7.48 Ezra-Nehemiah -- the Foreign Factor

No sooner was the Temple's foundation completed than "the enemies of Judah and Benjamin" showed up with an offer of help.  These enemies were residents of the former kingdom of Israel who were resettled there by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, around 675.  They claimed to worship the God of Israel.  However they were polytheists, whose primary allegiance was to the deities of their native lands.  Later, they became known as Samaritans. Zerubbabel rightly rejected their offer to join in rebuilding the Temple, because they had neither the knowledge of the true God and His Law, nor any hereditary ties to Abraham and Jacob.

        

On the other hand, what we have here is a precursor of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine of 1947.  The resettlement of the Jews to Palestine following World War 2 encountered some of the same problems caused by Cyrus' edict of return in 538 BC.  Namely -- there were already people occupying the land.  Admittedly, in Cyrus' day, these new inhabitants hadn't been there very long, but when you suddenly plop 50,000 immigrants into the midst of existing towns and farms, there had to be severe problems of dispossession and multiple claims on property.  It was not the Samaritans' fault that they were there -- they hadn't invaded the land, they were as dispossessed as the Jews were.  But Zerubbabel had eyes only for Jerusalem and the rights of the Jews, and these local residents were a threat to the mission of resurrecting the holy nation.  This attitude of rejection led to decades of harassment and obstruction.

        

The opponents schemed against the Jews in the court of Cyrus and his successors:

         Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:24).

Cyrus died in 530, Darius reigned from 522-486.  This means that work on the Temple ceased from around 535 to 520.