For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brothers the priests, and for themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Purified together.—This verse should be translated as follows, contrary to the present accentuation: “The priests were purified; and the Levites were purified as one man: all were pure; and killed.” In this fact the present Levitical and official purity of both orders surpassed that of Hezekiah’s celebration (2Chronicles 29:34; 2Chronicles 30:3). It had come to be the practice that the Levites slaughtered all the paschal lambs.Ezra 6:20. The priests and Levites were purified together — Hebrew, כאחד, cheechad, as one man, so the word signifies. They were unanimous, both in their resolutions, and in their endeavours, to make and keep themselves ceremonially clean for this solemnity: and they joined together in their preparations, that they might help one another; so that all of them were legally pure, and, in this respect, excelled the priests and Levites in Hezekiah’s time, who were many of them under blame for not purifying themselves according to the law. The purity of ministers adds much to the beauty and honour of their ministrations, as doth their unity also.2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 30:3, which made it fitting that the former should undertake the slaughter of all the Paschal lambs, even of those which the priests were to consume. In later times the ordinary practice was for each head of a family to kill for himself. 2 Chronicles 29:34
and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests and for themselves; which seems to have been done by the Levites, for themselves and for the priests, and for all the people, who were not so pure as the priests and Levites; or otherwise they might have killed it themselves, Exodus 12:6, as Bochart (n) thinks.For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. The explanatory ‘for’ means that this celebration of the Passover could take place, because the priests and Levites had duly prepared themselves for it by ceremonial purification.
the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure] R.V. the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together (Heb. as one); all of them were pure. ‘Had purified themselves’: the reflexive is the accurate rendering of the original.
together] Lit. ‘as one’: see Ezra 2:64, Ezra 3:9.
The rendering of the R.V. represents the ceremonial purification to have been jointly performed by priests and Levites, who were therefore all ‘pure’ and capable of sacrificial acts. The only difficulty arises from the following clause. How can it be said that ‘the priests and Levites killed the passover … for their brethren the priests, and for themselves?’ The words ‘for their brethren the priests’ shew that the subject of the last clause must be the Levites alone; and that the mention of the priests belongs to the two first clauses. Compare 2 Chronicles 29:34, ‘their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests’ (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:3). The small number of Levites who had returned were, we must suppose, more rigid followers of the ceremonial law than their brethren the priests, numerically a far larger body.
for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves] The triple division of the community: see Ezra 6:16.
The Levites are here represented as slaying the Paschal lamb. Three stages of custom as to the slaughter of the lamb are recorded in Scripture, (a) Originally, the lamb was slain by the head of each household (see Exodus 12:6): (b) in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:17) the Levites ‘killed the passovers for every one that was not clean’: (c) in the days of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:10-14) the Levites seem to have slain all the passover lambs, and roasted them both for the people, and for the priests, and for themselves.
The object of the alteration in the custom was twofold; (1) to secure the ceremonial purity of those entrusted with the duty of slaying the passover, (2) to relieve the priests, who at the season of the feast were busied in other offerings; see 2 Chronicles 35:14, “therefore the Levites prepared for themselves, and for the priests the sons of Aaron”.
The above is a useful illustration of the manner in which the absolute rule of the early law was modified in later times out of regard for considerations of a purely practical character (cf. Ezra 3:8, note on “twenty years old and upward”).Verse 20. - The opening section of this verse is mistranslated. Ezra really makes a distinction between the priests and the Levites, the former of whom, he says, "purified themselves," while the latter "were all pure, as one man;" wherefore the latter killed the paschal lambs, not only for themselves and for the people, but also for their brethren the priests. It would seem that, as in Hezekiah's time, "the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests" (2 Chronicles 29:34). Ezra 7:15, Ezra 7:21), contributed to the maintenance, though not to the building, of the temple.
(Note: "Nam etsi," remarks Calovius in J. H. Mich., adnotatt. uber. ad h. l., "non ad structuram templi conduxerit proprie edictum Artaxerxis, quae Darii secundo anno incepta et sexto absoluta fuit, Ezra 6:15 ad ornamenta tamen et additamenta eam spectasse dubium non est: quae ab ipso, ceu rege post Cyrum et Darium erga Judaeos Persarum omnium benignissimo, profecta hic celebratur." Similarly but more briefly explained by Clericus.)
It may in this instance be questionable whether the name ארתחשׁשׁתא was added by the author of the Chaldee section, or by Ezra when he introduced this into his book. We believe the latter to be the correct view, because the Chaldee section, to judge by the אמרנא, Ezra 5:4, was composed by one who lived contemporaneously with the building of the temple, while from the date of the completion of the temple to the seventh year of Artaxerxes fifty-seven years elapsed.
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