Ezra 2:65
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.
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(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.

Ezra 2:65. And singing-women — For women as well as men were employed in this exercise, in the temple-service.

2:64-70 Let none complain of the needful expenses of their religion. Seek first the kingdom of God, his favour and his glory, then will all other things be added unto them. Their offerings were nothing, compared with the offerings of the princes in David's time; yet, being according to their ability, were as acceptable to God. The Lord will carry us through all undertakings entered on according to his will, with an aim to his glory, and dependence on his assistance. Those who, at the call of the gospel, renounce sin and return to the Lord, shall be guarded and guided through all perils of the way, and arrive safely at the mansions provided in the holy city of God.The sum total is given without any variation by Ezra, by Nehemiah (see the marginal reference), and by Esdras (1 Esdras 5:41), who adds, that in this reckoning only those of twelve years of age and upward were counted.

It is curious that the total 42,360, is so greatly in excess of the items. Ezra's items make the number 29,818; Nehemiah's 31,089, Esdras, 33,950. The original document was probably illegible in places, and the writers were forced to make omissions.

64. The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore—This gross amount is twelve thousand more than the particular numbers given in the catalogue, when added together, come to. Reckoning up the smaller numbers, we shall find that they amount to 29,818 in this chapter, and to 31,089 in the parallel chapter of Nehemiah [see Ne 7:66-69]. Ezra also mentions four hundred ninety-four persons omitted by Nehemiah, and Nehemiah mentions 1765 not noticed by Ezra. If, therefore, Ezra's surplus be added to the sum in Nehemiah, and Nehemiah's surplus to the number in Ezra, they will both become 31,583. Subtracting this from 42,360, there will be a deficiency of 10,777. These are omitted because they did not belong to Judah and Benjamin, or to the priests, but to the other tribes. The servants and singers, male and female, are reckoned separately (Ezr 2:65), so that putting all these items together, the number of all who went with Zerubbabel amounted to fifty thousand, with eight thousand beasts of burden [Alting, quoted in Davidson's Hermeneutics]. For women as well as men were devoted to and employed in this exercise in the temple service, as appears from 1 Chronicles 25:5,6. And the parents of these persons had taken care to instruct and exercise them as far as they could in this art, both for God’s service, and for their own benefit, when Jerusalem and the temple should be rebuilt; which they knew would be done after Jeremiah’s seventy years were expired.

Besides their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven,.... This shows that the greater part of those that returned were of the poorer sort, since there were so few servants that belonged unto them; these came not into the above account:

and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women; among the servants, who were kept by persons of figure for their pleasure and recreation, see Ecclesiastes 2:8, for that these were such as were employed in sacred service is not so clear, especially the latter, though some conclude it from 1 Chronicles 25:5, but rather they were such as were employed at marriages, festivals, and funerals; though Jarchi thinks they were employed by the returning captives, to make them cheerful as they travelled along; see Gill on Isaiah 55:12.

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. their servants and their maids] R.V. their menservants and their maidservants, which is more accurate.

and there were among them] R.V. and they had. The R.V. is certainly right. The meaning is not that singing men and women were included among the servants, but that ‘the whole congregation’ (Ezra 2:64) had in attendance, besides their servants, their troop of singers.

singing men and singing women] The mention of these has caused some difficulty. (1) Singers have already been mentioned (Ezra 2:41). (2) It has been thought that mention of cattle would be expected by the side of the other beasts. The suggestion has been made that we ought to read ‘oxen’ (sh’vârim) for ‘singing men’ (shôr’rim), that the latter word having been introduced by a copyist’s error, the words ‘and singing women’ were added to give completeness to the verse. The conjecture is ingenious but is based on a misapprehension. (1) The singers mentioned in Ezra 2:41 are a Levitical guild, set apart for the Temple services. The singers mentioned here are professionals employed at banquets, feasts &c., or funerals (2 Chronicles 35:25). Such ‘singing men and singing women’ often belonged to the most degraded class. There is nothing strange then in their being mentioned after the menservants and maidservants. A passage in Ecclesiastes 2:7-8 exemplifies their position ‘I bought menservants and maidens …; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks …: I gathered me also silver and gold …: I gat me men singers and women singers and the delights of the sons of men, concubines very many.’ The possession of professional singers was clearly a sign of luxury (cf. 2 Samuel 19:35). The mention of them shows that there were several very wealthy men among the ‘congregation’. But it is only natural that their place in the list should follow after the mention of the ordinary servants. (2) There is no need here to introduce ‘cattle’. The animals mentioned in the context are beasts of burden (see chap. Ezra 1:4; Ezra 1:6). ‘Oxen’ would be out of place in the list. We are told nothing of the flocks and herds, which the people brought with them. And if it be objected that oxen were used as beasts of burden, it may fairly be answered (a) that they would scarcely be mentioned first in the list, (b) that where they are found in a list (1 Chronicles 12:40) they are mentioned last and by a different name. The number of singers here mentioned is 200. In Nehemiah 7:67 and 1Es 5:42 it is 245, in all probability a copyist’s error whose eye had caught the number ‘245’ in the verse following.

Verse 65. - Two hundred singing men and singing women. Nehemiah says two hundred and forty-five, and so the apocryphal Esdras. Perhaps, in the great default of Levites, the services of these persons may have been used to swell the sacred choruses of the time (Ezra 3:10). Hence, it may be, the mention of this otherwise unimportant fact. Ezra 2:65"Besides these, their servants and their maids, 7337." אלּה is, by the accent, connected with the preceding words. The further statement, "And there were to them (i.e., they had) 200 singing men and singing women," is striking. The remark of Bertheau, that by להם the property of the community is intended to be expressed, is incorrect; להם denotes merely computation among, and does not necessarily imply proprietorship. J. D. Mich., adopting the latter meaning, thought that oxen and cows originally stood in the text, and were changed by transcribers into singing men and singing women, "for both words closely resemble each other in appearance in the Hebrew." Berth., on the contrary, remarks that שׁורים, oxen, might easily be exchanged for שׁררים or משׁררים, but that שׁור has no feminine form for the plural, and that פּרות, cows, is very different from משׁררות; that hence we are obliged to admit that in the original text שׁורים stood alone, and that after this word had been exchanged for משׁררים, משׁררות was added as its appropriate complement. Such fanciful notions can need no serious refutation. Had animals been spoken of as property, להם would not have been used, but a suffix, as in the enumeration of the animals in Ezra 2:66. Besides, oxen and cows are not beasts of burden used in journeys, like the horses, mules, camels, and asses enumerated in Ezra 2:66, and hence are here out of place. וּמשׁררות משׁררים are singing men and singing women, in 1 Esdras ψάλται καὶ ψαλτῳδοί, who, as the Rabbis already supposed, were found among the followers of the returning Jews, ut laetior esset Israelitarum reditus. The Israelites had from of old employed singing men and singing women not merely for the purpose of enhancing the cheerfulness of festivities, but also for the singing of lamentations on sorrowful occasions; comp. Ecclesiastes 2:8; 2 Chronicles 35:25 : these, because they sang and played for hire, are named along with the servants and maids, and distinguished from the Levitical singers and players. In stead of 200, we find both in Nehemiah and 1 Esdras the number 245, which probably crept into the text from the transcriber fixing his eye upon the 245 of the following verse.
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