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,Ezra 7:1. In the reign of Artaxerxes — The same of whom he speaks chap. Ezra 6:14. Ezra the son of Seraiah — Descended from him, but not immediately. For Seraiah, being high-priest when Jerusalem was taken was then slain by the Chaldeans, (2 Kings 25:18; 2 Kings 25:21,) at which time, it is likely, Ezra was not in being: but he was his grandson, or great-grand-son, and his descent is mentioned from him, because he was an eminent person, who flourished before the destruction of the temple, whereas Ezra’s father, if not also his grandfather, lived obscurely in captivity.
The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,Ezra 7:3. The son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth — 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 Chronicles 6:7, &c.
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.Ezra 7:6. This Ezra went up from Babylon — With the king’s consent and commission. And he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses — He is called a scribe, as Buxtorf observes in his Tiberias, not from writing and describing, but from declaring and explicating those things that are contained in the Scripture. For, as ספר, sepher, signifies a book, so סופר, sopher, signifies one skilful and learned in that book, an interpreter and teacher out of it. And, there being no book comparable to the book of the law, therefore Sopher became a name of great dignity, and signified one that taught God’s law, and expounded it to his people. Thus, in the New Testament, the scribes were those who instructed the people in the law. It is said he was a ready scribe, because he was expert in the law, and understood it thoroughly, both in all things belonging to the priesthood, and to the civil power; in which he was so well versed, that he could give a ready account of any part of it. The Jews say, he collected and collated all the copies of the law, and published an accurate edition of it, with all the books that were given by divine inspiration, and so made up the canon of the Old Testament. Moses in Egypt, and Ezra in Babylon, were wonderfully fitted for eminent service in the church. This was the second time that Ezra came up from Babylon, for he came up at first with Zerubbabel, as we learn from Nehemiah 12:1, and probably returned to Babylon to persuade those who had staid behind to come up to Jerusalem, and to obtain some further assistance from the king. According to the hand of the Lord his God upon him — God not only stirred up Ezra to this undertaking, but was so favourable to him as to incline the king to give a gracious answer to his petition.
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.Ezra 7:7. There went up some of the children of Israel — This was the second company that went up to Jerusalem, consisting of such like persons as went up at first with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and others, Ezra 2:2; Ezra 2:70. For, hearing the temple was rebuilt, and the worship of God restored, we may very well think many went along with Ezra, who had not such a strong motive to go at the first.
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.Ezra 7:9. According to the good hand of his God upon him — There was great reason to acknowledge the favour and protection of God, in conducting them safe to Jerusalem; for the journey was long and difficult, and they had many impediments, (going with wives and children, flocks and herds,) and were not without enemies, by whom they were in danger of being waylaid. These, however, Ezra did not fear, but relied on the divine protection, as he told the king, Ezra 8:2, being inspired with supernatural courage and fortitude.
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 7:10. For Ezra had prepared his heart, &c. — He had set his mind and affections upon it, and made it his chief business. To seek the law of the Lord — To search and find out the true sense and meaning of it, and thence to learn what sins or errors were to be reformed, and what duties were to be performed. And to do it, and to teach in Israel — The order of things in this verse is very observable: first, he endeavours to understand God’s law and word, and that not for curiosity or ostentation, but in order to practice; next, he conscientiously practises what he did understand, which made his doctrine much more effectual; and then he earnestly desires and labours to instruct others, that they also might know and do it.
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.Ezra 7:11. This is the copy of the letter that the King Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra — “It can hardly be supposed, but that some more than ordinary means were used to obtain so great a favour from Artaxerxes, as this commission was upon which Ezra went; and therefore we may suppose that it was granted at the solicitation of Esther; for this Artaxerxes was the Ahasuerus of Esther. She was become the best beloved of the king’s concubines, though not yet advanced to the dignity of queen; for, it being usual for the kings of Persia, on some particular days and occasions, to allow their women to ask what boons they pleased, it is not unlikely that, by the direction of Mordecai, upon some such occasion as this, Esther, though she had not discovered her kingdom and nation, might make this the matter of her request.” — Dodd. See also Pri., Ann. 459, and Le Clerc. Even a scribe of the words, &c. — The phrase seems emphatical, denoting that he explained both the words and the things: for the Jews, in the land of their captivity, had, in a great measure, lost both the language and the knowledge of God’s commands, and therefore Ezra and his companions instructed them in both.
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.Ezra 7:12. Unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven — Or, as the Hebrew may be rendered, a perfect scribe of the law, &c., a title which, it seems, Ezra delighted in, and desired no other; no, not when he was advanced to the proconsular dignity, and made the governor of a province. He reckoned it more to his honour to be a scribe of God’s law than to be a peer or prince of the empire.
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;Ezra 7:14. And of his seven counsellors — His chief nobles and officers of state; of whom see Esther 1:10; Esther 1:14. This decree, being made by their advice, had the greater authority. To inquire concerning Judah according to the law of thy God — To make inquiry into all abuses and deviations from your law, and to redress them. Which is in thy hand — With which thou art very conversant, and in which thou art well skilled. It may seem strange that the edict should be drawn up in this manner, as it is more in the style of a Jewish supreme governor than of a heathen king; but it is not improbable that Ezra, being in such favour in the Persian court, might get the edict drawn up in the manner and words which he thought would be most proper for the purposes for which he had obtained it.
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,Ezra 7:15-16. Which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel — This shows that they had a high opinion of the God of Israel, and were desirous of his favour. And all the silver and gold that thou canst find — That is, procure, as שׁכח, shechach, often signifies. Whatsoever thou canst get of my subjects, by way of free gift. With the free-will-offering of the people — Namely, of Israel.
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.Ezra 7:20. Whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God —
Toward the reparation, or adorning, or completing of it.
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,
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.Ezra 7:22. Salt, without prescribing how much — He limits all the other expenses, except salt, which was of low price, and of very common and necessary use in all their sacrifices; and therefore, since he would not have any sacrifice hindered, he did not prescribe any measure of it, but permitted them to take as much as they found necessary. The sum here ordered, in silver, amounts to thirty-five thousand three hundred pounds sterling; the wheat to eight hundred bushels; the wine to twelve or thirteen hogsheads; and the oil to the same quantity, which shows the princely liberality of Artaxerxes.
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?Ezra 7:23. Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done — Here Jacobus Capellus cries out in a kind of rapture, “O, words to be written upon the palaces of kings, in golden letters, and engraven on the minds of all, with a style of adamant! For they express an exceeding great sense of God, and of his supreme authority, and the regard due to him from the greatest kings and potentates.” It appears from this verse, that Ezra had informed Artaxerxes that the God of Israel had appointed and given his people certain laws, according to which he was to be worshipped, and therefore the edict enjoins these laws to be exactly observed. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? — For the omission of any part of his worship, occasioned by my neglect. He discerned his duty in this matter, and the danger of incurring God’s displeasure if he neglected it, partly by the light of nature, and principally by the information of Ezra. The neglect and contempt of religion brings the judgments of God upon kings and kingdoms; and the likeliest expedient to turn away his wrath, when it is ready to break out against a people, is to support and encourage religion.
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.Ezra 7:24. It shall not be lawful to impose tolls, &c. — Thus he discharged all the ministers of religion, from the greatest of the priests to the least of the Nethinims, from paying taxes to the government, and made it unlawful for the king’s officers to impose any taxes on them. This was putting a great honour upon them, as free denizens of the empire, and would gain them respect as favourites of the crown, at the same time that it gave them liberty to attend on their ministry with freedom and cheerfulness.
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.Ezra 7:25. After the wisdom of thy God in thy hand — That is, which God hath put into thy heart, and which appears in the works of thy hand. Wisdom is sometimes ascribed to the hand, as Psalm 78:72. Or, by the wisdom of God, he means the law of God, which was said to be in his hand, Ezra 7:14. Set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people, &c. — All the Jews on that side of the river. All such as know the laws of thy God — All that professed the Jewish religion were to be under the jurisdiction of these judges; which intimates that they were exempt from the jurisdiction of heathen magistrates. It was a great favour to the Jews to have such magistrates of themselves, and especially of Ezra’s nomination. And teach ye them that know them not — They were to instruct in the laws of God those that were ignorant of them, whether Jews or others, which implies that he had no objection to their making proselytes to the Jewish religion.
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.Ezra 7:26. Whosoever will not do the law of thy God, &c. — They were not allowed to make new laws, but were to see the law of God duly executed, (which is here made the law of the king,) and therefore were intrusted with the sword, that they might be a terror to evil-doers. What could Jehoshaphat, or Hezekiah, or David himself, as king, have done more for the honour of God and the furtherance of religion?
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:Ezra 7:27. Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, &c. — Ezra cannot proceed in his story without inserting this thankful acknowledgment to God’s goodness to him and the people. Which hath put such a thing as this into the king’s heart — God can and frequently does put things into men’s hearts which would not rise there of themselves, and that both by his providence and by his grace. If any good appear to be in our own hearts, or in the hearts of others, we must acknowledge it was God that put it there, and must bless him for it, for it is he that worketh, in us both, to will and to do that which is good.
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.Ezra 7:28. And hath extended mercy to me, &c. — The king, in the honour he did Ezra, we may suppose, had an eye to his merits, and preferred him because he judged him to be an intelligent, dis-interested, and upright man: but he himself ascribes his elevation purely to God’s mercy. And I was strengthened — Endowed with courage and ability to undertake the services; as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me — To direct and support me. If God gives us his hand, we are bold and cheerful, if he withdraws it, we are weak as water. Whatever service we are enabled to do for God and our generation, God must have all the glory of it.