Ezra 4 has a big change of events. “When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple….let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do”. The enemies weren’t truly offering to help. They wanted to infiltrate and stop the building. But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leadership saw right through the ploy. “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord”. So this first attempt to derail the project doesn’t work.
But they don’t give up. They used some different tactics:
- the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build
- bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose
- wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah
But these didn’t work. The work continued and the enemies of Judah and Jerusalem know they have to stop things before the walls are rebuilt. So they go political and reach out to the king.
They decide to send a letter to the king that painted a picture that allowing the rebuilding to continue will yield a bad situation for the king based on history. The letter said “They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city….this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired….it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor….You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city”. It was a warning that if the king doesn’t intervene, bad things will come.
Artaxerxes the king bites hook line and sinker. He tells his representatives to “make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me….and take care not to be slack in this matter”. Not only putting a stop to the project, but instructing that to happen sooner than later. He was afraid of the potential that a rebuilt Jerusalem would have to his future. And as a result, “the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped”. Big detour on the plan to rebuild God’s temple and city.