Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Even a scribe.—In the case of Ezra the function of scribe was more important than that of priest. The word scribe originally meant the writer or copier of the law; but now it meant the expositor of its general moral commandments and of its special ceremonial statutes. It is with the latter more especially that the commission of Ezra had to do.Ezra 7:11. This is the copy of the letter that the King Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra — “It can hardly be supposed, but that some more than ordinary means were used to obtain so great a favour from Artaxerxes, as this commission was upon which Ezra went; and therefore we may suppose that it was granted at the solicitation of Esther; for this Artaxerxes was the Ahasuerus of Esther. She was become the best beloved of the king’s concubines, though not yet advanced to the dignity of queen; for, it being usual for the kings of Persia, on some particular days and occasions, to allow their women to ask what boons they pleased, it is not unlikely that, by the direction of Mordecai, upon some such occasion as this, Esther, though she had not discovered her kingdom and nation, might make this the matter of her request.” — Dodd. See also Pri., Ann. 459, and Le Clerc. Even a scribe of the words, &c. — The phrase seems emphatical, denoting that he explained both the words and the things: for the Jews, in the land of their captivity, had, in a great measure, lost both the language and the knowledge of God’s commands, and therefore Ezra and his companions instructed them in both.Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31.
11. this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave—The measure which this document authorized, and the remarkable interest in the Jews displayed in it, were most probably owing to the influence of Esther, who is thought to have been raised to the high position of queen a few months previous to the departure of Ezra [Hales]. According to others, who adopt a different chronology, it was more probably pressed upon the attention of the Persian court by Ezra, who, like Daniel, showed the prophecies to the king; or by some leading Jews on his accession, who, seeing the unsettled and disordered state of the colony after the deaths of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, and Zechariah, recommended the appointment of a commission to reform abuses, suppress disorder, and enforce the observance of the law.A scribe of the words of the commandments, the phrase seems emphatical, noting that he explained both the words and the things; for the Jews in the land of their captivity had in a great measure lost both their language, and the knowledge of God’s commands, and therefore Ezra and his companions instruct them in both; of which see more on Nehemiah 8:8.
the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel; the doubling of the word "scribe" shows that he was very wise and learned in the law, in the commandments and statutes of it the Lord gave to Israel; not only in the language of it in which it was written, but in the matter and substance of it, in the things contained in it; for "dibre", signfiies "things" as well as words.Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11–26. Artaxerxes’ Commission to Ezra
11. Now] Cf. Ezra 7:1. This verse serves as a brief introduction.
the copy of the letter] See on Ezra 4:7; Ezra 4:11; Ezra 4:23.
Ezra the priest, the scribe] See note on Ezra 7:1-5 for Ezra’s priestly lineage. He is called ‘the priest’ ch. Ezra 10:10; Ezra 10:16; Nehemiah 8:2; and so commonly was this designation given him, that the title of 1 Esdras appears in the Alexandrian MS. (Cod. A) as ὁ ἱερεύς ‘the priest’. He is called ‘the scribe’, Nehemiah 8:4; Nehemiah 8:13; Nehemiah 12:36. He receives the twofold appellation here and elsewhere in Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:21; Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 12:26.
even a scribe] R.V. even the scribe. The LXX. rendering ‘the scribe of the book of the words of the commandments of the Lord’ (τῷ γραμματεῖ βιβλίου λόγων ἐντολῶν τοῦ κυρίου) was due to its misunderstanding the repetition of the word ‘scribe’, and reading ‘sêpher’ ‘a book’, instead of ‘sophêr’ ‘scribe’.Verse 11. - The copy of the letter that the king... gave to Ezra. This decree, as already observed, was a private firman, one copy of which only was made, which was presented to Ezra, and was his authority for doing certain things himself, and for requiring certain acts of others. The priest. This is implied in the genealogy (vers. 1-5), but not directly stated elsewhere by Ezra himself. Nehemiah, however, designates him similarly (Ezra 8:2, 9). His most usual title is the "scribe." A scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord. Not so much a writer as an expounder (see above, ver. 10). 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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