Ezra 8:17
And I sent them with commandment to Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say to Iddo, and to his brothers the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring to us ministers for the house of our God.
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(17) The place Casiphia.—Evidently near Ahavah, and a colony of Jews presided over by Iddo, one of the humble race of the Nethinims, but at present chief under the Persians. Ezra was aware of their existence in these parts.

Ministers.—A term obviously including Levites and Nethinims.

Ezra 8:17. And I sent them unto Iddo the chief — Chief among the Levites, who dwelt at the place here mentioned, and there had the free exercise of their religion, as this and many other passages in this book plainly enough prove. For we find the people resorting to Ezekiel in their captivity, and him preaching to them the word of God, in many places of his book, particularly Ezekiel 33:30-31, &c. And Ezra, in all likelihood, was an instructer among them, as Joiarib and Elnathan also were, and Iddo, to whom these were sent. By which means many proselytes were made, who left their own country, and came with them to Jerusalem when they returned, Ezra 6:21. At the place Casiphia — It is not easy to guess what place this was. The text calls it Casiphia the place. Some have taken it for the Caspian mountains, situate between Media and Hyrcania. But certainly these must have been at too great a distance from the road he was taking. Perhaps it was in Parthia, where was a city called Caspi, known to the ancient geographers. The LXX. render it, a place of silver, for כסŠ, keseph, signifies silver. That they should bring us ministers for the house of our God — The furnishing of God’s house with good ministers is a good work, and which will redound to the comfort and credit of all that have any hand it.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!Casiphia - Its situation is wholly unknown; but it cannot have been far from Ahava. 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. I sent them with commandment; which he might do, partly by virtue of that authority which he had over them by his priesthood; and partly by that authority which he either had received or could easily procure from the king to that purpose.

Iddo the chief; the head of the rest, either by ecclesiastical order or government, which the Persian kings allowed to the Jews; or by some grant or commission from the king.

At the place Casiphia; not a place near the Caspian Lake, as some guess from the likeness of the names; for that was at too great a distance for his present purpose; but some other place not far from Ahava, where he knew that there was a college or considerable company of Levites together. And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief, at the place Casiphia,.... Not a place by the Caspian sea, and near the Caspian mountains, as Munster, which was too far off to go and return in the time they must, see Ezra 7:9, but, as Jarchi, a place in Babylon so called, a village near it, or a parish or street in it, where Ezra knew lived many of the Levites and Nethinims, and where Iddo was the chief of the Levites, and over them both:

and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia; but Iddo was not one of the Nethinims; for he was chief of the Levites, and by his authority many of them were sent as well as of the Nethinims; but none of the latter were over the Levites, for they were servants to them, Ezra 8:20, but, according to Jarchi, the Nethinims are not at all intended in this clause, who reads the words:

to Iddo and Achim, (the name of a man with him; perhaps it may be better rendered, "to Iddo and his brother",)

who were appointed, or settled, in the place Casiphia; and with him De Dieu agrees, and so the Syriac version:

who dwelt in Casiphia: that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God; both Levites to be singers and porters there, and the Nethinims to wait on them.

And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the {d} chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.

(d) He was the chief teacher of the law to the Levites.

17. And I sent them with commandment] R.V. And I sent them forth. Marg. another reading is I gave them commandment. The A.V. combines the two readings.

The variety of reading arises from the uncertainty felt as to the true rendering of the previous verse. The rendering ‘then sent I for’ in that verse requires in this verse the reading ‘And I sent them forth’ (C’thib). The rendering ‘then sent I’ could be followed by either ‘I sent them forth’ or ‘I gave them commandment’ (K’ri), the latter being less a repetition of the previous sentence.

Supposing that “I gave them commandment” was the original reading, we can see that, when the Hebrew idiom in Ezra 8:16 ‘then sent I’ (the object expressed by a preposition) dropped out of sight and the literal translation seemed to be “then sent I for”, a reason was given for the very slight alteration, by which “I gave them commandment” was altered to “I sent them forth” (LXX. ἐξήνεγκα). This accounts for the existence of the two readings, and for the prevalence of that accepted in the R.V. text. But the R.V. margin seems preferable. It gives a natural sense and agrees well with what precedes and follows. On the other hand the alternative reading “I sent them forth” represents a word of great frequency in the sense of ‘bring forth or out’ (e.g. Ezra 1:7, Ezra 10:3; Ezra 10:19; Nehemiah 9:7; Nehemiah 9:15): it denotes ‘deliverance’, ‘dismissal’, ‘removal’, ‘utterance’: but is not at all suited to the description of the mission. It occurs very often in the O.T., but it may be questioned whether it is ever elsewhere rendered “send forth”.

unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia] Lit. ‘Iddo the head’. Iddo clearly exercised some position of authority over the Jews, and particularly over the Levites and Nethinim settled at Casiphia. We may conjecture that Iddo was a Levite presiding over a college of young Levites and Nethinim, and who might be ready to send young men to Ezra’s aid.

Casiphia] which some of the older commentators used to identify with the ‘Caspian’, was probably some village in the neighbourhood of Babylon. The LXX. rendered the word from the similarity of the first part of the word to the Hebrew ‘ceseph’ (silver), ἐν ἀργυρίῳ τοῦ τόπου.

and I told them what they should say] Lit. ‘And I put words in their mouth to speak’. The general charge comprised verbatim instructions. On the phrase “put words … in mouth”, cf. Exodus 4:15; Numbers 23:16; Deuteronomy 31:19.

unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims] R.V. unto Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim. Marg. ‘The text as pointed has, Iddo, his brother.’ The text is here corrupt. The uncertainty as to Iddo’s position, and the unlikelihood that a man of such influence would have been one of the Nethinim, has increased the doubtfulness of the true reading, (a) Adopting the pointed text, and supposing the letter Vaw (=and) to be accidentally dropped after the name of Iddo which ends with that letter, we could render ‘unto Iddo and his brother, the Nethinim’. (b) Altering the vowel-points and assuming the omission of the same letter, we obtain the rendering of the A.V. and R.V. “unto Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim” (cf. Ezra 3:2, Jeshua and his brethren the priests). (c) Supposing a second similar omission to have taken place, we have “unto Iddo and his brethren (i.e. Levites) and the Nethinim”.

Of these alternative renderings (c) appears to be the most probable. The appeal is made to Iddo and to his brethren the Levites. As the response (18–20) comes from Levites and Nethinim, we conclude that Iddo presided over the Nethinim as well as over the Levites. Just as a High-priest himself a priest, would preside over priests and Levites, so Iddo himself a Levite would preside over Levites and Nethinim. The Nethinim may have been more numerous and influential than the Levites. At any rate it is not likely that Iddo himself belonged to this inferior class.

ministers] A very general word in the original, to include Levites and Nethinim. Cf. 1 Samuel 2:11. The LXX., misreading a letter, renders “singers” (ᾄδοντας).Verse 17. - Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia. Not "the Caspian" certainly; nor even "Casvin," which is at least 400 miles from Hit by the nearest route, but some Babylonian village in the vicinity of Ahava, not otherwise known to us. Unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims. The "and" here is rightly supplied. It has fallen out in consequence of the word Iddo ending with the same letter. Iddo, though the head man of the village under the Persians, belonged by descent to the comparatively low grade of the Nethinims. 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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