Ezra 8:15
And I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there stayed we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.
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(15-31) The journey through Ahava to Jerusalem.

(15) Ahava.—Both river and town. Nine days’ journey brought them thither; and there is a place now called Hit, about eighty miles from Babylon, which has been identified with it.

None of the sons of Levi.—Only seventy-four had returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:40); and hero we have evidence that the disinclination continued. The importance of Levitcal service in the Temple accounts for the anxiety of Ezra.

Ezra 8:15. To the river that runneth to Ahava — Or the river of Ahava, as it is called, Ezra 8:21; Ezra 8:31. By comparing of these places, it seems that Ahava was the name both of the river and of the town or place by which it ran. Either this was that river of Assyria, which other writers call Adiava, or Diava, which ran along the Adiabene, upon which Ptolemy places the city of Abane, or Aavane; or some other river which ran into the Euphrates. Here, some imagine, was the country which (2 Kings 17:24) is called Ava, from whence the king of Assyria translated the people called Avites into Palestine, and in their room settled some of the captive Israelites. It was a common thing for those who travelled from Babylon to Jerusalem, in order to avoid the scorching heat of the desert of Arabia, to shape their course northward at first, and then turning westward, to pass through Syria into Palestine. But Ezra had a further reason for his taking this route; for, as he intended to get together as many Israelites as he could, to carry along with him to Jerusalem, he took his course this way, and made a halt in the country of Ava, or Ahava, from whence he might send emissaries, to a place afterward mentioned, to invite such Jews as were there to come and join him. See Calmet’s Dict. on the word Ahava. And found there none of the sons of Levi — To wit, who were simple Levites, and not priests; and therefore the Levites mentioned Ezra 7:7, by anticipation, were not yet come to him.8:1-20 Ezra assembles the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah. God raised up the spirits of a small remnant to accompany him. What a pity that good men should omit a good work, for want of being spoken to!Ahava was both a town and a river Ezra 8:21. The modern name of the place is Hit. It is famous for its bitumen springs, and is situated on the Euphrates, at a distance of about 80 miles from Babylon, toward the northwest.

None of the sons of Levi - The Levites appear to have been disinclined to return to Jerusalem (see Ezra 3:8 note).

Ezr 8:15-20. He Sends to Iddo for Ministers for the Temple Service.

15. I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava—This river has not been ascertained. It is probable that the Ahava was one of the streams or numerous canals of Mesopotamia communicating with the Euphrates [Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature]. But it was certainly in Babylonia on the banks of that stream; and perhaps the place appointed for general rendezvous was in the neighborhood of a town of the same name. The emigrants encamped there for three days, according to Oriental custom, while the preparations for the departure were being completed and Ezra was arranging the order of the caravan.

I … found there none of the sons of Levi—that is, the ordinary Levites. Notwithstanding the privilege of exemption from all taxes granted to persons engaged in the temple service, none of the Levitical tribes were induced to join the settlement in Jerusalem; and it was even not without difficulty Ezra persuaded some of the priestly families to accompany him.

The river that runneth to Ahava; or,

the river of Ahava, as it is called, Ezra 8:21,31. By comparing of these places, it seems that Ahava was the name both of the river, and of the town or place by which it ran. Either this was that river which other writers call Adiava, which runs to Assyria, which thence is called Adiabene; or some other river running into Euphrates.

None of the sons of Levi, to wit, who were simple Levites, and not priests. And therefore the Levites, mentioned Ezra 7:7, by anticipation, were not yet come to him. And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava,.... From whence also the river bore the same name; or that from the river, see Ezra 8:21, and may be the same with Adiabene, a country in Assyria, which had its name from the river Adiava:

and there abode we in tents three days; or pitched their camp; this was the place of their rendezvous:

and I viewed the people and the priests; mustered them, took the number of them, and what tribe and families they were of:

and found there none of the sons of Levi; excepting the priests.

And I gathered them together to the {c} river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.

(c) To that place of Euphrates, where the Ahava river enters it.

(b) 15–20. The Encampment of Ahava; the Absence of Levites

15. The Rendezvous

15. the river that runneth to Ahava] ‘Ahava’ is here the name of a place, which seems to have also given its name to the river. Ewald conjectured that the river Ahava (or Peleg-Ahava) was to be identified with the Palacopas, which flowed S. of Babylon. Rawlinson identifies with the river Is mentioned by Herodotus (i. 179) flowing from the E. into the Euphrates at a point, where stood a town of the same name (the modern Hit), an eight days’ journey distant from Babylon. He points out that a well-known town upon the line of march would be a likely spot for a halting-place.

We do not however gather from the verse that Ezra’s march had actually begun. The rendezvous at Ahava enabled Ezra to make the necessary preliminary review of his large company. It is hardly likely that this first review would be held at a great distance from Babylon, where the great majority of the Jews were settled. On the other hand it is equally unlikely that a gathering of 1500 men and of a caravan which must have comprised 7000 or 8000 souls would have met within the walls of Babylon.

The conjecture therefore that the Ahava was one of the many canals or artificial rivers in the vicinity of Babylon, appears to be the most probable. Perhaps there was a specially influential settlement of Jews on the banks of the Ahava, as there had been once on the banks of the Chebar (cf. Ezekiel 1:1 &c.). For purposes of lustration the pious Jews may have met with special frequency by the banks of rivers (cf. the proseuchæ and synagogues of later times), “By the rivers of Babylon,” (Psalm 137:1). See Acts 16:13.

1Es 8:41 renders by ‘a river called Theras’ (ἐπὶ τὸν λεγόμενον Θερὰν πόταμον). The LXX. gives πρὸς τὸν Εὐί (Ezra 8:21 Ἀουέ).

abode we in tents] R.V. we encamped. The three days’ encampment preceded the final move. The short interval was employed by Ezra in securing the services of Levites. As the camp was struck and the march begun on the 12th day (see Ezra 8:31), the encampment lasted from the 9th to the 12th. Ezra’s preparations were begun on the 1st day (see Ezra 7:9 and note).

I viewed] i.e. gave attention to. The same word occurs in Nehemiah 13:7, “I came to Jerusalem and understood of the evil.” Cf. Proverbs 7:7, “I discerned among the youths”. Job 42:3; Daniel 12:8.

the people, and the priests] i.e. the laity (cf. Ezra 2:2), and the priests.

and found there none of the sons of Levi] On the occasion of Zerubbabel’s journey from Babylon, only seventy-four Levites accompanied him, although over four thousand priests returned (cf. Ezra 2:36, &c.). The backwardness of the Levites to join in the return to the Temple-worship is probably to be explained by their having been especially concerned in (a) the worship at the high places, (b) the idolatrous forms of worship, which the reformation of Josiah had sought to abolish. See Introduction § 7. iv. C.Verse 15. -

I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava. The "river that runneth to Ahava" is now generally identified with the Is of Herodotus (1:179), a small stream flowing into the Euphrates from the east, at a point where stood a city of the same name, distant (according to Herodotus) eight days' journey from Babylon. The city appears to be mentioned under the slightly variant forms of Ava (עַוָּא) and Ivah (עִוָּה) in the Second Book of Kings (2 Kings 17:24; 19:13). It is called Aia, or Aba, by the LXX.; Ihi in the Talmud; Aei by Isidore of Charax. The modern name is Hit. The town has always been one of some importance in connection with the bitumen springs of the neighbourhood. Ezra s reason for selecting the place as a halting-point seems to have been the fact that many Jews were settled in the district (see ver. 17). We abode in tents. A large caravan, like Ezra's, even when it reached a town, would pitch its tents outside, and remain in them rather than scatter itself among the khans and caravanserais. The phrase is therefore to be understood literally. I viewed the people. Rather, "I looked among the people" - I looked to see whether there were any Levites or no. ("Quaesivi in populo et in sacerdotibus de filiis Levi. - Vulg.) And found there none of the sons of Levi. It is difficult to account for the fact; but there seems certainly to have been a special disinclination to return to Jerusalem on the part of the Levites. Only seventy-four went up with Zerubbabel, when the priests who returned were 4289 (Ezra 2:36-40); and now there was not a single one in the whole of Ezra's band. Did the jealous spirit of Korah (Numbers 16:8-10) still animate the great body of the tribe? Twelve lay houses are named both in the present text and in 1 Esdr. 8:30-40. In ten cases the names of the races, which are uniformly introduced with מבּני, are identical in both texts, viz., Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Adin, Elam, Shephatiah, Joab, Bebai, Azgad, Adonikam, and Bigvai. On the other hand, it appears surprising, 1st, that in the first house mentioned, before the name זכריה, besides "of the sons of Parosh," we have also שׁכניה מבּני (Ezra 8:3), while before all the other names we find only "of the sons of" one individual; 2ndly, that in Ezra 8:5, after שׁכניה בּני, instead of a name of the head of a house, only Ben Jahaziel follows; 3rdly, that in Ezra 8:10 also, after שׁלומית וּמבּני, we have merely Ben Josiphiah, the names themselves being apparently omitted in these two last cases. This conjecture is corroborated by a comparison with the lxx and 1 Esdr. 8, which shows, moreover, that it is not the personal name of the head of the house, but the name of the race, which has been lost. For מבני שׁכניה בן יחזיאל, Ezra 8:5, we find in the lxx ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν Ζαθόης Ζεχενίας υἱὸς Ἀζιήλ, and in 1 Esdr. 8:32, ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Ζαθόης Σεχενίας Ἰεζήλου; and for ומבני שׁלומית בן יוספיה, Ezra 8:10, in the lxx καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν Βαανί Σελιμοὺθ υἱὸς Ἰωσεφία, and in 1 Esdr. 8:36, ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Βανίας Σαλιμὼθ Ἰωσαφίου. In Ζαθόης and Βαανί (Βανίας) we recognise זתּוּא and בּני of Ezra 2:8 and Ezra 2:10. Hence the text of Ezra 8:5 needs emendation, and should run שׁכניה זתּוּא מבּני, and that of Ezra 8:10, שׁלומית בני וּמבּני. It is more difficult to decide concerning שׁכניה מבּני of Ezra 8:3, though undoubtedly we have here too a corruption of the text. For, first, there is no other instance in the whole list of the sons of two men being cited before the proper name of the house; and then, too, the absence of the ו copulative before מבּני פ is opposed to the notion that the house of Zechariah was formed by a union of the sons of Shecaniah and Parosh, since in this case the and could not be omitted. It is true that we have in the lxx ἀπὸ υἱῶν Σαχανία καὶ ἀπὸ υἱῶν Φόρος; but in this case the καὶ is certainly derived from the translator, who was thus seeking to make sense of the words. In 1 Esdr. 8 we read Δαττοὺς τοῦ Σεχευίου; and Δαττοὺς corresponding with חטּוּשׁ, the words בני שׁכניה (or בן) are taken into the preceding verse. This treatment of the words Bertheau considers correct, because Hattush in 1 Chronicles 3:22 is reckoned among the descendants of Shecaniah. This conjecture is, however, a very doubtful one. For, first, in 1 Chronicles 3:22 Hattush is said to be of the sons of Shemaiah, and Shemaiah of the sons of Shecaniah; then we should as little expect any further statement in the case of Hattush as in the cases of Daniel and Gershom; and further, if he had been thus more precisely designated by naming his father, we should undoubtedly read שׁכניה בּן, not שׁ מבּני, and thus the Masoretic text would at any rate be incorrect; and finally, 1 Esdras, where it differs from the lxx, is, generally speaking, no critical authority upon which to base safe conclusions. Under these circumstances, we must give up the hope of restoring the original text, and explaining the words מבני שׁבניה. התיחשׂ עמּו, "and with Zechariah, his genealogy of 150 males," i.e., with him his race, consisting of 150 males, registered in the genealogy of the race. In the case of the names which follow, the number only is given after the briefer expression עמּו.

A review, then, of the twelve races, according to the restoration of the original text in Ezra 8:5 and Ezra 8:10, presents us with names already occurring in the list of the races who came from Babylon with Zerubbabel, Ezra 2:3-15, with the exception of the sons of Joab, Ezra 8:9, who are wanting in Ezra 2, where, on the other hand, several other races are enumerated. Bertheau seeks to identify the sons of Joab, Ezra 8:9, with the sons of Joab who in Ezra 2:6 are reckoned with the sons of Pahath-Moab, and to explain their special enumeration in the present list, by the conjecture that the one house subsequently separated into the two houses of Pahath-Moab and Joab, This is, indeed, possible; but it is quite a probable that only one portion or branch of the sons (descendants) of Joab was combined with the race of the sons of Pahath-Moab, and that the rest of the bne Joab formed a separate house, no family of which returned with Zerubbabel. The occurrence of the other races in both lists is to be explained by the circumstance that portions of them returned with Zerubbabel, and that the rest did not follow till Ezra's departure.

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