Ezra 8:16
Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Men of understanding.—Teachers, and perhaps priests. These were joined with nine chief men as a deputation to Iddo.

Ezra 8:16. Then sent I for Eliezer, &c. — To come to me, and go along with me to Jerusalem. He sent for these eleven persons, that he might employ them in a message to a place where he knew there were a great many Levites, as it follows in the next verse. Also for Joiarib and Elnathan, men of understanding — Who seem to have had more knowledge than pious zeal for God and his house, and solemn worship, which was confined to Jerusalem.

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).

16-20. then sent I for Eliezer … with commandment unto Iddo the chief—Ezra sent this deputation, either by virtue of authority which by his priestly character he had over the Levites, or of the royal commission with which he was invested. The deputation was despatched to Iddo, who was a prince or chief of the Nethinims—for the Persian government allowed the Hebrews during their exile to retain their ecclesiastical government by their own chiefs, as well as to enjoy the privilege of free worship. Iddo's influence procured and brought to the camp at Ahava thirty-eight Levites, and two hundred twenty Nethinims, the descendants of the Gibeonites, who performed the servile duties of the temple. Then sent I for Eliezer to come to me, and go along with me to Jerusalem. Men of understanding; who seem to have had more knowledge than pious zeal for God and his house and solemn worship, which was confined to Jerusalem.

Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding. These were all in the camp, in some part of it, to whom Ezra sent messengers to come unto him; three of them are of the same name; the first nine were men of chief note, rank, and dignity in their family, and the other two were noted for men of good sense, and that could speak to a case well, and so fit to be sent on such an affair as they were. Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Then sent I for Eliezer, &c.] “For”. (a) The preposition in the original is sometimes found as the sign of the object: thus 2 Chronicles 17:7, A.V., “he sent to his princes, even to Ben-hail”, R.V. “he sent his princes, even Benhail”, &c. This is the alternative rendering (“then sent I Eliezer”) of the Vulgate (misi Eliezer et Ariel et Semejam, &c.) and the Syriac, and gives the most natural sense. Ezra 8:16 then gives the general fact, Ezra 8:17 the details of the mission. (b) The rendering of the A.V., R.V. and LXX. (απέστειλα τῷ Ἐλεάζαρ) is quite literal: Ezra 8:16 then contains Ezra’s summons to these leading men: Ezra 8:17 the mission, with which he empowers them, upon their coming into his presence. Of these two renderings the first seems to give the better sense. It hardly seems suited to the context to mention that Ezra, who commanded the whole assembly, summoned to his presence certain leading men before sending them upon an important mission. On the other hand it was quite in keeping with Ezra’s position to despatch such men upon his errand at once; and while the first verse (Ezra 8:16) records the fact of the message and the names of the leading men, whom he sends, the second verse (Ezra 8:17) describes the object and purpose of the mission. The peculiar usage of the preposition is quite in character with the style of the Hebrew in the books. The probability that this is the correct rendering is increased by the variation in the reading of Ezra 8:17 (see note).

chief men] Literally ‘heads’: not ‘the heads’ referred to in Ezra 8:1, but certain leaders.

men of understanding] R.V. which were teachers. Marg. which had understanding. The word in the original occurs in Nehemiah 8:7 (R.V. ‘caused … to understand’); 1 Chronicles 15:22; 1 Chronicles 25:7 (R.V. ‘skilful’); 2 Chronicles 34:12 (R.V. ‘that … could skill of’).

Joiarib and Elnathan receive a distinguishing epithet corresponding to the ‘chief men’ applied to the other names. It is not probable that a merely general epithet describing mental capacity should be given to two out of the party of ten. The word therefore is better rendered “teachers”, describing their position, than ‘men of understanding’, describing their abilities (LXX. συνιέντας, Vulg. sapientes).

Ezra 8:16Account of the journey. - Ezra 8:15 The assembling of the expedition. When the Israelites who were about to return to Jerusalem had assembled, and were ready for starting, Ezra perceived that there were no Levites among them. He then sent for certain chief men among them, and by means of the influence of Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia, induced a number of Levites and Nethinim to determine on joining the expedition (Ezra 8:15). He then proclaimed a fast at the place of meeting, for the purpose of supplicating God to grant them a prosperous journey (Ezra 8:21).

Ezra 8:15-17

The travellers assembled at the river Ahava, where they encamped three days. In Ezra 8:15 the river is designated אל־אהוא הבּא, i.e., either which comes (flows) towards Ahava, or flows into Ahava; in Ezra 8:21 it is more briefly called אהוא נהר, and in Ezra 8:31 אהוא נהר, which may mean the river of Ahava, of the region or district called Ahava, or, after the analogy of פּרת נהר, merely the river of the name of Ahava. It is doubtful which of these meanings is correct, the name Ahava being still unexplained. Comp. the various conjectures in A. G. F. Schirmer, observationes exeg. crit. in libr. Esdrae, Vratisl. 1820, p. 28ff. The connection points to a place or district in the neighbourhood of Babylon; hence Bertheau is inclined to regard Ahava as a tributary or canal of the Euphrates, flowing through a place, perhaps only a field or open space, of the same name, in the immediate neighbourhood of Babylon; while Ewald supposes it may be the river somewhat to the west or south of Euphrates, called by the Greeks Pallacopas, whose situation would suit the context, and whose name might arise from אהוא פלג, the river Ahwa or Aba. The lxx gives the name Εὐί; in 1 Esdr. 8:40 and 61 we find Θερά, evidently a false reading. Josephus says quite generally, εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ Εύφράτου. - When Ezra, during the three days' encampment at this place, directed his attention to the people and the priests (ב הבין, to give heed, Nehemiah 13:7; Daniel 9:23, and elsewhere), he found no Levites among those who had assembled. Ezra 8:16 He then sent several chief men to Iddo, the chief man in the place Casiphia, to beg him and his brethren to bring him servants for the house of God. The lxx translates ל אשׁלחה, "I sent to (or for) Eliezer," etc., which would mean to fetch them: "that I might then send them to Iddo." The Vulgate, on the other hand, and many expositors, understand ל as nota accus., like 2 Chronicles 17:7, which is simpler. Of the nine men here designated as ראשׁים, the names of Eliezer, Shemaiah, Jarib, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam occur again in Ezra 10:15, Ezra 10:18-31, though we cannot certainly infer the identify of those who bear them. The appellation ראשׁים does not determine whether they belonged to the priesthood or laity. The two remaining are called מבינים, teachers; comp. Nehemiah 8:7, Nehemiah 8:9; 1 Chronicles 15:22; 1 Chronicles 25:8, and elsewhere. Although this word is, in the passages cited, used of Levites, yet we cannot suppose those here named to have been teaching Levites, because, according to Ezra 8:16, there were as yet no Levites amongst the assemblage; hence, too, they could not be teachers properly so called, but only men of wisdom and understanding. The Chethiv ואוצאה must be read ואוצאה: I sent them to (על, according to later usage, for אל); the Keri is ואצוּה, I despatched, sent them. Both readings suit the sense. The place Casiphia is entirely unknown, but cannot have been far from the river Ahava. Caspia, the region of the Caspian Sea, is out of the question, being far too remote. "I put words in their mouth to speak to Iddo," i.e., I told them exactly what they should say to Iddo; comp. 2 Samuel 14:3, 2 Samuel 14:19. The words אדּו אחיו הנּתוּנים give no intelligible meaning; for אהיו we must, with the Vulgate, 1 Esdras, and others, read ואחיו: to Iddo and his brethren, the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia. This would seem to say that Iddo was one of the Nethinim. Such an inference is not, however, a necessary one; for the expression may also, like "Zadok the (high) priest and his brethren, the (ordinary) priests," 1 Chronicles 16:39, be understood to mean that Iddo, the chief man of that place, was a Levite, and that the Nethinim were, as a lower order of temple servants, called brethren of Iddo the Levite. The circumstance that not only Nethinim, but also Levites, were induced by Iddo to join the expedition (Ezra 8:8), requires us thus to understand the words. אל לבית משׁרתים, servants for the house of God, are Levites and Nethinim, the upper and lower orders of the temple ministers. From Ezra 8:17 it appears that both Levites and Nethinim had settled in the place Casiphia, and that Iddo, as the chief man of the place, held an influential position among them. No further inferences, however, concerning their settlement and employment can be drawn from this circumstance.

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