Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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,Ch. Ezra 7:1-10. A brief Summary of Events
1–5. Ezra’s Genealogy
Now after these things] An interval of 58 years is passed over in silence (516–458). One allusion has already been made to the reign of Xerxes (ch. Ezra 4:6). But with this exception the Compiler apparently found nothing to record of historic importance in the formation of the new religious community at Jerusalem during the period which elapsed between the completion of the Temple and the accession of Artaxerxes. The story of Esther belongs to Xerxes’ reign, which belongs to the chronicles of ‘the Dispersion’. It has no part in the development of the Jewish constitution. ‘Now after these things’. A not infrequent phrase combining connexion (‘now’ or ‘and’) with the previous narrative and statement of indefinite interval. Cf. Genesis 15:1; Genesis 22:1; Luke 10:1.
in the reign of Artaxerxes] Artaxerxes the son of Xerxes began to reign in 465 b.c.
Ezra, the son of Seraiah &c.] Ezra’s genealogy is here traced back to Aaron.
(a) His immediate connexion with the high-priestly line is through Seraiah. He is therefore here called ‘the son of Seraiah’, although Seraiah was High-priest in the days of king Zedekiah and was slain at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18-21) in 588 b.c. (i.e. 130 years before). Inasmuch as (1) the High-priest Jeshua (538) is described as the son of Jehozadak, (2) neither of these names occurs in Ezra’s genealogy, (3) Jehozadak was the eldest son of Seraiah (1 Chronicles 6:14) succeeding to the High-priesthood, we conclude that Ezra was descended from a younger son of Seraiah.
(b) In this genealogy 15 names occur between Ezra and Aaron. This is manifestly too small a number for a period of about 1000 years (reckoning 30 years to a generation), especially when we find 26 names recorded between Zerubbabel (who was of the previous generation to that of Ezra) and Nashon, prince of Judah, the contemporary of Aaron, in 1 Chronicles 2:10-15; 1 Chronicles 3:1-19.
Ezra’s genealogy therefore appears here in an abbreviated form. We are enabled in a great measure, if not completely, to fill up its lacunæ by means of (a) Ezra’s genealogy in the parallel passage, 1Es 8:1-2, (b) in 2Es 1:1-3, (c) the genealogy of the High-priests Jehozadak and Seraiah in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15, (d) in 1 Chronicles 9:10-11; Nehemiah 11:11.
The full genealogy then appears as follows:
1 Aaron, 2 Eleazar, 3 Phinehas, 4 Abishua, 5 Bukki, 6 Uzzi, 7 Zerahiah, 8 Meraioth, 9 Amariah, 10 Ahitub, 11 Zadok, 12 Ahimaaz, 13 Azariah, 14 Johanan, 15 Azariah, 16 Amariah, 17 Heli (?), 18 Phinehas (?), 19 Ahiah, 20 Ahitub, 21 Meraioth (see 1 Chronicles 9:11), 22 Zadok, 23 Shallum, Meshullam (1 Chronicles 9:11), 24 Hilkiah, 25 Azariah, 26 Seraiah, 27 son of Seraiah, 28 (?), contemporary with Zerubbabel, 29 father of Ezra, 30 Ezra.
Of these names 9–14 occur in 1 Chron. 6:7–10:21 in 1 Chronicles 9:11 : 17, 18, 19 in 2Es 1:2 are doubtful. At least three and possibly four generations must be inserted between Seraiah (died 588) and Ezra (? died circ. 430), the names being here omitted because they were not High-priests.
(c) Why does Ezra’s genealogy appear in this abbreviated form, if the materials of a fuller one were accessible to the compiler of our book in the materials of the book ‘Chronicles’?
(i) Jewish genealogies were often abbreviated by the omission of unimportant or dishonourable names, for the sake of securing a shorter list or an arrangement of names more easily remembered (see Genesis 11:13; cf. Luke 3:36 and Matthew 1:8).
It is possible that the present genealogy was artificially arranged. By reference to 1 Chronicles 6:10, we find that Azariah (Ezra 7:3) is there specially described as ‘having executed the priest’s office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem’. Azariah’s name therefore represents the age of the foundation of the Temple, just as Aaron’s name represents the foundation of the Levitical system, Ezra’s its reconstitution. It is noteworthy that between Ezra and Azariah there are seven names, between Azariah and Aaron seven names: the first group contains the names of High-priests before the setting up of the Monarchy and before the Temple was built, the second group contains the list of the High-priests during the Monarchy down to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is possible that this twofold arrangement of seven names placed between the two names representative of the foundation and the revival of the Mosaic system, and linked by the name representative of the Temple, may be the explanation of the abbreviation (cf. the threefold grouping by ‘fourteen’ in Matthew 1:1-16).
(ii) On the other hand it must be granted that a list containing two trios of Amariah, Ahitub, Zadok, three Azariahs, two Amariahs, and a Meraioth could easily give rise to errors in transcription; a copyist’s eye passing from one similar name or termination to another. It is thus quite possible that after Azariah (No. 15) the copyist accidentally passed on to Meraioth (No. 8) which followed the similarly sounding Amariah.
It is clear from the fewness of the names and from the omission of all names after Seraiah that the genealogy cannot pretend to be complete. The view that the six names (9–14) have accidentally dropped from the text, rests on the omission of the renowned Zadok and Ahimaaz, whose names we should naturally expect to find inserted in a list of Ezra’s forefathers (1 Chronicles 6:8).
Hilkiah] the celebrated High-priest of the reign of Josiah: see 2 Kings 22:4, &c.; 2 Chronicles 34:14, &c.
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:5. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar] his religious zeal (Numbers 25:7-11) was celebrated in the records and songs of Israel (Psalm 106:30). As High-priest he appears probably on two occasions Joshua 22:13; Joshua 22:30; Joshua 22:32; Jdg 20:28.
Aaron the chief priest] Literally the ‘head-priest’ (hak-kohen harôsh). By this title the High-priest was sometimes designated in writings of the Captivity and post-Captivity periods, e.g. 2 Chronicles 19:11; 2 Chronicles 24:11; 2 Chronicles 26:20; 2 Chronicles 31:10. The earliest instances are 2 Kings 25:18; Jeremiah 52:24. Before the period of the Captivity he is generally called “the priest”. The name High-priest (literally ‘the great priest’) only rarely occurs in the Pentateuch, Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28, though more frequently in books of late date, e.g. 2 Kings 12:10.
LXX. ‘the first priest’ (τοῦ ἱέρεως τοῦ πρώτου). Vulg. ‘sacerdotis ab initio’.
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.6–10. Arrival at Jerusalem
6. went up from Babylon] i.e. to Jerusalem, cf. Ezra 1:11, Ezra 2:1. It will be observed that this description of Ezra is given in the 3rd person. At Ezra 7:27 there is a change to the 1st person.
and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses] Cf. Ezra 7:10; Ezra 7:12.
‘the scribe’ (Hebr. Sophêr) in the days of the Monarchy was the king’s State Secretary or Chancellor. Cf. Seraiah, the scribe (2 Samuel 8:17), Sheva, the scribe (2 Samuel 20:25) = Shavsha (1 Chronicles 18:16): Elihoreph and Ahijah, scribes (1 Kings 4:3): Shebna, the scribe (2 Kings 18:18, &c.): Shaphan, the scribe (2 Kings 22:3). Cf. Gemariah (Jeremiah 36:10), Elishama (Jeremiah 36:12), Jonathan (Jeremiah 37:15).
During the latter days of the Monarchy, the name began to receive a special meaning as applied to those who were occupied in studying and copying the documents containing the sacred laws of the nation, e.g. Jeremiah 8:8 ‘How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes hath wrought falsely’.
After the Captivity, the increased importance of the written law and the necessity of explaining its obligation upon the people brought ‘the scribes’ into great prominence. ‘The scribe’ took the place of the prophet and, in his influence upon his countrymen, eclipsed the priest. The name of Ezra is associated with the development of ‘the scribe’ and he is designated ‘the scribe’ as by an honourable title in Ezra 7:11, and Nehemiah 8:1. He was the typical representative and in a measure the founder of the later type of scribes. Devoted to the minute study of the written law, he sought to expound it to his people and to impress upon them the duty of its rigid observance. (See Introduction.) To the same class perhaps belonged ‘the teachers’ mentioned in Ezra 8:16, and ‘Zadok the scribe’ (Nehemiah 13:13).
The word ‘ready’ is the same as appears elsewhere in the O.T. only in Psalm 45:1 ‘a ready writer’. Proverbs 22:29 ‘diligent in his business’. Isaiah 16:5 ‘swift to do righteousness’. A ‘ready scribe’ would be one prompt and skilful in interpreting the difficulties of the law. His quickness is the dexterity of his erudition, not of his pen.
the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given] R.V. the Lord the God of Israel, cf. Ezra 1:3. ‘The law of Moses’, see Ezra 3:2, Ezra 6:18, and cf. 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 21:8.
The Divine origin of the law is here asserted with reverent emphasis. The expression is well illustrated by Malachi 4:4 ‘the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and judgements’ and Nehemiah 8:14 ‘The law which the Lord had commanded by Moses’.
all his request] What the request was, which Ezra preferred to Artaxerxes, we are not told, but are left to gather it from the letter of Artaxerxes (12–26). The word ‘request’ in the Hebrew denotes an eager quest, and occurs elsewhere in the O.T. only in the book of Esther (Ezra 5:3; Ezra 5:7-8, Ezra 7:3, Ezra 9:12).
according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him] This expression is characteristic of the writer. It occurs again Ezra 7:28, with the adjective ‘good’, Ezra 7:9, Ezra 8:18; Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 2:18, and in a slightly different form Ezra 8:22; Ezra 8:31. ‘The hand of the Lord’ denotes the merciful favour, as may be seen from the context here and in Ezra 7:28, even without the addition of the adjective good: cf. ‘the eye of the Lord’, chap. Ezra 5:5. Similar is the phrase in 2 Chronicles 30:12. From that ‘hand’ comes discipline as well as bounty, Job 2:10 ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ Job 19:21 ‘the hand of God hath touched me’. In adversity ‘the hand of the Lord’ is described as ‘against’, not ‘upon’ a person. See Deuteronomy 2:15; Ruth 1:13.
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.7. And there went up some of the children of Israel] For “some of” compare Ezra 2:70.
some of the children of Israel] i.e. a portion of the lay element of the Jewish community at Babylon, mainly of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, cf. Ezra 2:2 ‘the men of the people of Israel’.
The division into Priests, Levites, Singers, Porters, Nethinim, as in chap. Ezra 2:36; Ezra 2:40-43.
the Levites] The difficulty of obtaining Levites to accompany the caravan is described in Ezra 8:15-21.
Nethinims] R.V. Nethinim, see note on Ezra 2:43.
the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king] i.e. 458 b.c.
And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.8. And he came] This verse resumes Ezra 7:6. ‘He came’ at the same time with those enumerated in Ezra 7:7. The importance of this journey to Jerusalem centres in Ezra.
the fifth month] This was the month Ab, the Assyrian Abu, corresponding roughly with our ‘August’.
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.9. began he to go up] R.V. marg. Heb. that was the foundation of the going up. The R.V. and A.V. paraphrase the words.
The Hebrew text is intelligible; but (1) the word as here vocalized is very unusual, (2) the metaphor is ponderous and awkward, (3) the construction, shown in a literal translation “for upon the first day of the first month—that (i.e. that month) was the foundation of the going up from Babylon—and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem”, is almost intolerably involved and harsh, especially as the verb ‘came’ in the latter half of the verse has no subject expressed in the original, and presupposes the mention of a subject in an earlier clause.
The LXX. render “for upon the first day of the first month he (i.e. Ezra) laid the foundation of his going up” (αὐτὸς ἐθεμελίωσε τὴν ἀνάβασιν), treating the word rendered “foundation” as a simple verb (i.e. ‘yasad’ for ‘y‘sûd’), cf. Vulg. ‘cœpit adscendere’.
Another method of explaining the verse makes Ezra the subject and reads the disputed word as if it were an intensive form (i.e. ‘yissêd’) of the verb “to lay the foundation of”, with the meaning ‘appoint’, as in Esther 1:8 “the king had appointed”. This gives a good sense, as follows;
‘On the first day &c. he (i.e. Ezra) had appointed or determined to go up (the going up)’.
The rendezvous apparently took place on the 9th day of the 1st month (Nisan), and the journey did not commence until the 12th day (see chap. Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:31).
upon the first day of the first month] i.e. 1st of Nisan (= Assyrian Nisanu), part of March and April.
on the first day of the fifth month] The journey lasted throughout 18 days of Nisan, and the three months Iyyar, Sivan, and Tammuz; in all about 108 days. As the crow flies, the distance from Babylon to Jerusalem is over 500 miles. But the road followed by Ezra’s caravan made a long detour by Carchemish so as to avoid the desert, and could hardly have been less than 900 miles. As the march was taken in the height of summer (April–August), the travellers probably moved only in the early morning and at night. A caravan with women and children and household effects would move more slowly than a trained and lightly equipped force. There is nothing therefore in the length of time spent in the march to cause any surprise. See on Ezra 8:32.
according to the good hand of his God &c.] Cf. note on Ezra 7:6.
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.10. For Ezra had prepared (R.V. set) his heart &c.] The precise meaning of the ‘for’ which determines the connexion of the verse, is not very evident. The verse either explains the preceding clause and attributes God’s favour towards Ezra during the journey to the latter’s devotion to the Divine Law, or is added as a general comment on the whole preceding section, explanatory of Ezra’s resolve and expedition. Those who take the former view illustrate it by ch. Ezra 8:31-32. But the latter interpretation of the verse is to be preferred. It corresponds better with the somewhat abrupt mention of Ezra’s rule of life. It harmonizes with the description of Ezra’s character. ‘Ezra had set his heart &c.’ That fact lay at the bottom of the religious movement which he set on foot. It explained something very much more than the mere fortunate issue of the journey.
‘Had set his heart’. A not uncommon phrase, cf. 2 Chronicles 12:14; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 30:19. In every instance the R.V. has rightly changed ‘prepare his heart’ to ‘set his heart’. The idea of the original is not ‘preparedness for the unforeseen’, but ‘fixity and stability of purpose’. Compare the expression ‘my heart is fixed’ (Psalm 57:7; Psalm 108:1; Psalm 112:7) where the same verb occurs.
to seek the law of the Lord] Cf. Psalm 119:45; Psalm 119:155; 1 Chronicles 28:8. The search, no mere investigation of the letter, but for the sake of ascertaining the true principles of practical life embodied in the law, cf. 2 Chronicles 14:4 ‘(Asa) commanded Judah to seek the Lord the God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment’.
and to teach] Those principles are self-diffusive, the teaching by example as much as by precept, cf. 2 Chronicles 17:9 ‘And they (the priests) taught in Judah, having the book of the law with them’. Ezra’s purpose to search for truth, to live by it and to teach it his countrymen is an epitome of the ideal scribe’s career. We may compare Acts 1:1 ‘All that Jesus began both to do and to teach’.
statutes and judgments] These words in the Hebrew are singular, and are rendered ‘a statute and an ordinance’ in Exodus 15:25; Joshua 24:25, where they are found together. The singular is generic. The two words are frequently found together in the plural: e.g. Leviticus 26:46; Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:31; Deuteronomy 11:32; Deuteronomy 12:1 &c.; 2 Chronicles 7:17; 2 Chronicles 19:10 and Malachi 4:4 ‘statutes and judgments’. ‘Statutes’ are the appointed rules or regulations of conduct or ceremony, ‘judgments’ are the duties and rights determined by equity, authority, or custom. The phrase is however used very generally without any close distinction in the shades of meaning.
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.11–26. Artaxerxes’ Commission to Ezra
11. Now] Cf. Ezra 7:1. This verse serves as a brief introduction.
the copy of the letter] See on Ezra 4:7; Ezra 4:11; Ezra 4:23.
Ezra the priest, the scribe] See note on Ezra 7:1-5 for Ezra’s priestly lineage. He is called ‘the priest’ ch. Ezra 10:10; Ezra 10:16; Nehemiah 8:2; and so commonly was this designation given him, that the title of 1 Esdras appears in the Alexandrian MS. (Cod. A) as ὁ ἱερεύς ‘the priest’. He is called ‘the scribe’, Nehemiah 8:4; Nehemiah 8:13; Nehemiah 12:36. He receives the twofold appellation here and elsewhere in Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:21; Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 12:26.
even a scribe] R.V. even the scribe. The LXX. rendering ‘the scribe of the book of the words of the commandments of the Lord’ (τῷ γραμματεῖ βιβλίου λόγων ἐντολῶν τοῦ κυρίου) was due to its misunderstanding the repetition of the word ‘scribe’, and reading ‘sêpher’ ‘a book’, instead of ‘sophêr’ ‘scribe’.
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.12. king of kings] title common in inscriptions of Persian monarchs. (Cf. of Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37.) No mere hyperbole, when the great empire included so many subject kingdoms.
a scribe] R.V. the scribe.
the God of heaven] See note on Ezra 1:2.
perfect peace, and at such a time] R.V. perfect and so forth. The Aramaic word ‘perfect’, ‘g’mir’, occurs only here. The salutation, probably a lengthy affair, is here condensed and the sentence breaks off abruptly. The word ‘perfect’ refers to ‘the scribe’ Ezra and was probably the first of a series of complimentary epithets. So the Vulgate ‘doctissimo’. The A.V. understands the words of salutation, cf. 1 Esdras, ‘hail’ (χαίρειν). The LXX. ‘the word has been ended and the answer’ (τετέλεσται ὁ λόγος καὶ ἡ ἀπόκρισις) is completely at fault. Others render the word as an adverb (= ‘completely’), to be connected either with ‘the scribe’, or with the omitted words of salutation, i.e. the completely (learned) scribe’, or ‘full greetings’.
‘and so forth’, as in Ezra 4:10-11.
12–26. The contents of the letter are given in Aramaic.
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.13. Permission to Jews to return with Ezra to Jerusalem.
I make a decree] The same phrase as in Ezra 4:19, Ezra 6:8; Ezra 6:11.
all they of the people of Israel] Cf. Cyrus’s decree Ezra 1:3 ‘Whosoever there is among all his people’. Here, by the side of ‘the priests and Levites’, the expression, as in Ezra 7:27, should be compared with Ezra 2:2.
of his priests] R.V. their priests, i.e. the priests of the people.
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;14. Object of the commission: (a) to investigate.
of the king, and of his seven counsellers] R.V. marg. Aram. ‘from before the king’.
‘The counsellers’ are mentioned again Ezra 7:15; Ezra 7:28. ‘The seven’ here spoken of should be compared with ‘the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom’ (Esther 1:14).
to enquire] R.V. to inquire. Same word in the original as ‘to make search’ in Ezra 4:15. The object of the enquiry is not defined except by the clause ‘according to the law of thy God’; from which we must conclude that the moral and religious condition of the Jews at Jerusalem having occasioned anxiety to the Jews at Babylon, Ezra, who in some way enjoyed the favour of the court, obtained permission to enquire generally into the position.
Judah and Jerusalem] Cf. Ezra 5:1.
according to the law] Literally ‘with, or, through the law’.
which is in thine hand] Not a book in Ezra’s private possession, but the law of the Israelite people, in which Ezra was reputed to be the best instructed of his day.
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,15. (b) To carry (i) the gifts of the king and his council.
to carry] The LXX. mistaking two very similar letters (reading כ for ב) render εἰς οἶκον κυρίου.
whose habitation is in Jerusalem] i.e. whose temple 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:16. (ii) The gifts of the king’s subjects in Babylon, (iii) freewill offerings of Jewish priests and people.
that thou canst find] R.V. that thou shalt find. Permission is granted to Ezra to ask for contributions from the people of the province of Babylon. Many would be ready to assist the Jews who had lived among them for a hundred and thirty years.
province of Babylon] Cf. Daniel 2:48-49; Daniel 3:1, &c. On ‘the province of the Medes’ see Ezra 6:2, ‘the province of Judah’ Ezra 5:8.
with the freewill offering] i.e. along with, over and above, the voluntary contributions of their Jewish countrymen.
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.17. Purpose of the gifts and offerings: (i) sacrifices.
that thou mayest buy speedily] R.V. therefore thou shalt buy with all diligence; ‘therefore’, i.e. because of the gifts received from the crown, the Babylonians and the Jews.
‘with all diligence’, see note on Ezra 5:8. The sacrifices here mentioned, as in Ezra 6:9-10, consist of burnt offerings (bullocks, rams, lambs), with their accompanying ‘meal’ and ‘drink-offerings’, Numbers 15:1-16.
meat offerings] R.V. meal offerings (i.e. ‘Minkhah’, as always in R.V.).
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.18. (ii) General purposes.
that do after the will of your God] R.V. that do ye after &c. The command is given to Ezra and his brethren, i.e. the priests. They who disposed of the money expended upon the sacrifices, were to determine as to the disposition of the remainder.
the will of your God] with reference here to the Law.
The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.19. The vessels also … those] R.V. And the vessels. The vessels here mentioned are probably those enumerated chap. Ezra 8:25-27, gifts (ἀναθήματα) to the Temple from the king and from individuals. Quite separate from the sacred vessels (Ezra 1:7) restored by Cyrus.
for the service of &c.] A word occurring only here, connected with the word rendered A.V. ‘ministers’, R.V. ‘servants’ in Ezra 7:24. LXX. translates by λειτουργίαν, Vulgate ‘ministerium’.
before the God of Jerusalem] A remarkable expression, probably a condensed form for ‘before the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem’ (Ezra 7:15).
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.20. Permission to draw, for further expenditure, upon the king’s treasury, i. e. upon the sums in the local treasury, which the satrap paid annually out of the tribute money into the king’s treasury at Susa or Ecbatana.
out of the king’s treasure house] See note on Ezra 6:8 ‘of the king’s goods even of the tribute beyond the river, &c.’ The treasury of the satrapy of the country W. of the Euphrates (Abhar-Nahara). Cf. ‘the king’s treasure house’ Ezra 5:17, ‘the king’s house’ Ezra 6:4.
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,21. Credit to Ezra to be granted on local treasuries W. of the Euphrates. Limit of credit stated in Ezra 7:22.
treasurers] Officials to be found in each satrapy and province, (LXX. ταῖς γάζαις. Vulg. ‘custodibus arcæ publicæ’). On ‘gizbar’ a treasurer cf. Ezra 1:8.
beyond the river] i.e. this decree only applied to the financiers of the particular satrapy to which Jerusalem belonged.
Ezra the priest, the scribe, &c.] See on Ezra 7:12.
of you] The decree here addresses ‘the treasurers’.
speedily] R.V. with all diligence.
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.22. unto an hundred talents of silver] or £37, 500. Money reckoned by weight. A ‘kikkar’ or talent of silver was of value about £375. A talent contained 60 manim or 3000 shekels, cf. on Ezra 2:69.
an hundred measures of wheat] The ‘measure’ or ‘cor’, equivalent to 8 bushels or 1 quarter. We learn from Ezekiel 45:14 that the ‘cor’ contained 10 ‘baths’ and was the same as the ‘homer’, see also 1 Kings 4:22; 1 Kings 5:11; 2 Chronicles 2:10; 2 Chronicles 27:5.
an hundred baths of wine] The ‘bath’ contained 6 or 7 gallons (= hins).
salt without prescribing how much] The importance of salt in the sacrificial system appears from Leviticus 2:13 ‘And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine oblations thou shalt offer salt’, cf. Ezra 6:9; Ezekiel 43:24. The translation of the A.V. and R.V. gives the general sense of the original (= ‘which is not written’); LXX. οὗ οὔκ ἐστιν γραφή. The Vulg. ‘absque mensura’.
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?23. Whatsoever is commanded &c.] literally, “Whatsoever is from the commandment”, same word as in Ezra 6:14.
let it be diligently done] R.V. Let it be done exactly. The word in the original ‘adrazda’, occurs only here; if, as is very probable, of Babylonian origin, it will mean “strenuously”, being compounded of two words ‘adar’ abundance or excellence, ‘azda’ strength or firmness. Others assign it a Persian origin.
The A.V. follows on the line of the Vulgate ‘tribuatur diligenter’.
The LXX. προσέχετε μή τις ἐπιχειρήση missed the meaning altogether.
for why should there be wrath &c.] Wrath ‘q’çaph’, like the Hebrew ‘qeçeph’, especially of Divine displeasure, cf. Joshua 9:20; 1 Chronicles 27:24; 2 Chronicles 19:2; 2 Chronicles 19:10; Zechariah 1:2; Zechariah 1:15.
It is natural to connect this allusion to the Divine displeasure with the disasters which had overtaken the Persian Empire since the days of Marathon, and more especially with the revolt of Egypt in the year 460 b.c. It was in this very year 458 that a Persian army was marched into Egypt to attempt its pacification.
The king desired to propitiate the wrath of the gods, and more especially to conciliate Divine favour upon the S.W. frontier.
the king and his sons] see note on Ezra 6:10. The reference is to the dynasty generally, but Artaxerxes left sons behind him, and they may have been born at this time.
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.24. Nethinims] R.V. Nethinim, cf. Ezra 2:43.
ministers] R.V. servants. The word in the original connected with that rendered “service” (Ezra 7:19). The expression “or servants” would cover any other branch (e.g. Solomon’s servants, Ezra 2:55) of attendants on the Temple.
toll, tribute, or custom] R.V. tribute, custom, or toll. See on Ezra 5:13.
Compare immunity from all taxation described by Josephus as having been granted to the priests and Levites by Antiochus the Great (Ant. XII. 3. 3), “And let the senate and the priests and the scribes of the Temple and the sacred singers be discharged from all poll-money and he crown tax, and other taxes also.” (Tran. Whiston.)
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.25. Ezra again addressed, empowered to appoint judges for Jews in the country W. of the Euphrates and to inflict penalties for the violation of the law.
after the wisdom of God, that is in thine hand] cf. Ezra 7:14, ‘the law of by God which is in thy hand’. Law in its obligation, wisdom in its spirit.
magistrates and judges] The former is the same word as the ‘Judges’ (Shôphetim) of the book so called. The two words, if capable of distinction, represent administrative and judicial functions.
all such as know the laws of thy God] No authority save over those of Israelite race or Jewish religion. But this commission gave Ezra and the community at Jerusalem the right to exercise special powers over all countrymen in Syria, Phœnicia and Palestine.
and teach ye them that know them not] R.V. and teach ye him that knoweth them not. The injunction, expressed in the plural, seems to include the leaders of the Jews along with Ezra, with special reference to the ‘magistrates and judges’ to be appointed. The primary intention of this sentence is to ensure instruction in the Law for those Jews. Who by living among the heathen had grown to neglect or to forget the obligations of their religion. It does not amount to a command ‘to proselytize’, but would, no doubt, include the instruction of proselytes, and grant general permission to teach 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.26. Penalty for Contumacy.
whosoever will not do] i.e. whoever of the Israelite race or of those that had attached themselves to the Jewish religion.
speedily] R.V. with all diligence.
death … banishment … confiscation … imprisonment] The king hands over to Ezra plenary powers of punishment.
banishment] R.V. marg. Aram. rooting out. LXX. παιδεία. Vulg. ‘exilium’. ‘Banishment’ is probably the meaning of the word, coming as it does between ‘death’ and ‘confiscation’. Some explain it of ‘excommunication’ or separation ‘from the congregation’.
It is not to be supposed that Ezra’s commission superseded the official governors of the satrapy. Rather his powers (1) to appoint judges (2) to instruct, (3) to inflict penalties, were given him to secure the strengthening of the religious organization based on the Law, which it was his object to make permanent and universal for his countrymen.
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:27. Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers] R.V. Blessed be the lord, the God of our fathers. A similar phrase occurs in Ezra 8:28, Ezra 10:11. We find it elsewhere in 1 Chronicles 29:18; 2 Chronicles 20:6. Cf. Acts 3:13.
The thanksgiving of Ezra relates to the blessing which had been vouchsafed not to himself personally but to the whole nationality.
hath put into the heart] as in Nehemiah 2:12; Nehemiah 7:5; 1 Kings 10:24.
to beautify] This effect of the king’s bounty would result from the general grant contained in Ezra 7:14-20. The actual adornment of the Temple had not been specified.
27, 28. Ezra’s Thanksgiving
Abrupt transition from the letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra’s thanks giving. Compare chap. Ezra 6:8, the transition from the quotation of Cyrus’s decree to the words of Darius.
These two verses contain Ezra’s outburst of praise to God for the favours conceded by Darius.
The Hebrew is here resumed.
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.28. hath extended mercy unto me] First usage of the 1st person, which continues to close of chap. 9. ‘Hath extended mercy’, cf. Ezra 9:9; Genesis 39:21.
his counsellers] see on Ezra 7:14.
as the hand … was upon] R.V. according to the hand: see on Ezra 7:6.
out of Israel] i.e. of the laity, cf. Ezra 2:2.
chief men] literally, ‘heads’, cf. Ezra 5:10.