Do you remember that the neighbours of the Israelites set up a campaign of opposition? They wrote a letter? Today, in Ezra 4:7-16 we get to read about that situation.
7 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. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 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, 10 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. 11 (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 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.”
These are the folks making trouble for the Israelites: 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. All these folks gathered together to right a letter to the King.
Now they go a great job of making it look like they are looking out for Artaxerxes.
First they make a statement of their grievance: these Israelites are rebuilding a city known to be rebellious. (see they are troublemakers!)
Second: the foundation are built, the walls are built… They are making progress!!!
Here’s the big problem: they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired.
The sucking up part: We eat what you give us.. we can’t let this dishonour happen!
The task/the action: Check your records, see for yourself how this city has been rebellious and wicked! See how hurtful they have been to other kings.
The warning: if you let them complete the building you won’t be able to own the land they are living on!
Do you see how they build their case eh? How they posit that the Israelites are such a great threat? They are such a rebellious people so watch out oh king! Cause we honour you so very much, we can’t let them dishonour you at all! I wonder how much of that was hog-wash and how much was just bad feelings cause the Israelites turned down their offer of aid. It is rather hard to know right? We aren’t living there in the day, and I don’t know all the history.
Tomorrow I hope we find out the result of the letter. Time will tell!