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,
After these things - The words mark an interval of 57 years; if, with most commentators, we take Artaxerxes to be Longimanus. See the introduction to the Book of Ezra. Three kings named Artaxerxes, the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Artakhshasta, and the Persian Artakhshatra, ruled over Persia, namely,: Longimanus, Mnemon, and Ochus. The evidence is in favor of the first being meant here: he was the grandson of Darius Hystaspis, Jeshua's contemporary.
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 Chronicles 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 Chronicles 9:11, between Zadok and Ahitub Ezra 7:2. These additions would produce 27 generations - a number nearly sufficient - instead of 16 generations.
The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
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 son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
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.
A ready scribe - Or, "a ready writer" Psalm 45:1. The professional scribe was well known in Egypt from an early date (see Genesis 39:4 note); and under David and his successors "scribes" were attached to the court as the king's secretaries (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25; 2 Kings 12:10, etc.). It was scarcely, however, until the time of the captivity that the class to which Ezra belonged arose. The "scribes" of this time, and of later Jewish history, were students, interpreters, and copiers of the Law (see the marginal references and Jeremiah 8:8). They retained the knowledge of the old dialect, which was being rapidly superseded by a new one. The emphatic application of the title "the scribe" to Ezra marks the high honor in which the office was now held. Its glories eclipsed those of the priesthood.
The hand of the Lord ... upon him - The use of this phrase in a good sense is rare elsewhere (compare 1 Kings 18:46), but is a favorite one with both Ezra and Nehemiah (see the marginal references; Nehemiah 2:8, Nehemiah 2:18).
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 Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
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 direct distance of Babylon from Jerusalem is about 520 miles; and the circuitous route by Carchemish and the Orontes valley, which was ordinarily taken by armies or large bodies of men, is about 900 miles. The time occupied in the journey is long, and is perhaps to be accounted for by the dangers alluded to in Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31.
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.
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.
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.
The title, "king of kings," is assumed by almost all the persian monarchs in their inscriptions.
Perfect peace - "Peace" is not in the original, and the word translated "perfect" occurs only in this place. Some prefer to take it as an adjective descriptive of Ezra (see margin); others (Septuagint) as the opening word of the first paragraph of the letter, and give it the meaning, "it is completed."
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.
Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellers, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
Seven counselors - Herodotus relates that there were seven families pre-eminent in Persia, those of the seven conspirators against the Pseudo-Smerdis (Ezra 4:7 note); and it is reasonable to suppose that the heads of these families formed the special council of the king; the "Achaemenidae," or royal family, being represented by the head of the branch next in succession to that of the reigning monarch (see the marginal reference).
And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellers have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
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:
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.
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 vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
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.
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,
All the treasurers - The Persian system of taxing the provinces through the satraps involved the establishment in each province of at least one local treasury.
Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
This verse assigns limits to the permission of Ezra 7:20. As the Persian tribute was paid partly in money and partly in kind (see Ezra 4:13 note), the treasuries would be able to supply them as readily as they could furnish money.
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?
Literally, as in the margin, i. e., Whatsoever is commanded in the Law with respect to the temple service.
Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
The decree of Artaxerxes was more favorable to the Jews than those of all previous Persian monarchs. We hear of a similar exemption of ecclesiastics from tribute, only to a less extent, under the Seleucidae.
Ministers - The rare word here used, which in Daniel has the sense of "worshippers," appears to designate in this place the lowest class of persons employed in the service of the temple.
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.
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.
Banishment - literally, as in the margin. Separation from the congregation is probably intended (compare Ezra 10:8).
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:
An abrupt transition from the words of Artaxerxes to those of Ezra. Compare a similar abrupt change in Ezra 6:6. The language alters at the same time from Chaldee to Hebrew, continuing henceforth to be Hebrew until the close of the book.
And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellers, 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.