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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(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.
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).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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