For on the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God on him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ezra 7:9. According to the good hand of his God upon him — There was great reason to acknowledge the favour and protection of God, in conducting them safe to Jerusalem; for the journey was long and difficult, and they had many impediments, (going with wives and children, flocks and herds,) and were not without enemies, by whom they were in danger of being waylaid. These, however, Ezra did not fear, but relied on the divine protection, as he told the king, Ezra 8:2, being inspired with supernatural courage and fortitude.Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31.
and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem; the first of the month Ab, as in the preceding verse; so that he was just four months on his journey:
according to the good hand of his God upon him; his power and providence, which gave him and his company health and strength, supplied them with everything necessary, directed, protected, and defended them, and brought them in safety to their journey's end.For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. began he to go up] R.V. marg. Heb. that was the foundation of the going up. The R.V. and A.V. paraphrase the words.
The Hebrew text is intelligible; but (1) the word as here vocalized is very unusual, (2) the metaphor is ponderous and awkward, (3) the construction, shown in a literal translation “for upon the first day of the first month—that (i.e. that month) was the foundation of the going up from Babylon—and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem”, is almost intolerably involved and harsh, especially as the verb ‘came’ in the latter half of the verse has no subject expressed in the original, and presupposes the mention of a subject in an earlier clause.
The LXX. render “for upon the first day of the first month he (i.e. Ezra) laid the foundation of his going up” (αὐτὸς ἐθεμελίωσε τὴν ἀνάβασιν), treating the word rendered “foundation” as a simple verb (i.e. ‘yasad’ for ‘y‘sûd’), cf. Vulg. ‘cœpit adscendere’.
Another method of explaining the verse makes Ezra the subject and reads the disputed word as if it were an intensive form (i.e. ‘yissêd’) of the verb “to lay the foundation of”, with the meaning ‘appoint’, as in Esther 1:8 “the king had appointed”. This gives a good sense, as follows;
‘On the first day &c. he (i.e. Ezra) had appointed or determined to go up (the going up)’.
The rendezvous apparently took place on the 9th day of the 1st month (Nisan), and the journey did not commence until the 12th day (see chap. Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:31).
upon the first day of the first month] i.e. 1st of Nisan (= Assyrian Nisanu), part of March and April.
on the first day of the fifth month] The journey lasted throughout 18 days of Nisan, and the three months Iyyar, Sivan, and Tammuz; in all about 108 days. As the crow flies, the distance from Babylon to Jerusalem is over 500 miles. But the road followed by Ezra’s caravan made a long detour by Carchemish so as to avoid the desert, and could hardly have been less than 900 miles. As the march was taken in the height of summer (April–August), the travellers probably moved only in the early morning and at night. A caravan with women and children and household effects would move more slowly than a trained and lightly equipped force. There is nothing therefore in the length of time spent in the march to cause any surprise. See on Ezra 8:32.
according to the good hand of his God &c.] Cf. note on Ezra 7:6.Verse 9. - According to the good hand of his God. For the meaning of this phrase, see comment on ver. 6. The special favour of God here intended would seem to be deliverance from certain enemies who designed to attack the caravan on the way (see the next chapter, vers. 21-23, 31). 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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