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

Ezra 2:63. The Tirshatha — The governor or king’s commissioner, namely, Zerubbabel: whence Nehemiah is so called, Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:2. That they should not eat of the most holy things — That they should not partake of the sacrifices offered for sin, nor of the right shoulder of peace- offerings, nor of the show-bread; which were all most holy, and the portion of the priests alone. Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim — Till the Lord himself should show, by an answer given to some high- priest, inquiring of him by Urim and Thummim, as had been anciently done, whether they were of the line of Aaron or not. But as God had ceased to give an answer this way long before this time, therefore, it was as much as to say, that as their names were not found in the authentic genealogical registers of the priests, they should for ever be excluded, till some divine oracle pronounced them to have a right to the priesthood. Hereby it appears, that the Urim and Thummim were lost in the destruction of the city and temple, though the Jews fed themselves with hopes of recovering them, but in vain. And by the want of that oracle, they were taught to expect the great oracle, the Messiah.2:36-63 Those who undervalue their relation to the Lord in times of reproach, persecution, or distress, will have no benefit from it when it becomes honourable or profitable. Those who have no evidence that they are, by the new birth, spiritual priests unto God, through Jesus Christ, have no right to the comforts and privileges of Christians.The Tirshatha - i. e., Zerubbabel. See margin. The word is probably old Persian, though it does not occur in the cuneiform inscriptions. Some derive it from a root "to fear." See the introduction to the Book of Ezra, first note.

A priest with Urim and with Thummim - See Exodus 28:30 note. According to the rabbinical writers, the second temple permanently lacked this glory of the first. Zerubbabel, it would seem by the present passage (compare Nehemiah 7:65), expected that the loss would be only temporary.

63. Tirshatha—a title borne by the Persian governors of Judea (see also Ne 7:65-70; 8:9; 10:1). It is derived from the Persian torsh ("severe"), and is equivalent to "your severity," "your awfulness." The Tirshatha, i.e. the governor, to wit, Zerubbabel; whence Nehemiah also is so called, Nehemiah 8:9 10:1.

Till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim; that this point, which could not be found out by any human skill or industry, might be determined by Divine direction. Hereby it appears that the Urim and Thummim were lost in the destruction of the city and temple, though the Jews fed themselves with hopes of recovering them, but in vain. Of the Urim and Thummim, see Exodus 28:30 Numbers 27:21 1 Samuel 23:9. And the Tirshatha said unto them,.... By whom Jarchi understands Nehemiah, and observes, that their rabbins say he was so called, because the wise men allowed him to drink the wine of the Gentiles, he being cupbearer to the king; but Aben Ezra, with greater probability, takes it to be a name of honour and grandeur in the Chaldee language, as a prince or governor; and no doubt Zerubbabel is meant, the prince of the Jews, the same with Sheshbazzar, Ezra 1:8 according to Gussetius (w), this office was the same with that of the king's commissary in a province, delegated to carry his orders, make them known, and see them put in execution; and that this name Tirshatha is the same with Tithraustes in Aelian (x); but that seems to be not the title of an office, but the personal name of a man that was a chiliarch:

that they should not eat of the most holy things; as of the shewbread, and those parts of the sin offerings, and of the peace offerings and meat offerings, which belonged to the priests, which the governor forbid these to eat of, who were rejected from the priesthood:

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 (y) acknowledge that these were one of the five things wanting in the second temple; it is all one, as the Talmudists (z) 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; of the Urim and Thummim; see Gill on Exodus 28:30.

(w) Ebr. Comment. p. 809. (x) Var. Hist. l. 1. c. 21. Vid. Corn. Nep. Vit. Conon. l. 9. c. 3.((y) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 21. 2.((z) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 48. 2. & Gloss. in Kiddushin, fol. 60. 2.

And the {l} Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with {m} Urim and with Thummim.

(l) This is a Chaldee name, and signifies him who has authority over others.

(m) Read Ex 28:30.

63. the Tirshatha] This title is here and in Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70 apparently applied to Zerubbabel: Haggai his contemporary calls him ‘Pekhah’ (= Governor), see Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Haggai 2:21. In the same way Nehemiah, who is called the Tirshatha, Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1, is also spoken of as ‘Pekhah’ in Nehemiah 12:26. ‘Pekhah’ was the Babylonian, ‘Tirshatha’ the Persian title for a local or provincial governor. The governors were subject to the satraps, the satraps were responsible to the king.

The word ‘Tirshatha’ is said to be the same as the Persian ‘tarsâta’, from ‘tars’ to fear, and to denote complimentarily the awe which the office inspired.

That the ‘Tirshatha’ here mentioned was Zerubbabel is rendered probable by the nature of the prohibition contained in this verse, which none but a native Governor or the High-priest himself would have issued.

that they should not eat of the most holy things] The priests were especially required to eat of the ‘meal-offering’ (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 2:10; Leviticus 6:18), the sin offering (Leviticus 6:26), the guilt offering (Leviticus 7:6), and of the peace offering (Leviticus 7:31-34). Certain portions were set aside for the sons of Aaron. The prohibition therefore refers to the ceremonial rules already in force. ‘The most holy things’ is a phrase which can best be illustrated from Numbers 18:9-11.

The consecration of a priest was accompanied by the sacrifice of a ram which Aaron and his sons should eat. Exodus 29:33-37.

A priest excluded from eating of ‘the most holy things’ was therefore only a priest by title and lineage. He could not be consecrated (see Exodus 29), he could not offer sacrifices, he could not enter the holy place.

He was excluded apparently more rigidly than the priest ‘that hath a blemish’, who was forbidden to ‘come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar’ (Leviticus 21:21-23).

The distinction here made between the ‘most holy’ and the ‘holy’ is important. ‘The most holy’ included the shewbread, the incense, the sin and guilt offering, the drink offering. ‘The holy’ comprised the thank-offering, the firstlings of herd and flock, the first-fruits, the tithe. Of ‘the holy’ things members of the priests’ families might partake. But ceremonial cleanness was in all cases needed.

The declaration of ‘defilement’ excluded those who were defiled from a source of priestly income as well as from the dignity of priestly occupation.

till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim] In former times the High-priest had enquired of the Lord by Urim and Thummim. After the Captivity, the High-priest had no Urim and Thummim. The Urim and Thummim, along with the Ark, the Shechinah, the Holy Fire, the Spirit of Prophecy, the Oil of Anointing constituted the chief points, for the absence of which the Jews of later times deplored the deficiency of Zerubbabel’s Temple as compared with that of Solomon.

The passages in which enquiry by Urim and Thummim is mentioned are Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6. In none of these do we find any explanation of what the Urim and Thummim were. They have been identified with (a) stones in the High-priest’s breastplate, (b) sacred dice, (c) little images of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ such as are found hung round the neck of an Egyptian priest’s mummy.

The writers of the Scriptures have abstained from explanation either because they shrank from making generally known what was regarded with mystery and awe, or because they presupposed their readers’ familiarity with the thing referred to.

The want of Urim and Thummim is not, as Ewald supposed, due to any technical defect in Jeshua’s claim to High-priestly dignity (such as that he was not his father’s eldest son). And this passage tacitly contradicts the assertion of Josephus, that the Urim and Thummim only first failed in the Maccabean era.

The Tirshatha indefinitely postponed the decision. Where documentary proofs were wanting, none but one favoured with Divine perception could pronounce sentence. The words are of importance because they testify to the feeling that the people felt the need of revelation from God, and that they looked forward to the coming of some great High-priest to whom God should make Himself known. They point forward to the coming of the High-Priest ‘full of grace and truth’.

Compare 1Ma 4:46 ‘Until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them’, 1Ma 14:41 ‘Until there should arise a faithful prophet.’

The words ‘Urim’ and ‘Thummim’ mean ‘Light’ and ‘Perfection.’ The LXX renders them in this passage by τοῖς φωτίζουσιν καὶ τοῖς τελείοις; more generally by δήλωσις or δῆλοι and ἀλήθεια.Verse 63. - The Tirshatha. As "Shesh-bazzar" was the Babylonian name of Zerub-babel (Ezra 1:8), so "the Tirshatha" seems to have been his Persian title. The word is probably a participial form from tars or tarsa, "to fear," and means literally "the Feared." It is used only by Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 8:9). Haggai calls Zerubbabel uniformly pechah, "governor (Haggai 1:1, 14; Haggai 2:2, 21). They should not eat of the most holy things. The priests' portion of the offerings, called "most holy" in Leviticus 2:2, 10, is intended. Of this no "stranger" might eat (ibid. 22:10). Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. Zerubbabel evidently expected that the power of obtaining direct answers from God by means of the Urim and Thummim, whatever they were (see note on Exodus 28:30), which had existed in the pre-captivity Church, would be restored when the Church was re-established in its ancient home. The doubt whether the families of Habaiah and Coz (or Haccoz) belonged to the priestly class or no might then be resolved. But Zerubbabel's expectation was disappointed. The gift of Urim and Thum-mira, forfeited by disobedience, was never recovered. The Nethinim, i.e., temple-bondsmen, and the servants of Solomon, are reckoned together, thirty-five families of Nethinim and ten of the servants of Solomon being specified. The sum-total of these amounting only to 392, each family could only have averaged from eight to nine individuals. The sons of Akkub, Hagab and Asnah (Ezra 2:45, Ezra 2:46, and Ezra 2:50), are omitted in Nehemiah; the name Shalmai (Ezra 2:46) is in Nehemiah 7:48 written Salmai; and for נפיסים, Ezra 2:50, Nehemiah 7:52 has נפושׁסים, a form combined from נפוּסים and נפישׁים. All other variations relate only to differences of form. Because Ziha (ציהא, Ezra 2:43) again occurs in Nehemiah 11:21 as one of the chiefs of the Nethinim, and the names following seem to stand in the same series with it, Bertheau insists on regarding these names as those of divisions. This cannot, however, be correct; for Ziha is in Nehemiah 11:21 the name of an individual, and in the present list also the proper names are those of individuals, and only the sons of Ziha, Hasupha, etc., can be called families or divisions. Plural words alone, Mehunim and Nephisim, are names of races or nations; hence the sons of the Mehunim signify individuals belonging to the Mehunim, who, perhaps, after the victory of King Uzziah over that people, were as prisoners of war made vassals for the service of the sanctuary. So likewise may the sons of the Nephisim have been prisoners of war of the Ishmaelite race נפישׁ. Most of the families here named may, however, have been descendants of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:21, Joshua 9:27). The servants of Solomon must not be identified with the Canaanite bond-servants mentioned 1 Kings 9:20., 2 Chronicles 8:7., but were probably prisoners of war of some other nation, whom Solomon sentenced to perform, as bondsmen, similar services to those imposed upon the Gibeonites. The sons of these servants are again mentioned in Nehemiah 11:3. In other passages they are comprised under the general term Nethinim, with whom they are here computed. Among the names, that of הצּבים פּכרת (Ezra 2:57), i.e., catcher of gazelles, is a singular one; the last name, אמי, is in Nehemiah 7:59 אמון.
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