by Ken Cayce

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Ezra Explained

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Book of Ezra Explained

"Title": Even though Ezra's name does not enter the account of Judah's post-Exilic return to Jerusalem until 7:1, the book bears his name meaning ("Jehovah helps"), as a title. This is because both Jewish and Christian tradition attribute authorship to this famous scribe-priest. New Testament writers do not quote the book of Ezra.

"Author - Date": Ezra is most likely the author of both Ezra and Nehemiah, which might have originally been one book. Ezra 4:8 - 6:18 and 7:12-26 are written in Aramaic. Although Ezra never states his authorship, internal arguments favor him strongly. After his arrival in Jerusalem (ca. 458 B.C.), he changed from writing in the third person to writing in the first person. In the earlier section it is likely that he had used the third person because he was quoting his memoirs. Ezra is believed to possibly be the author of the books of the Chronicles. It would have been natural for the same author to continue the Old Testament narrative by showing how God fulfilled His promise by returning His people to the Land after 70 years of captivity. There is also a strong priestly tone in Chronicles, and Ezra was a priestly descendant of Aaron (compare 7:1-15). The concluding verses of 2 Chronicles (36:22-23) are virtually identical to the beginning verses of Ezra (1:1-3a), affirming his authorship of both.

No direct indication of authorship has been preserved in the book itself, making it similar to other Old Testament writings in particular, and other ancient Near Eastern literature in general. The Talmud attributes 1 and 2 Chronicles as well as Ezra-Nehemiah to Ezra, but adds that the work was completed by Nehemiah. The overwhelming majority of modern scholars has agreed almost without question, that all of the above material, excluding the Nehemiah memoirs, was written by the same author-compiler, usually identified as "the chronicler."

Internal evidence points to the fact that Ezra wrote the book, for in 7:27 - 9:15, the author refers to himself in the first person. He used various documents (4:7-16), genealogies (2:1-70), and personal memoirs (7:27 - 9:15), as his sources. He may have used Nehemiah's library facilities and thus composed Chronicles during the same period. Ezra 7:10 records that he "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances." This implies that he had spent a long time in preparation for the task, and it also supports the tradition making him almost a second Moses. Ezra's primary title in the introduction of his memoirs (verses 1-10) is "scribe", which becomes the new designation for the spiritual leader of the community in this new era of its life. As a scribe, his primary task was the study and exposition of the law.

"Background - Setting": God had originally brought Israel out of the slave markets of Egypt in the Exodus (ca. 1445 B. C.). Hundreds of years later, before the events of Ezra, God told His people that if they chose to break their covenant with Him, He would again allow other nations to take them into slavery (Jer. 2:14-25). In spite of God's repeated warnings from the mouths of His prophets, Israel and Judah chose to reject their Lord and to participate in the worship of foreign gods, in addition to committing the abominable practices which accompanied idolatry (compare 2 Kings 17:7-18; Jer. 2:7-13). True to His promise, God brought the Assyrians and Babylonians to issue His chastisement upon wayward Israel and Judah.

In 722 B.C. the Assyrians deported the 10 northern tribes and scattered them all over their empire (compare 2 Kings 17:24-41; Isa. 7:8). Several centuries later, in 605-586 B.C., God used the Babylonians to sack and nearly depopulate Jerusalem. Because Judah persisted in her unfaithfulness to the covenant, God chastened His people with 70 years of captivity (Jer. 25:11), from which they returned to Jerusalem as reported by Ezra and Nehemiah. Cyrus the Persian, overthrew Babylon in 539 B.C., and the book of Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus one year later for the Jews to return to Jerusalem (ca. 538 B.C.), and it chronicles the reestablishment of Judah's national calendar of feasts and sacrifices, including the rebuilding of the second temple (begun in 536 B.C. and completed in 516 B.C.).

The fall of Jerusalem and the Exile of the Jews had brought to an end the hopes placed in their nation-state and the national destiny. Hopes fueled by the secure confidence that God had chosen Zion eternally as His earthly seat, and had unconditionally promised David an eternal dynasty (2 Sam. 7:14-16). The problem was that this theology had become separated from the demand for obedience to the covenant stipulations. The prophets provided the same approach that the awful end of the nation was God's judgment for the nation's sin and breaking of covenant obligations, but they also proclaimed a strong faith in God's ultimate redemption. Out of this understanding and hope, and the benevolent policy of the Persians, the restoration of the nation was born, and a new community was begun in Palestine after Cyrus's decree in 538 B.C. By the third quarter of the following century, this community was firmly established both physically and religiously.

Through the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel's new identity centered on the law and the temple. At this crucial time in the nation's history, God's redemptive acts forced Israel to focus on the form and content of religious life and practice. Thus in exile, Israel became more faithful to God's law than ever before. The extreme neglect of the law In Israel's life before the Exile is revealed in the incident of the finding of "the book of the law" during the renovation of the temple in Josiah's eighteenth year (621 B.C.). After such a long period of disuse, its discovery provided the major impetus for Josiah's reform. Such an event would have been utterly impossible in the postexilic period of Ezra and Nehemiah's time.

The primary architect of Israel's new identity was Ezra the priest, the "ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6). Ezra's royal commission authorized him "to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God" (verse 14). In addition to bringing offerings from the court (verses 15-20), Ezra had authority to appoint magistrates and judges (verse 25), and to invoke punishment on those who failed to comply (verse 26).

Several key themes revolve around the phrase "the hand of our God" (8:22), and include the idea of God's being the Creator and Sustainer of "heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host" (Neh. 9:6; a strong emphasis on the covenant-faithfulness). The thought of God's working with as well as in His people. The emphasis upon the continuity of the people of God with historic Israel, whose identity was carried on by the remnant (Ezra 2:2b); and the idea of separation from the taints of heathenism.

There are three successive major concerns in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah: the temple, the law, and the wall. The community was priestly. As such, the people were called to offer worship, to be a people of the Book, and to rebuild the wall, which almost became a symbol of Israel's separatism. Actually in Ezra and Nehemiah, the nation Israel is pictured as cut down almost to its roots, but drawing a new vitality from its neglected source of nourishment in the Mosaic Law.

"Historical Setting": The setting of Ezra is the postexilic era when the faithful Israelites were returning from Babylon to Judah, so they could reestablish their temple worship. The temple and temple worship are vital subjects in all the books written during the postexilic period (1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). The people who returned to the land of Promise were publicly acknowledging that they believed God would reestablish the nation and usher in a time of kingdom blessing.

The three primary leaders of the return from exile were Zerubbabel (who rebuilt the temple), Ezra (who rebuilt the spiritual integrity of the people), and Nehemiah (who rebuild the wall around Jerusalem; see the Book of Nehemiah). For the second time in Israel's history (but not the last), the Jews set about to enter the rest God had promised.

There were three returns from Babylon to the land of Israel (538, 458, and 444 B.C.), just as there had been three deportations to Babylon (605, 597 and 586 B.C.). The first return was led by Zerubbabel (chapters 1-6; Haggai; Zechariah), in 538 B.C. The rebuilding of the temple was vital for this group. The second return was under Ezra (chapters 7-10; in 458 B.C.). The people needed reforming; they needed to return to their covenant obligations. The third return was led by Nehemiah (in 444 B.C.).


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Ezra 1 Ezra 6
Ezra 2 Ezra 7
Ezra 3 Ezra 8
Ezra 4 Ezra 9
Ezra 5 Ezra 10

Ezra 1

Ezra Chapter 1

The book of Ezra is a book about the times immediately after the Babylonian captivity of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Ezra was probably the compiler of this book, as he was of the Chronicles. He also penned the 119th Psalm. I personally believe that he was the penman of most of the book of Ezra, if not all. He was a Hebrew in captivity in Babylon. Ezra was a priest, and a scribe, a descendent of Eleazar.

Neh. 12:26 "These [were] in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe."

Nehemiah, at one time, was thought of as one book with Ezra. It appears, that Ezra had a great deal to do with it as well.

In this book, we see the release and return of the Hebrews to their homeland from Babylon. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, lived and preached during this time. We will find that the captives came back at three different times. The first group's return was led by Zerubbabel. The next group was led by Ezra. The third group was led by Nehemiah who became governor.

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover about 100 years' time from about 536 B.C. to about 432 B.C. This will be a time of re-building the temple, as well as re-establishing their homeland.

One of the clear spiritual messages we must receive in this, is that God can use whomever He wants, to bring about His purpose. As I have said so many times, the two real powers in the world are the spoken and the written Word of God. We will find that Ezra, along with Nehemiah caused the people to return to the study of God's Word. Many believe that Ezra assembled the writing of the Old Testament for that study.

This is a historical book of the events occurring after the return from captivity in Babylon. The name "Ezra" means help.

Verses 1-3a: These verses are almost identical to (2 Chron. 36:22-23). The pre-Exilic history of 1 and 2 Chronicles gave the post-Exilic returnees direction regarding the Davidic kingship, the Aaronic priesthood, and temple worship. This book continues the story.

Ezra 1:1 "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying,"

"The first year of Cyrus king of Persia": Cyrus conquered Babylon on October 12, 539 B.C. with his general Ugbaru. He entered Babylon himself on October 29, 539 B.C. Most likely the "proclamation" in this verse was given in 538 B.C. Cyrus was the great king of the empire revealed (in Daniel 2:32), as the breast and arms of silver that would succeed the Babylonian Empire. (In Dan. 7:5), it is pictured as a bear, being raised up on one side, having three ribs in its mouth. The proclamation of Cyrus fulfilled the prophecy given (in Jeremiah 25:11-14 and 29:10). About two hundred years before, Isaiah had even called Cyrus by name (Isa. 44:21-28; 45:1, 5), which motivated the liberal critics, who deny the possibility of supernatural revelation and predictive prophecy, to refer to the second part of Isaiah as "Deutero" Isaiah. "The Lord's sovereignty is depicted in the "stirring up."

Isaiah 45:13 says, "I have raised him up [same verb] ... he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward" (compare verse 5), where God is said to have raised up the spirit of the chief fathers of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem (and 1 Chron. Chapter 56; 2 Chron. 21:16; 36:22; Jer. 51:11; Hag. 1:14). The Lord is not only the God of Israel or Judah, but of the whole world. He inspired the favorable decree of Cyrus (compare Prov. 21:1).

"Cyrus the Great" was the powerful king of Persia (559-529 B.C.), who released the Jewish captives to return to Jerusalem, after he had made the Persians the dominant nation in the ancient world. In the Old Testament, he is most highly praised as God's "shepherd" (Isa. 44:28), and His "anointed" (Isa. 45:1). Cyrus first appears in the Old Testament when he proclaims the release of the Jewish captives (verses 1-4; 2 Chron. 36:22-23). Jeremiah had prophesied the restoration of the temple (Jer. 29:10-14; Isa. 44:28). The Book of Ezra contains numerous progress reports on the work related to the decree of Cyrus (3:7; 4:3, 5; 5:13-14, 17; 6:3, 14). The only other references to Cyrus occur (in Daniel 1:21; 6:28; 10:1; see 2 Chron. 36:22, and Ezra 1:1-8, 5:1317 and 6:3).

The Lord had prophesied through Isaiah, who said of Cyrus, "He is My shepherd," and declares of Jerusalem, "She will be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation will be laid" (Isa. 44:28). The historian Josephus records an account of the day when Daniel read Isaiah's prophecy to Cyrus, and in response he was moved to declare the proclamation of (1:2-4; 538 B.C.). Daniel served in Cyrus' court (Dan. 10:1). Perhaps Daniel influenced the king's decision (Isa. 44:23; 46:1-4; Dan. 6:25-28).

"By the mouth of Jeremiah": Jeremiah had prophesied the return of the exiles after a 70 year captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11; 29:10-14; Dan. 9:2). This was no isolated event, but rather an outworking of the covenant promises made to Abraham (in Gen. 12:1-3).

"The Lord stirred up": A strong expression of the fact that God sovereignly works in the lives of kings to effect His purposes (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 2:21; 4:17).

Made a proclamation": This was the most common form of spoken, public communication, usually from the central administration. The king would dispatch a herald, perhaps with a written document, into the city. In order to address the people, he would either go to the city gate, where people often congregated for social discourse, or gather the people together in a square, occasionally by the blowing of a horn. The herald would then make the proclamation to the people. A document called the Cyrus-Cylinder, recovered in reasonably good condition by archeologists, commissions people from many lands to return to their cities to rebuild the temples to their gods, apparently as some sort of general policy of Cyrus. Whether or not his document was an extension of the proclamation made to the exiles in this passage must remain a matter of speculation (compare 6:2-5).

"Put it also in writing": Proclamations were oral statements, usually made by a herald, which were often written down for recordkeeping.

Jeremiah had prophesied the very things that we will read of happening here. This is absolute evidence that the prophecies of Jeremiah were true. Cyrus was a heathen king, but God created him, the same as He created everyone else. God will move upon the mind of Cyrus, and Cyrus will do the will of God. Cyrus took Babylon on the night of Belshazzar's feast after he saw the handwriting on the wall. It appears that God immediately moved upon Cyrus, king of Persia. What the LORD told Cyrus was so serious, that Cyrus wrote it down.

Verses 2-4: It is possible that Daniel played a part in the Jews' receiving such favorable treatment (compare Dan. 6:25-28). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, he was Cyrus' prime minister who shared Isaiah's prophecies with Cyrus (Isa. 44:28; 46:1-4). The existence of such documents, written over a century before Cyrus was born, led him to acknowledge that all his power came from the God of Israel and prompted him to fulfill the prophecy.

The contents of the proclamation" of verse 1 are now given (in verses 2-4). This action of Cyrus needs to be understood in the context that it was his policy to do this for many different peoples in his empire. He would restore images of non-Babylonian deities to their former cities, help bring back the native worshipers, rebuild their sanctuaries, and solicit their patronage. This type of action is reflected in the famous Cyrus Cylinder monument, in which Cyrus refers to Marduk as "my lord" but not to Yahweh. (Isaiah 45:4), is clear that Cyrus was not a believer, since he did all of this "though thou hast not know me" (compare Exodus 5:2 and Pharaoh's use of the term).

(Isa. 19:21, that in a future day the Egyptians will know the Lord; and Jer. 31:34, that Israel will also know the Lord in a future day). This decree was discovered by Darius I (521-484 B.C.) 20 years later (6:2). "He hath charged me" relates to (Isaiah 44:28 and 45:13). Some surmise that Daniel may have shown him the prophecy (Josephus, Antiquities xi. 1).

Ezra 1:2 "Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah."

"Lord God of heaven": The God of Israel was recognized as the utmost divine authority (compare 5:12; 6:9-10; 7:12, 21, 23), who sovereignly dispenses authority to human monarchs.

"A house": This refers to the second temple, which would be built after the return to the Land by Zerubbabel.

Cyrus was aware that the great power he had received by conquering the lands around him, was supernatural. He seems to be giving the praise to Jehovah for putting the kingdoms of the earth in His hands. The house that was to be built in Jerusalem would certainly be for the One True God. The Persians were practicing worship of false gods at this time, but Cyrus seems to have broken from that.

Ezra 1:3 "Who [is there] among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he [is] the God,) which [is] in Jerusalem."

The people of God, the Israelites, as well of the ten tribes, as of the two of Judah and Benjamin. For this edict was published throughout all his dominions, where were the one as well as the other.

"His God be with him": To incline his heart to go, to protect him in his journey, and succeed and prosper him in what he goes about.

"And let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, he is the God": The one only living and true God.

"Which is in Jerusalem": Who has been in former times, and is to be worshipped there. Though Aben Ezra says, this is to be connected with "the house of the Lord"; as if the sense was, to build the house that was in Jerusalem or to be built there. And so our version connects them, putting those words into a parenthesis, "he is God"; but this is contrary to the accents.

This leaves absolutely no doubt at all who Cyrus was speaking of. He calls Him the LORD God of Israel. We see also, that Cyrus is offering freedom to all who would return to Judah and build the temple. The temple is to be built in Jerusalem, but any of the captives of any of the twelve tribes, could return and work on the temple.

Ezra 1:4 "And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that [is] in Jerusalem."

"And whosoever remaineth" recalls (Isa. 10:20), where the message was that "the remnant" would return, not only to Jerusalem but to the Lord. "Let the men of his place" is a reference to the Gentile neighbors, who were to help by their donations. This would recall the days of the Exodus (see Gen. 15:14 and the "great substance" which was fulfilled in Exodus 12:35-36), as the Gentiles are now to help the Israelites "with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts". Isaiah also referred to this as a "second" exodus (in 43:14-28 and 48:20-21; compare Jer. 16:14-15). In addition to these voluntary gifts, there were to be payments and releases from the royal treasury, specified in a separate document that found its way into the royal archives (6:810).

We see that Cyrus was insisting on the heathen, as well as the Hebrews, giving silver, gold, and goods to rebuild the temple. Cyrus was going to send from his own freewill offering, many of the temple treasures that had been taken and brought to Babylon. He asked the people of the land to do the same.

Verses 5-6: Throughout this book, God not only stirs others to act favorably toward Israel (e.g.

1:1), but He prompts and encourages Israel's leaders. Here, He moves their "spirit" to go and "build" the temple in Jerusalem and surrounds them with support.

Ezra 1:5 "Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all [them] whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which [is] in Jerusalem."

"Whose spirit God had raised": The primary underlying message of Ezra and Nehemiah is that the sovereign hand of God is at work in perfect keeping with His plan at His appointed times. The 70 years of captivity were complete, so God stirred up not only the spirit of Cyrus to make the decree, but His own people to go and build up Jerusalem and the temple (compare 1:1).

Primarily, those who rose up to go back to Jerusalem, were those of the tribes of Benjamin and of Judah. The Levites were those who had been chosen of God for His service. The priests were also Levites who served in the temple worship. The leaders of the various families went also. Notice, the Spirit of God had entered them, and filled them with the desire to go and build the temple. The house of the LORD is the temple.

Ezra 1:6 "And all they that [were] about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all [that] was willingly offered."

"And all they that were about them": A basic similarity to the Exodus is seen throughout Ezra and Nehemiah. One can hear faint echoes of the Egyptians supplying treasures in order to provide splendor for the tabernacle (Exodus 11:2; 12:35-36). Here other nations around Israel are called to contribute. They were assisted by some of their captive countrymen, who had been born in Babylon and chose to remain, and perhaps by some Babylonians and Assyrians who were favorably disposed to Cyrus and/or the Jews.

Those that were about them were their neighbors, whether Babylonian or Hebrew. It appears, they did exactly as Cyrus had asked them to do. Cyrus gave willingly here, and the others added to it as they were able.

Ezra 1:7 "Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods;"

"The vessels of the house of the Lord" included the priestly hardware taken from the temple by the Babylonian king, "Nebuchadnezzar" (Dan. 1:2; 2 Kings 24:13; 25:14-15). God preserved these items from destruction during the exile and provided for their return to the Israelites.

Some vessels were taken to Babylon (in 605 B.C.; Dan. 1:2), some (in 597 B.C.; 2 Kings 24:13), and the rest (in 586 B.C.; 2 Kings 25:14-15; Jer. 27:16-22). Those which Cyrus did not send back were restored by Darius I (about 518 B.C.; 6:5). The furniture of the temple, including the Ark of the Covenant, was destroyed (in 586 B.C.; 2 Kings 25:13; Jer. 3:16). The written order for their return and for the temple's rebuilding at the royal expense is preserved (in 6:1-5).

Cyrus did not recognize the false gods of the Babylonians. He took the items from the temple in Jerusalem that had been placed in these temples of false gods, and sent them back to Judah. There were many golden cups and dishes even being used in the palace of the king. Cyrus seemed to gather up all he could find, and sent it back for the temple in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:8 "Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah."

"Mithredath" is a well-known Persian name meaning "Given to [the god] Mithra." Mithra was worshiped as a god from the earliest times of the Indo-Aryans.

"Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah" (compare 1:11; 5:14, 16). Nothing is said about this man biblically except in Ezra. Most likely, he was a political appointee of Cyrus to oversee Judah. He is not to be confused with Zerubbabel, who was the leader recognized by the Jews (compare 2:2; 3:2, 8; 4:2-3; 5:2), and by God (compare Hag. 1, 2; Zech. Chapter 4). While Zerubbabel did not serve as king, he was in the Davidic line of Messiah (compare Hag. 2:23; Matt. 1:12). "Sheshbazzar" may mean either "Shamash [the sun god] Protects the Son" or "Sin [the moongod] Protects the Father." Early Jewish historians identified this man with Zerubbabel, whereas modern scholars are rather united in the opinion that Sheshbazzar was not Zerubbabel. He is mentioned only here and (in verse 11; 5:14; and 5:16). Most likely he was succeeded by Zerubbabel."

"The prince of Judah" means a person raised to a position of authority; it need not imply royal descent.

Mithredath was a name which meant given by Mithre. The name was Persian. These were things in the treasury then. There was a close accounting kept of what had been removed and sent to Jerusalem.

Verses 9-11: The vessels totaled 5400, of which the 2499 listed (in verses 9-10), were evidently the largest or most important. The closing words, "that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem," mark one of the turning points of history. The journey would take approximately four months (7:8-9).

Ezra 1:9 "And this [is] the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,"

Of the vessels delivered, as follows.

"Thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver": These, according to Ben Melech, were vessels in which water was put to wash hands in. But rather they were, as Aben Ezra observes from the Jerusalem Talmud, vessels in which they gathered the blood of lambs and bullocks slain for sacrifices.

"Nine and twenty knives": Which, because the handles of them were of gold or silver, were valuable, and might be very large knives, and what the priests used in slaying and cutting up the sacrifices.

The chargers were called wine-coolers, but had probably, been used in the drink offerings in the temple services. It could have even been speaking of basins, or bowls. They were very expensive, since they had been made of gold and silver. The knives mentioned here, are thought by some to be the censers. It is not clear exactly what they were.

Ezra 1:10 "Thirty basins of gold, silver basins of a second [sort] four hundred and ten, [and] other vessels a thousand."

Those that are mentioned make no more than 2499, which Aben Ezra thinks were the larger vessels. But this general sum takes in great and small, as in (2 Chron. 36:18). In the letter of Cyrus, before mentioned, these vessels are more particularly described, and their several numbers given, which together amount to the exact number in the text, 5400; the apocryphal Ezra makes them 5469.

Ezra 1:11 "All the vessels of gold and of silver [were] five thousand and four hundred. All [these] did Sheshbazzar bring up with [them of] the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem."

Of whom there is a large and particular account in the following chapter.

"Them of the captivity": Those whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into Babylonian captivity from Jerusalem, whose return probably occurred early in the reign of Cyrus (ca. 538/537 B.C.).

"Babylon unto Jerusalem": A journey taking 4 months (compare Ezra 7:8-9).

From the number of vessels sent to Jerusalem by Cyrus, we can see that he sincerely wanted to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and he wanted everything that belonged in it returned. This would be the first group of people leaving captivity to return to Jerusalem to build the temple. It is interesting that all through history, the Jews have come back from time to time into their land. They never were out from under Gentile rule for very long at a time, until in 1948 when they received their independence. This I believe, to be the end of the Gentile rule.

Ezra Chapter 1 Questions

  1. The book of Ezra is telling about what?
  2. What books did Ezra, probably, have something to do with compiling.
  3. Ezra was a _________, and a _________, descended from __________.
  4. What other book was one time thought of as part of Ezra?
  5. We see the ________ and the _______ of the Hebrews to their homeland in Ezra.
  6. What prophets were active at this time?
  7. The first group of those returning were led by ______________.
  8. The next group was led by ___________.
  9. Who became governor?
  10. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover approximately _____ years.
  11. What will those who return be doing?
  12. What does the author believe is a clear spiritual message in this book?
  13. What are the two real powers in the world?
  14. Ezra and Nehemiah tried to cause the people to return to the _______ of _______ _______.
  15. Ezra is a __________ book.
  16. "Ezra" means _______.
  17. When did Cyrus decide to re-build the temple?
  18. Whose prophecy will this fulfill?
  19. What was unusual about Cyrus, king of Persia, wanting to do this?
  20. When did Cyrus take Babylon?
  21. Who did Cyrus credit with his success?
  22. Who does Cyrus release to go to build the temple?
  23. Where would the goods, silver, and gold come from?
  24. Who does Cyrus insist should give to the temple?
  25. Who did the Spirit of God raise up to go?
  26. Who was Cyrus' treasurer?
  27. What did Cyrus have him do?
  28. What was a charger?
  29. How many were sent to Jerusalem?

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Ezra 2

Ezra Chapter 2

Verses 1-70: This section is divided into eight groups:

  1. Zerubbabel and his companions (verses 1-2);
  2. Jewish families (verses 3-19);
  3. Palestinian towns (verses 20-25);
  4. Priests (verses 36-39);
  5. Levites (verses 40-42);
  6. Nethinim (verses 43-54);
  7. Solomon's servants (verses 55-58);
  8. Those with uncertain genealogies (verses 59-63).

The section ends with a list of totals (verses 64-67), and a short statement relating their arrival and the gifts they gave to the temple (verses 68-70).

"The province": This refers to Judah, reduced from an illustrious, independent, and powerful kingdom to an obscure, servile province of the Persian Empire. The returning Jews were still considered subjects of Cyrus living in a Persian province.

The Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years. This does not mean that every person was in captivity for the entire 70 years. Just as the captivity took place in stages, the release took place in stages too. It appears that God did not want them to lose contact with their heritage. Each person went back to his city. The Hebrews put much importance on the genealogy of their families.

Ezra 2:1 "Now these [are] the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;"

"The province": This refers to Judah, reduced from an illustrious, independent, and powerful kingdom to an obscure, servile province of the Persian Empire. The returning Jews were still considered subjects of Cyrus living in a Persian province.

The Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years. This does not mean that every person was in captivity for the entire 70 years. Just as the captivity took place in stages, the release took place in stages too. It appears that God did not want them to lose contact with their heritage. Each person went back to his city. The Hebrews put much importance on the genealogy of their families.

Ezra 2:2 "Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:"

"Zerubbabel": This man was the rightful leader of Judah in that he was of the lineage of David through Jehoiachin (compare 1 Chron. 3:17). He did not serve as king (compare the curse on Jehoiachin's line, Jer. 22:24-30), but was still in the messianic line because the curse was bypassed (compare Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). The curse of the messianic line for Christ was bypassed in Luke's genealogy by tracing the lineage through David's son Nathan. His name means "offspring of Babylon," indicating his place of birth. He, rather than Cyrus' political appointee Sheshbazzar (compare 1:11), led Judah according to God's will.

"Jeshua": The High-Priest of the first return whose name means "Jehovah saves." He is called Joshua (in Hag. 1:1 and Zech. 3:1). His father Jozadak (Ezra 3:2), had been exiled (compare 1 Chron. 6:15). He came from the lineage of Levi, Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinehas; thus, he was legitimately in the line of the High-Priest (compare Num. 25:10-13).

"Nehemiah ... Mordecai": These are not the same men in Nehemiah or Esther.

"The number of the men of the people of Israel" are listed either by the names of their ancestors or the names of their towns. Some retuned with Zerubbabel (in 536 B.C.), and others returned later

This is a listing of the leaders of the families. Even though we see the names Nehemiah and Mordecai, this does not mean that they are the same as the prominent men with that name. The names given above are just a listing of the chief, or prince of each family.

Verses 3-20: Various Jewish families are listed. This portion relates records of a recognized family or clan.

Ezra 2:3 "The children of Parosh, two thousand a hundred seventy and two."

"The children": This word, as used throughout this catalogue, means "posterity" or "descendants."

(Verses 2:1-35), is an account that was kept of the families that came up out of captivity. See how sin lowers a nation, which righteousness would exalt!

The posterity (children), as that word is generally taken in this verse. Of Parosh: That descended either from Parosh, or from that family whereof Parosh was the chief. And so for the rest.

From hence (to the end of Ezra 2:35), a list is given of the captives that returned, described by the families they were of, their ancestors from whence they sprung, or the towns and cities to which they originally belonged, and by their numbers; otherwise nothing more of them is known.

Ezra 2:4-12 "The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two." "The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five." "The children of Pahath-moab, of the children of Jeshua [and] Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve." "The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four." "The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five." "The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore." "The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two." "The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three." "The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two."

Ezra 2:13 "The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six."

The number of descendants of Adonikam that go back into the land were 666. My eye immediately caught on this number, which is also the number of the mark of the beast. There are only two other Scriptures in the Bible on Adonikam. (Ezra 8:13), "And of the last sons of Adonikam whose names [are] these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males." Putting these two Scriptures together, there is a message in it for the believers in the Lord. The latter sons in a spiritual sense, are speaking of the believers in Christ. The two Scriptures combined seem to be a message for the believers about the mark of the beast. "Adonikam" means my Lord has arisen. "Eliphelet" means God is deliverance. "Jeiel" means carried away of God. "Shemaiah" means Jehovah hath heard. It appears from the combination of these names, that those who believe in the resurrection of the Lord will be carried away, because God has heard and He is our Deliverance. To me this is saying believers will be saved from the mark of the beast by their catching away to God.

Ezra 2:14-20 "The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six." "The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four." "The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight." "The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three." "The children of Jorah, a hundred and twelve." "The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three." "The children of Gibbar, ninety and five."

The children of Parosh list continues.

Verses 21-35: These were people from various Judean cities. In this passage, the laity are identified by place names or towns. There is a geographical order to this list. It begins in the south with "Beth-lehem" and "Netophah" and moves north to "Anathoth" and "Azmaveth," then to the northwest and the old Gibeonite confederacy with "Kirjath-arim," and then to the far north of Judah with "Michmas, Beth-el" and "Ai," then to the southwest with "Nebo, Magbish, Elam," and "Harim," and then to the vicinity of Joppa with "Lod, Hadid," and "Ono," and finally to the northwest with "Jericho" and "Senaah."

The children of Parosh list continues:

Ezra 2:21-35 "The children of Beth-lehem, a hundred twenty and three." "The men of Netophah, fifty and six." "The men of Anathoth, a hundred twenty and eight." "The children of Azmaveth, forty and two." "The children of Kirjath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three." "The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one." "The men of Michmas, a hundred twenty and two." "The men of Beth-el and Ai, two hundred twenty and three." "The children of Nebo, fifty and two." "The children of Magbish, a hundred fifty and six." "The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four." "The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty." "The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five." "The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five." "The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty."

This was a listing of the number of people who settled in each town. Gibbar (in verse 20 above), was speaking of Gibeon. Beth-lehem is a city that is just 4 or 5 miles out of Jerusalem. Anathoth was the birthplace of Jeremiah. It had been a city of refuge. Azmaveth was on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem. Kirjath-arim was in a much-wooded area. At one time or the other, it had belonged to Judah and Benjamin. It appears that the fathers, or grand-fathers, had told the younger generation where they were to return to after the captivity. Chephirah was about 8 miles from the outskirts of Jerusalem and was occupied by Benjamin's tribe. Beeroth was a city of Benjamin as well. Ramah and Gaba were also Benjamite cities. Michmas was a town between Bethel and Jerusalem. It was of the Benjamites. Ai and Beth-el are joining cities about 12 miles from Jerusalem. All of these towns are near Jerusalem and seem to be surrounding her. We will not go into any more of them, as we have received the picture.

Verses 36-42: Priests and Levites (see Neh. 12:1-9 for additional details). There were 4,289 priests who returned, about a tenth of the total of returnees, a surprisingly small number.

Ezra 2:36 "The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three."

Verses 36-39: The priests, each of their families was ranged under its prince or head, like those of the other tribes. It will be remembered that the whole body was divided into twenty-four courses, one of which, in rotation, discharged the sacerdotal duties every week, and each division was called after the name of its first prince or chief. It appears from this passage that only four of the courses of the priests returned from the Babylonish captivity; but these four courses were afterwards, as the families increased, divided into twenty-four, which were distinguished by the names of the original courses appointed by David (1 Chron. 23:6-13). Hence, we find the course of Abijah or Abia (1 Chron. 24:10), subsisting at the commencement of the Christian era (Luke 1:5).

An account of them is given in this and the three following verses, and only four families are mentioned, those of Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, and Harim, and the number of them amounted to 4289; these, according to the Jews, were heads of four courses, which were all that returned from Babylon.

The priests: the children of Jedaiah continues.

Ezra 2:37 "The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two." "The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven." "The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen."

This above, is a listing of the priests according to their families. The high priest was from the house of Jeshua. These are all in the service of the LORD in the temple worship.

Verses 40-42: Three classes of Levites are mentioned:

(1) The regular Levites, who assisted the priests;

(2) The singers; and

(3) The porters, or doorkeepers.

"Asaph" was an outstanding musician in King David's day, and he had been appointed minister of music in the temple (1 Chron. 15:19; 16:5). His descendants were also official musicians. Psalms chapters 50 and 73-83 are attributed to him.

Ezra 2:40 "The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four."

Here follow the Levitical families, not priests: that is, the Levites proper, the singers, the door-keepers or porters. Of the first there were only two families, and these are both traced up to one, that of Hodaviah or Judah (Ezra 3:9), or Hodevah (Neh. 7:43).

Singers and porters, who are reckoned in this, and the two following verses, whose numbers were no more than three hundred and forty one; whereas, in the times of David, they were 38,000 (1 Chron. 23:3).

Verses 41-54: Because the rebuilt temple would restore proper worship in Israel, certain people had particularly important roles. "Gatekeepers" locked and unlocked the temple doors and guarded the treasury. The descendants of "Asaph", a musician appointee by David (1 Chron. 15:19; 16:5), who wrote many psalms (Psalms 50, 73 and 83), served as "singers". The "Nethinim" (or "dedicated ones"), assisted the temple priests.

Ezra 2:41-42 "The singers: the children of Asaph, a hundred twenty and eight." "The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, [in] all a hundred thirty and nine."

These were Levites in the service of the LORD, who functioned in other areas than the priests. We see a distinction of Asaph's family as singers. The porters were keepers of the gates and doors.

Verses 43-54: "Nethinim": These were descendants of the Gibeonites who performed servile duties at the temple. The Nethinim were founded by David and his officials (according to 8:20). The Hebrew name points out the idea of "Given" or "Dedicated Ones", and is a variation of one of the descriptions of the Levites themselves, of whom God said, "They are wholly given unto me" (Num. 8:16; see the note on 1 Chron. 9:2).

As the word Nethinim signifies to the congregation, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, but rather were those that were given by David to assist the Levites. Of these is an account from here (to the end of Ezra 2:58), together with those who descended from Solomon's servants. Who seem to be the remains of the Canaanites in the land, whom Solomon made bondservants of (1 Kings 9:20). Who, and their posterity, became proselytes; or those sprung from men that were domestic servants of Solomon's, and valued themselves on that account. The number of the Nethinim and these together were three hundred ninety and two.

Ezra 2:43-54 "The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth," "The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon," "The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub," "The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan," "The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah," "The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam," "The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai," "The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim," "The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur," "The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha," "The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah," "The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha."

Verses 55-58: Here are descendants of Solomon's servants, continued.

Ezra 2:55-58 "The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda," "The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel," "The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami." "All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants, [were] three hundred ninety and two."

This is so strange that this group of people would have remained in a class of servants even during their captivity in Babylon. They had been the forced laborers in the time of Solomon.

The Nethinim and the servants were probably grouped together, because in a sense, they were all servants. The Hebrews were very class conscious.

Verses 59-63: Those whose genealogical information could not be verified. Those mentioned in this section could not prove their ancestry. There are two separate classes:

(1) Laymen (verses 59-60); and

(2) Priests (verses 61-63).

Genealogies were of great importance in ancient Israel. A man who had no knowledge of his tribe or clan was under a serious disability, and was excluded from the priesthood (verse 62).

"Barzillai" means "Iron-man." He had been a staunch supporter of David. He was also a man of wealth (2 Sam. 19:32). In adopting this family's names, he may have laid himself open to the charge of renouncing his own birthright, the priesthood.

"Tirshatha" is a Persian term, "The One to Be Feared" and is like the term "His Excellency." It was used of Nehemiah (compare 8:9; 10:1), and here evidently refers to Sheshbazzar who settled the ecclesiastical question (not the High Priest).

"Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim" seems to indicate that this tragic situation was not reconciled. Whether the Urim and Thummim had been lost in the Exile, or whether the ability to use them had been withdrawn after the departure of the Shekinah Glory (in 592 B.C.; Ezek. Chapters 8-11), is not clear. (Psalm 74:9 says), "We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long." Note (Exodus 28:30), for the employment of the Urim and Thummim.

Ezra 2:59 "And these [were] they which went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan, [and] Immer: but they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they [were] of Israel:"

Places in the land of Babylon (see Isaiah 37:12).

"Cherub, Addan, [and] Immer: but they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they [were] of Israel": These were such that professed the Jewish religion, and went for Jews in Babylon. But could not trace their pedigree, and tell what family they were of, who their ancestors were, and where they had lived in Judea. They had lost their genealogical tables, if they ever had any, and could not make it out, whether their parents were Israelites or proselyted Gentiles. Or they were such who had been exposed, and taken out of the streets, and their parents unknown.

Ezra 2:60 "The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two."

"Six hundred fifty and two": These, though their immediate parents were known, yet by their being mentioned here, it seems as if they could not carry their genealogy further, and make it clearly appear what was the house of their fathers, or what their family.

Ezra 2:61 "And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name:"

Who could not make out their pedigree, for those that could are mentioned before.

"The children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai": How the latter came by this name follows.

"Which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name": This man married a woman that descended from the famous Barzillai the Gileadite, in the times of David. And the priesthood being in disuse, and mean and despicable, in Babylon, he chose to take the name of his wife's family, and pass for a descendant from that, and perhaps destroyed, or at least neglected, to take care of the genealogy of his own family.

Ezra 2:62 "These sought their register [among] those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood."

To find their names written and registered there; for the Jews kept public registers of their priests, their descent, marriages, and offspring, that it might be known who were fit, and who not, to officiate as such.

"But they were not found": Their names were not there, nor any account taken of them.

"Therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood": Were not suffered to attend at the altar, and offer sacrifice, and enjoy the privileges belonging to that office.

Ezra 2:63 "And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim."

"Urim and with Thummim" (see note on Exodus 28:30). These objects, kept in the breastpiece of the High-Priest, were used to determine God's will.

"Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim": As yet there was not any priest that had them; they were not to be found at the return from Babylon. The governor might hope they would be found, and a priest appear clothed with them, when it might be inquired of the Lord by them. Whether such priests, before described, might eat of the holy things or not; but since the Jews acknowledge that these were one of the five things wanting in the second temple; it is all one, as the Talmudists express it, as if it had been said, until the dead rise, or the Messiah comes. And who is come, the true High Priest, and with whom are the true Urim and Thummim, lights and perfections to the highest degree, being full of grace and truth.

These were people who could not trace their ancestry back to the Hebrews. They were possibly of mixed blood. We see in one instance where some children of the priests were grouped along with these because of mixed marriages that keep them from having distinct genealogies. This 70 year captivity had caused some of them to lose track of their family heritage. The priest who wore the Urim and the Thummim spoke as an oracle of God. God spoke to the people through the Urim and Thummim worn by the high priest.

Verses 64-65: This gross amount is 12,000 more than the particular numbers given in the Bible, when added together. Reckoning up the smaller numbers, we will find they amount to 29,818 in this chapter and to 31,089 in the parallel chapter of Nehemiah. Ezra also mentions 494 persons omitted by Nehemiah, and Nehemiah mentions 1,765 not noticed by Ezra. If, therefore, Ezra's surplus is added to the sum in Nehemiah, and Nehemiah's surplus to the number in Ezra, they will both become 31,583. Subtracting this from 42,360, there is a deficiency of 10,777. These are omitted, because they did not belong to Judah and Benjamin, or to the priests, but to the other tribes. The servants and singers, male and female, are reckoned separately (verse 65), so that putting all these items together, the number of all who went with Zerubbabel amounted to some 49,897 with 8,136 beasts of burden.

Ezra 2:64 "The whole congregation together [was] forty and two thousand three hundred [and] threescore, This number is more than the numbers added together here, but this is just a listing of specific people, and there were many more who went."

But the sums before given make no more, with Zerubbabel, and the ten principal men, than 29,829, so that there are more than 12,000 wanting. Wherefore, in answer to the question, where are the 12,000? The Jews say in their chronology these are they of the other tribes, who set up the altar on its bases, and gave money to the masons, etc. (Ezra 3:1). This was a much larger number than were carried captive (see 2 Kings 24:14), but not to be compared with the number that came out of Egypt (Exodus 12:37).

Ezra 2:65 "Beside their servants and their maids, of whom [there were] seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and [there were] among them two hundred singing men and singing women."

This shows that the greater part of those that returned were of the poorer sort, since there were so few servants that belonged unto them; these came not into the above account:

"And there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women": Among the servants, who were kept by persons of figure for their pleasure and recreation (see Eccl. 2:8). For that these were such as were employed in sacred service is not so clear, especially the latter, though some conclude it from (1 Chron. 25:5). But rather they were such as were employed at marriages, festivals, and funerals; though Jarchi thinks they were employed by the returning captives, to make them cheerful as they travelled along (see Isa. 55:12). The "singing men and singing women" were distinct from the temple choirs of verse 41 (compare 2 Sam. 19:35).

These singers were not of the Levites. They were servants. Just because a person is a servant, does not mean that he cannot sing.

Ezra 2:66 "Their horses [were] seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five;"

So that the far greatest part of them must walk on foot since these can be thought to be little more than sufficient to carry their goods or baggage.

Ezra 2:67 "Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; [their] asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty."

The camel is mentioned in the Old Testament chiefly as the beast of burden of nomad families and races, e.g. Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:25), Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:5; 1 Sam. 30:17). It would be the most serviceable of all beasts for the long journey from Babylon, on account of its great endurance and its capacity for carrying heavy weights.

The camel here spoken of is probably of Arabian breed. It is what we should call the 'dromedary' or one-humped camel.

Camels would be in frequent use in Babylon. Several Assyrian sculptures have been preserved in which we may see that the camel then as now was the favorite beast both of merchants and of robbers (Job 1:17).

This was the number of animals they took with them. This would be a tremendous help on this journey of approximately 1,000 miles. This trip would take several months at the very best. The animals would have helped in carrying their belongings. In case someone could not walk for some reason, they would ride. They were mostly used as beasts of burden however.

Verses 68-69: "The house of the Lord" would indicate that the site continued to be used in the exilic period, even though it was in ruins (compare Jer. 41:5; Hag. 2:9).

"Offered freely" indicates a healthy spiritual atmosphere (compare 3:5), which was in addition to the royal grant (in 3:7). The phrase "after their ability" relates well to (1 Cor. 16:2 and 2 Cor. 8:3), where "beyond" their ability is even mentioned. (Nehemiah 7:70-72), gives a more detailed summary, mentioning separately the contributions of the governor, of some of the heads of houses and of the rest of the people.

Ezra 2:68 "And [some] of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which [is] at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place:"

That is, to the place in which the temple had stood, and where the ruins still remained.

"Offered freely": Made a new offering, besides that which they had brought out of Babylon, from their brethren there, mentioned in (Ezra 1:4; 1:6). By this it appears that the Jews were not made absolute slaves in Babylon, but had liberty to trade and get riches for themselves. Some of them being advanced to considerable offices in the king's court. Otherwise they could not have been able to offer such sums as are mentioned in the next verse.

This was like a thank offering to God for their safe return to their homeland. Each family had a leader or a chief. He represented his entire family when he gave.

Ezra 2:69 "They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver, and one hundred priests' garments."

"Drams ... pounds": Drams probably refers to a Persian coin, the daric, named after Darius I. This would have amounted to approximately 1,100 pounds of gold. A pound then was about 1.2 pounds, so this would represent 3 tons of silver (compare 1 Chron. 29:7).

"And one hundred priests' garments": Which, as they were laid up among treasures, so were necessary for the service of the temple.

Being in captivity for so many years, they would not have great wealth to give, but they gave as they were able. The dram was possibly a Persian gold coin. A dram was probably about 1/3 the weight of a shekel. That would be 1/6 of an ounce. This seems like a large amount to an individual, but we must take into consideration that there were thousands of people who offered this. The priest's garments were made of linen.

Ezra 2:70 "So the priests, and the Levites, and [some] of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities."

Which were assigned to them out of the several tribes, and in which they or their forefathers had dwelt before the captivity.

"And all Israel in their cities": As those of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, so of the other ten, as many as returned and joined those who were left in the land.

"Nethinim" (see note on verses 43-54).

They were back to re-establish their homeland and to build the temple in Jerusalem.

Ezra Chapter 2 Questions

  1. How long did the Babylonian captivity last?
  2. The release was done in _________.
  3. Who had carried them into Babylon?
  4. How did they know where to return?
  5. Verse 2 is a listing of what?
  6. How many were the descendants of Adonikam that went back into the land?
  7. What is unusual about that number?
  8. What were the names of Adonikam's sons?
  9. Who are the latter sons speaking of, spiritually?
  10. What does "Adonikam" mean?
  11. What does "Eliphelet" mean?
  12. What does "Jeiel" mean?
  13. What does "Shemaiah" mean?
  14. What does the author believe is the message in their names collectively?
  15. What are the lists of verses 3 through 20 showing?
  16. What are verses 21 through 35 showing about those who return?
  17. What do these towns have in common?
  18. Verses 36 through 39 list whom?
  19. What is different about the Levites in verses 40-42, from those in the previous verses?
  20. "Nethinim" are who?
  21. Verses 44-54 list who?
  22. What is strange about those listed in verses 55-57?
  23. Why were the Nethinim and Solomon's servants counted together?
  24. What was different about those listed in verse 59 through 63?
  25. Who were the singers in verse 65?
  26. How many animals did they take with them?
  27. How long would the journey be?
  28. Who were the chief of the fathers?
  29. How much gold did they give in thanks?
  30. How much silver did they give?
  31. How many priestly garments did they give?

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Ezra 3

Ezra Chapter 3

Verses 1-13: The worship and regular calendar resumed. The altar was probably rebuilt (in 537 B.C.).

Ezra 3:1 "And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel [were] in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem."

The previous chapter describes the return of the people. Chapter 3 now introduces the commencement of legitimate worship. The people being "in the cities" simple means that having arrived in the land, they were already settled.

"Gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem" illustrates unity and a return to the form of worship detailed in the law.

After their arrival, they were occupied with their own dwellings in and around Jerusalem. After that work was done, they turned to building the altar of burnt offering in time for the feasts, resolved to celebrate as if the temple had been completed. The month (ca. Sept. - Oct. 537 B.C.), of the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement and Booths, or Tabernacles (compare verse 4), was the seventh month. Such an assembly had not convened for 70 years. They obeyed according to (Lev. 23:24-44). Over 90 years later, Nehemiah and Ezra would lead a similar celebration (compare Neh. 8:13-18).

"The seventh Month": This was the first day of the month (verse 6), which was the Feast of Trumpets (Num. 29:1-6), which foreshadowed Israel's final gathering. The seventh month was Tishri (September - October), and most likely was (September 25, 536 B.C.), if there was a two-year delay in the beginning of the journey from Babylon after Cyrus's decree. The laying of the temple foundation in the next year would have brought to a close the 70 year captivity Jeremiah had predicted (in Jeremiah 25:1-12, 605 B.C.). The journey was approximately nine hundred miles from Babylon to Palestine and would have taken at least four months (compare 7:8-9).

It appears from this, that the people first went and reclaimed their inheritance. The seventh month was Tisri on their calendar. On our calendar, it is approximately October. This was speaking of them coming to Jerusalem right after their harvest time. This month had always been special to the Hebrews. This was a time of the blowing of the trumpets. Day of Atonement occurred on the tenth day of this month. This would be a time they would have their minds on their LORD. The Feast of Tabernacles occurred in this month as well. This was a special month for all Hebrews.

Verses 2-6: When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, their first act was to rebuild "the altar" where it was before ("upon his bases"). Their first priority was worship.

Ezra 3:2 "Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as [it is] written in the law of Moses the man of God."

"Jeshua ... and Zerubbabel": The recognized spiritual and civil leaders, respectively (see notes on 2:2).

"As it is written in the law of Moses": The burnt offerings were in accord with (Lev. 1:3-17).

"Zerubbabel" was the political and spiritual head of the tribe of Judah, when the Israelites were released from the Babylonian captivity (536 B.C.). As the prime builder of the second temple, Zerubbabel led the first group of captives back to Jerusalem, and set about reconstructing the temple on the old site. For some 20 years he worked closely with prophets, priests, and kings, until the new temple was finally dedicated and the Jewish sacrificial system was reestablished. Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, the king of Judah who had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in about 598 B.C. (1 Chron. 3:17). Zerubbabel was thus his grandfather's legal successor and heir, in the direct line of the ancestry of Jesus (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). Some scholars suggest that he was probably in the king's service and had been given an Aramaic name, Sheshbazzar (compare 1:8). Certainly, he was appointed by Cyrus as governor of Judea (Hag. 1:1). Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest were encouraged and exhorted by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (5:1-2). Haggai promised Zerubbabel a special blessing which had messianic implications (Hag. 2:21-23; Ezra 2:2; Ezra Chapters 3 and 4; Hag. Chapters 1 and 2).

Jeshua was acting High Priest. His grandfather, Seraiah, was High Priest at the time of the destruction of the temple before the Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel had led this group of captives back from Babylon. Those priests and people in high authority had built the altar where they could offer burnt offerings. God had instructed them in the Law of Moses how to go about offering. God had shown David that this was the only acceptable place for burnt offerings to be made.

Ezra 3:3 "And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear [was] upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, [even] burnt offerings morning and evening."

"Set the altar": This was all that was needed to reestablish temple worship (compare verse 6). They reset it on its old foundation, so it occupied its sacred site.

"The people of those countries": The settlers who had come to occupy the Land during the 70 years of Israel's absence were deportees brought in from other countries by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. These inhabitants saw the Jews as a threat and quickly wanted to undermine their allegiance to God (compare 4:1-2).

The people the Israelites feared were those who chose to stay in the land, Jews and Samaritans, not the people of neighboring countries. There were Jews who remained in the land of Judah (2 Kings 25:22), many of them by choice (Jer. 40:1-6).

"Burnt offerings": These were the most common offerings for sin (compare verse 2).

This action is a tribute to their determination to succeed despite tremendous obstacles. All of chapter 4 is devoted to the long series of hostilities that covered the time period of Ezra and Nehemiah some 80 to 90 years later.

We see from this, that perhaps the bases had not been destroyed. The new altar was made to the size of the base. The altar sat upon this base. These nations, they seemed to be afraid of, were the nations around them that worshipped false gods. They would not have feared the Persians, because Cyrus had sent them to construct the temple. The following are the instructions they were keeping.

Exodus 29:38-39 "Now this [is that] which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually." "The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even:"

Ezra 3:4 "They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as [it is] written, and [offered] the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;"

"Number according to the custom" (according to Num. 29:12-38).

This was a time of year that was required by the Levitical law for all males to worship. This would not be a true Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Ingathering, but would be recognizing the days as such. The temple was not re-built at this time. This is the beginning of re-establishing worship in Jerusalem.

Ezra 3:5 "And afterward [offered] the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD."

Not after the feast of tabernacles, as if they then began to offer the daily sacrifice. For that they did as soon as the altar was set up, and on the first day of the month (Ezra 3:3). Rather the sense is, that after the daily burnt offering of the morning, they offered the other sacrifices peculiar to the several days of the Feast of Tabernacles. They never neglected that, yea, always began with it; all the rest were after it, and so on other festivals.

"Both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated": To the service of the Lord, and the honor of his name. As every first day of the month, and every other appointed festival, they offered the sacrifices appropriate to each. But not to the neglect of that sacrifice, and always after it.

"And of everyone that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord": These they were careful also to offer in their proper time.

The "continual burnt offering" is speaking of the regular morning and evening sacrifices. We see that the returned Hebrews kept the morning and evening sacrifices, and kept the new moons which was the beginning of a new month. They would, from this time on, keep all of the Feasts including Passover and Pentecost. A freewill offering might be made at any time. It was not of obligation, but of their free will.

Ezra 3:6 "From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not [yet] laid."

And which day was not only a new moon, but a grand festival, the feast of blowing of trumpets (Lev. 23:24). And no doubt but they observed the tenth day of this month, with all the rites of it, which was the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27).

"But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid": They began first with sacrifices, that having thereby given thanks to God for their return to their own land, and for all the benefits they enjoyed. And made atonement for their sins in a typical way, they might be the more prepared and fit for the work of building the temple. Or, "though the foundation" of it was not laid, yet they offered the above sacrifices.

It appears the worship began in earnest on this first day of the seventh month, and continued as if the temple was there. They had not even begun the work on the temple at this time. They had taken care of their own affairs first. They re-established their homes, and then thought of sacrificing.

Ezra 3:7 "They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia."

"Masons ... carpenters ...cedar trees": The process of re-building the temple sounds similar to the original construction under Solomon (1 Kings Chapters 5 and 6; 1 Chron. Chapter 22; and 2 Chron. Chapter 2).

"Of Zidon ... Joppa": The materials were shipped from the Phoenician ports of Sidon and Tyre south to Joppa, the main seaport, about 35 miles from Jerusalem.

"Grant that they had of Cyrus" (compare 1:2-4).

We can assume from this that the masons, carpenters, and workers received money to live on in coins while they were working on the temple. Tyre and Zidon did not have enough foodstuff, so they were paid for the cedar trees, they brought for building, in grain and other foodstuff that was plentiful in Judah. The king of Persia had helped to finance the rebuilding of the temple out of his own funds.

Ezra 3:8 "Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD."

"Second year ... second month" (ca. April/May 536 B.C.). This officially ended the 70 year captivity that began (in 605 B.C.).

This seems to be saying that about May of the second year since they had returned, they set forward the work on the house of the LORD. Zif was their second month, which is comparable to our May. This is the same month that Solomon had laid the foundation for the temple he built. Zerubbabel seemed to be in charge of this whole operation. All young men 20 years or older, were to come to work on the temple.

Ezra 3:9 "Then stood Jeshua [with] his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, [with] their sons and their brethren the Levites."

"Judah": Some suggest a change due to dittography (writing a letter twice when it should have been written once). It may read Hodaviah. As a result, the first three names here (are the same as in 2:40), and represent special Levitical families placed in charge of the temple workmen.

We see from this, that the High Priest would make sure that all was done according to the building of the first temple. Jeshua was that High Priest. Kadmiel was of the tribe of Judah, but he was not priest. He was descended from Hodaviah. Henadad was a Levite, but not a priest.

Verses 10-11: Once the temple's "foundation" was laid, the people's gratitude for a permanent place of worship prompted a worship service. Praise was conducted in the manner prescribed by the "ordinance of David", meaning that worship in Israel's present, reflected worship in Israel's past, particularly the celebration associated with the building of the first temple (1 Chron. 6:31; 16:4-6; 25:1; 2 Chron. 5:13; Psalm 136:1).

Ezra 3:10 "And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel."

A comparison (of 5:1-6 and the Book of Haggi), shows that little was achieved (until 520 B.C.), apart from the actual laying of the foundations. The same order was observed when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in David's time (1 Chron. 16:5-6; compare Num. 10:8).

The trumpets blown by the priests in their priestly robes, proclaimed the victory of the building of the foundation of the temple. The cymbals were struck to show that the building had begun. We remember, the family of Asaph was in charge of the praise and worship through singing and music.

Ezra 3:11 "And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because [he is] good, for his mercy [endureth] for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."

"They sang": Their song of praise is similar (to Psalm 136:1).

This was a time of great celebration because the re-establishing of the temple in Jerusalem had begun. God was and is good. His mercy does endure forever. This was especially so for these Hebrews. God kept a remnant for them to begin again. The praising and shouting was a way of saying thank you to God. We need to do a little shouting and praising today for the goodness God has bestowed upon us all.

Verses 12-13: It had been about 50 years since the first temple had been destroyed, and many of the older men ("ancient men") who had seen the earlier buildings wept now because of the sorrowful contrast in size and splendor. When the temple was completed (late in 520 B.C.), there were still some of these old men who wept again. (Haggai 2:3 and Zech. 4:10), relate Zechariah's challenge to those who "despised the day of small things."

The returned exiles had mixed emotions that day: many of the people "shouted aloud for joy" while the "weeping of the people" who remembered the original temple from the days of their childhood, "shouted with a loud voice" because this newly built house of worship did not compare to the glory of the original.

Ezra 3:12 "But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, [who were] ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:"

"The first house": The temple built by Solomon (compare 1 Kings Chapters 5-7).

"Wept with a loud voice": The first temple had been destroyed 50 years earlier. The old men, who would have been about 60 years or older, knew that this second temple did not begin to match the splendor of Solomon's temple nor did the presence of God reside within it (compare Hag. 2:1-4; Zech. 4:9-10). The nation was small and weak, the temple smaller and less beautiful by far. There were no riches as in David and Solomon's days. The Ark was gone. But most disappointing was the absence of God's Shekinah glory. Thus, the weeping.

"Shouted for joy": For those who did not have a point of comparison, this was a great moment. Possibly (Psalm 126), was written and sung for this occasion.

The weeping from those whom remembered the greatness of the temple before it was destroyed, was in joy. They were overwhelmed in their hearts with the prospect of it being built again.

Ezra 3:13 "So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off."

That is, not clearly and distinctly, they were so mixed and confounded together, and made such a jarring and discord.

"For the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off": The shouting being of young people, whose voice was strongest, and they the most numerous, the noise of shouting prevailed over the noise of weeping. And it was heard further, and at a distance appeared more distinctly to be the noise of shouting, as that of weeping not reaching so far.

The crying and shouting with it, was just as loud as the shouting and praising. This had to be a spectacular sound with the cymbals clanging, the trumpets blowing, the weeping loudly, and the shouts of praise. Everyone had to know what was happening by the loud sounds. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a church in our day rejoicing so loudly that it would stir up the entire neighborhood? Where has our enthusiasm in the LORD gone?

Ezra Chapter 3 Questions

1. When did the children of Israel come to gather in Jerusalem?

2. What was the 7th month on their calendar?

3. What month is that on our calendar?

4. What special event had gone on during this month in times past?

5. _________ was acting High Priest.

6. Who was High Priest, when the temple had been destroyed?

7. Who had led the people home from Babylon?

8. Who built the altar?

9. It was built for what?

10. What was the altar set upon?

11. The nations around them worshipped ________ ______.

12. What Feast did they keep?

13. What is this re-establishing?

14. The "continual burnt offering" is speaking of what?

15. What other thing did they observe, mentioned in verse 5?

16. How did the freewill offering differ from the other offerings?

17. When did the worship begin in earnest?

18. Who did they give money to for their work?

19. What did they give for the cedar trees?

20. When did they begin work on the temple?

21. Who was overseeing this whole thing?

22. What did the priests do?

23. Who was called into service to work on the temple?

24. Zif on their calendar is compared to our _______.

25. Who was Kadmiel?

26. Who blew the trumpets in celebration of the foundation being laid?

27. Who struck the cymbals?

28. Asaph's family was in charge of what?

29. Who cried over the foundation being laid?

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Ezra 4

Ezra Chapter 4

Ezra 4:1 "Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;"

"Adversaries": From this point to the end of the Book of Nehemiah there is conflict.

(Compare 5:3-17). These were Israel's enemies in the region, who resisted their reestablishment.

The enemy of God's people would try to stop the building of the temple. Noah had the same problem from the world around him when he was building the ark. Any person or group of people who decide to do something for God, will face opposition from the devil. In this particular instance, the devil was using the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.

Ezra 4:2 "Then they came 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, which brought us up hither."

"Since the days of Esar-haddon": The descendants from intermarriages between Israelites and foreigners who were transplanted to Samaria by Esar-haddon, the king of Assyria from 680 to 669 B.C., now approached "Zerubbabel" and said:

"Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do": Actually, (Isaiah in 734 B.C.), prophesized that the 10 northern tribes would cease to be a distinct people within 65 years (Isa.

7:8). Esar-haddon was responsible for the transplanting of foreigners into Samaria (2 Kings

17:24). This proposal was the more dangerous since it came under the guise of true religion (2 Cor. 11:15; compare 2 Cor. 6:17). The procedure by the Assyrians effectively stifled a nationalistic spirit and created a mixed religion.

"We do sacrifice unto him": This false claim represented the syncretistic worship of the

Samaritans, whose ancestry came from intermarriage with foreign immigrants in Samaria after 722 B.C. (compare verse 10). In the British Museum is a large cylinder and inscribed on it are the annals of Esarhaddon, an Assyrian king (ca. 681 - 669 B.C.), who deported a large population of Israelites from Palestine. A consequent settlement of Babylonian colonists took their place and intermarried with remaining Jewish women and their descendants. The result was the mongrel race called Samaritans. They had developed a superstitious form of worshiping God (compare 2 Kings 17:26-34).

This has been another weapon the enemy used from the beginning. The serpent was in the garden with Adam and Eve. The enemy will infiltrate the church any chance he can get. This was no different. He tried to join in the building to sabotage the work.

Ezra 4:3 "But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, 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."

"We ourselves": Idolatry had been the chief cause for Judah's deportation to Babylon, and they wanted to avoid it altogether. While they still had their spiritual problems (Ezra chapters 9 and 10), they rejected any form of mixed religion, particularly this offer of cooperation which had sabotage as its goal; (compare verses 4 and 5).

"King Cyrus ... commanded us": Compare Ezra 1:2-4 (ca. 538 B.C.). This note gave authority to their refusal.

The Bible is very plain in warning believers not to be un-equally yoked with unbelievers. It was good that Zerubbabel and Jeshua saw through their offer to help, and refused to let them help. Cyrus had not insisted on them helping, and they knew better than to include those of the world in building the temple to the LORD.

Ezra 4:4 "Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,"

By threatening them, or by dissuading the workmen from going on. By endeavoring to hinder their having materials from the Tyrians and Zidonians, or money out of the king's revenues to bear the expenses as ordered (see Ezra 6:4).

The people of the land here, are speaking of Samaritans. They were a constant hindrance to the building of the temple by Judah and Benjamin.

Verses 4-5: Even though Cyrus had approved rebuilding the temple, the Jews allowed the political maneuvering of their neighbors to "frustrate their purpose". They faced opposition and discouragement from the Samaritans from the time they returned to Jerusalem in 539 B.C. until the reign of "Darius" (521 - 486 B.C.), a total of about 18 years.

Ezra 4:5 "And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of

Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."

"Frustrate": This caused a 16 year delay (ca. 536 - 520 B.C.). As a refute, the people took more interest in their personal affairs than spiritual matters (compare Haggai 1:2-6).

"Darius": Darius ruled Persia (ca. 521 - 486 B.C.).

These counsellors were bought to side in against Judah and Benjamin. In our day, this hindrance would be things like not being able to get building permits, or something of that order. They were trying to make it as difficult as possible to keep the temple from being built. The temple would bring a unity of the people. This is one of the things their adversaries did not want to happen.

Verses 6-23: This section represents later opposition which Ezra chose to put here as a parenthetical continuation of the theme "opposition to resettling and rebuilding Judah". He first referred to the opposition from Israel's enemies under King Ahasuerus (a regal title), or Xerxes (ca. 486 - 464 B.C.), who ruled at the time of Esther (4:6).

This section is a parenthesis (a chronological stop in the action), that shows the sort of overall opposition the Jews continually faced during reconstruction. At (4:24), the specific storyline about the work on the temple resumes. "Ahasuerus", also known as Xerxes, ruled from (486 - 464 B.C.).

"Artaxerxes" I was king from 464-423 B.C. He was the grandson of Darius and the son of Ahasuerus.

Ezra 4:6 "And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they [unto him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem."

"Ahasuerus" (485 - 465 B.C.), also called Xerxes I, is known from the Book of Esther. The mention of him marks simply that with the passage of time (from 535 B.C. in verses 1-5), the antagonism of the enemy had not cooled off. The word "accusation" is the same word in Hebrew as for Satan, "The Accuser" (1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1:6; Zech. 3:1). This written accusation to Xerxes (in 486 B.C.), is not referred to anywhere else in the Old Testament.

"Wrote they [unto him] an accusation": The word translated "accusation" means "a complaint." Satan, meaning "legal adversary" or "opponent" is a related term.

Many believe this Ahasuerus to be the same as Xerxes mentioned in the book of Esther. They were trying to turn him against the people that had been allowed to return to Judah.

(Ezra 4:7-23), then recounts opposition in Nehemiah's day under Artaxerxes I (ca. 464 - 423 B.C.), expressed in a detailed letter of accusation against the Jews (verses 7-16). It was successful in stopping the work, as the king's reply indicates (verses 17-23). Most likely, this opposition s that also spoken of in (Neh. 1:3). All this was the ongoing occurrence of severe animosity between the Israelites and Samaritans, which was later aggravated when the

Samaritans built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim (compare John 4:9). The opposition to Zerubbabel picks up again at (4:24 - 5:2), during the reign of Darius I, who actually reigned before either Ahasuerus or Artaxerxes.

Verses 7-8: Letter ... letter": Two different words are used here. The first is an official document as opposed to a simple letter. The second is the generic term for letter. The context verifies the choices of two differ terms, since two different letters are indicated.

Ezra 4:7 "And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter [was] written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue."

The time now moves to "Artaxerxes'" day (464 - 424 B.C.), whose reign spanned the events of chapter 7 to the end of Nehemiah. The complaints to him, and their outcome, show not only the dogged persistence of Israel's enemies, but the uncertainty of a great king's patronage.

Artaxerxes was the one who later allowed Ezra to return to Jerusalem. During his reign, Nehemiah obtained a reversal of policy and went back to Jerusalem with his blessings (Neh. Chapter's 1 and 2). The "Syrian tongue" is the Aramaic language, the commercial language of the Fertile Crescent during the first millennium B.C. Not only is the letter of (4:11-16), written in Aramaic, but so also is the entire section (from 4:8 through 6:18).

This is speaking of them having an interpreter write this letter in the Syrian language to prove to the Syrians they were part of them. Part of the reason the building had slowed down, was because of the change of kings. The people of Judah would not know whether the new king still would help with the building of the temple or not. He would not remain king very long.

Verses 8-10: This portion contains an imposing list of people who opposed the work in Jerusalem. "Rehum" was the "high official" or chancellor who presided quite probably over a group of minor officials, and was directly responsible to the satrap, or to the Persian king if he was in fact a satrap. Asnapper" is a reference to Ashurbanipal the great Assyrian king (668 - 626 B.C), who completed the transplanting in Samaria of peoples that Esar-haddon (verse 2), had played a major part in relocating. "The river" is the Euphrates River.

Verses 4:8 - 6:18: Since this section contains predominantly correspondence, it is written in Aramaic also (7:12-26), rather than Hebrew, generally reflecting the diplomatic language of the day (compare 2 Kings 18:26; Isa. 36:11).

Ezra 4:8 "Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:"

This means the same letter as before; which, according to Jarchi, was sent in the name of Mithredath, Tabeel, and his company, and was edited by Rehum, master of words or sense, and written by Shimshai the scribe. But it was written rather in all their names.

Rehum and Shimshai were not Hebrews. They were not for the building of the temple. This Artaxerxes was easily swayed against Jerusalem.

Ezra 4:9 "Then [wrote] Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, [and] the Elamites," Who all signed the letter; namely, the governors of the following nations.

"The Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites. Which were colonies from several parts of Chaldea, Media, and Persia. And were settled in the several cities of Samaria, as several of their names plainly show, as from Persia, Erech, Babylon, Shushan, and Elimais. Some account for them all, but with uncertainty. According to R. Jose these were the Samaritans who first were sent out of five nations, to whom the king of Assyria added four more. Which together make the nine here mentioned (see 2 Kings 17:24).

Ezra 4:10 "And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest [that are] on this side the river, and at such a time."

"Asnapper": Most likely another name for the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (ca. 669 - 633 B.C.).

"Set in the cities of Samaria': The race of Samaritans resulted from the intermarriage of these immigrants with the poor people who were not taken captive to Nineveh (see note on verse 2; 2 Kings 17:24-41).

There is not much known about Asnapper. These are speaking of people, who were not of Judah and Benjamin. They would like very much to run them off, if they could and take this area for themselves. They were afraid of the temple being built, because it would give a permanence to the re-taking of the land by Judah.

Ezra 4:11 "This [is] the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, [even] unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time."

"Artaxerxes" (see note on verses 6-23).

"This side the river": West of the Euphrates River.

These letters were for no other purpose but to stir up trouble between Artaxerxes and Judah.

Ezra 4:12 "Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls [thereof], and joined the foundations."

"Jews": This name was generally used after the Captivity because the exiles who returned were mainly of Judah. Most of the people of the 10 northern tribes were dispersed and the largest number of returnees came from the two southern tribes.

"Rebellious and the bad city:" The choice of the word rebellious is important, because the Persian Empire was continually plagued with rebellions during the fifth century B.C., one notable one by Megabyzus of the Trans-Euphrates area. Jerusalem had a history of rebellions against foreign powers, such as those under Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:1), and Zedekiah (2 Chron. 36:13), and even as far back as during the reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh (2 Chron. 32:33), in the days of the Assyrians.

It was not actually this king who had sent them. Cyrus was the king of Persia at the time they were sent to Jerusalem. The Jews had rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and that is what they were reminding this evil king of here. They were not rebelling now, but doing what Cyrus sent them to Jerusalem to do.

Verses 13-14: This accusation is full of hypocrisy. They did not relish paying taxes either, but they did hate the Jews.

Ezra 4:13 "Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up [again, then] will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and [so] thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings."

And let it be seriously and thoroughly considered by him and his counsellors.

"That if this city be builded, and its walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom": Being able to defend themselves against the king's forces, sent to reduce them to their obedience. These words take in all sorts of taxes and levies on persons, goods, and merchandise.

"And so thou shall endamage the revenue of the kings; not only his own, but his successors": This they thought would be a very striking and powerful argument with him.

They were trying to get this new king to stop Jerusalem from building a wall of protection around it. The easiest way to get the attention of this new king was to appeal to the loss of money from taxation of this province. Of course, there had been no rebellion, but they were not bothered with facts. They were trying to help themselves and not the king of Persia.

Ezra 4:14 "Now because we have maintenance from [the king's] palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonor, therefore have we sent and certified the king;"

Have posts under the king, to which salaries were annexed, by which they were supported, and which they had from the king's exchequer. Or "salt", as in the original, some places of honor and trust formerly being paid in salt. Hence, as Pliny observes, such honors and rewards were called "salaries".

"And it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonor": To see anything done injurious to his crown and dignity or to his honor and revenues, when we are supported by him. This would be ungrateful as well as unjust.

"Therefore have we sent and certified the king": Of the truth of what is before related; and, for the further confirmation of it, refer him to the ancient records of the kingdom, as follows in verse 15.

They are pretending to look after the interest of the king of Persia. They eat salt that he had provided, is perhaps what is meant by maintenance. They are pretending to be protecting the king's interest.

Ezra 4:15 "That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city [is] a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed."

"Book of the records": An administrative document called a "memorandum" kept on file in the royal archives.

"This city destroyed": A reference to Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (ca. 586 B.C.).

The northern kingdom of Israel rebelled against the Assyrians (in 701 B.C.; 2 Kings 18:7), and Judah rebelled against the Babylonians (in 600 and 589 B.C.; 2 Kings 24:1, 20). The latter rebellion led to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish people never rebelled against the Persians, because the Persians allowed them to worship the Lord.

Nebuchadnezzar had come against Jerusalem, because the LORD had turned him against His people. Their being unfaithful to God was what caused their destruction. The records would possibly show a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, however.

Ezra 4:16 "We certify the king that, if this city be builded [again], and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river."

As it formerly was, and now attempted, as they suggest.

"By this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river": The River Euphrates. Intimating that the Jews would not only shake off his yoke, and refuse to pay tribute themselves, but would seize on all his dominions on that side the river, and annex them to their own.

These evil men were trying to convince the king that he would lose all control over Judah, if he allowed them to continue this building program. These evil men were not really trying to help anyone but themselves. They believed, if the king destroyed Judah, they would be able to receive this land.

Ezra 4:17 "[Then] sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and [to] Shimshai the scribe, and [to] the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and [unto] the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time."

This affair, upon examination, being found to be of importance, the king of Persia thought fit to send an answer to the above letter, which was doing them an honor, and gave them the power and authority they wished to have.

"And to the rest of their companions that dwelt in Samaria": In the kingdom, province, and cities of Samaria.

"And unto the rest beyond the river": The River Euphrates and the rest of the nations before mentioned (Ezra 4:9).

"Peace, and at such a time": That is, all health and prosperity.

Ezra 4:18 "The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me."

The plural number is used, being now become courtly for kings thus to speak of themselves.

"Hath been plainly read before me": By such that understood both the Syrian and Persian languages. The letter was written in the Syrian language, and the king being a Persian, it was necessary it should be interpreted and explained to him.

Ezra 4:19 "And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and [that] rebellion and sedition have been made therein."

"I commanded, and search hath been made": This was no simple routine order given to one person, but rather a major edict to a large group of people.

This evil king had received their letters, and believed what they had said. He looked in the records and saw where Jerusalem had rebelled against them. He had believed a lie.

Ezra 4:20 "There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all

[countries] beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them."

As David and Solomon; and the account of these they had in their records (see 2 Sam. 8:1).

"And toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them": As appears from the places referred to. And this served to strengthen the insinuation made to the king, that if these people were suffered to go on building, he would lose his tribute and taxes in those parts.

The mighty kings, spoken of here, could be David, Solomon, or Josiah. This was a true statement, that they did collect tribute. The remnant of the people in Jerusalem now was not large enough to be a threat to anyone, however.

Ezra 4:21 "Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until [another] commandment shall be given from me."

"Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease": from building.

"And that this city be not builded until another commandment shall be given from me". He might suspect that this case, in all its circumstances, was not truly stated, and that hereafter he might see reason to recede from the present orders he gave; and the rather, as by searching, and perhaps on his own knowledge, must have observed, that his father Cyrus had shown favor to the Jews, and had not only set them at liberty, but had encouraged them to rebuild their temple; which might be what they were about, and was the case, and nothing else, except their houses to dwell in.

No small order for one or two workers, but rather the efforts of 50,000 were called to a halt. The king was commissioning a decree of great significance. This decree would not lose its authority until the king established a new decree.

"Until another commandment shall be given from me" provided a glimmer of hope, for it made a policy review possible and with it, by the grace of God, the mission of Nehemiah (Neh. Chapter 2). He now gave orders that the building was to cease.

Ezra 4:22 "Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?"

To put his orders into execution, and at once, without any loss of time, oblige the Jews to desist from rebuilding the walls of their city, which he was told they were doing, though a great falsehood.

"Why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?" Of him and his successors, to be deprived of their toll, tribute, and customs, and to have insurrections, mutinies, and rebellions, in the dominions belonging to them.

They were to act immediately upon this, so the king would suffer no loss.

Ezra 4:23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter [was] read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.

"Letter": Another official document, as opposed to a generic letter, came from Artaxerxes, transfer of authority to the regional leaders to establish the decree. Without the king's official administrative correspondence, the decree could not be established.

It appears that these two men were the representatives of the king in this land. Even though the Jews had been freed and returned home, they were still under the rule of Persia. These men were speaking for the king of Persia, and forced the building to stop.

Ezra 4:24 "Then ceased the work of the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia."

Ezra picks up the narrative about the rebuilding of the temple from 4:5. The opposition against this work was so intense that the Jews "ceased" construction for a period of time. Eventually, work resumed in 520 B.C. And the temple was completed (in 515 B.C.; 6:15).

"Ceased ... unto the second year": For 16 years, from 536 B.C. to 520 B.C., work on rebuilding was halted.

This verse does not continue the previous discussion (verses 7-23), but picks up the thought of verse 5, going back to the time of Zerubbabel, and finishes with the same phrase (as in verse 5).

"The reign of Darius king of Persia": Two items mentioned were not addressed (in verses 1-5):

  • The work was not only hindered but halted;
  • The year of Darius (521 - 484 B.C), in which the deadlock was broken was (520 B.C.; compare Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1), or about 15 years later.

Artaxerxes reigned for less than a year. He was replaced by king Darius. Darius would allow the work to continue on as originally planned. This speaks of a period of less than 2 years interval, before the work on the temple would be legal to start again.

Ezra Chapter 4 Questions

  1. The enemy of God's people will try to stop the __________ of the _________.
  2. Who did Noah have difficulty with, when he was building the ark?
  3. Any person, who decides to do something for the LORD, will have trouble from the ________.
  4. In this particular situation, the devil was using the adversaries of ________ and _____________.
  5. What did these adversaries ask Zerubbabel?
  6. Why did they want to join the building force?
  7. Who answered their request?
  8. What was the answer?
  9. Who had commanded the building of the temple?
  10. The Bible is very plain about believers not being ____________ yoked with those of unbelief.
  11. Who weakened the hands of the people of Judah?
  12. Who are the people of the land in verse 4?
  13. Why were the counsellors hired?
  14. Why did they not want the temple built?
  15. In the reign of ______________, they wrote accusations against Judah.
  16. Who wrote the letter to Artaxerxes?
  17. Who were the chancellor and the scribe that wrote a letter?
  18. Why were all of these people so opposed to Judah and Benjamin?
  19. What was the purpose of the letters?
  20. Who had the Jews rebelled against in the past?
  21. What reason do they give this evil king for stopping them from building?
  22. How did the king answer Rehum and Shimshai?
  23. Who were the mighty kings mentioned in verse 20?
  24. What did the king tell them to do?
  25. How long did the work on the house of God cease?

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Ezra 5

Ezra Chapter 5

This portion of text relates that the work was resumed after 15 years of inactivity under the impetus of the powerful preaching of two great prophets of God. "Haggai's ministry (began on August 29, 520 B.C.; Hag. 1:1), and "Zechariah" began his ministry (October - November of 520 B.C.). They "began to build the house of God" three weeks after Haggai began preaching, which was September 20, 520 B.C. "Zerubbabel" is honored (in Haggai 2:20-23 and in Zechariah chapter 4), while "Jeshua" is honored (in Zechariah chapters 3 and 6). "Tatnai" was the Persian governor responsible for the territory west of the "river (Euphrates), including the whole of Syria and Palestine. "Shethar-Boznai" seems to have been his assistant. Both were subject to Ushtani the satrap of the Trans-Euphrates.

Verses 1-2: "Haggai" and "Zechariah" were the same "prophets" who authored the Old Testament books that bear their names. They prophesied that work on the temple should resume (Hag. 2:3-5).

Ezra 5:1 "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that [were] in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, [even] unto them."

"Haggai ... and Zechariah": The book of Haggai is styled as a "royal administrative correspondence" (compare Haggai 1:13), sent from the Sovereign King of the Universe through the "messenger of the Lord," Haggai (Hag. 1:13). Part of its message is addressed specifically to Zerubbabel, the political leader, and Joshua, the religious leader, telling them to "take courage ... and work" on the temple because God was with them (Hag. 2:4). These two prophets gave severe reproaches and threats if the people did not return to the building and promised national prosperity if they did. Not long after the exiles heard this message, the temple work began afresh after a 16 year hiatus (see notes on Haggai and Zechariah).

There had been a time of absolute complacency, since the foundation of the building of the temple until now. The people had decided not to do any more work on the temple, and to spend their time building their own houses. Zechariah was actually the grandson of Iddo. These prophets were sent of God to shake the people of Judah out of complacency. We might even say they preached to the people.

Ezra 5:2 "Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem: and with them [were] the prophets of God helping them."

"Prophets of God": These would be in addition to Haggai and Zechariah.

The messages these two prophets of God brought to the people from God, showed Zerubbabel and Jeshua the error of stopping the work on the temple. Zerubbabel represented the civil law, and Jeshua was over the spiritual. The people were commanded to go up the mountain and bring wood for the building. There is a great deal more on this in our lessons on the book of Haggai.

Verses 3-5: As confirmation that the prophets had spoken the word of the Lord, He made a way for their work to continue while the Persian officials prepared a report to the king (2 Chron. 16:9; Psalm 33:18).

"The eye of ... God" is another way of expressing the Lord's protection and oversight, similar to "the eyes of the Lord" or "the hand of the Lord" elsewhere (7:6, 28; 2 Chron. 16:9; Psalm 33:18).

Ezra 5:3 "At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?"

"Who hath commanded you?" In other words, "Who gave you royal permission to build?" (Compare Ezra 5:9).

The minute the building started up again, so did the opposition. Tatnai was governor on the other side of the river. Shethar-boznai was a Persian officer under Tatnai. Tatnai seemed to have the same rank as Zerubbabel, so it was alright to ask, but not to command the stoppage of the work.

Ezra 5:4 "Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?"

It is impossible that the existing text can be sound here. Ezra must have written, "Then said they to them." Tatnai and Shethar-boznai followed up their first question by a second, (compare verses 9-10).

"What were the names of the men that did make this building": Or employed them in it, namely, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the chief men of the Jews. They made no scruple of telling them who they were; neither ashamed of their masters nor of their work, nor afraid of any ill consequences following hereafter.

This had to be a statement made by Tatnai and the men with him. His inquiry was to set blame on the one who started the work.

Ezra 5:5 "But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this [matter]."

"But the eye of their God was upon the elders": God's hand of protection which led this endeavor allowed the work to continue while official communication was going on with Darius, the Persian king (see note on 4:5).

The workers continued the work on the temple, even after the complaint by Tatnai. The LORD was watching over them, and they were not about to stop the work, unless Darius commanded it.

Ezra 5:6 "The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which [were] on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:"

Which is thought by some to be one of the nations mentioned (Ezra 4:9), the name being pretty near alike to two of them. But perhaps might be a distinct colony in those parts Tatnai was governor of.

"These sent unto Darius the king" (and is as follows in verse 7).

The problem was the same as before. Those opposed to God did not want the temple to be built. They wrote a letter of complaint to Darius.

Ezra 5:7 "They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace."

Or this was the inscription of it.

"Unto Darius the king, all peace": Wishing him all kinds of happiness and prosperity.

Ezra 5:8 "Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands."

"Great stones, and timber": This technique of using beams and stone blocks was a well-known form of wall construction. The reason for mentioning it here was it seemed to be a preparation for conflict, or battle. Including this piece of information served as a threat to the Persian official who wanted no such conflict.

That the rebuilding of the temple required "great stones, and timber" shows the magnitude of the work involved. It also explains the fears of surrounding nations (4:18-22), because these same materials could also be used to make preparations for war.

They first spoke peace to the king. They continued by saying that they had gone to Judea and found a house being built to the great God. He was explaining that the temple was being built solid with stones and timber. He could easily see that for some reason, unknown to him, the work was prospering.

Ezra 5:9 "Then asked we those elders, [and] said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?"

The elders of the province of Judea; the chief men of it.

"Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?" (See Ezra 5:3).

Ezra 5:10 "We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that [were] the chief of them."

The names of the elders, those that set men about this work.

"To certify that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them. Take the names of them in writing, that they might with certainty acquaint the king who they were, and that if it was necessary they might be called to an account for what they were doing.

This was a true statement, but actually this was out of his jurisdiction. Cyrus had put Zerubbabel in charge of this area.

Ezra 5:11 "And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up."

"They returned us answer, saying": They sent back a report (official document from the archives). "A great king of Israel": Solomon built the first temple (ca. 966 - 969 B.C.; 1 Kings Chapters 5 to 7).

Of course they were speaking of the temple that Solomon had built so many years before. They did not answer as individuals, but called themselves the servants of the Most High God.

Ezra 5:12 "But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon."

"He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar": The expression is used commonly in royal administrative correspondence when a more powerful administrator, such as a king, relinquishes some of his authority to an underling and yet keeps the lower administrative official completely under his command. The point here is that God, as king of the universe, satisfied His wrath by relinquishing the authority for this administrative action to Nebuchadnezzar. The greatest king the ancient Near East has ever known was merely a petty official in the administration of the sovereign Lord.

Darius would have been very familiar with this. They had been unfaithful to God by worshipping false gods, and God destroyed them by the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

Ezra 5:13 "But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon [the same] king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God."

That is, the first year he was king of Babylon, having taken it, otherwise he was king of Persia many years before.

"The same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God": The Jews were perfectly warranted according to the principles of the Persian government to proceed with the building in virtue of Cyrus' edict. For everywhere a public decree is considered as remaining in force until it is revoked but the "laws of the Medes and Persians changed not" (Dan. 6:8, 12, 15).

"Cyrus ... decree" (compare Ezra 1:2-4).

Cyrus had preceded Darius by a few years. Cyrus had become the king of Babylon at the defeat of Babylon. Actually, Cyrus was king of Persia. He had commanded the building of the temple in Jerusalem, so these servants of God were not breaking any Persian laws.

Verses 14-16: "Sheshbazzar ... laid the foundation": This seems to contradict the statement (in Ezra 3:8-10), that Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the Jewish workmen laid the foundation, but it actually does not, since Sheshbazzar was the political appointee of the Persian king over the Jews and thus is given official credit for work actually done by them (see note on 1:8).

Ezra 5:14 "And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that [was] in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto [one], whose name [was] Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor;"

And the gold and silver vessels (see note Ezra 1:7-11).

"Into the temple of Babylon" (see note Ezra 1:7), 'the house of his gods', i.e. the great temple at Babylon, which Nebuchadnezzar had restored.

"Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor": Literally 'pekhah'. (In Ezra 1:8), Sheshbazzar is called 'prince of Judah'. (In Haggai 1:1 etc.) Zerubbabel is called 'pekhah' (meaning governor). For the identification (see note on Ezra 1:8). Of which, and of what is said concerning them, and particularly of the delivery of them to Sheshbazzar. Whom Cyrus made governor of Judah, and ordered him to carry them to Jerusalem, and build the temple there, and put them in it.

Ezra 5:15 "And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that [is] in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place."

The three imperatives in this verse, without a copula, followed by a fourth, vividly express the feeling of the suppliants in the remembrance of the decree. Thus, we have another note of historical truth.

"Let the house of God be builded in his place": I.e. upon the old holy site, the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac, in a figure (Heb. 11:17-19). Where the angel stood and stayed the pestilence in David's time (2 Sam. 24:16-18). And where "the glory of the Lord descended and filled the house" under Solomon (2 Chron. 7:1).

This would be something that would convince Darius that this was true. He knew that no Persian king would allow the Jews to run off with all of this gold and silver, unless he sent them with it.

Ezra 5:16 "Then came the same Sheshbazzar, [and] laid the foundation of the house of God which [is] in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and [yet] it is not finished."

Which makes it clear, that by Sheshbazzar is meant Zerubbabel; for he it was that laid the foundation of the temple. Or at least by whose order it was laid (see Zech. 4:9).

"and since that time even until now": From the first of Cyrus to the second of Darius, a space of about eighteen years, and just seventy from the destruction of the temple.

"Hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished": The work going on slowly, not without interruption and intermission, through the enmity of the Samaritans unto them, who had made false representations of them. But these men, Tatnai and those with him, as the Jews gave them a very particular account of things, as above, so they fairly and fully related them in this their letter to the king.

This was an accurate statement of exactly what happened. If Tatnai sent these words of the Hebrews to king Darius, he was trying to get at the truth.

Ezra 5:17 "Now therefore, if [it seem] good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which [is] there at Babylon, whether it be [so], that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter."

Where were the archives of the kingdom, where the laws, decrees, edicts, and proclamations, and other things relating to the state, were laid up, that recourse might be had to them upon occasion.

"Whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem": Which the Jews affirmed was made by him, and upon which they proceeded.

"And let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter": Whether the Jews should be allowed to go on with the building of their temple, and finish it, or whether they should be restrained from it. Signifying they were ready to do his will and pleasure either way, as he thought fit.

The Persians kept accurate records of various decrees their kings had made. If Cyrus had made this decree, they could not change it. This captain of Persia wanted to know for sure what was to be done about all of this. Darius would search out the truth and get back to him.

Ezra Chapter 5 Questions

  1. Who were the two prophets who brought messages to the Jews from God?
  2. There had been a time of absolute _______________ about the temple.
  3. Zechariah was actually the ____________ of Iddo.
  4. Who began to build the house of God, again, immediately?
  5. Who represented the civil law?
  6. Who represented the spiritual?
  7. Where can we read more about this renewing of the building of the temple?
  8. Who was governor on this side of the river?
  9. Who was the officer under him?
  10. What question did he ask about the work?
  11. Whose names did he try to get?
  12. Why did the elders not cease work on the temple?
  13. Who did Tatnai send a letter to about this situation?
  14. What province was Jerusalem in?
  15. How did he explain the building of the temple?
  16. What did he call God?
  17. Who had Cyrus put in charge of this?
  18. What were they speaking of in verse 11?
  19. Why did God destroy the temple before?
  20. When did Cyrus decide to build the temple?
  21. Why would a Persian king allow these Jews to carry off the vessels of gold from Babylon?
  22. Who had Cyrus sent of the Persians to oversee the building of the temple?
  23. What were they to search for?
  24. If the decree was made by Cyrus, they could not _______ it.

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Ezra 6

Ezra Chapter 6

Verses 1-12: The reference to "rolls" in verse 1 is to "archivers." The "Achmetha" of verse 2 is Ecbatana the capital of the old Median Empire. The roll of verse 2 means a papyrus or leather scroll (a different Hebrew word), instead of the usual clay tablet. Verses 6-12 contain a strongly worded decree from Darius which reinforced the original one from Cyrus. The threat (in verse 11), is heightened by Herodotus's account, which states that Darius impaled three thousand Babylonians after conquering their city.

Verses 1-2: "Babylon ... Achmetha": The Vulgate Latin version has it Ecbatana. Ecbatana was one of the Persian capitals, 300 miles northeast of Babylon in the foothills, where Cyrus and others had their summer homes.

Ezra 6:1 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.

"Darius the king made a decree": Rather than a public edict, this was a simple order issued to a small group of officials.

"Darius I": (the great), is also known as Darius Hystaspis, or Darius, son of Hystaspis. He reigned over Persian from about 521 to 485 B.C. as one of the most able Persian kings. Darius continued Cyrus the Great's policy of restoring the Jewish people to their homeland. In 520 B.C., Darius's second year as king, the Jews resumed work on the still-unfinished temple in Jerusalem. Darius assisted by ordering the project to continue, even granting a generous subsidy to help revive temple worship (verses 1-12). The temple was completed in 516 B.C., in the sixth year of Darius's reign. (Ezra 4:5-6; Hag. 1:1, 15; 2:10; Zech. 1:1, 7; 7:1).

This is saying that Darius sent orders for the records to be searched to see if such a decree had been made by Cyrus. They searched first in Babylon, but there was more than one place for the records that were kept. The record in Babylon was destroyed, if there was one.

Ezra 6:2 "And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that [is] in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein [was] a record thus written:"

"Therein was a record thus written": A particular kind of document called a memorandum (Ezra 4:15; Mal. 3:16). Administrative officials often kept these documents of administrative decisions made, or issues remaining to be settled, to retain the details of administrative action for future reference.

"Achmetha" (also called Ecbatana; modern-day Hamadan in Iran), was one of four cities that served as a capital in Persia. Its elevation (6,000 feet above sea level), provided an ideal climate for keeping royal records and scrolls.

This was a place in the province of the Medes. It was possibly, an extra copy of the decree that Cyrus had made. He was aware that one might be destroyed probably. Achmetha was the capital of northern Media. Cyrus the 2nd held his court here.

Ezra 6:3 "In the first year of Cyrus the king [the same] Cyrus the king made a decree [concerning] the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, [and] the breadth thereof threescore cubits;"

"First year" (ca. 538 B.C.; compare 1:2-4).

"Thereof threescore cubits ... threescore cubits": These dimensions exceed those of Solomon's temple (compare 1 Kings 6:2).

In this decree, we see more details than we had in the first chapter, where we read of Cyrus wanting to re-build the temple. They not only found the decree, but it spelled out exactly what was to be done.

Ezra 6:4 "[With] three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house:"

Which Jarchi interprets of the walls of it, and these stones of marble; and so Ben Melech.

"And a row of new timber": Of cedar wood upon the rows of stone (see 1 Kings 6:36), or for the lining and wainscoting the walls.

"And let the expenses be given out of the king's house": Treasury, or exchequer. But it does not appear that this part of the decree was observed, at least hitherto. But the Jews built at their own expense, and perhaps did not exactly observe the directions given as to the dimensions of the house.

Cyrus had given from his own treasury toward this building. The Jews had put money in on this themselves as well. It appears from this, however, that all expenses were to be paid for by Persia.

Ezra 6:5 "And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, [every one] to his place, and place [them] in the house of God."

"And also let the golden and silver vessels . . . be restored": The desecration of these vessels by Belshazzar (Dan. 5:2-3), was thus to be atoned for. Every word, including the twice repeated "house of God," is most emphatic.

And place them in the house of God": Thus far the decree of Cyrus is recited, which justified all the allegations of the Jews in the foregoing chapter. In the next verse the decree of Darius thereupon appears to begin.

"Nebuchadnezzar took" (see note on 1:7).

This also had been done with all of the vessels found that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem, when Zerubbabel led the first group back to Judah.

Verses 6-12: God often uses unbelievers, like the pagan king Darius, to carry out His will (Isa. 46:10; Acts 4:24-28). In this case, the continued rebuilding of the temple affirmed God's presence in Jerusalem.

Ezra 6:6 "Now [therefore], Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which [are] beyond the river, be ye far from thence:"

The river Euphrates, which side of it was towards the land of Israel; Josephus calls this man master of the horse.

Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence. Keep at a distance from the Jews, and give them no disturbance, nor interrupt them in their work of building of the temple, but mind your own business and government.

Tatnai was not to have anything to do with stopping the work. Darius sent him word to leave them alone. The message in short was, "leave them alone".

Verses 6-7: God so favored the Jews (compare 5:5), that, through Darius, He forbade the officials from interfering with the building project.

Ezra 6:7 "Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place."

Let them to go on with it, and do not hinder them. It looks, by these expressions, as if he had some suspicion or hint given him that they were inclined to molest them, or that there were some that stirred them up, and were desirous of it.

"Let the governor of the Jews, and the elders of the Jews, build this house of God in his place": Where it formerly stood; that is, go on with the building of it.

Darius warned Tatnai not to interfere in any way with the building of this temple. They were to be left alone to build the temple of God.

Verses 8-10: Not only could the officials not hinder the building, but they also had to help finance it by giving the Jews some of their portion of taxes collected for the Persian king. The Jews could draw from the provincial treasury.

Ezra 6:8 "Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, [even] of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered."

This must be considered as an additional decree of Darius, which was peculiarly made by him, in which more was granted in favor of the Jews, and as an encouragement to them to go on with the building of the temple. Though Josephus says this is nothing other than a confirmation of the decree of Cyrus; for, according to him, all that is here granted to them, or threatened to others, from hence to the end of (Ezra 6:10), was contained in the decree.

"That of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river": What was collected out of his dominions on that side the river Euphrates, towards the land of Israel. According to Herodotus, this Darius was the first of the kings of Persia that exacted tribute.

"That forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered": From going on with the building, for want of money to buy materials, and pay the workmen.

Darius commanded Tatnai to give the tribute money to them to pay their men for the work on the temple. They must not be hindered in this work. Darius would make sure they did everything that Cyrus promised to do.

Ezra 6:9 "And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which [are] at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:"

All which were used for burnt offerings (see Lev. 1:2).

"Wheat, salt, wine, and oil": "wheat", or "fine flour", for the "minchah" (the afternoon prayer service in Judaism), or meat offering; "salt", for every offering. Wine", for the drink offerings; and "oil", to be put upon the meat offerings (see Lev. 2:1).

"According to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail": For the daily sacrifice, and the meat and drink offerings which attended it (Exodus 29:38).

Somehow, he had to know which animals they used in sacrifice. These were to be given to them in abundance, so they would have enough for their sacrifices. They were to be fed of the king's supplies. This was to be seen after every single day.

Ezra 6:10 "That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons."

"Pray for the life of the king, and of his sons": This was essentially the same self-serving motive that prompted Cyrus to decree that all captured peoples should return to their countries, rebuild the temples that Nebuchadnezzar and others had destroyed, and placate the offended deities. He wanted all the gods on his side, including Israel's God.

Darius wanted them to pray for him and his sons. He believed the power of their God was the true power.

Ezra 6:11 "Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this."

"Pulled down ... hanged ... made a dunghill": Typical punishment for a serious infraction (compare Rev. 22:18-19). This was specifically directed at the hostile Samaritans.

There would be no more opposition, because of the punishment to be inflicted on those who opposed the building of the temple.

Verses 12-22: In this section, the temple is finished in the "sixth year of the reign of Darius" (March 12, 515 B.C.). While it was being built (the events of Zechariah chapter 7 occurred). They kept the "dedication "of the house of God with joy." The word for "dedication" is chenukah (Hanukkah), which was later to become the name of a festival in memory of the temple's re-consecration (in 165 B.C.), after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes. Solomon had offered more than two hundred times as many oxen and sheep at the dedication of his temple (1 Kings. 8:63, with 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep).

Beginning with (verse 19), the text is again in Hebrew. Verse 21 indicates two groups of people:

(1) those who had returned from exile; and

(2) possibly a group of Jews who had not gone into captivity, or a group of proselytes (compare Exodus 12:44, 48).

The reference to the "king of Assyria" is accurate because Darius was also the sovereign of Assyria, so he could easily have been called king of Assyria. There is a similar use of the term in a Babylonian king list which starts with the Assyrian Kandalanu, mentions the Chaldeans, Nabopolassar, and Nebuchadnezzar, then refers to Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius, and ends with the names of Seleucid kings.

Ezra 6:12 "And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter [and] to destroy this house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed."

Whose name is not only called upon there, and that called by his name; but who grants his presence, and causes his Shekinah, or divine Majesty. To dwell there, as in Solomon's temple, which Darius had some knowledge of.

"Destroy all kings and people": Let them be who they will, high or low.

"That shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God, which is at Jerusalem": This he said to deter from hindering the building of it now, and from attempting to destroy it hereafter.

"I Darius have made a decree, let it be done with speed": Be carried immediately into execution, especially with respect to the disbursement for the building of the temple, and for the sacrifices of it.

The decree of Darius went even further than the decree of Cyrus. He was speaking of the One True God here. He called for God to destroy any king, or people, who came against the building of the temple.

Ezra 6:13 "Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily."

Having received and read the above letter.

"According to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily": Acquainted the Jews with what the king had written; were so far from hindering the work going forward, that they encouraged it. And made disbursements to them out of the king's tribute, and furnished them with everything necessary for sacrifice. And this they did immediately, without delay.

Tatnai did exactly as the king had commanded him to do.

Ezra 6:14 "And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished [it], according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia."

"Prospered" (Haggai 1:7-11).

The Israelites "builded, and finished" the temple according to their highest authority: "the commandment of the God of Israel".

"The commandment of the God of Israel ... commandment of Cyrus": This is not the normal term for command, but it is the same word translated "decree" or "administrative order" throughout the book. The message here is powerful. It was the decree from God, the Sovereign of the universe, which gave administrative authority to rebuild the temple. The decrees (same word), of 3 of the greatest monarchs in the history of the ancient Near East were only a secondary issue. God rules the universe and He raised up kings, then pulls them from their thrones when they have served His administration.

"Artaxerxes": Although he did not contribute to the project under Zerubbabel, he did under Ezra (compare 7:11-26).

Haggai prophesied of a day when the house of the Lord would be far greater than anything in the past. His prophecies encouraged the people so greatly, that they worked diligently on the temple to complete it. There was no shortage of funds, because Darius had agreed to pay for the services of the people in this work. The chiefs of the fathers, and the priests, and High Priests, and even Zerubbabel, were to oversee the work. All the young men 20 years old, and older, did the actual labor. Haggai and Zechariah preached and kept them with the desire to do this according to the will of God. Cyrus had written instructions that the LORD had given him, and Darius and Artaxerxes gave orders of how it was to be finished too.

Verses 15-17: The temple was completed (in 515 B.C.), about 23 years after the project was started. Although this was a time of great celebration and blessing, the number of sacrifices they offered was less than those offered when Solomon dedicated the first temple (1 Kings 8:63). The people were not as prosperous or as numerous as they were before the exile. The priestly divisions are described (in 1 Chron. Chapter 24).

Ezra 6:15 "And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king."

The twelfth month of the year with the Jews, and answers to part of our February and part of March.

"Which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king": Four years after the decree came forth.

"Adar ... sixth year": The 12th month (Feb./Mar.; in 516 B.C.).

We find that from the time the foundation was laid until its completion, the temple was 23 years in the building. After God sent Haggai and Zechariah to them, it took 4 years and 5 months. Many of the 23 years there was nothing done on it all. Adar was the twelfth month on their calendar. It would be equivalent to our March.

Ezra 6:16 "And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,"

Those of the ten tribes that remained after the body of the people were carried captive, or came with the Jews at their return.

"The priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity": Those of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

"Kept the dedication of this house of God with joy": They set it apart for sacred use and service, with feasting and other expressions of joy and gladness (as follows in verse 17).

This dedication was on the order of the dedication that Solomon did, when he and the people dedicated the temple the first time. This was a time of great joy, because they were re-united in fellowship with their God. They suddenly had a place of worship. At this point, the people were really home.

Ezra 6:17 "And offered at the dedication of this house of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel".

Hecatombs (a great public sacrifice), of various sorts, which were always reckoned grand sacrifices, even among Heathens, of which Homer sometimes speaks. Some of these were for burnt offerings, and others peace offerings, by way of thankfulness to God for the finishing of the temple. Part of which belonging to those offering, as they feasted upon it with great gladness of heart.

"And for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel". For though the ten tribes were carried captive by Shalmaneser, yet, as before observed, there were some of them that remained in the land, and others that went and returned with the two tribes. And therefore, a sin offering was made for them all, for the typical act of making amends of guilt contracted since they had been in a Heathen land and temple service had ceased.

This number of animals offered were many less than was offered by Solomon at his dedication, and fewer even than those offered by Hezekiah. We must remember however, that there were not nearly as many people living in Judah now as there were then. In Solomon's time, all 12 tribes were included.

Ezra 6:18 "And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which [is] at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses."

"Divisions" (compare 1 Chron. Chapter 24), where the priestly divisions are delineated. Although David arranged the priest and Levites in order according to families, it was Moses who assigned their rights, privileges and duties (see notes on Num. chapters 3 and 4).

The book of Moses": I.e., the Torah, "Hebrew; or Pentateuch, "Greek translation; or, the Law of Moses; which are all the first five books of the bible.

Everything was done as it was prescribed in the book of Moses. We remember, that the priests were Levites too. Not all Levites were priests however. Some were keepers of the doors. Some were singers and musicians. All Levites were set aside for the service of the Lord. Just a few were priests.

Verses 19-21; The Passover was celebrated by Jews who had returned from exile and by recent converts who had abandoned ("separated ... unto them"), from the other religions ("the filthiness of the heathen of the land"), to follow Israel's God.

Ezra 6:19 "And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth [day] of the first month."

"Passover" (compare Lev. 23:4-8). Other notable Passovers include Hezekiah's (2 Chron. 30:1-22) and Josiah's (2 Chron. 35:1-19).

"First month": March/April.

The returned exiles were spoken of as Israel. Not all who returned were of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Some were from the other 10 tribes and all of the people of the various tribes, who came back into the land, kept the Passover. This day is approximately the 14th day of April by our calendar. Passover was a remembrance of the night in Egypt, when death passed over the Hebrew houses that had the blood of a lamb over and around their doors. This was the 10th plague God sent on Egypt to free the children of Israel.

Ezra 6:20 "For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them [were] pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves."

They were all to a man pure, and all purified as one man. All were of one mind to purify themselves, and took care to do it, and did it with as much dispatch as if only one man was purified. So that they were more generally prepared for service now than in the times of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:34).

"And killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests and for themselves". Which seems to have been done by the Levites, for themselves and for the priests, and for all the people, who were not so pure as the priests and Levites. Or otherwise they might have killed it themselves (Exodus 12:6).

The priests were anointed to the LORD while they were in the temple for service. In this case, it seems that all of the Levites, for all of the various services were anointed with the anointing oil for service.

Ezra 6:21 "And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,"

"The filthiness of the heathen of the land": These were proselytes (a person who has converted from one religion to another, especially recently), to Judaism, who had confessed their spiritual uncleanness before the Lord, been circumcised, and renounced idolatry to keep the Passover (verse 22).

The passover lamb was eaten by all of the people sacrificing. Each family had a lamb the size their family could eat in one night. This Passover is very similar to communion that the Christians partake of. The lamb the Hebrews ate was symbolic of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb. The Unleavened Bread that we take at communion, also symbolizes the body of our Lord Jesus.

Verses 6:22 - 7:1: The book of Esther fits in this 59 year gap between the completion of the temple (ca. 516 B.C.), under Zerubbabel (Ezra chapters 1 through 6), and the second return (ca. 458 B.C.), under Ezra (Ezra Chapters 7 to 10; Ezra 4:6 provides a glimpse into this period also).

Ezra 6:22 "And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel."

The king of Assyria" was a title assigned to any Persian king (in this instance, Darius), who ruled the territory previously controlled by the Assyrians. The "Feast of Unleavened Bread" started on the day immediately following the Passover feast (Exodus 12:15-20; Lev. 23:4-8; Num. 28:16-17).

"Turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them": By turning the heart of the king in their favor in allowing them to complete the rebuilding, God encouraged His people. They understood the verse, "The king's heart is ... in the hand of the Lord" (Prov. 21:1), better through this ordeal. The title "King of Assyria" was held by every king who succeeded the great Neo-Assyrian Empire regardless of what country they may have come from.

The celebration of Unleavened Bread overlaps Passover. We mentioned that the Unleavened Bread symbolizes the LORD Jesus Christ who is the Bread of life. It must be unleavened, because He was without sin. We partake of His righteousness. "Seven" means spiritually complete. The king of Assyria recognizes the Lord as God.

Ezra Chapter 6 Questions

  1. What did Darius do to find Cyrus' decree?
  2. Where did they search first?
  3. Where were they found?
  4. What was on the roll?
  5. What were the dimensions of the temple to be built?
  6. What was to be done with the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple?
  7. Who had led the first group back to Judah from captivity?
  8. What message did Tatnai receive from Darius?
  9. The funds to build the temple would come from where?
  10. In verse 9, we read of what being given to the Hebrews?
  11. Why did Darius want to be sure they sacrificed to their God?
  12. What decree did Darius make about anyone who changed the word?
  13. What did he decree that would happen to anyone who tried to destroy the temple?
  14. How did Tatnai take the orders from Darius?
  15. Who supervised the building?
  16. What three kings were in on the building of the temple?
  17. How did Haggai encourage them?
  18. What other prophet was helpful to the building of the temple.
  19. Who did the actual work on the temple?
  20. How long did it take to build the temple from the time the foundation was laid?
  21. How many of those years were after the prophets came?
  22. What was the example for the dedication?
  23. Why were there fewer animals sacrificed here, than in Solomon's dedication?
  24. When was the house finished?
  25. Who kept the dedication?
  26. When did they keep the Passover?
  27. Who were purified for service for the Passover?
  28. Who ate the Passover lamb?
  29. What did the Passover lamb symbolize?
  30. What does Passover celebrate?
  31. When is Unleavened Bread celebrated?
  32. Who is the Unleavened Bread?

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Ezra 7

Ezra Chapter 7

Verses 7:1 - 8:36: This section introduces Ezra and presents the scholar-priest, his family, his task, and his expedition. Much of the account is his personal record, using I and we.

From verses 7:1 - 10:44, covers the return of the second group to Judah, led by Ezra (ca. 458 B.C.).

In 458 B.C. (during the reign of "Artaxerxes"), a second group of exiles retuned to the land of Judah, nearly 60 years after the first wave. This second group was led by "Ezra," a priest who could trace his lineage back to "Aaron". Ezra was a "skilled scribe", important because, after the exile, scribes served as teachers of the Scriptures. The law had to be retaught and reintegrated into the life of Israel.

Ezra 7:1 "Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,"

"Now after these things" actually includes a long time, since between chapters 6 and 7 bout 58 years intervene, during which time the events of the Book of Esther occur (483 - 473 B.C.).

"Artaxerxes" (King of Persia from 464 - 423 B.C.).

"Seraiah" was High Priest in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:18). So Ezra must have descended from a younger son of Seraiah because he is not called "son of Jozadak" as Jeshua is (3:2; 1 Chron. 6:14). Thus, his immediate ancestors were not in the high-priestly line.

"Ezra" was a scribe and priest who led the returned captives in Jerusalem to make a new commitment to God's Law. Ezra, a descendant of Aaron through Eleazar, gained favor during the reign of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia. The king commissioned him to return to Jerusalem about 458 B.C. to bring order among the people of the new community. Artaxerxes even gave Ezra a royal letter (verses 11-16), granting him civil as well as religious authority, along with finances to furnish the temple, which the returned captives had rebuilt. Ezra was a skilled scribe and teacher, extensively trained in the Law (Genesis - Deuteronomy; Ezra 7:6, 10, 12). Ezra was also noted for his marriage reforms (9:1-2; 10:1-5). God blessed him in all of his endeavors (verse 9; Ezra 7:1; 7:10).

"Son of": Ezra traced his lineage back through such notable High-Priests as Zadok (1 Kings 2:35), Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13), and Eleazar (Num. 3:4).

This chapter is all about the second return of the people who had been in captivity in Babylon, to their homeland. This return was led by Ezra.

Ezra 7:2 "The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,"

This portion of the genealogy agrees exactly with that of Jehozadak in (1 Chron. 6:3-15), excepting in the omission, which has been already noticed, of six names between Azariah and Meraioth. We may gather from (1 Chron. 9:11), that a Meraioth is also omitted between the Zadok and Ahitub of verse 2.

Ezra 7:3-4 "The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth," "The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,"

The genealogy of Ezra here is incomplete. The time between the Exodus and Ezra must have exceeded one thousand years, and cannot have been covered by 16 generations. One gap may be filled up from (1 Chron. 6:7-10), which supplies six names between Meraioth and Azariah (Ezra 7:3). Another gap probably occurs between Seraiah (Ezra 7:1), and Ezra himself; since Seraiah appears to be the High Priest of Zedekiah's time (marginal reference). Who lived at least 130 years before Ezra. Three or four names are probably missing in this place. Another name (Meraioth), may be supplied from (1 Chron. 9:11), between Zadok and Ahitub (Ezra 7:2). These additions would produce 27 generations, a number nearly sufficient, instead of 16 generations.

There are six generations omitted between Azariah and Meraioth, as before some were omitted between Seraiah and Ezra, which are to be supplied out of (1 Chron. 6:7).

Ezra 7:5 "The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:"

This is showing Ezra's right to be priest in the land. His direct lineage goes back to Phinehas, one of my favorite priests, and then on back to Aaron, who was the first High Priest.

Verses 6-10: The king sent Ezra to Jerusalem to ensure that the Israelites were interceding for the empire in the worship services. This was required of all religions under Persian rule.

Ezra 7:6 "This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he [was] a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him."

"Ready scribe in the law" Ezra's role as a scribe was critical to reinstate the nation since the leaders had to go back to the law and interpret it. This was no small task because many aspects of life had changed in the intervening 1,000 years since the law was first given. Tradition says Ezra had the law memorized and could write it from memory.

"Ready scribe" conveys the initial idea of "quick, prompt, skilled," and pertains to "rapid" (in Psalm 45:1), and "prompt in justice" (in Isaiah 16:5; compare Prov. 22:29). It suggests a quickness of grasp and ease of movement amid some complex material, which was the fruit of the devoted study described (in verse 10). Earlier, a scribe may have meant a "secretary", but by Jeremiah's time scribes were already teachers of Scripture (Jer. 8:8), and that is the meaning here.

"The hand of the LORD his God upon him": This refrain occurs throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its resounding presence assures the reader that it was not by the shrewd leadership skills of a few men that Judah, with its temple and walls was rebuilt in the midst of a powerful Medo-Persian Empire. Rather it was the sovereign hand of the wise and powerful King of the universe that allowed this to happen.

We mentioned before that the return of the people from Babylon was gradual, over a few years. Zerubbabel led the first group, and now Ezra was leading the second group back. Ezra had never gotten away from the Law of Moses. He had remained faithful to it through all of the hardships.

Ezra 7:7 "And there went up [some] of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king."

Perhaps some of the ten tribes, as well as others of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Who, notwithstanding the edict of Cyrus, chose to remain in Babylon, and in the countries of it, until they saw how things would go in Judea. And hearing that the temple was finished, and that those that had returned had built houses in their several cities, and prospered, thought fit to return also.

"And of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, unto

Jerusalem": To take their places, and execute their offices in the temple now built. For of the Levites especially, some of which were singers, and others porters, and of the Nethinim, there were but few that went up with Zerubbabel: now this journey of theirs was taken.

"In the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king": That is, of Darius Artaxerxes, and this was the year after the temple was finished. Though it is thought by many learned men, and not without some show of reason, that Artaxerxes Longimanus is meant.

"Nethinim" (see note on 2:43-54).

"Seventh year" (ca. 458 B.C.).

This Artaxerxes was the grandson of Darius, and the son of Xerxes. The children of Israel, priests, Levites, singers, porters, and Nethinim (temple assistants), were more of the same class of people, who went up in the first exodus following Zerubbabel.

Verses 8-9: The 4 month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, covering almost 1,000 miles started in March/April and ended in July/August.

Ezra 7:8 "And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which [was] in the seventh year of the king."

With the above company; this was the month Abib, answering to part of July and part of August. "Which was in the seventh year of the king": As in the preceding verse.

Ezra 7:9 "For upon the first [day] of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first [day] of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him."

The month Nisan, answering to part of March and part of April; this was New Year's Day.

"And on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem": The first of the month Ab, as in the preceding verse; so that he was just four months on his journey.

"According to the good hand of his God upon him": His power and providence, which gave him and his company health and strength, supplied them with everything necessary, directed, protected, and defended them, and brought them in safety to their journey's end.

We can see from these two Scriptures that this journey took about 4 months. They left Babylon about April first on our calendar, and arrived in August. We mentioned earlier that this trip was approximately 1,000 miles.

Ezra 7:10 "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do [it], and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."

Ezra sought to understand God's Word so he could practice it personally; only then did he teach it. Ezra's life demonstrates the importance of disciplined Bible study and obedience to biblical teachings. Not only did the Lord provide him with favor, but dramatic changes took place in the nation because of Ezra's commitment to the "Law of the Lord.

Seek ... do it ... teach": The pattern of Ezra's preparation is exemplary. He studied before he attempted to live a life of obedience, and he studied and practiced the law in his own life before he opened his mouth to teach that law. But the success of Ezra's leadership did not come from his strength alone, but most significantly because "the good hand of his God upon him" (7:9).

Ezra was determined to make this trip, so he could teach the law to the people again. He wanted Israel to return to God's laws and ordinances.

Verses 11-28: This section records a letter which Artaxerxes wrote in Aramaic to Ezra, granting him permission to take Jewish volunteers, silver and gold, and temple vessels back to Jerusalem. He also made ample provision for temple supplies and ministers, and gave Ezra authority to appoint magistrates and judges.

Ezra 7:11 "Now this [is] the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, [even] a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel."

"Copy of the letter": The original was usually kept for a record. The letter was addressed to Ezra because the decree recorded therein was the critical administrative document. Decrees were commonly embedded in letters. The letter in essence authorized the document into Ezra's hands so that he could carry it and read it to its intended audience.

We know that without permission from the Persian king, they could not have gone back to their homeland. This decree from the king, first gave them permission to leave Babylon and go back to Judah. The letter that the king sent to Ezra, gave him special privileges by authority of the king. It was a letter of authority, wherever he went. Ezra was a man who had gained respect from the king as a man who kept the law and commandments of God.

Verses 12-26: This is a remarkable decree that evidences God's sovereign rule over earthly kings and His intent to keep the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants with Israel. This section is in Aramaic (as was 4:8 - 6:18).

Ezra 7:12 "Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect [peace], and at such a time."

"King of kings": Though it was true that Artaxerxes ruled over other kings, Jesus Christ is the ultimate King of Kings (compare Rev. 19:16), who alone can genuinely make that claim since He will rule over all kings in His coming kingdom (compare Rev. 11-15).

The king of Persia referred to himself as the "king of kings" because he was the most powerful man in the world. One day, the whole world will recognize the true King of kings, Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:10-11; Rev. 17:14; 19:16).

This is the beginning of the words of the decree. The king of Persia was called king of kings, because at this time the Persians were very powerful in the known world. It is interesting to me, that these Persian rulers recognized God. In essence, the decree is saying that the king has no argument with Ezra. He will allow Ezra to do what he desires to do.

Ezra 7:13 "I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and [of] his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee."

Which, according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, when signed, might not be changed (Dan. 6:8).

"That all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm": Who remained there, and took not the benefit of the edict of Cyrus, which gave them leave to go; but neglecting the opportunity, it seems as if they could not now go out of the realm without a fresh grant, which is hereby given.

"Which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee": This decree did not oblige them to go whether they would or not. For they might, notwithstanding this, continue if they pleased. It only gave them leave to make use of the present opportunity of going along with Ezra, if they chose.

We see from this, that all who had been captives were now free to go. Ezra must not force them to go, but if they desired to go they could. This would stop any of the people they had been working for, to keep them from going. They had permission of the king, which overrules anything individuals might do to stop them.

Ezra 7:14 "Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which [is] in thine hand;"

"Seven counselors": This number was according to the Persian tradition (compare Esther 1:14).

These seven counselors are probably the seven princes of Persia and Media. Ezra's purpose, as far as the king was concerned, was to check on what was happening in Judah and Jerusalem. The king had made everything available for Ezra to carry the mission out. Ezra wanted to check on the people, and make sure they had not fallen back into idolatry.

Ezra 7:15 "And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation [is] in Jerusalem,"

In the temple built there. For the service of which, either for purchasing and procuring vessels that were wanting in it, or for sacrifices to be offered in it. The king and his nobles had made a voluntary contribution, and entrusted and sent Ezra with it.

This would be a large sum of money in the silver and gold. The large number of Hebrews, who would be with Ezra, would be protection against highway robbery. Ezra was in charge of the silver and gold, as he was over all the people. The king of Persia had given considerably large amounts to the Hebrews for carrying on the services in their temple.

Ezra 7:16 "And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which [is] in Jerusalem:"

Not that he might take it wherever he found it, whether the owners of it were willing he should have it or not. But whatever was freely offered by them, as Jarchi, that he was allowed to take, whatever he could get in that way.

"With the freewill offering of the people": Of the people of the Jews, who thought fit to continue in the province.

"And of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem": Those freewill offerings, whether of the natives of Babylon, or of any of the Jewish nation, for the service of the temple at Jerusalem, he had leave and a commission to carry with him.

Now we see that even the Hebrews, who remained in Babylon, would give silver and gold to be carried back into the homeland for use in the services in the temple. Ezra would be the guardian of that as well.

Ezra 7:17 "That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which [is] in Jerusalem."

Thus freely contributed by one and another.

"Bullocks, rams, lambs": Which were for burnt offerings.

"With their meat offerings, and their drink offerings": Which always went along with the burnt offerings, according to the Law of Moses. And which the king seemed to have a right knowledge of, being, no doubt, instructed by Ezra, or some other Jew in his court.

"And offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem": The altar of burnt offering in the temple there.

The money was to be used to purchase the animals for sacrifice. These were to be sacrificed immediately. This would maintain the daily sacrifices, and the sacrifices for the various feasts and new moon celebrations.

Ezra 7:18 "And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God."

The priests that he should think fit to take in for his assistance in this work.

"To do with the rest of the silver and gold": Which should be left after the sacrifices were offered up.

"That do after the will of your God": As they should be directed by him, or was prescribed by him in the law.

The king completely trusted Ezra. He knew that Ezra would do exactly what the LORD wanted him to do. The extra silver and gold could be used to beautify the temple, or to employ people to do repairs, or whatever the LORD led Ezra to do with it.

Ezra 7:19 "The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God,

[those] deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem."

"The vessels" may have been some left behind perhaps overlooked when restored by Cyrus (in 1:7-11); or they may have been a goodwill gift, newly presented.

It appears they were still finding vessels that belonged in the temple in Jerusalem. They were not to be used for anything else. They were to be carried directly to the temple.

Ezra 7:20 "And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow [it] out of the king's treasure house."

For beautifying and ornamenting the temple (Ezra 7:27).

"Bestow it out of the king's treasure house": Where the money collected by tribute, tax, and custom, was deposited; his exchequer (a royal or national treasury), as it may be called (see Ezra 6:8).

This is speaking of the local treasure house. This was funds that had been gathered in Judah. Ezra was such an honorable man, the king knew he would not use more of the treasury than was necessary. He certainly would not use from the treasury for anything but for the temple. The wide authority given Ezra was, because the king trusted him.

Ezra 7:21 "And I, [even] I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which [are] beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,"

The receivers of his tribute, tax, and custom, beyond the river Euphrates, on the side towards the land of Israel.

"That whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven" (see Ezra 7:12).

"Shall require of you, it be done speedily": Which seems at first a grant at large for whatsoever he should want or demand, but is limited and restrained by what follows.

Ezra 7:22 "Unto a hundred talents of silver, and to a hundred measures of wheat, and to a hundred baths of wine, and to a hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing [how much]."

These, according to Jarchi, were to buy the offerings or sacrifices with.

"And a hundred measures of wheat": Or corn, the same measure with the homer, each of which held ten ephahs, or seventy five wine gallons, five pints, and upwards; these, according to the same writer, were for meat offerings, made of fine flour, or rather bread offerings, as they may be called.

"And to a hundred baths of wine": Which was the same measure in liquids as the ephah in things dry, a tenth part of the cor (denotes a round vessel used as a measure both for liquids and solids), or homer, and held seven wine gallons, five pints, and upwards. These were for the drink offerings.

"And to a hundred baths of oil": The same measure as before; these were to mix in the meat offerings.

"And salt without prescribing how much": Because it was used in all offerings, and was cheap, and therefore no measure is fixed, but as much as was wanting was to be given (see Lev. 2:1).

We see from these two verses, that those in charge of the treasuries were not to argue with Ezra about this. They were to do exactly as Ezra requested them to do. There was a limitation, however to the top amount he could receive. Anything up to that amount they were to do quickly.

Ezra 7:23 "Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?"

In the law given by Moses to the people of Israel.

"Let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven": For the service of it, particularly sacrifices.

"For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" Through the neglect of the service of God in the temple, and by reason of the default of the king's treasurers.

The king knew that Ezra spoke as an oracle of God. The requests he made would be made by God Himself, through Ezra. It appears this particular king of Persia wanted to stay in the good graces of God. There had been some threat of war, and they wanted the LORD on their side. The historians say that this king had eighteen sons.

Ezra 7:24 "Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinim, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them."

The king had a right and perfect knowledge of the distinct offices and services of those persons (see Ezra 7:7).

"It shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them": That they might be the less encumbered with the affairs of life, and be more at leisure to attend divine service, and do it the more readily and freely. It was usual with the Heathens to except ecclesiastics from taxes, tributes, and imposts.

All who are in the service of the LORD, live of the offerings of the altar. They do not have private incomes, and should not be compelled to pay taxes. This is still true today. Many do pay taxes, but the pastors of churches are not required to pay taxes on the money they receive from the church.

Verses 25-26: God used Artaxerxes' words to remind Ezra to set up systems that would help the people keep the covenant God made with them, the same one they had rejected so many times before. The king's words echo the words of (Deut. Chapter 28).

Ezra 7:25 "And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that [is] in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that [are] beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know [them] not."

"Thou, Ezra": The letter in which the decree was embedded was written to Ezra. The king turned to him in a demonstration of administrative trust and granted him permission to appoint magistrates and judges for the region. The effect of this decision would be to offer a measure of local autonomy to the Jews.

Ezra is not just priest and scribe here. The king wanted him to appoint Godly men to run the government, as well. It is interesting to me, to note that those who were familiar with the law of God and keep it were to be the rulers in civil affairs. Ezra was even instructed to teach the ways of the LORD to those who did not know it.

Ezra 7:26 "And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether [it be] unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment."

Either the judge who delays judgment, or does not execute it according to the law of God, and of the king. Or the people, that do not obey the law of God in matters of religion, and the law of the king in civil things, Judea being now a province of the Persian empire. Though some think the law of the king only refers to this law or decree of the king, which gave the Jews power to execute their own laws.

"Let judgment be executed speedily upon him": Immediately, without delay, according to the nature of his crime.

"Whether it be unto death": If guilty of a capital crime, deserving death, let him be put to death.

"Or to banishment": From his native country to a foreign distant land. Or to rooting out, as the word signifies; an utter removal of him and his family, by destroying him root and branch; or, as Jarchi expresses it, a rooting him out of the world, his seed and family.

"Or to confiscation of goods": To payment of taxation and fines.

"Or to imprisonment": For such a term of time; all according to the breach of what law he may be guilty of; thus far the king's decree.

It appears that the punishment that was inflicted on those who did not conform to the decree the king had sent, would be decided by Ezra. He would be the last word on about everything. It would be up to him to decide whether they deserved to die for their sin, or whether there would be a lesser punishment. I am sure the king feels that Ezra would be guided by the LORD in even these decisions. This was the end of the decree.

Verses 27-28: The Hebrew section of the book resumes at this point. Note his praise that God had "put such a thing as this in the king's heart" (6:22; Prov. 21:1). God had done this for Joseph (Gen. 39:21), in a pagan land, and also for Daniel in much the same circumstances (Dan. 1:9, "God had brought Daniel into favor"). Ezra "was strengthened," or "gained strength" "as the hand of the Lord my God [was] upon me" (compare verses 6, 9; 8:18, 22, 31; Neh. 2:8 and 18).

Ezra 7:27 "Blessed [be] the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put [such a thing] as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which [is] in Jerusalem:"

This is Ezra's thanksgiving to God for the above decree.

"Which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart": Which he rightly took to be of God, who wrought in him to will and to do.

"To beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem": To provide for the ornamenting of it, for vessels in it, as well as for sacrifices. For as for the building of it, that was finished.

This had jumped back to the words of Ezra. He was totally aware that it was God that placed these things in the heart of the Persian king. We see from this, that Ezra would use the gold and silver that was extra over the purchase of the sacrificial animals, to beautify the temple.

Ezra 7:28 "And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God [was] upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me."

Before Artaxerxes, his seven counsellors (Ezra 7:14), and the nobles of his realm, in being appointed by them to carry their freewill offerings to Jerusalem. And the king's commands to his treasurers, with leave to take as many of the Jews with him as were willing to go.

"And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me": Animated to undertake this work, and execute this commission, being under the influence of divine favor and protection.

"And I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me": He went about in the several parts where Israelites dwelt, and persuaded some of the principal men among them to go along with him to Jerusalem, showing them the king's decree, which gave them leave. And their names and numbers are described in the next chapter.

Ezra thanked God for making the heart of the king of Persia tender toward him. Ezra was very well aware that his strength and his ability was a gift from God to him. It was a miracle that the king would allow him to go to Jerusalem. It was an even greater miracle that he would allow more of the captive Hebrews to go with him. The greatest miracle in this is the fact that the king trusted Ezra with his money. I believe this Persian king believed in God.

Ezra Chapter 7 Questions

  1. What is chapter 7 all about?
  2. Who was king of Persia at this time?
  3. Who was the father of Ezra?
  4. Who would lead this return to their homeland?
  5. The lineage, in verses 2 and 3, shows what?
  6. Who is one of the author's favorite priests?
  7. Who was the first High Priest?
  8. What was Ezra called in verse 6?
  9. The return of the people from Babylon to their homeland was?
  10. Who had led the first return to Jerusalem?
  11. Who went with Ezra?
  12. Artaxerxes was the grandson of who?
  13. When did they leave on the trip?
  14. How long did the trip take?
  15. How long was the trip?
  16. Ezra had prepared his heart to do what?
  17. What was Artaxerxes called in verse 12?
  18. What did the decree, the king sent with Ezra, allow him to do?
  19. Who could go with Ezra?
  20. What was the king's purpose in Ezra's going?
  21. In verse 15, we read that the ________ sent silver and gold.
  22. The silver and the gold the king gave was to be used for what?
  23. Anything that was left of the silver and gold, was to be used for what?
  24. If they were still in need for the temple, what was Ezra authorized to do?
  25. What were the limits set on this?
  26. The king knew that Ezra spoke as an _________ of God.
  27. In verse 25, what is Ezra, besides a priest and a scribe?
  28. What were some of the punishments that Ezra could pronounce on those who would not do the law of God?
  29. Who did Ezra bless in verse 27?
  30. What strength did Ezra have?

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Ezra 8

Ezra Chapter 8

Ezra 8:1 "These [are] now the chief of their fathers, and [this is] the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king."

Which follows from here to the end of (Ezra 8:14).

"This is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon": The number given here amounts to 1754. But this is the register of adult males only, and as there were women and children also (Ezra 8:21). The whole caravan may be considered as comprising between six and seven thousand.

"In the reign of Artaxerxes the king": That is, Darius Hystaspis, in the seventh year of his reign (see Ezra 7:1). Though many think Artaxerxes Longimanus is meant.

This is a listing of those who went with Ezra out of Babylonian captivity back to their homeland. The genealogy could have partially been to make sure these were Hebrews leaving Babylon, but it could also, be just because the Hebrews kept good records. Artaxerxes had given Ezra permission to take all who wanted to go home. He was king of Persia. There is a spiritual lesson in this for the believers. We must be willing to be redeemed before we can actually head for our Promised Land, heaven. The release of the world is as important as the accepting the Lord as Redeemer.

Ezra 8:2 "Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush."

"Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel": Not Daniel the prophet, he was of the royal blood, and of the tribe of Judah. This was a priest, a descendant of Ithamar, as Gershom was of Eleazar in the line of Phinehas.

"Of the sons of David; Hattush": Perhaps the same with him in (1 Chron. 3:22), who was a descendant of David the king. These three men seem to have come alone without any of their families, at least they are not mentioned, nor their numbers given, as the rest that follow are.

Ezra 8:3 "Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males a hundred and fifty."

Who is so described, to distinguish him from another Shechaniah (Ezra 8:5).

"Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy, of the males a hundred and fifty": Males only were reckoned, not women and children.

The different groups of people were actually different classes of families.

Ezra 8:4-14 "Of the sons of Pahath-moab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males." "Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males." "Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males." "And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males." "And of the sons of Shephatiah; Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males." "Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males." "And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him a hundred and threescore males." "And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males." "And of the sons of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him a hundred and ten males." "And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names [are] these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males." "Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males."

Though that there were such that went up is clear from (Ezra 8:21; from Ezra 8:4 to the end of Ezra 8:14), an account here is given of the number of the males that went up with Ezra. Who were chiefly, if not altogether, sons of those that went up with Zerubbabel. Such of them as were left there behind, and now returned, at least a great number of them, (see Ezra 2:1). It is particularly remarked of the sons of Adonikam (Ezra 8:13), that they were the last of them. Not that they were the last that came in to go with Ezra, or were backward and dilatory, but the last with respect to the first of his sons that were gone before, and seem with them to be the whole of his family. The number of all that went up under their respective heads amounts to 1496.

We dealt more fully with the family of Adonikam in the first exodus. The difference in the number of people returning on this second trip and the first was evident in the family of Adonikam. On the first trip his family had 666 going back. In this trip there were 60. Of course, the numbers were just for the males and there were approximately 3 times that many, who would actually return, counting the women and children.

Ezra 8:15 "And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi."

From whence also the river bore the same name; or that from the river (see Ezra 8:21 ). And may be the same with Adiabene, a country in Assyria, which had its name from the river Adiava.

"And there abode we in tents three days": Or pitched their camp; this was the place of their rendezvous.

"And I viewed the people and the priests": Mustered them, took the number of them, and what tribe and families they were of.

"And found there none of the sons of Levi": Excepting the priests.

The river spoken of here, is a small stream that flows into the Euphrates. It was about 8 days journey from Babylon. It appears they stopped to rest the people. They abode in tents, because there were so many of them. This trip would take months, and this was the only way to house the people on the trip. There were no Levites with them. This was very strange. 74 Levites had gone up with Zerubbabel, and this trip Ezra found none. This does not mean there were none at all, but that he saw none.

Ezra 8:16 "Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding."

These were all in the camp, in some part of it, to whom Ezra sent messengers to come unto him; three of them are of the same name. The first nine were men of chief note, rank, and dignity in their family, and the other two were noted for men of good sense. And that could speak to a case well, and so fit to be sent on such an affair as they were.

Ezra 8:17 "And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, [and] to his brethren the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God."

Not a place by the Caspian Sea, and near the Caspian mountains, as Munster, which was too far off to go and return in the time they must (see Ezra 7:9). But, as Jarchi, a place in Babylon so called, a village near it, or a parish or street in it, where Ezra knew lived many of the Levites and Nethinim, and where Iddo was the chief of the Levites, and over them both.

"And I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia. But Iddo was not one of the Nethinim; for he was chief of the Levites, and by his authority many of them were sent as well as of the Nethinim. But none of the latter were over the Levites, for they were servants to them (Ezra 8:20). But, according to Jarchi, the Nethinim are not at all intended in this clause, who reads the words: "To Iddo and Achim, (the name of a man with him; perhaps it may be better rendered, "to Iddo and his brother"), who were appointed, or settled, in the place Casiphia. And with him De Dieu agrees, and so the Syriac version: Who dwelt in Casiphia:

"That they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God": Both Levites to be singers and porters there, and the Nethinim to wait on them.

The chief men mentioned (in verse 16), were men who had enough authority that they would be accepted by Iddo as messengers from Ezra. They were men who would be respected enough that Iddo would listen carefully to what they had to say. Iddo was the chief of the Nethinim. He was, also the head of the Jews at Casiphia. It appears that even though the Jews were in exile, their families were ruled over by the head of the family, as if they were a separate country. The Nethinim had been set aside to do the menial work in the temple. Ezra requested them to come, and help him by being ministers in the house of the LORD.

Ezra 8:18 "And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;"

Favoring their designs and orders, protecting those that were sent, and inclining those they were sent to use their interest and authority with those that were under them. And making them willing also to agree to what was proposed to them.

"They brought us a man of understanding of the sons of Mahli": The son of Levi, the son of Israel; an Israelite, of the tribe of Levi, in the line of Mahli a son of Merari, the third son of Levi.

"And Sherebiah": Or rather "even Sherebiah". So Aben Ezra; For he is the understanding man that is meant, and described by his pedigree.

"With his sons and his brethren, eighteen": All together made this number.

Ezra was thanking God for the good fortune of the Levites that came back to Ezra. Ezra knew this was a blessing from God. Sherebiah and Mahli may be the same person. There were eighteen that came.

Ezra 8:19 "And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;"

These were of the same division of Levites as Sherebiah.

"His brethren and their sons, twenty": These thirty eight, with those they came with, were all Levites; the Nethinim follow.

These were also Levites from the division of Merari.

Ezra 8:20 "Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were expressed by name."

To wait upon them, and minister to them, as they did to the priests. Some think those were the same with the Gibeonites, whom Joshua gave to the service of the sanctuary, and David confirmed. But others are of opinion these were different from them, and an addition to them.

"Two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were expressed by name": In the history that Iddo sent of them to Ezra. And so the names of the Levites, though not here expressed, only the names of those they came with.

We remember, the Nethinim were in the service of doing the menial jobs in the temple. They were not spoken of as Nethinim, until after the captivity.

Ezra 8:21 "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance."

After the messengers to Iddo were returned with those they brought with them.

"That we might afflict ourselves before our God": Humble themselves before him for their sins, confess them, and declare their repentance of them, and ask forgiveness for them.

"To seek of him a right way for us": To take from thence towards Jerusalem, to be directed by him in it. Either by a prophet, or by a vision in a dream, as Aben Ezra; or rather by the guidance of his providence. This they sought in prayer by the river side, where it had been usual with them, and since has been, to perform religious exercises (see Ezek. 1:1). Hence Tertullian calls the prayers of the Jews "orationes littorales"; they sought not so much which was the shortest and easiest way for them to travel in, as which was the safest.

"And for our little ones and for all our substance": For the safe conveyance of them. This shows, that though males only are numbered, as before, yet they had their wives and children with them. For little ones cannot be supposed without women to take care of them.

Ezra called the fast to prepare for the rest of the journey. He wanted the assistance of the LORD as he carried these people on this several month journey to Jerusalem. The fast was to receive instructions from God on exactly how they should proceed. They wanted no harm coming to the women and children, or to the precious cargo. Ezra knew his help was in the LORD.

Ezra 8:22 "For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God [is] upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath [is] against all them that forsake him."

Which he might have had, only by asking for them; so great was the interest he had in the king's favor.

"To help us against the enemy in the way": The Arabs, Samaritans, and others, that might lie in wait for them, to rob them of their substance.

"Because we had spoken unto the king": Of the special favor of God to them, his singular providence in the protection of them.

"Saying, the hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him": That pray unto him, serve and worship him; his hand is open to them to bestow all needful good upon them, temporal and spiritual. And his power and providence are over them, to protect and defend them from all evil.

"But his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him": His word, his ways and worship; his powerful wrath, or the strength and force of it, is exerted against them and they are sure to feel the weight and dreadful effects of it. And now all this being said to the king, after this, to desire a guard to protect them. It would look as if they had not that favor in the sight of God, and did not believe what they had said, but distrusted his power and providence towards them. Therefore, rather than reflect any dishonor on God, they chose to expose themselves to danger, seeking his face and favor, and relying on his goodness and power.

Ezra knew there were robbers along the way in the land they must pass through. He had not asked for help from the Persians, because if they were really of God, as they had told the Persian king they were, the LORD would take care of them.

Ezra 8:23 "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us."

Sought the Lord by fasting and prayer for a good journey, and preservation in it.

"And he was entreated of us": Accepted their prayer, as Jarchi, so that they came safe to Jerusalem.

This is saying when they fasted and prayed, the LORD heard their prayer, and put into their hearts exactly what they were to do.

Ezra 8:24 "Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,"

That were in company with him; so that it seems there were more than the two mentioned (Ezra 8:2). Very probably their families, or some of their brethren, were with them.

"Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them": These men named were Levites, and not priests (Ezra 8:18), and therefore the copulative "and" must be supplied. And Sherebiah, etc. or with the twelve priests, Sherebiah, etc. and ten Levites more with them. So that the number of priests and Levites were equal, and in all twenty four.

Ezra 8:25 "And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, [even] the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel [there] present, had offered:"

When he delivered them to them. This he did as a proof of his own integrity and faithfulness, and as a security against any charge or accusation of embezzling any part of them, and to set them an example. And also that they might be under no temptation of acting such a part, and might be vindicated should they be charged with it.

"Even the offering of the house of our God": What was freely offered for the service of it.

"Which the king and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered": As freewill offerings (see Ezra 7:15).

This was dividing all of the silver and gold into the hands of 12 trustworthy priests, so the valuables would be scattered out and not so easily found in one place. There was a fairly large amount since this was what the king had sent, as well as the offerings the people themselves had gathered up and sent.

Ezra 8:26 "I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels a hundred talents, [and] of gold a hundred talents;"

The custody of the contributions and of the sacred vessels was, during the journey, committed to twelve of the chief priests, who, with the assistance of ten of their brethren, were to watch closely over them by the way, and deliver them into the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.

If a talent weighs 75 pounds, this is speaking of 48,750 pounds of silver. The silver vessels weighed 7,500 pounds in silver. The gold, also, weighed 7,500 pounds. The gold, alone weighed 120,000 ounces. You can see why Ezra was concerned.

Ezra 8:27 "Also twenty basins of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold."

Not of a thousand drams (i.e., darics) each, but worth altogether a thousand darics.

"Of fine copper": The word translated "fine," which occurs here only, is thought to mean either "yellow" or "glittering" (see the margin). Probably the vessels were of orichalcum (a yellow metal prized in ancient times, probably a form of brass or a similar alloy). An amalgam which was either brass or something nearly approaching to brass, but which was very rarely produced in the ancient world, and, when produced, was regarded as highly valuable.

Ezra 8:28 "And I said unto them, Ye [are] holy unto the LORD; the vessels [are] holy also; and the silver and the gold [are] a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers."

As they were dedicated and set apart to holy service, so the vessels were sacred to holy uses, and therefore not to be converted to any other.

"And the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the Lord God of your fathers": And therefore not to be made use of but in his service.

Ezra was stressing to them the necessity of getting all of these precious items for the temple through. The value in dollars and cents were important, but the idea these treasures belonged to God made this much more important. They were to guard this with their lives.

Ezra 8:29 "Watch ye, and keep [them], until ye weigh [them] before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD."

The vessels, the gold, and the silver, that they be not hurt and diminished.

"Until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord": That is, until they had delivered them in full weight, as they had received them, in the presence of those persons as witnesses, and into their hands, in order to be laid up in the chambers and treasuries of the temple.

Ezra weighed and made a record of exactly what he had entrusted to each priest. They would weigh them in when they arrived at the temple in Jerusalem. This was good record keeping. They would not be careless with the things of the LORD. Those in authority in the temple in Jerusalem would receive them and weigh them in. There would be a record kept of that as well.

Ezra 8:30 "So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring [them] to Jerusalem unto the house of our God."

The twelve priests and twelve Levites, mentioned in (Ezra 8:24).

"The weight of the silver and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God": This they undertook to do, and did.

They did as Ezra had asked them. Each priest and Levite would be responsible for the portion of the treasure that had been entrusted to him.

Ezra 8:31 "Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way."

The month Nisan, answering to part of March and part of April. This was two days before the Passover began.

"And the hand of our God was upon us": Guiding, directing, and protecting them by his providence.

"And he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way": Either by intimidating them, that they dared not attack them, or by directing them to take a different road, whereby they escaped them (see Ezra 8:22).

God had protected them from all harm, as they journeyed back to their home in Judah. Ezra's fears never happened. They did not even encounter the thieves. Ezra's faith in God brought them through safely.

Ezra 8:32 "And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days."

Before they went about any business, delivered what was committed to them for the use of the temple, and the commissions to the king's officers. As it was but proper they should have some rest after such a fatiguing journey.

This was speaking of a rest they took from their long journey. They were safe to rest now.

Ezra 8:33 "Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him [was] Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them [was] Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites;"

After their arrival at Jerusalem.

"Was the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, weighed in the house of our God": The temple, that it might be seen and known that the exact weight which had been deposited with them was now faithfully delivered.

"By the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas": These were priests.

"And with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites": Two priests and two Levites. For since there were of both that were charged with the above things, it was proper there should be some of both, when weighed, that they might be witnesses of their fidelity.

Each one of the 12, that the treasures had been entrusted to weighed them to the son of the high priest in Jerusalem. The men mentioned in the verse above, were priests and Levites. They would put the treasures in safe keeping in the temple.

Ezra 8:34 "By number [and] by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time."

They were delivered in by tale and weight, which exactly agreed to the number and weight in which they received them.

"And all the weight was written at that time": An account was taken in writing, and laid up, that it might not only be known hereafter what freewill offerings had been made in Babylon. But that it might be a voucher for the fidelity and integrity of those that brought them, should it ever be called in question.

The weights were recorded in a record book kept at the temple. The twelve, who were responsible for the safe journey, had now shifted their responsibility to those in charge of the treasures in the temple.

Ezra 8:35 "[Also] the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats [for] a sin offering: all [this was] a burnt offering unto the LORD."

Namely, those that now came along with Ezra.

"Offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel": By way of thankfulness for their deliverance from captivity, and for their safe journey.

"Twelve bullocks for all Israel": According to the number of the tribes; and there might be some of every tribe that now came up.

"Ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs": These and the bullocks were burnt offerings.

"Twelve he goats for a sin offering": According to the number of the twelve tribes, also to make atonement for sins they had been guilty of.

"All this was a burnt offering unto the Lord": Excepting the twelve he goats, which were a sin offering.

Their offering was for themselves, but for all Israel as well. This offering was very similar to the offering the people gave when Zerubbabel returned. The number of animals are smaller, because those who came out of Babylon this trip were much fewer in number.

Ezra 8:36 "And they delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God."

The governors of the provinces of Syria, Palestine, and Judea, which were on that side of Euphrates the land of Israel was.

"And they furthered the people, and the house of God": Or "lifted them up". Eased them of all burdens, and freed them from all impediments, and assisted them and furnished them with everything, as the decree of Artaxerxes enjoined them. And provided everything as they required for ornamenting the temple, and for the sacrifices of it. All which is to be understood of the king's lieutenants and governors, who obeyed his commands.

This was speaking of the documents that Ezra brought from the king giving him authority to draw from the treasury. The lieutenants under the governors, were in charge of it. It appears, that they did just as the documents had requested them to do immediately.

Ezra Chapter 8 Questions

1. Who was king when Ezra went to Jerusalem?

2. Who had permission from the king to go to Jerusalem?

3. The release of the _________ is as important as the accepting the Lord as _____________.

4. What does the small number of the family of Adonikam in this journey reveal to us?

5. Where did they gather, and set up their tents for three days?

6. When Ezra viewed the people, he discovered there were no ___________.

7. The river, in verse 15, flowed into what large river?

8. How far was this first stop from Babylon?

9. How many Levites had gone with Zerubbabel?

10. Who did Ezra send to Iddo to get Levites and Nethinim?

11. Why did Ezra want them?

12. How many came, mentioned in verse 18?

13. How many Nethinim came?

14. What was their job in the temple?

15. Why did Ezra proclaim a fast?

16. Why had he not asked for a Persian escort?

17. What did Ezra do for safety of the valuables they were carrying?

18. The silver and gold were a __________ offering unto the LORD.

19. What would they do with the treasures, when they made it to Jerusalem?

20. How long did they rest in Jerusalem?

21. Who took care of the gold and silver in the temple?

22. Those who made the second trip made ___________ offerings.

23. Who did they make the offerings for?

24. What happened when Ezra showed the documents from the king to the lieutenants?

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Ezra 9

Ezra Chapter 9

Ezra 9:1 "Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, [doing] according to their abominations, [even] of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites."

When the captives with Ezra had refreshed themselves, and weighed the money and vessels they brought, and put them into the hands of proper persons. And offered sacrifices, and delivered the king's commissions to his lieutenants and governors, and shown his own.

"The princes came to me": Some of the nobles of Israel, the most religious of them, who were concerned at the corruptions that were among them, though not a sufficient number to reform them.

"Saying the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands": But joined with them, though not in idolatrous practices, yet by marrying with them, which might lead them into doing them.

"Doing according to their abominations": Not serving idols as they did, but imitating them in their marriages.

"Even of the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites": Affinity with many of these was forbidden by an express law (Deut. 7:1). All but the Moabites, Ammonites, and Egyptians, and from these for the same reason they were to abstain. Namely, lest they should be drawn into idolatry. That the priests and Levites should do this, who ought to have known the law, and instructed the people better, was very sad and shocking.

It appears that the time between when Zerubbabel had brought the people to Jerusalem in the first return to their homeland, and until this return led by Ezra, there had been very little government. It was bad enough for the people of Israel to break God's law and marry the heathens around them, but it was even worse that the priests and leaders were involved in this as well. All of those listed above, were people forbidden for the Hebrews to marry. These were the very people that God had removed out of the land when He gave it to Israel.

Ezra 9:2 "For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of [those] lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass."

Some that were widowers not only took wives to themselves of the above nations, either when they were of Babylon, where many of these nations also were, or rather since their return. But they took for their sons also; yea, some that had wives took Heathenish ones to them (see Mal. 2:13).

"So that the holy seed": Such as the Lord had separated from other nations, chosen them to be a holy people above all others, and devoted them to his service and worship.

"Have mingled themselves with the people of those lands": Before mentioned, by marrying them.

"Yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass": They were the first that went into it and were ringleaders of it, who should by their authority and example have restrained others. Or they were in this first trespass; which was the first gross and capital one the people fell into after their return from the captivity.

They were doing what was right in their own sight, and forgetting the teachings of the law of God. The sad thing was they were about to commit the very same sins that caused them to be driven out by God before. These strange wives, or husbands, would bring in their abominations to worship in Judah.

Ezra 9:3 "And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished."

Both inward and outward garments, that which was close to his body, and that which was thrown loose over it; and this he did in token of sorrow and mourning, as if something very dreadful and distressing (see Job 1:20).

"And plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard": Did not shave them, and so transgressed not the law (in Lev. 19:27), but plucked off the hair of them, to show his extreme sorrow for what was told him. Which has frequently been done by mourners on sorrowful occasions in various nations (see Isa. 15:2). So in the apocryphal "addition" to Esther, "And laid away her glorious apparel, and put on the garments of anguish and mourning. And instead of precious ointments, she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she humbled her body greatly, and all the places of her joy she filled with her torn hair." (Esther 14:2). She is said to fill every place of joy with the tearing of her hair; and Lavinia in Virgil; several passages from Homer, and other writers. Both Greek and Latin, are mentioned by Bochart as instances of it.

"And sat down astonished": Quite amazed at the ingratitude of the people, that after such favors shown them, in returning them from captivity unto their own land, and settling them there, they should give into practices so contrary to the will of God.

Ezra was overwhelmed with grief when he saw the extent of the sins they had committed. The renting of the clothes, show a deep mourning. Plucking out the hairs on his head and beard was an extreme show of shame and mourning for what the people had done. Sometimes the head was shaved in grief, but this was so evil an act upon their part, that he actually tore out his hair by the roots.

Ezra 9:4 "Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice."

That had a reverence for the word of God, and the things contained in it; feared to break the laws of God, and trembled at his judgments. Which they might apprehend would come upon transgressors (see Isaiah 46:2).

"Because of the transgression of those that had been carried away": Into Babylon, and were now returned, and which was an aggravation of their transgression.

"And I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice": Or until the ninth hour, as the Syriac version, which was about our three o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the evening sacrifice was offered. Perhaps it was in the morning when Ezra first received his information from the princes.

It appears that they did not know of this being a sin, or else thought the law did not apply to them. Now that Ezra had shown such terrible grief in this matter, it had frightened those who understand the magnitude of what they had done. Ezra was in a state of shock all day long.

Ezra 9:5 "And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,"

The signs and tokens of it, particularly sitting on the ground; or "from my fasting", having eaten nothing that day. It being early in the morning when he was told the above case.

"And having rent my garment and my mantle": Which he had done before, and still kept them on him in the same case.

"Fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God": In the posture and with the gesture of a humble supplicant.

When Ezra stopped to pray at the evening sacrifice, he fell to his knees before the LORD with both hands extended to Him.

Ezra 9:6 "And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over [our] head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens."

Here begins the prayer of Ezra, and that with faith in God as covenant God, even when he was about to make confession of sin, and repentance for it. That prayer is right which is put up in faith, and that repentance genuine which is accompanied with faith, and flows from it.

"I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God": A true sight and sense of sin causes shame and blushing, and never more than when a man is sensible of his covenant interest in God, and of his grace and favor to him, particularly in the forgiveness of his sin (see Ezek. 16:6).

"Or our iniquities are increased over our head": Arisen and swelled like mighty waters, which seemed to threaten an overwhelming of them.

"And our trespass is grown up unto the heavens": Being done in an open, public, and insolent manner. And in such numbers, that they were, as it were, piled up in heaps, reaching to heaven, and calling down vengeance from thence. Ezra includes himself as being one of the same nation; and these sins being so common were become national ones, which involved all the individuals, and exposed them to the divine resentment.

Ezra was being ashamed for all of the people. They were so deep in sin themselves, they were not even ashamed. Ezra remembered why Israel and Judah went into captivity. He knew these people had done enough to deserve to die. This was the beginning of a prayer for them.

Ezra 9:7 "Since the days of our fathers [have] we [been] in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, [and] our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as [it is] this day."

The sins they were guilty of had been long continued in, which was an aggravation of them.

"And for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands": The ten tribes and their king into the hand of the king of Assyria, the kings of Judah, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, into the hands of the king of Babylon, with the priests and people.

"To the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil": Some were slain with the sword, others carried captive, and the houses of them all plundered and spoiled.

"And to confusion of face, as it is this day": Being filled with shame when they reflected on their sins, the cause of those evils. And besides, the captivity of the ten tribes continued, and of many others, which exposed them to shame among their neighbors.

Ezra knew that the captivity of Israel and Judah had been a punishment from God for their sinful ways. God had turned them over to the various kings. The sins of their fathers and grandfathers were the same sins they were involved in now. They did not learn a thing from the captivity in Babylon. He was explaining that they deserved all of their difficulties for their sins.

Ezra 9:8 "And now for a little space grace hath been [showed] from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage."

It was but a small time since the Lord first began to show favor to them, so that they soon after began to revolt from him. Which argued the strange propensity of their minds to that which is evil, and from which they could not be restrained by the recent goodness of God unto them.

"To leave us a remnant to escape": Out of captivity, from whence a small number were graciously and safely returned to their own land.

"And to give us a nail in his holy place": A fixed settlement in the land of Judea, the holy land the Lord had chosen. And in the temple, the holy place sacred to his worship. Or a prince of their own, Zerubbabel, to be the governor of them, under whom they might enjoy settled happiness and prosperity (see Isa. 22:23).

"That our God may lighten our eyes": Refresh our spirits, cheer our souls, and give us light and gladness (see 1 Sam. 14:27).

"And give us a little reviving in our bondage": For they were still in some degree of bondage, being in subjection, and tributaries to the kings of Persia. But yet being returned to their own land, it was as life from the dead unto them, at least it was giving them a little life, liberty, and joy.

God always left a remnant, because they were His people and He loved them. They had come back into the land, just a small portion of the great company of people who had originally come from Egypt. God had once again, granted them grace to begin again, and now they were sinning again as they had before.

Ezra 9:9 "For we [were] bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem."

To the Chaldeans when in Babylon, which was more than the Jews in the times of Christ would own (John 8:33).

"Yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage": Had not left them to continue in it always.

"But hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia": Moved them to have pity and compassion on them, and release them.

"To give us a reviving": While in captivity, they were as in their graves, and like the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek. 37:1-14), but revived upon the proclamation of Cyrus, and the encouragement he gave them to return to their own land.

"To set up the house of our God, and repair the desolations thereof": Both to rebuild the temple, and to restore the worship of it.

"And to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. Not to set up the walls of Jerusalem, and of other cities, which as yet was not done; but rather the walls of their houses, which they had rebuilt. They had walled houses given them in Judah and Jerusalem; though the word signifies a hedge or fence, such as is about gardens and vineyards, and may denote the protection of the kings of Persia, which was a fence to them against the Samaritans and others. And especially the hedge of divine Providence about them, which guarded and defended them (see Job 1:10).

This was an amazing thing how God had extended mercy to them again. It was almost unexplainable why the Persian kings had suddenly decided to let them return to their homeland. It was even more unexplainable, why they would give all the gold and silver to rebuild the temple. The only answer was that God put this in their hearts to do. Ezra is in essence saying, God has done all of this for us to give us a new start, how can we fail him by sinning again?

Ezra 9:10 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken thy commandments," There was nothing left for Ezra to say, except to repent for all of the people. He admitted guilt for all the people.

What apology or excuse can be made for such ingratitude? What can be said in favor of such a people? What kindness can be expected to be shown to a people who had behaved in so base a manner?

"For we have forsaken thy commandments": Particularly those which related to marriages with people of other nations.

Ezra 9:11 "Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness."

Moses, and Joshua, and others (see Deut. 7:3).

"Saying, the land, unto which ye go to possess it": Meaning the land of Canaan.

"Is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness": Which is to be understood not of their idolatries only, but of their incestuous marriages, and impure copulations, on which account the Lord spewed out the old inhabitants of it. For which reason the Jews ought to have been careful not to have defiled it again by similar practices (see Lev. 18:1).

God had warned them of the sinfulness of the people, that he had run out to give the land to the Hebrews. The corruption of the nations around them and of Canaan, which they had overthrown, had been common knowledge to them from the beginning. They seemed to never learn. The abominations of the heathens were their downfall.

Ezra 9:12 "Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave [it] for an inheritance to your children for ever."

That is, in marriage (see Deut. 7:3), where the prohibition is expressed in the same language.

"Nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever": That is, as long as they continue in their idolatries and impurities (see Deut. 23:6).

"That ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever": That they might be strengthened and established in the land into which they were brought, and enjoy all the good things it produced. And leave their children in the possession of it, to hold at least until the Messiah came (see Isa. 1:19).

God had forbidden intermarriage with these people. God's law had not changed. They were still obligated to keep God's commandments not to intermarry. They had done exactly what God had forbidden them to do.

Ezra 9:13 "And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities [deserve], and hast given us [such] deliverance as this;"

As famine, sword, pestilence, and captivity, for their idolatries and other heinous sins.

"Seeing that our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve": For they deserved eternal punishment, whereas it was temporal punishment that was inflicted, and this moderate, and now stopped. The sense is, according to Aben Ezra, "thou hast refrained from writing some of our sins in the book of remembrance, and thou hast let them down below in the earth, according to the sense of thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea". But Jarchi better, "thou hast refrained thyself from exacting of us all our sins, and hast exacted of us beneath our sins (or less than they deserve), and hast not taken vengeance on us according to all our sins:"

"And hast given us such deliverance as this": From captivity, which they now enjoyed.

Ezra realized as bad as the punishment had been, when they had lost their homeland and had gone into captivity, it was not as bad as what they deserved. They all deserved to die.

Ezra 9:14 "Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed [us], so that [there should be] no remnant nor escaping?"

That are guilty of abominable idolatries, and of all uncleanness.

"Wouldest thou not be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us": It might be justly expected.

"So that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" Any left or suffered to escape the wrath, of all that was consumed by it.

Ezra was aware that God is a loving God. He was also aware that He was just in His judgements. He feared that the punishment this time would be death for everyone. Ezra felt they should expect death for these terrible sins they had committed.

Ezra 9:15 "O LORD God of Israel, thou [art] righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as [it is] this day: behold, we [are] before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this."

And would appear to be so, should Israel be entirely cut off, and utterly consumed for their iniquities.

"For we remain yet escaped, as it is this day": That they remained yet escaped out of captivity, and escaped the wrath and vengeance of God, was not owing to any deserts of theirs, but to the grace and mercy of God, who had not stirred up all his wrath, as their sins deserved.

"Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses": To do with us as seems good in thy sight; we have nothing to plead on our behalf, but cast ourselves at thy feet, if so be unmerited favor may be shown us.

"For we cannot stand before thee because of this": This evil of contracting affinity with the nations; we cannot defend ourselves. We cannot plead ignorance of the divine commands. We have nothing to say for ourselves why judgment should not be passed upon us. We leave ourselves in thine hands, and at thy mercy.

God is full of mercy. His righteousness was from generation to generation, but so was His mercy. There was no way they could stand and face God with these sins not atoned for.

Ezra Chapter 9 Questions

1. What terrible report came to Ezra in verse 1?

2. When had they begun committing this sin?

3. What was worse than the people committing this sin?

4. What were the Hebrews called in verse 2?

5. They were doing what was right in ________ ______ ________.

6. What was so bad about the heathen marriages?

7. What did Ezra do, when he heard the news?

8. What did Ezra do, that showed the extreme sin they had committed?

9. Who assembled to Ezra?

10. When did Ezra begin to pray?

11. Did he stand and pray? Explain.

12. Who was Ezra ashamed for?

13. They had done enough to deserve to ______.

14. The captivity of Judah and Israel had been what?

15. God always left a ____________.

16. Who had released them to return to their homes?

17. What was even more unexplainable than their release?

18. Why had this happened?

19. What was Ezra doing in verse 10?

20. What had the land been called, before they received it from God?

21. In verse 12, what had been forbidden?

22. God had punished them ________ than their iniquities deserved.

23. What question does Ezra ask the people in verse 14?

24. God is full of __________.

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Ezra 10

Ezra Chapter 10

Ezra 10:1 "Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore."

Ezra had confessed the sins of the people in prayer and supplication, with many tears.

"And casting himself down before the house of God": In the outward court before the temple, his face turned towards it, where he lay prostrate.

"There assembled to him out of Israel a very great congregation of men, and women, and children": It was quickly spread abroad, both in Jerusalem and places adjacent, that such a great man, a commissioner from the king of Persia, and a priest of the Jews, was in the utmost distress. Rending his garments, and plucking off his hair, and was crying and praying in a vehement manner. Which brought a great concourse of people, who concluded some great sins were committed, and sore judgments were coming upon them.

"For the people wept very sore": Being affected with his confessions, cries, and tears, and fearing wrath would come upon them for their sins.

The people saw the grief of Ezra, and heard his prayer to God to forgive them. Now many of the people had realized the seriousness of what they had done, and they too began to weep. It seemed this was not just the men who were disturbed by this, but all of the people.

Ezra 10:2 "And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, [one] of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing."

This man seems to be one of those that now came with Ezra from Babylon (see Ezra 8:3).

"We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land": Not that he had taken any himself, being but just come into the land. Nor is his name in the list of those that had; but inasmuch as many of the nation, of which he was a part, and his own father, and several of his uncles had (Ezra 10:26), he expresses himself in this manner.

"Yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing": Of a reformation of this evil, and of pardon for it.

It appears that Shechaniah believed there was hope for the LORD to forgive them, because they had repentant hearts.

Ezra 10:3 "Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law."

Renew our covenant with him, and lay ourselves under fresh obligation by promise and oath, and unanimously agree;

"To put away all the wives, and such as are born of them": He means all the strange wives, such marriages being unlawful. And such wives might the more easily be put away, since bills of divorce were in frequent use with the Jews, and the children of such also being illegitimate. And the rather they were to be put away, lest they should corrupt other children, or get into the affections of their fathers, which might lead one to receive their mothers again, and especially this was to be done as a punishment of their sin. Though no doubt but a provision was to be made, and was made, for the maintenance both of wives and children.

"According to the counsel of my Lord": Either of Ezra, whom he honors with this title, being a ruler under the king of Persia; or of the Lord God, according to his will declared in his words, which is his counsel.

"And of those that tremble at the commandment of our God": Feared to break it, and dreaded the effect of such a breach. And who no doubt would follow the counsel of the Lord, and join in their advice to act according to the proposal made.

"And let it be done according to the law": As that directs in such cases.

This would be a drastic move on their part, since some of these people had children by the heathen wives, or husbands they had. They were willing to make a covenant with God that they would divorce the wives that were not Hebrews, and even give up their children that were born of them.

Ezra 10:4 "Arise; for [this] matter [belongeth] unto thee: we also [will be] with thee: be of good courage, and do [it]."

From the ground, where he lay prostrate.

"For this matter belongeth unto thee": As a priest and scribe of the law, well versed in it, and therefore could direct what was to be done according to it. And as a ruler under the king of Persia, and a commissioner of his, to inquire whether the law of God was observed by the Jews (Ezra 7:14), and so had authority to put the law in execution.

"We also will be with thee": To help and assist in the reformation of this evil.

"Be of good courage, and do it": Do not despair of going through it, though there may be some opposition to it. Begin, and doubt not of succeeding.

Ezra had already said to let judgement come upon those who would not obey God's law. This would be an effort to make things right. Ezra believed this might be enough repentance of what they had done, to keep the LORD from killing them.

Ezra 10:5 "Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware."

From the ground where he lay.

"And made the chief priests, and the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word": He took an oath of all that were present to do what was proposed, namely, to put away strange wives and their children.

"And they sware": By means of which they were kept to their word of promise, an oath being a solemn, sacred thing.

The only way this would work, would be if everyone participated. Everyone including the priests, Levites, and the people had to swear they would all do this, to get back in right standing with God.

Ezra 10:6 "Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and [when] he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away."

Departed from thence.

"And went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib": Who was of the family of the High Priest. Eliashib was grandson of Joshua the High Priest, and succeeded his father Joiakim as such. But though Johanan was never High Priest, being a younger son, however he was a person of note, and had a chamber in the temple, whither Ezra went. Either to advise with the princes and elders in it (Ezra 10:8), or to refresh himself with food.

"And when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water": Or rather "not yet had he eaten bread", as some render it. That is, not till he came there, from the time he first heard of the evil the people had committed. Which very probably was early in the morning, and it was now evening.

"For he mourned for the transgression of them that had been carried away": Into captivity, but were now returned from it, and it grieved him the more, that, after such kindness shown them, they should be guilty of such an evil.

This fast was of a personal nature. He was not eating, because he was still grieving. Johanan was grandson of the High Priest and would assign a chamber to Ezra. This was a total fast.

Ezra 10:7 "And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;"

By the voice of a herald.

"Throughout Judah and Jerusalem, unto all the children of the captivity": Who were returned from it.

"That they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem": Within a time after mentioned.

The divorcement of the heathen wives, husbands, and children had to be done throughout the land, so proclamation was sent for the people to gather in Jerusalem.

Ezra 10:8 "And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away."

Or at the end of three days, as Jarchi, this was the space of time allowed, and which was decided upon for the quick dispatch of this affair, to prevent any schemes that might be formed to obstruct it. And lest those who had agreed to it, and promised to assist in it, should repent and go from their word.

"According to the counsel of the princes, and of the elders": For though Ezra had a commission at large from the king of Persia, to inquire into and reform all abuses, he chose not to act of himself, but to have the opinion and consent of the senate of the nation. This he prudently did to avoid their envy, and that he might have less opposition, and better success.

"All his substance should be forfeited": Or "devoted" to sacred uses, to be put into the treasury of the temple, and used in the service of it, and therefore never to be returned.

"And himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away": Into captivity, but now returned from it. That is, should be excommunicated from them as a church, and be no more reckoned of the body politic, or a freeman of Israel, and so deprived of all privileges both in church and state.

This left them no choice but to come. The furthest settlements from Jerusalem were no more than 40 miles, so it would be fairly easy for them to come within the three days allowed. The consequences were so great if they did not come, that all came.

Ezra 10:9 "Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It [was] the ninth month, on the twentieth [day] of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of [this] matter, and for the great rain."

And such of the ten tribes that returned and dwelt among them.

"Gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days": The time fixed: which they were the more careful to observe, since it was enjoined by the authority of princes and elders, and the punishment in case of disobedience very severe.

"It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month": The month Chisleu, which answers to part of November and part of December, so that the twentieth day must be in the beginning of December. This was almost five months after Ezra came to Jerusalem.

"And all the people sat in the street of the house of God": The street which led to the temple, the east street (2 Chron. 29:4), though some think this was the court of the people, called a street, because it lay open, not yet walled in. And, according to Josephus, it was in an upper room of the temple in which Ezra was, perhaps the same with the chamber of Johanan (Ezra 10:6).

"Trembling because of this matter": They were worried; some that were guilty, not knowing what punishment would be inflicted on them, and others that were not. Yet dreaded the wrath of God, lest that should break out upon the whole congregation for it.

"And for the great rain": Which now fell, and which they interpreted as a token of the divine displeasure. For though it was in winter time, yet not with them a time of rain, for the former rain had fallen a month before. So that this being unusual and unexpected, they understood it as betokening evil to them.

This would have been about December the 12th on our calendar. The month would have been Chisleu on their calendar. This is the rainy season in Judah. Perhaps, that is what is meant by the great rain.

Ezra 10:10 "And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel."

In the midst of the assembly to make his speech, acquainting them with the reason of their meeting together.

"And said unto them, ye have transgressed": The law of God in the following instance.

"And have taken strange wives": Of the people of the land and others, idolatrous persons.

"To increase the trespass of Israel": To add to former iniquities, which had been the cause of the captivity.

Ezra had been put in a place of great authority by the Persian king. He now used that authority to speak to the people about what they must do. He was speaking to them as a spiritual leader, when he informed them of their transgressions.

Ezra 10:11 "Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives."

Of their sin, and express their detestation of it, and repentance for it.

"And do his pleasure": Obey his will, and particularly in this case.

"And separate yourselves from the people of the land": The Canaanites, etc. Have no fellowship with them, make no covenants, contracts, and alliances with them for the future.

"And from the strange wives": They had taken; put them away.

It would be of no use to rid themselves of their heathen wives if they did not realize in their hearts that they must do this, because they had sinned. The first step to being forgiven is to confess the sin.

Ezra 10:12 "Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do."

That they might be heard, and to show that they were willing and ready to comply with what was proposed.

"As thou hast said, so must we do": Being convinced of their sin, they saw it was a duty incumbent on them to put away their strange wives, and that there was a necessity of it, to avert the wrath of God from them.

Once they were made aware of their sins, they agreed to make it right. They would be divorced from the heathen.

Ezra 10:13 "But the people [are] many, and [it is] a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither [is this] a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing."

Who have been guilty of this evil.

"And it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without": In the street, because of the rain.

"Neither is this a work of one day or two": To inquire into this affair, who they are that have taken strange wives, and to persuade or oblige them to put them away.

"For we are many that have transgressed in this thing": In marrying strange wives.

It appears that a large percentage of the population had committed this sin. It was the rainy season, and hard to move this many people. They were explaining it would take some time to implement this.

Ezra 10:14 "Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us."

Let the great Sanhedrin, or court of judicature at Jerusalem, be fixed and continued, and others.

"And let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times": To the court at Jerusalem, at certain and fixed known times of their sittings there for this purpose.

"And with the elders of every city and the judges thereof": The principal magistrates of it, who were to testify that upon search and inquiry those were the men and all the men in their city, that had taken strange wives, and that they had put them away according to the order of the princes and elders. And this they proposed to be done in every city, and the account to be brought to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, who were to sit at certain times till this affair was finished.

"Until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us": Which it seems had broken out in some instances, and they feared would do yet more, unless this step was taken, whereby they hoped it would be averted.

It appears, there was some sort of ceremony that took place to release the people from this marriage. It was a reverse wedding, I suppose.

Ezra 10:15 "Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this [matter]: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them."

To see that this affair was conducted in the manner proposed. That the magistrates of every city brought the persons that had been delinquents, in their turns, of which they gave them notice, and took the account of them as they came.

"And Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them": Assisted them in this work. The other two perhaps were priests, and both these Levites. And these four were the only persons appointed over this matter, as the phrase in the preceding clause may signify.

The dissolving of the marriages was handled by Jonathan and Jahaziah. Meshullam and Shabbethai were their helpers. This could mean they issued them bills of divorcements.

Ezra 10:16 "And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, [with] certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by [their] names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter."

Put away their strange wives.

"And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated": From all their other business, and gave themselves up to attend to this matter entirely.

"And sat down in the first day of the tenth month": The month Tebeth, which answers to part of December and January. This was ten days after the assembly of all the people met and broke up. These took their places in the great court, and there they sat.

"To examine the matter": The accounts brought in from the several cities by the magistrates thereof, and recorded them.

This took until January on our calendar, there were so many of them. On the twelfth of January, Ezra and the chiefs of the fathers checked to make sure they had completed the work.

Ezra 10:17 "And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month."

Finished their inquiry and examination of them.

"By the first day of the first month": The month Nisan, answering to part of March and April; so that they were three months about this work.

We see that it was not until April 1st on our calendar, that they finally had finished issuing the divorces.

Ezra 10:18 "And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: [namely], of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah."

So that it need not be wondered at that this evil should spread among the people, when those who understood the law, and should have instructed the people in it, set such an example: namely;

"Of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak": Who was the High Priest; and perhaps for this fault of his, in not restraining his sons from such unlawful marriages, is he represented in filthy garments (Zech. 3:3).

"And his brethren, Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah": These were the brethren of Jeshua.

Ezra 10:19 "And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and [being] guilty, [they offered] a ram of the flock for their trespass."

They proposed to do it, and actually did it.

"And being guilty": Of which they were fully convinced.

"They offered a ram of the flock for their trespass": To make atonement for it, and thereby set an example to others to do the like. Aben Ezra observes, that we do not find that the trespass offering was a fine to such who married strange wives, and conjectures, that it was the advice of the chief men to do it. From hence, to the end of (Ezra 10:43), is a list of the men that had married strange wives, and put them away. Those in (Ezra 10:20), were priests. In (Ezra 10:23), Levites, and those of them who were singers or porters, the rest were Israelites. And it is a very common distinction, in rabbinical writers, to distinguish the Jews into priests, Levites, and Israelites. Of these we know no more than their names; some of the heads of the families may be observed in (Ezra 2:1).

It appears, that 4 of the High Priest's sons had taken these heathen wives. The "giving of their hands" meant they made solemn pledges accompanied by handshakes. This meant they agreed they would do this, and gave their word on it. The sacrifices were for them, and for others who had committed this same sin.

Ezra 10:20-22 "And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah." "And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah." "And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah."

The above names are lists of the families of the priests who took the strange women to wife.

Ezra 10:23 "Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same [is] Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer."

These are Levites, who were not priests.

Ezra 10:24 "Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri."

These were also in the service of the LORD in the temple, but were singers and porters. They were Levites with specified service.

We continue the list began in (Ezra 10:20).

Ezra 10:25-43 "Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah." "And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah." "And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza." "Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, [and] Athlai." "And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth." "And of the sons of Pahath-moab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh." "And [of] the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon," "Benjamin, Malluch, [and] Shemariah." "Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, [and] Shimei." "Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel," "Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh," "Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib," "Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau, "And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei," " And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah," "Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai," "Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah," "Shallum, Amariah, [and] Joseph." "Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah."

This concludes the list began at (Ezra 10:20).

This was a very long list of just ordinary people, who had taken heathen wives. We can see the widespread sin that was in the land.

Ezra 10:44 "All these had taken strange wives: and [some] of them had wives by whom they had children."

In all about one hundred and thirteen.

"And some of them had wives by whom they had children": And yet they put them away, which made it the more difficult for them to do. And those that had none, it is thought to be a mark of God's displeasure at such marriages. No mention being made of the children being put away, as Shechaniah proposed (Ezra 10:3). It may be concluded they were not, but were taken care of, to be educated in the true religion, and entered proselytes at a proper time. And the rather, as Ezra gave no orders about their putting away (Ezra 10:11).

This would make the divorces more difficult, when there were children born to them, by their heathen wives.

Ezra Chapter 10 Questions

1. What had Ezra done to show his shame for their sins?

2. Who joined him in the grief?

3. Who is the father of Shechaniah?

4. What hope did he express?

5. What did he suggest that they do?

6. What was the covenant they would make with God?

7. What would they do with their children by their heathen wives?

8. How did Ezra feel about this suggestion?

9. Who did Ezra make swear to the covenant agreement?

10. How was the only way this could work?

11. Who did Ezra go to see at the temple?

12. What did Ezra do at the temple?

13. Was this just a problem in Jerusalem?

14. How did they get word to those in Judah?

15. How long did they have to comply?

16. What time of year did this notice go out?

17. This was the ________ season.

18. Who had given Ezra great authority?

19. What must they do, besides get rid of their heathen wives?

20. Why would it take some time to implement this?

21. Who was issuing the divorces?

22. Who examined to see, if they were carrying this out?

23. When were all of the divorces finished?

24. What were some of the classes of people, who had committed this sin

25. What made the divorces more difficult?

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