The people that lived in the land during Judah’s captivity don’t want them to rebuild. They will do whatever they can to stop it, including subterfuge.
I wanted to know how long it took to rebuild the Temple so I did a little Google research. The first thing I looked at was a timeline for the kings of Persia. We know from our reading that the first Cyrus was the king of Persia who sent the Jews home to rebuild the House of the Lord. His reign began in 550 AD. It took at least two years before the foundation was laid and ready to be built upon. We are told that the neighbors ‘frustrated’ the builders “even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (verse 5b). There is a 28 year difference between their start dates on the throne. There is more than 100 years between the first Cyrus and the second Darius so we can eliminate him.
Another name is mentioned in our reading and it is Ahasuerus. I looked to see who he was being that name was not given in the timeline I found for Persia. Christiananswers.net states that he “was possibly the Cambyses of secular history, the son and successor of Cyrus (B.C. 529).” They list three kings with this name. This still leaves me not knowing for certain who he was since we are not given another name for him. I’m going to have to let this one go, for now, because I’ve hit a dead end. Unless Ahasuerus was another name for Darius or Ahasuerus ruled another kingdom, I can’t fit him into my picture of the situation. And my investigation into him didn’t help me narrow down the question of how long it took to build the Temple one bit.
What we can say for sure about the rebuilding of the Temple was that it was not a ‘barn raising’ event. Two things separate these building projects. The first is that in a ‘barn raising’ they invite ALL the neighbors and they work together to build a barn or house or whatever structure for a single family. The second is that in a ‘barn raising’ the barn is built in a single day.
The returnees from captivity had quite a few neighbors that didn’t really want them there. It had been 70 years of life without them. I don’t know if they would have called it a ‘better’ life with Judah gone but it was at least different. Now that the people of Judah had returned, diminished greatly in number, the resources of the area (including land) had to be stretched. We have no way of knowing how many people were pushed out of the homes, the farms or the cities by the returning Jews. King Cyrus gave the land back to the people with his decree. But the Jews had to do the knocking and asking before the people left. I know I would have some hurt feelings if the house that I had raised my family in for the last 70 years was suddenly taken away. How was I to know the ‘original owner’ would come back for it? I certainly wouldn’t be inclined to be helpful to such a group. But it is also possible that God gave those who ‘came home’ favor in the eyes of the ones they were displacing. Yet that didn’t extend to everyone in the area.
Some of the ‘neighbors’ offered to help. I’m interested in why they were turned away. It would seem like the Jews could have used the help. And the offer, on the surface appeared genuine. But what would accepting the offer really mean?
First it would mean that those who helped build the new Temple would have to be welcome in it. NO ONE is going to agree to put their hard labor into something that they are excluded from, especially when it is a public building. Those doing the work expect so of the reward in one form or another.
The second consideration is what the ‘neighbor’s contributions’ would mean to the House spiritually. Would the work have been done with the right heart? Would it have been done with ‘clean hands’? Would including those not of the children of God have left a special stain of impurity on the finished project?
Third issue would be if the god they claimed to be serving was truly the Lord God of Heaven and earth. The people claimed they were serving Israel’s God but their practices most likely were not those prescribed by the Lord in His Law. They thought they knew the God Israel was serving but how could they be certain? They probably thought like Cyrus did, that the God of Judah was the God of the land of Jerusalem, NOT the God who is so vast that the earth is His footstool. So including these ‘misguided’ souls in their building process would make the building represent split purposes. And we already know that God will NOT share!
Are these the reasons the people of Judah and Benjamin rejected the help of the neighbors? Did God tell them to remain separate, even in this? God separated a people unto Himself and called them to live according to His statutes. I have a feeling that the newly released Jews didn’t want to risk making any mistakes and returning to being on God’s bad side.
Only when the time was complete for Jesus’ work on the cross did He throw the doors open wide for the rest of the world. This was not that time. There is an order for everything. His order in perfect and when we try to mess with it things tend to get into a BIG mess. I don’t know why God allowed the ‘neighbors’ to be such a big issue. Maybe the returnees’ faith was being built with these struggles. I don’t know why He wouldn’t allow others, including the Israelites who remained in the land during this group’s captivity, to help build His house. Maybe their intent was evil all along. What I do know is that God had a plan all along and He worked that plan out completely. And it resulted in you and me being able to know Him and be called His children. I’ll take than, no matter how it strains the relations with the ‘neighbors’, even today.
Father God, I want to stand firm on Your truths. I want to be able to withstand all the false doctrines and compromises that would make my heart impure and unclean. Don’t let me allow those who don’t speak Your truth to pour into it or help me ‘build my house.’ Keep me in order with YOUR plan and timing.