitude and joy in building a dwelling place for God with one of fear and doubt.

In case we were to think that this was a one-time event, we are told that they continued to work against the Israelites all the way through the building of the city and temple from Cyrus to Darius to Xerxes to Artaxerxes. God’s promises come to pass even though we have an adversary who continually works against us. It is a rare event when the people of God are not subject to trials and tribulations while doing the work of Christ in the world. As Peter wrote to the church scattered throughout Asia Minor, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)


Dear heavenly Father, please give us a spirit of gratitude and courage when we face adversaries who do not want us to pursue what is right. Help us to discern when we should stand and fight and when we should wipe the dust from our sandals and move on. In all things, help us to pray and offer ourselves as Your servants in Jesus’ name. Amen.