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©Michael Player

Chapter 4:7-16 (ESV)

Posted on October 11, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 4:7-16 (ESV) - In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 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. 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. 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, 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. 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.”

Question to consider: Would the history records corroborate the words spoken against Israel to King Artaxerxes?

Everything beyond, ‘The letter was written in Aramaic and translated,” until you get to Chapter 6:18 was written in Aramaic which is a separate but similar language from Hebrew. It is worth noting that King Artaxerxes came about a generation after the temple was completed, and the Israelites were working on rebuilding the city. This means that King Cyrus was long dead, and Artaxerxes had no knowledge of the promises he had made to Israel.

This was the perfect situation for these Samaritans to exploit because there definitely would have been evidence that Israel was as they had described. However, their circumstances had changed since that historical record, and so their letter was a false witness against them. They had agreed to abide by the decree of King Cyrus so to say that they would not pay tax or tribute and would be a problem for the king was to call into question their character.

In Luther’s explanation of God’s command concerning false witness, he wrote, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” Each of God’s commands contain an explicit negative and an implied positive. 

If you find yourself constructing a narrative about someone in order to promote a personal agenda, it should give you pause to use information from their past without considering whether it is still relevant. If you hear someone else promoting information that you know is no longer true about someone, it is ungodly to not speak up and defend the person being maligned.

Personally, if I were King Artaxerxes, I would have found this letter offensive because it called into question his knowledge of the kingdom and his ability to defend it.


Dear heavenly Father, please help us to protect the reputation of our neighbor and protect us from those who wish to slander us. Thank You for good friends who can be more faithful than a brother or sister. Amen.