Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.CHAPTER 8
1. Those who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-14)
2. The gathering at Ahava (Ezra 8:15-20)
3. The fast proclaimed (Ezra 8:21-23)
4. The appointment of guardians (Ezra 8:24-30)
5. The departure and arrival in Jerusalem (Ezra 8:31-36)
Ezra 8:1-14. The names of those who gathered around Ezra and went up with him are here recorded. In view of the magnificent decree and liberality of Artaxerxes, the company was very small. The majority preferred Babylon, and remained there. The faithful ones are known to God, and their names are here forever written in His Word. Though the Gentile monarch had given the decree, and the people were abundantly supplied with all necessary means, the undertaking was one of faith. They came out of Babylon trusting the LORD; they marched on in faith. It must be especially noticed that only males are mentioned. The mixed marriages of which we read in the next chapter most likely were the result of the fact that no women had joined Ezra’s expedition.
Ezra 8:15-20. Ezra gathered them together at the river that runneth to Ahava, which probably was a branch of the Euphrates, near Babylon. There they dwelt in their tents for three days. They were pilgrims and strangers, and had gone forth like Abraham, the father of the nation. Ezra viewed the people and discovered the absence of the Levites. While a small number of Levites had gone up with Zerubbabel, none had joined Ezra. Only two priests were present, Gershon, son of Phinehas, and Daniel, son of Ithamar. What indifference this reveals! They had settled down in the enemy’s land and were satisfied to remain there. They were minding earthly things, and the things of God were forgotten by them. Still they were Levites in their holy calling. It is so today with many who are no doubt saved, but they are worldly-minded, and have but little desire to live in the separation demanded by Him from His people. Ezra was not willing to leave the Levites behind, knowing how absolutely necessary they were for the house of God. How Ezra must have looked to God! Then he acted, and through the good hand of God, which he once more acknowledged, a number of Levites and Nethinim joined the party.
Ezra 8:21-23. He proclaimed a fast. The man of God felt the need of seeking God’s face and His gracious protection. The fasting was the outward sign of deep humiliation and an expression of their dependence, “to seek of Him a straight way, for us and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” The need of guidance as well as protection was fully recognized by the gathered company, and they trusted the LORD for both. This is still the blessed way of faith for God’s servant, and for the children of God. How great would be the success and the blessing if at all times and in all service God’s people would first seek His face, humble themselves in His presence and trust Him fully. Ezra had told the king that he trusted the LORD, that His hand is upon all them for good that seek Him, and so he was ashamed to ask a military escort to protect them against robbers, who might waylay them and rob them of their possessions. He knew His God was the best shield, and His angels, the ministers used in guarding His people and keeping evil away from them, would be the unseen companions of the caravan. “So we fasted and besought our God for this, and He was entreated of us.” Their prayers were answered. And He still answers faith.
Ezra 8:24-30. Faith in God did not make Ezra careless. He felt his great responsibility and made the most careful preparations. He set apart twelve of the chief priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them. Levites were also selected by him (8:30). To their custody he committed the holy vessels, as well as the silver and the gold which had been so freely given. Then he gave them the charge, “Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also and the silver and gold are a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers. Watch ye and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD.” He had weighed into their hand 650 talents of silver (about $1,250,000) and of gold 100 talents (about $3,000,000) besides the costly vessels of silver and gold. This careful weighing of everything when they received the costly treasures, and the weighing when they delivered the same in Jerusalem, does not mean that Ezra entertained any doubt as to the honesty of the priests and Levites. It was done to avoid all suspicion. The same principle is laid down in the New Testament for the Church: “Provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2Corinthians 8:21).
Ezra 8:31-36. Then the departure was made on the twelfth day of the first month. In faith and complete dependence on God they set out towards the land of their fathers. And the LORD honored their faith. “And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way. And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.” They must have had many narrow escapes, but as they constantly trusted in the LORD, in His good hand of mercy and power, He delivered them from all dangers. The LORD who answered their faith and kept them is the same today, and never disappoints faith. His hand is the same as then, and we too can experience His gracious deliverance. The journey occupied not quite four months. The three days at the end of the journey correspond to the three days before the journey began at the river Ahava. (8:15). What praise they must have rendered to God during these three days in Jerusalem, when their eyes beheld once more the beloved city and the house of the LORD!
On the fourth day the treasures were turned over and were weighed in the house of God. This was done by Meremoth, the son of Uriah, the priest. He is mentioned by Nehemiah as one of the builders of the wall (Nehemiah 3:4; Nehemiah 3:21). With him was Eleazar, the son of Phinehas. Associated with them were Jozabad, the son of Jeshua (mentioned also in 10:23 and Nehemiah 7:7) and Noadiah, the son of Binnui. Thus in the house of God account was rendered, as all His people will have to give an account before the judgment seat of Christ.
Burnt offerings were then offered, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs and twelve he-goats for a sin offering. It is especially to be noticed that the small remnant which had returned embraced in their faith all Israel. “All Israel” will some day be saved and be brought back to the land, through Him who is the true burnt and sin offering. And as their faith included all their brethren, the whole house of Israel, though they were not with them, so our faith must include all the saints of God.
After having discharged their solemn obligation, giving God the first place, they “delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side of the river; and they furthered the people and the house of God.”