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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)or Ezra had prepared his heart.—It must be remembered that the providence of God over him immediately precedes—not as the reward of his preparing his heart, but as the reason of it. First, he gave himself to study the law, then to practise it himself, and lastly to teach its positive statutes or ordinances and its moral judgments or precepts—a perfect description of a teacher in the congregation. There is nothing discordant in Ezra saying of himself that he had thus “set his heart.”Ezra 7:10. For Ezra had prepared his heart, &c. — He had set his mind and affections upon it, and made it his chief business. To seek the law of the Lord — To search and find out the true sense and meaning of it, and thence to learn what sins or errors were to be reformed, and what duties were to be performed. And to do it, and to teach in Israel — The order of things in this verse is very observable: first, he endeavours to understand God’s law and word, and that not for curiosity or ostentation, but in order to practice; next, he conscientiously practises what he did understand, which made his doctrine much more effectual; and then he earnestly desires and labours to instruct others, that they also might know and do it.Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31. Ezra had prepared his heart, or, directed, &c., i.e. he had set his mind and affections upon it, and made it his chief design and business.
To seek the law, i.e. to search and find out the true sense and meaning of it, and thence to learn what sins or errors were to be reformed, and what duties were to be performed.
And to teach in Israel. The order of things in this verse is very observable; first he endeavours to understand God’s law and word, and that not for curiosity or ostentation, but in order to practice; next he conscientiously practiseth what he did understand, which made his doctrine much more effectual; and then he earnestly desires and labours to instruct and edify others, that they also might know and do it.
and to do it; he was not only concerned to get the theory of it, but to put it in practice, to exercise himself in it, that it might be habitual to him; and the rather, as his view and intentions were not merely for the sake of himself, but
to teach in Israel statutes and judgments: and therefore it was not only necessary that he should have a large and competent knowledge of the laws, moral, ceremonial, and civil, but that he should act according to them himself, that so by his example, as well as by his instructions, he might teach the people.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 10. - For Ezra had prepared his heart, etc. God's favour towards Ezra, and the prosperous issue of his journey, were the consequences of his having set his heart on learning God's will, and doing it, and teaching it to others. To seek the law is to aim at obtaining a complete knowledge of it. To teach statutes and judgments is to inculcate both the ceremonial and the moral precepts. Ezra appears as a teacher of righteousness in Ezra 10:10, 11, and again in Nehemiah 8:2-18
CHAPTER 7:11-28 THE DECREE OF ARTAXERXES WITH RESPECT TO EZRA (vers. 11-26). The present decree was of the nature of a firman granted to an individual. It embodied, in the first place, a certain number of provisions which were temporary. Of this character were -
1. the permission accorded to all Persian subjects of Israelite descent to accompany Ezra to Jerusalem (ver. 13);
2. the commission to Ezra to convey to Jerusalem certain offerings made by the king and his chief courtiers to the God of Israel (vers. 15, 19);
3. the permission given him to convey to Jerusalem the free-will offerings of Jews and others resident in Babylonia (ver. 16);
4. permission to Ezra to draw on the royal treasury to the amount of a hundred talents of silver, a hundred measures of wheat, a hundred "baths" of wine, a hundred "baths" of oil, and salt to any amount (ver. 22); and,
5. an indefinite commission to "inquire" (ver. 14). Besides these temporary enactments, the decree contained certain provisions of a more permanent nature.
1. Ezra was invested with the chief authority over the whole district "beyond the river," and was commissioned to appoint all the subordinate "magistrates and judges" (ver. 25).
2. He was authorised to enforce his decisions by the penalties of imprisonment, confiscation of goods, banishment, and even death itself (ver. 26).
3. An exemption from taxation of every kind was granted to all grades of the sacerdotal order - to the priests, the Levites, the singers, the porters, the Nethinim, and the lowest grade of "ministers" - to all, in fact, who were engaged in the performance of any sacred function connected with the temple (ver. 24). This last provision was absolutely permanent, and probably continued in force down to the close of the empire. Genesis 15:1; Genesis 22:1, and elsewhere. Between the dedication of the temple in the sixth year of Darius and the arrival of Ezra in Jerusalem, a period of fifty-seven years had elapsed. "In the reign of Artachshasta king of Persia, went up Ezra," etc. The verb of the subject עזרא does not follow till Ezra 7:6, where, after the interposition of the long genealogy, Ezra 7:1-5, the distant subject is again taken up in עזרא הוּא. It is all but universally agreed that Artaxerxes Longimanus is intended by ארתּחשׁסתּא; the explanation of this appellation as Xerxes in Joseph. Antiq. xi. 5. 1, for which Fritzsche (on 1 Esdr. 8:1) has recently decided, being a mere conjecture on the part of that not very critical historian. The fact that the Artachshasta of the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1; Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 13:6) can be no other than Artaxerxes, is decisive of this point: for in Nehemiah 13:6 the thirty-second year of Artachshasta is mentioned; while according to Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 12:26, Nehemiah 12:36, Ezra and Nehemiah jointly exercised their respective offices at Jerusalem.
(Note: Very superficial are the arguments, and indeed the whole pamphlet, Etude Chronologique des livres d'Esdras et de Nhmie, Paris 1868, p. 40, etc., by which F. de Saulcy tries to show that the Artachshasta of Ezra 7 and of Nehemiah is Artaxerxes II((Mnemon).)
Ezra is called Ben Seraiah, whose pedigree is traced to Eleazar the son of Aaron; Seraiah the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, was the father of Josedec the high priest carried into captivity (1 Chronicles 6:14, etc.), and was himself the high priest whom Nebuchadnezzar slew at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18-21). Between the execution of Seraiah in the year 588 and the return of Ezra from Babylon in 458 b.c., there is a period of 130 years. Hence Ezra could have been neither the son nor grandson of Seraiah, but only his great or great-great-grandson. When we consider that Joshua, or Jeshua (Ezra 2:2), the high priest who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel, was the grandson of Seraiah, we cannot but regard Ezra, who returned thence 78 years later, as a great-great-grandson of Seraiah. Moreover, we are justified in inferring from the fact that Ezra is not, like Joshua, designated as Ben Josedech, that he did not descend from that line of Seraiah in which the high-priestly dignity was hereditary, but from a younger son, and hence that his immediate ancestors were not (though his forefathers from Seraiah upwards were) of high-priestly descent. Hence the names of Ezra's ancestors from Seraiah up to Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5) agree also with the genealogy of the high-priestly race (1 Chronicles 6:4-14), with the one deviation that in Ezra 7:3, between Azariah and Meraioth, six members are passed over, as is frequently the case in the longer genealogies, for the sake of shortening the list of names. - In v. 6 Ezra, for the sake of at once alluding to the nature of his office, is designated בת מהיר סוף ר, a scribe skilful in the law of Moses. The word סופר means in older works writer or secretary; but even so early as Jeremiah 8:8 the lying pen of the ספרים is spoken of, and here therefore סופר has already attained the meaning of one learned in the Scripture, one who has made the written law a subject of investigation. Ezra is, however, the first of whom the predicate הסּופר, ὁ γραμματεύς, is used as a title. He is so called also in the letter of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11), because he is said (Ezra 7:9) to have applied his heart to seek out and to do the law of the Lord, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgment, i.e., because he had made the investigation of the law, for the sake of introducing the practice of the same among the congregation, his life-task; and the king granted him all his desire, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. The peculiar expression עליו אלהיו יהוה כּיד which is found only here and in Ezra 7:9, Ezra 7:28, Ezra 8:18; Nehemiah 2:8, Nehemiah 2:18, and in a slightly altered guise in Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31, "according to the good hand of his God, which was over him," means: according to the divine favour or divine care arranging for him; for the hand of God is הטּובה, the good (Ezra 7:9, and Ezra 8:18), or לטובה, Ezra 8:22. בּקּשׁה, the desire, request, demand, occurs only here and in the book of Esther.
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