Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(1-70) Enumeration of the families and dedication of the substance of the company who returned.
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;(1) The children of the province that went up out of the captivity.—They came from “the captivity,” which was now as it were a generic name—“Children of the captivity” in Babylon (Daniel 2:2), in Judah (Ezra 4:1)—and became “children of the province,” the Judæan province of Persia.
Every one unto his city.—So far, that is, as his city was known. The various cities, or villages, are more distinctly enumerated in Nehemiah.
Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:(2) Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua.—The leaders of the people, perhaps the twelve tribes, are represented by twelve names, one of which, Nahamani, is here wanting; three others are given in slightly different forms.
The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.(3) The children of Parosh . . .—Then comes the enumeration of the family and local names. In the following instances we note when two of the three authorities agree. In Ezra 2:6, Ezra is confirmed by 1 Esdras as against Nehemiah’s 2,818; in Ezra 2:8, against his 945; in Ezra 2:11, against his 628; in Ezra 2:15, against his 655; in Ezra 2:17, against his 324; in Ezra 2:33, against his 721. In Ezra 2:10, the children of Bani, or Binnui, are 642, but 1 Esdras agrees with Nehemiah in making them 648; in Ezra 2:14, the two latter correct 666 into 667.—In Ezra 2:20, heads of families become places; Nehemiah substitutes Gibeon for Gibbar. Ezra 2:30 has no representative in Nehemiah. In Ezra 2:31, “the other Elam” has the same number as Elam in Ezra 2:7; and the Nebo of Ezra 2:29 is called in Nehemiah “the other Nebo,” though the only one, as if the “other” had slipped in from what in Nehemiah is found in the next verse. In a few cases all the authorities differ, but the differences are not important.
The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three.(36) The priests: the children of Jedaiah.—The priests are then given by family names, their numbers being very large in proportion to each of the other classes. Three only of David’s priestly courses are represented (1Chronicles 24:7-8; 1Chronicles 24:14); Pashur, a name mentioned elsewhere as the name of a priestly race, not being among the twenty-four in the Chronicles.
Of the house of Jeshua.—A peculiar expression, seeming to indicate merely that the present high priest belonged to the race of Jedaiah, who, in that case, is not the same as the head of the second order in the Chronicles, unless indeed he sprang from the high-priestly family of Eleazar.
The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four.(40) The Levites: the children of Jeshua.—Then 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 (Nehemiah 7:43). The hereditary choristers are also few: of the families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun the first alone is represented. Nehemiah makes their number twenty more; but 1 Esdras agrees with the text of Ezra.
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 an hundred thirty and nine.(42) The children of the porters.—The porters, or gatekeepers, number six families, three of which appear in the old Jerusalem (1Chronicles 9:17).
The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth,(43-58) The Nethinims.—By the etymology those given: known by this name only in the later books. (See 1Chronicles 9:2.) They were hieroduli, or temple-bondsmen: the lowest order of the ministry, performing the more laborious duties of the sanctuary. Their history runs through a long period. Moses apportioned them first, from the Midianite captives (Numbers 31:47); they were reinforced from the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:23), and probably later by David (Ezra 8:20). Three names—Akkub, Hagab, and Asnah—have dropped from Neheniiah’s list, which gives also some unimportant changes in the spelling of the names.
The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda,(55) The children of Solomon’s servants.—These are mentioned in 1 Kings 9 as a servile class, formed of the residue of the Canaanites. They were probably inferior to the Nethinims, but are generally classed with them, as in the general enumeration here. Both these classes retained during their captivity their attachment to the service into which they had been received; and, the Levites being so few, their value in the reconstitution of the Temple gave them the special importance they assume in these books.
And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel:(59-63) Finally, those who had lost the records of their lineage are mentioned. Of the people, the children of three families from Tel-melah, Hill of salt, Tel-harsa, Hill of the wood, and a few other places, are mentioned. Of the priests, there are also three families without their genealogy.
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:(61) Barzillai the Gileadite.—See the well-known history in 2Samuel 17:27.
After their name.—Rather, after her name, she having been probably an heiress.
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.(62) Their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy.—Better, their record, or the record of the Enregistered.
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.(63) Tirshatha.—Interchangeable with Pechah, or governor, as Zerubbabel is called in chapter 5:14 and always in Haggai. It is probably an old Persian term, signifying “The Feared.”
With Urim and with Thummim.—See Exodus 28:30. They were pronounced to be excluded from priestly functions. Without ark or temple, the people had not as yet that special presence of Jehovah before which the high priest could “inquire of the Lord by Urim and Thummim.” Zerubbabel might hope that this privilege would return, and thought the official purity of the priestly line of sufficient importance for such an inquiry. But the holy of holies in the new temple never had in it the ancient “tokens “; and by Urim and Thummim Jehovah was never again inquired of.
The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,(64) This sum total is the same in Nehemiah; but the several sums in Ezra make 29,818, and in Nehemiah 31,089. The apocryphal Esdras agrees in the total, but makes in the particulars 33,950, adding that children below twelve were not reckoned. Many expedients of reconciliation have been adopted; but it is better to suppose that errors had crept into the original documents.
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.(65) The Rabbis accounted for these “ut lætior esset Israelitarum reditus,” in order that the return of the Israelites might be more joyful; but they were hired for lamentation as well as joy; and here, possibly, to supply the defect of Levites. In Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:67) there are 245: see for the probable reason of the mistranscription the 245 of the next verse in that chapter.
Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.(67) The asses, as throughout earlier Hebrew history, are the chief and most numerous beasts of burden.
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:(68) They came to the site of the house not yet built, and offered for the building.
They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments.(69) The dram being a daric of a little more than our guinea, and the pound, or maneh, a little more than £4. the whole would be nearly £90,000, and not an exorbitant sum for a community far from poor. But Nehemiah c statement is smaller, and probably more correct.
One hundred priests’ garments.—An almost necessary correction or supply in the defective text of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:70) makes his “four hundred and thirty priests’ garments,” as contributed by the Tirshatha, “five hundred pounds of silver and thirty priests’ garments.” This being so, the two accounts agree, always allowing that Ezra’s 61,000 is a corruption of 41,000 in the gold, and his 5,000 pounds of silver and 100 priests’ garments round numbers.
So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.(70) Some of the people.—Those of the people; placed by Nehemiah after all the others.
All Israel in their cities.—The emphasis lies in the fact that, though Judah and Benjamin contributed the largest part, it was a national revival; and the constant repetition of “in their cities” has in it the same note of triumph.