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them “the manner of the God of the land,” that they might know how to appease him. An Israelitish priest was accordingly sent back to Samaria; who taught the people the worship of Jehovah, according to the law of Moses. Thenceforward these heathen colonists worshipped the true God in connexion with their idols. Meanwhile, by intermarriages with the remnants of the Israelites who were left in the kingdom, they had corrupted whatever remained of the pure Hebrew blood, so that, at the time of Zerubbabel, the inhabitants were neither Hebrews by lineal descent, nor were they free from the taint of idolatry. Still, they worshipped the true God, and had a copy of the law of Moses. They were called Samaritans, from their chief city Samaria.
When the Jews had laid the foundations of their temple at Jerusalem, and were proceeding to build, these Samaritans sent a deputation “to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, ‘Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, [Assyria,] which brought us up hither.” Ezra iv, 2. This was plainly a proposition to be admitted into the Hebrew family, and incorporated, as children of the covenant, into the Jewish nation. It was, therefore, promptly rejected. The answer of the Jews to them was : “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus, the king of Persia, hath commanded us.” Ezra iv, 3. Had they applied for admission into the Hebrew Church as proselytes, their offer might have been accepted with favour, upon their submitting to the proper conditions. But the Jews were very jealous of their national rights, and of the purity of their lineal descent. Their peculiar religious institutions forced upon them a separation from the Gentile nations; and their high religious destiny as a people, gave an exclusiveness to their commonwealth. Their genealogical lists had always been preserved with the greatest care, so that every member of the nation was registered in the public census; and on their return from Babylon none were admitted to the rank of citizens in the commonwealth, but such as could prove their Hebrew ancestry by the public registers. Ezra ii, 59–63.
The refusal of the Jews to admit the Samaritans into their Church and commonwealth, awakened in the latter the most bitter resentment and hostility. From that day to the present hour the enmity between the Jews and Samaritans has been proverbial. In the time of Christ it excluded even the interchange of the common offices of humanity. But if the Samaritans were unreasonable in their first request to be admitted into the Hebrew family, they were malicious and persevering in their subsequent opposition. For fifteen years they succeeded in frustrating the purpose of the Jewish builders, by threats, by intrigues, and by false accusations. Cyrus lived five years after the foundation of the temple was laid; but whether a partial alienation from the Jewish cause, or foreign wars, or the engrossing cares of his vast empire, prohibited his giving attention to this feeble Jewish colony and their local affairs, is unknown; it is certain, however, that the Jews received no further special favour from his princely liberality. About the same time the Prophet Daniel died, and a powerful friend and patron of the Jewish cause was removed by that event. Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses, called Ahasuerus in Ezra iv, 6. He was a wicked, cruel monster of a king, called a “Madman” by his own subjects. Before this worthless monarch, the Samaritans laid a formal written accusation against the Jews of Jerusalem; and though we are not informed of the reply of Cambyses, yet, from his known character, we may well infer that no favour could arise to the Jews from such a source. Cambyses reigned seven years and five months, and was succeeded by the usurper Smerdis, called Artaxerxes in Ezra iv, 7. In the beginning of his reign the Samaritans renew their accusations against the Jews, in such an adroit manner and with such falsehood, that they now obtain an edict ordering the Jews to cease from their work. A record of this whole transaction is preserved in the fourth chapter of the book of Ezra.
On receiving a copy of this edict, the Samaritans exulted, and hastened to Jerusalem, and forced the Jews to desist from their work. Hitherto it appears they had been only annoyed and retarded, many of them dispirited, and the work delayed, but not altogether abandoned. Now, however, they wholly
desisted from building, and yielded themselves up to gloomy discouragement. It was, indeed, an hour of darkness. The labour of reviving the city and temple from their ashes, and the nation from its ruins, was one of appalling magnitude, with all the favour contemplated and provided for in the decree of Cyrus; but now their royal patron was no more, the neighbouring tribes were hostile, much of their first resources was cut off, and their enemy occupied the throne. Under these circumstances their first glow of religious zeal declined, and many neglected the altar, and the precepts of Moses. This defection is denounced in Psalm crxv, and in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. The Psalms on this occasion solemnly execrate the enemies of Zion, and speak the language of a sad, oppressed, but hopeful heart.
ON THE OPPOSITION OF THE SAMARITANS TO THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE.
The Psalmist rehearses the many afflictions of Israel, 1–3; the miserable lot of those who hate Zion, 4–8.
T A Song of Degrees.
1 'Many a time have they afflicted me from "my youth, May "Israel now say; * Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth; Yet they have not prevailed against me. * The ploughers ploughed upon my back; They made long their furrows. 4 The Lord is righteous; He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. * Let them all be confounded and turned back That hate Zion. * Let them be as “the grass upon the housetops, Which withereth afore it groweth up;
1 Or, much. * See Ezekiel 23.8. Hosea 2. 15. and 11.1. b Psa. 124, 1. c Paa, 87, 2,
7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand,
* Neither do they which go by say,
ON THE OPPOSITION OF THE SAMARITANS TO THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE.
The safety of such as trust in God, 1, 2; their protection against the oppression of the wicked, 3; a prayer for the godly, 4; and a solemn warning to the wicked. 5.
T A Song of Degrees.
1 They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, Which cannot be removed, but abideth forever. * As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people From henceforth even forever. 3 For "the rod of 'the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. * Do good, O Lord! unto those that be good, And to them that are upright in their hearts. * As for such as turn aside unto their "crooked ways, The LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity; But ‘peace shall be upon Israel.
a Prov. 22. S. 1 Heb. wickedness. t Psa. 128. 6. Isa. 14. 5. b Prov. 2. 15. Gal. 6, 16.
INTRODUCTION TO PSALM CXXXVIII.
Smerdis, who had totally prohibited the building of the temple, as we have seen in the preceding Introduction, reigned but seven months. As he was a usurper, his edicts were of no force in the empire in the succeeding reign. His successor, Darius Hystaspes, called simply Darius in Scripture, (Ezra iv, 5, 24, &c.; Haggai i, 1,) was a prince of mild disposition and generous character, who had married Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, and entertained a high veneration for the acts and memory of that monarch. Under these circumstances, the Jews might have at once resumed the building of the temple with safety. No edict existed in force against them, and the present Persian monarch was favourably disposed. But it became sadly evident that they had relaxed their zeal, and swerved in their fidelity. Many, who were influenced by motives of gain, had found a ready excuse for devoting all their time to their lands, and the erection and beautifying of their own habitations. Others affected to believe that, as seventy years had not elapsed since the destruction of the first temple, the time had not arrived for rebuilding, according to the prediction of Jeremiah. Chapter xxv, 11, 12. Others, still, felt little spirit in prosecuting the work, on account of the inferiority of the present edifice to that of Solomon. The nation was fast receding from its first zeal and purpose, and in the neglect of the altar and of public enterprise, each turned his attention to his own gains.
It was in this critical hour, when the religion and nationality of the Jews were problems of doubtful solution, and a dark cloud overhung their future prospects, that God remembered his people and his covenant, and raised up the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah. In the second year of Darius Hystaspes, fifteen years after the foundation of the temple was laid, these faithful messengers of Jehovah opened their mission. Haggai i, 1; Zechariah i, 1. They refuted the false reasonings of the people, denounced their pride and covetousness, reprov