Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B.—EZRA’S OWN DOCUMENTARY REPORT
I. Respecting his Companions. Ezra 8:1–14
1THESE 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. 2Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush. 3Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males a hundred and fifty. 4Of the sons of Pahath-moab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males. 5Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males. 6Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males. 7And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males. 8And of the sons of Shephatiah: Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males. 9Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males. 10And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him a hundred and threescore males. 11And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males. 12And of the sons of Azgad: Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him a hundred and ten males. 13And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males. 14Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
II. Respecting a Rendering of this Band Complete. Ezra 8:15–20
15And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priest, and found there none of the sons of Levi. 16Then 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. 17And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God. 18And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen; 19And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty; 20Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were expressed by name.
III. Respecting the Preparation for the Journey, the Journey and Arrival in Jerusalem. Ezra 8:21–36
21Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. 22For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that 23seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us. 24Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them, 25And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered: 26I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels a hundred talents, 27and of gold a hundred talents; Also twenty basins of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold. 28And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers. 29Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD. 30So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God. 31Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: 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. 32And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days. 33Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad 34the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites; By number and 35by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time. Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt-offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin-offering; all this was a burnt-offering unto the LORD. 36And they delivered the kind’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Ezra 8:1–14. The register of those heads of families who went up to Jerusalem with Ezra is here inserted as a second important document. It originated from Ezra himself, as the use of the first person in Ezra 8:1 shows; it is the foundation on which his narrative of his journey and activity in Jerusalem rests. It is distinguished from the register in chap. 2 by giving not only the names of the families to which those returning belonged, but also the heads themselves of those households who returned. It is as if they became gradually more and more conscious that the existence of the Jewish congregation no longer depended upon nationality, but the free resolution of individuals, that the individual accordingly, that especially the deciding heads of households had an entirely different significance from ever before, and that this their significance might be exhibited by their express mention by name in the sacred history. That the names of families here almost exclusively, yea, if we accept the very natural emendation in Ezra 8:3, 5, 10, are without exception the same as those that occurred already in chap. 2, is explained simply from the fact that of the families which returned with Zerubbabel, households had still remained behind in Babylon, which now with Ezra followed their relatives; and that this very relationship might have been decisive for the resolution to go up with Ezra. It is worthy of note that in this emigration just twelve families were represented. In connection with the importance then ascribed to the number twelve (comp. Ezra 2:1 sq.; 6:17; 8:35) Bertheau finds it probable that Ezra’s company was to be a representation of the congregation of Israel in its totality.—In Esdras 8:28–40 are found some other deviations, which now perhaps are worthy of consideration. As regards the sum total of those who returned with Ezra, it amounted to one thousand four hundred and ninety-six men and fifteen heads according to the Massoretic text; but according to Esdras one thousand six hundred and ninety men and thirteen heads without counting the priests and sons of David, whose number is not given, and in comparison with the number of the rest was perhaps but small, since Zerubbabel had already led back with him a relatively large number of priests and sons of David. In the numerical signs corruption might easily creep in, and we must leave it undecided, which statements are more correct.
Ezra 8:1. These are now the heads of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them that went up.—= רָאשֵׁי אֲבֹתֵיתֶם רָאשֵׁי בֵית־אֲבֹתֵיהֶם, not only here but usually, house of their fathers=their household. The head of the house of their father=the head of the household. In a household, however, the sons are often again fathers, without their forming on this account households of their own. Thus often many fathers belong to the household, and under a common head of the household. Thus the head of the father’s houses can easily be head of fathers. The suffix of אֲבֹתֵיהֶם refers without doubt to the totality, that is, to the children of Israel. הִתְיַחַשׂ is first “record itself;” then the “register of families” is, however, sometimes used for the family itself. It is here added, because the name of the heads of households is to be followed by the name of the family to which they belonged.
Ezra 8:2. Here are first mentioned two heads of households of two priestly families; of the family of Phineas, who was a son of Eleazar, thus a grandson of Aaron, Gerson; and of the family of Ithamar, who was Aaron’s younger son (comp. 2 Chron. 30 and 29), Daniel; whether the latter is identical with the one mentioned in Neh. 10:7 is uncertain. Both are to be regarded as accompanied by their households; for in Ezra 8:24 Ezra is able to select from the priests who went up with him, twelve to take care of the presents. Then follows a head of a household of the family of David, without doubt the king David, namely, Hattush, possibly to be identified with Hattush, the son of Hashaniah (Neh. 3:10), but to be distinguished from the priest Hattush, Neh. 10:5; 12:2. It is questionable, however, whether he is not more closely defined by the first words of Ezra 8:3.
Ezra 8:3. Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh.—The twice-repeated מִבְּנֵי following one another and unconnected is striking. The Sept. has supplied an “and” before the second, so that it designates at once two families as such to which the head of household next following belongs. But this is certainly only to improve the text which was at that time just the same as ours. Esdras, on the other hand, has Λαθοὺς τοῦ Σεχενιόυ, since it renders the חַטּוּשׁ of Ezra 8:2 by Λαθούς, attached מִבְּנֵי שְׁכַנְיָה of verse 3 as a much closer definition, and besides read the singular בֵּן for מִבְּנֵי. It is very probable that there has been a corruption of the text in this passage, and the conjecture that Esdras makes recommends itself all the more that חַטּוּשׁ in 1 Chron. 3:22 is adduced as a son of Shemaiah, and therewith also is a grandson of Shechaniah [so Rawlinson.—TR.] Accordingly we have left in Ezra 8:3 only the family of Pharosh, as such, to which Zechariah with his household belonged. The next clause we may translate: And with him belonged genealogically one hundred and fifty men, since התיחשׂ is taken as preterit., and the singular is explained from the fact that it precedes the verb. התיחשׂ might, however, be a noun, so that the sense would be: and with a family, לִזְכָרִים = of men.
Ezra 8:5. Of the sons of Shechaniah the son of Jahaziel.—It is singular that the son of Jahaziel is not mentioned by name. The Sept. has ἀπὸ τῶν ὑιῶν Σαυόης Σεχενίας ὑιὸς ’Αζιήλ, and Esdras 8:32 essentially the same Ζαθόης seems. to be the same as זַתּוּאEzra 2:8. Thus the Sept. and Esdras seem to have read מבניזתוא, so that it is to be translated: of the children of Zattu, Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel [so Rawlinson.—TR.]
Ezra 8:9. Here the sons of Joab are treated as a particular family, whilst in Ezra 2:6 they are counted with the sons of Jeshua as of the family of Pahath-Moab. Probably only a few of them belonged to those who returned under Zerubbabel, so that they were then not counted with that family with which they were nearest related, although the number of the children of Pahath-Moab, in consequence of this, became rather large.
Ezra 8:10. Here the Masoretic text has: of the sons of Shelomith the son of Josiphiah.—It is the same as in Ezra 8:5, according to the Sept. and Esdras, and we are to read: Of the sons of Bani (comp. Ezra 2:10) Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah [so Rawlinson.—TR.].
Ezra 8:13. And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, etc.—It is strange that a common head of a household should be mentioned first. Keil supposes that the sons of Adonikam, here referred to, because they did not constitute a proper father’s house, are embraced together with the sons of Adonikam, who returned under Zerubbabel, and distinguished from the latter as אַחֲרֹנִים. But all the new comers here mentioned would have united with their fellow-members of the same families who already dwelt in Judah from the time of Zerubbabel. Besides the reference to those who previously returned is so entirely without support that אחרנים cannot well be explained from it. Perhaps the meaning is: not a first-born of the first line, who as such would have been head of the father’s house, but only a later born, none of whom had the dignity of a head of a father’s house, but only that of subordinate heads of families. Accordingly only lesser divisions of that father’s house went up with Ezra. Thus would אחרנים be explained from the same circumstance from which the name of a common head of a household fails. It is true we must then suppose that אחרנים had gained such a general sense in itself that it had become a technical term for those later born.
Ezra 8:14. Instead of one head of the sons of Bigvai, two are mentioned, Uthai and Zabbud, yet not as later born sons, but as it seems as real heads of father’s houses. The author of Esdras 8:40 has οὐθί ὁ τοῦ ’Ισταλκόυρου, so that it might be asked, whether the two names are not to be reduced to one.
Ezra 8:15–20. Above all Ezra was anxious to gain for the emigration some persons capable of ministering in the worship. Ezra 8:15 is probably to be translated: I gathered them together to the river, that runneth to Ahava, not that floweth into the Ahava. Ahava is probably the name of a place or region, after which the river there flowing was named; in Ezra 8:21 it occurs briefly as נָהָר אַהֲוָא, and in Ezra 8:31נְהַר אַהֲוָא, which is either: the river of Ahava; or also after the analogy of the נְהַר פְּרָת, the river Ahava. Where we are to seek the river and region is not known; probably, however, in the vicinity of Babylon; probably it is a tributary or canal of the Euphrates, according to Ewald, Gesch. IV., S. 154, perhaps the Pallacopas, in favor of which is certainly the name (פּלג אהוא), and indeed the more northern, which lay more in a direction towards Canaan.1—And I viewed the people.—Respecting the lengthened form by the addition of the וָאָבִינָה ,ה here and וָאֶשְלְחָה in ver 16, comp. Ewald, § 232, g [Green, § 99, 3.—TR.].
Ezra 8:16. The Sept. translates: And I sent to or for Elieser, etc. [so A. V.]. This might mean in connection with Ezra 8:17: I sent thither in order to have him come and use him as a messenger to Iddo. We may, however, take the לְ in this later usage of the language with the Vulg. and many interpreters without hesitation, as nota accus., according to 2 Chron. 17:7, where it is used in this very way with שׁלח, thus: I sent Elieser, etc. The first name messengers were רָאשִׁים, probably heads of little communities; the remaining two מְבִינִים, that is, teachers, Neh. 8:7, 9; 1 Chron. 15:22; 28:8, etc. Keil takes it in a more general sense, judicious, prudent; but this is opposed by its connection with רָאשִׁים and the circumstance that Ezra would have sent men who could make an impression in accordance with their entire position. According to Ezra 8:15 these men did not belong to the Levites, who usually carried on the office of instruction, comp. 1 Chron. 15:22; 28:8, etc. But scholarship in the Scriptures might have gradually become more widely diffused, especially in Babylon. It is possible, also, that they were priests. In Ezra 10:15, 18–31, many of the names here mentioned recur again; but probably different persons were meant there.
Ezra 8:17. And I sent them with commandment; thus the Qeri. According to the Kethib, whether now the ו in וָאוֹצִאָה be genuine, or first added by the Masoretes, it is to be understood: I had them go forth, עַל־עִדּוֹ הָרֹאשׁunto Iddo.—עַל, according to later usage is for אֶל־. What kind of a head or chief Iddo was, what society he was of, whether merely religious, or also learned, why Ezra did not above all seek to influence Iddo himself to the return to Palestine: all this we must leave undetermined.—At the place Casiphia.—We know not, as a matter of course, how we are to take the clause בְּכָסְפְּיָא חַמָּקוֹם. The Sept. and Esdras have not regarded כספיא as a proper name. The former has ἐν ἀργυρίῳ τοῦ τόπου, and the latter makes Iddo the head of the treasury without doubt in Babylon. It is probable, if it be a place, it is one in the vicinity of Babylon and Ahava.—To his brethren, etc.—אָחִיו הַנְּתוּנִים, which thus gives no sense, should probably be: to his brothers (the Levites) and to the Nethinim, namely, besides to himself, I ordered them to go; not to his brothers, the Nethinim [as A. V.]; for that Iddo himself was one of the Nethinim is improbable from his honorable position; that they, moreover, should be designated as his brethren without any natural relationship would be against all analogy.—To bring us ministers for the house of our God.—Those are especially meant who, when they had performed the service in the house of God at the feasts, should be able besides to instruct the people in the law.
Ezra 8:18. And they brought us.—וַיָּבִיאִוּ is written with dagesh in א as Gen. 43:26, as also תָּבִיאִוּ, Lev. 23:17, as then ח ה and ע sometimes occur with dagesh, “quorum omnium ratio nota est in Arcanis Cabbalæ,” R. Mose bar Nachman in Comm. upon Jezir fol. 61.—Under the gracious help of God (יָד, as 7:6), and through the influence of Iddo, they gained forty Levites and two hundred and twenty Nethinim. first of all the אִישׁ שֶׂכֶל (that this is a proper name is shown by the וְ before the following names), a descendant of Mahli, the grandson of Levi (Ex. 6:16, 19; 1 Chron. 6:4), then Sherebiah, who again occurs in Ezra 8:24 and Neh. 8:7; 9:4; also 10:13; 12:24; then in Ezra 8:19Hashabiah, who likewise is again mentioned in Ezra 8:24; Neh. 10:12; 12:24, and finally Jeshaiah, who does not again meet us in Ezra or Neh.; in Ezra 8:20 the Nethinim, who had been appointed already by Jeshua (comp. note on 2:43 sq.), then more definitely as it is here alone mentioned, by David and the princes, that, is, the high officials, to perform the heavier work for the Levites. The last words of Ezra 8:20mean2 according to 1 Chron. 12:31; they were all expressed by name (particularly), namely, for the going up with Ezra.
Ezra 8:21–30. The final preparation for the departure; at first the arrangement of the feast. The fasting had the purpose of imploring from God a way straight or level, free from hindrance, thus a prosperous journey. As an evidence of a penitent self-humiliation, it contributed to gain the favor of Him who, since He is throned on high, can only dwell among the lowly (Is. 57:15), so already Judges 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6; Joel 1:14; 1 Chron. 20:3.
Ezra 8:22. To implore the help of God, had a special impulse in the circumstance that Ezra and his companions had expressed a trust in God before Artaxerxes which they would not have confirmed if they had not especially relied upon God; if they had been willing to claim earthly means of protection. To show this trust in God was certainly important, because Artaxerxes’ respect for the Jewish religion might be best strengthened in this very way. They acknowledged that the hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and wrath is against all them that forsake Him.—We might expect the words: forevil; but His strength and His wrath=His power of opposing, is sufficiently clear; it is as if the previous clause were: His goodness and favor are over, etc.; so that the words “for good” might have been left out.
Ezra 8:23. We fasted and besought our God.—This should be followed by זֹאת and not עַל־זֹאת ּעַל־זֹאת, seems to refer back to Ezra 8:22 in the sense of therefore. Yet it is at least questionable whether it may not after the verb of asking, likewise introduce the object, comp. עַל־זֹאת with התפלל (Ps. 32:6), and indeed notwithstanding the מִן before אֱלֹהֵינוּ.—And He let Himself be entreated for us.—This is at once manifest in the successful progress of the journey.
Ezra 8:24 sq. The appointment of guardians of the treasures.—And I separated twelve of the princes of the priests.—Instead of לְ before שֵׁרֵבְיָה, we are to read וְ with Esdras 8:54; for Sherebiah, etc., did not belong to the priests, but to the Levites. In addition, therefore, to the twelve princes of the priests, there were accordingly twelve Levites, as those to whom Ezra weighed the treasure and gave it in charge.
Ezra 8:25. And I weighed, etc.—ואשׁקולה is written with ו after ק because the Sheva of ק was meant to be heard, and indeed as Chateph Kametz, and it is probable that this form is to have the same vocalization in the next verse, as then J. H. Mich. found it to be so in many MSS. The other view that it was to be spoken with Chateph Patach was held because the וְ was lacking after ק, as likewise in Jer. 32:9. The silver and gold were a heave-offering, תְּרוּמָה, that is, a present to the house of God, that the king and his counsellors had set apart, comp. 7:15, 16, 19. הֵרִים in connection with תְּרוּמָה means: to take off from the other possessions something, in order to consecrate it to God. The article before הְרִימוּ represents the relative pronoun as 1 Chron. 26:28; 29:17; 2 Chron. 29:36, etc.; comp. Ew. 381, b.—הַנִּמְצָאִים (with kametz under צ instead of sheva on account of pause, comp. Esther 1:5). These are those who were happened upon or met.
Ezra 8:26, 27. What Ezra weighed, עַל־יָדָם, in their hands, as 1:8. With respect to the talents comp. 7:22; the darics, 2:69; the covered cups, 1:10. Finally there were two copper vessels of excellent polish. מֻצְהָב cannot very well be part. Hophal; in connection with נְחשֶׁת, it would just as well as the following טוֹכָה have the fem. form. It seems to be a noun formed like ,וּצָק מוּעָף ,מֻטָּה (Is. 8:8, 23) with the meaning of polish. צָהֹב occurs Lev. 13:30, 32 of bleached hair, become somewhat fox-like by leprosy; the root, צהב, is, however, certainly connected with זהב, Arab. sahaba, and the other roots in צה and צח, whose meaning extends to: to be bright. הֲמוּדוֹת is properly a noun=lovelinesses, comp. כְּלֵי חֲמוּדוֹת, 2 Chron. 20:25.
Ezra 8:28. The sacredness of the guardians as such, especially of the treasures entrusted to them as a heave-offering to the Lord is emphasized by Ezra, in order to make them right watchful with reference to them until they shall have delivered them up.
Ezra 8:29. הַלִּשְׁכוֹת is acc. of direction, but not stat. constr. as the article shows. The לִשְׁכוֹת are, because almost exclusively the temple-chambers, sufficiently definite of themselves. בֵּית יְהוָֹה is in apposition with the foregoing.
Ezra 8:31–36. The journey and arrival in Jerusalem.
Ezra 8:31. They began their journey from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month. The interval from the first had been occupied by that which is narrated in Ezra 8:16–30. The statement in Ezra 8:15 that they had encamped only three days on river of Ahava is probably not to be understood as if they after three days had again broken up (Berth.), but indicates either the point of time when that which is mentioned in Ezra 8:15 sq. occurred (comp. v.32), namely, when Ezra observed the lack of Levites (Keil); or it means to say that after three days they had gone somewhat further on their way, but without leaving the river Ahava, towards a region where they could unite with those coming from Casiphiah, from thence them entering upon their journey proper.
Ezra 8:32. When then they had come to Jerusalem, according to Ezra 7:9, on the first day of the fifth month, then after a lapse of three and a half months, they remained there three days, that is, rested, until they understood something further, just as Nehemiah in Ezra 2:11, whilst without doubt they already made preparation for the delivery of the treasures.
Ezra 8:33. Now on the fourth day they weighed out the treasures in the hand (Ezra 8:26) of the priest Meremoth ben Uriah, whom we find again Neh. 3:4, 21, and probably also Neh. 12:3, and Eleazar ben Phinehas, who is not further mentioned, and two Levites, Jozabad ben Jeshua, who may be identical with the one mentioned in Ezra 10:23, and Noadiah ben Binnui, whose family is mentioned likewise in Neh. 10:10; 12:8.
Ezra 8:34. By number and weight of every one, that is, as it was for each and every number and weight. The weight was written then at that time, as Neh. 4:16, in a public document, so that the correct preservation might be confirmed.
Ezra 8:35. In order now to secure for themselves a good reception with the Lord, they offered above all burnt-offerings, whereby they rendered homage to Him, dedicated themselves to Him (comp. notes upon 3:3), and indeed for all Israel, in their name and as their representatives, conscious indeed that they had value before God only as a part of this whole, or rather as in union with entire Israel. They offered twelve bullocks (comp. 6:17), besides ninety-six rams (ninety-six as intensification of twelve) and seventy-seven lambs (seventy-seven as intensification of seven, the number seven expressing the covenant-relation), as a foundation of the burnt-offering, however, twelve he-goats for a sin-offering, because only the reconciled can do homage to the Lord in a proper manner and worthily dedicate themselves to Him.
Ezra 8:36. In order now to put themselves in a good relation with the satraps and governor in Abar Nahara, they delivered to them the decree of the king. The satraps, אחשׁדרפנים, Persian (according to the inscription of Behistun), khshatrapava, from khshatrapavan, from which the noun in the Hebrew expression of the word is explained, prop.=land-protector3 (comp. Esth. 3:12; 8:9; Dan. 3:2), come into consideration as military officers, alongside of the governors, פַחֲווֹת, as the presidents of the civil government.—And they furthered, etc.—These closing words are certainly to be referred to those Persian magnates, to whom indeed this supporting was commanded by the royal edict, 7:20–24. נִשָּׂא as 1:4. The Perfect נִשְּׂאוּ with וְ simply continues the narrative as וְקִבְּלוּ in Ezra 8:30.
THOUGHTS UPON THE HISTORY OF REDEMPTION
Ezra 8:1–14. So long as God was obliged to dwell in a particular temple, in the midst of His congregation, yet separated from them, mediatorial persons were still necessary, namely, priests, and a worship of sacrifices; Jerusalem must still remain the proper place of worship, and Judah be the holy land as no other land could be. And the congregation in the dispersion must regard it as their sacred duty, over and over again to put themselves in relation to the temple and Jerusalem, and send thither whole bands, in whom the longing for the land of their fathers awoke, to the enlargement of the principal congregation, or yet at least little embassies (comp. Zech. 6:9), to enliven the communion with it, so likewise to take part, when opportunity offered, either in person, or at least through representatives, in the offering of sacrifice in the legitimate place of sacrifices. This common relation to the one centre and hearthstone of their religious life, constituted a bond, which held the people together in spite of every scattering and spreading out, yes, cultivated the feeling of a grand unity; and even if this bond was only an external one, it yet was all the more important, the weaker the internal bond was in the times of the law and the letter of the law. Christendom is united by the internal bond of one common faith and the most comprehensive love. Would then that this may never prove internally weaker! Would that in spite of all distances and separations, all might remain ever truly and vitally conscious of this, that they may constitute more than the people of the old covenant one only great union the body of the Lord! What can be more exalting and strengthening than this consciousness that we do not stand alone, do not struggle alone, do not suffer alone, do not rejoice alone, but that the Lord has in every land a people, a great and united people?
Ezra 8:15–20. The relation to the God of Revelation who would be conceived, not according to common notions or ideas, but according to His historical manifestation of Himself, and on the ground of the acts of redemption wrought by Him, would be honored according to the regulations given by Himself,—begets by internal necessity the need of instruction and training. It cannot be maintained in any other way than by the parents’ making known to their children, and the learned to the unlearned, the Providences and Histories through which the true God has come near to the understanding, and that trained and suitable persons should cultivate the divine service in a proper manner. The idea, that religious knowledge, so far as it is necessary or desirable, makes its appearance in every man of itself, has no place except in the sphere of natural religion, and is connected, if it has become more general in our day, with a falling away from the religion of revelation to the religion of nature. It thus had its good ground that Ezra would not go up to Jerusalem and enter upon the work of elevation of the congregation at that place, without having gained above all a sufficient number of persons for his emigration, who might stand at his side, as instructors and helpers in the worship of God. And for those who would cherish the true religion, it should ever be a chief care to attract suitable teachers and ministers to the church, whilst now, sad to see, it seems as if it were thought that, at any rate, they could be dispensed with.
Ezra 8:21–30. Already in Is. 52:11 the encouragement: depart, depart, go ye out from thence, is connected with the admonition, be ye clean, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord. Ezra might even, without this, have felt himself called upon to prepare himself and those who accompanied him by fasting; that is, by self-humiliation, for the journey to Jerusalem. But since he carried with him vessels and treasure designed for the house of the Lord, and in so far sacred; in other words, since his journey ministered not to ordinary, but sacred purposes, by which properly all who took part received a higher significance, purification and sanctification by true and genuine fasting, were an especially indispensable prerequisite. No one can essentially further the cause and honor of God in a free and conscious manner without previously doing what fasting signifies—namely, chastising, yea, overcoming his soul—that is, his old man. He who has accomplished this will then have a keener feeling also for the particular obligation imposed upon him by his calling or his task, especially for the sacred duty conscientiously to watch that that which has been intrusted to us of blessings or gifts shall be truly serviceable for the higher ends for which they were given to us. He will understand the connection between the two when Ezra says: at first, be ye holy to the Lord, and the Vessels are holy,—so watch and take care, etc.
Ezra 8:31–36. Men like Ezra, who know that they are instruments in the hand of the Lord, and indeed for the accomplishment of a high mission, may reckon with the confidence of heroes on especial divine protection and support in the midst of all the dangers threatening them: “And although all the devils would withstand us‚” etc. What, however, is secured to them in this respect by God cannot be for them a motive for giving themselves over to a false security, but only become an impulse for them to make use of all that is entrusted to them, with all the more conscientiousness for the accomplishment of its purposes. At the same time they would be very careful, like Ezra, when he ordered the weight of the gifts brought by him to be written down, of securing their good name against any wicked slanders that so easily are raised against them. That the returned exiles so soon offered sacrifice to the Lord, and indeed burnt-offerings, with the sin-offerings belonging to them, expresses, moreover, the knowledge that the mere offering of external gifts, however great they might be, amounted to nothing; that an internal gift, namely, that of the heart, by internal worship, must be added, yea, that it alone, if it be of the true kind, gives worth to all the rest.
When the returned exiles laid claim to protection and support on the part of the magistracy through the handing over the decree of the king to his officers, they subordinated themselves to them thereby at the same time. As they thus through their sacrifice gave to God what belonged to God, so through the decree of Artaxerxes they gave to the state what the state might expect.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Ezra 8:15–20. The importance of teachers and other officials in the congregation. 1) Ezra, although there were priests enough in Jerusalem, felt the absence of Levites and other persons of lower rank, who there might care for the divine service, and also instruct the people. 2) He seeks to procure them before he undertakes anything further. 3) He gains them through the experienced help of God.—STARKE: That Ezra seeks to supply the lack of Levites, and sends so far for them, shows his zeal for the house of God, and indicates how much we should make of wise ministers of God, should it ever be necessary to bring them from afar. We need also frequently such persons as may fill the lower offices more pressingly than others who sit in exalted stations; and we must have more village-pastors than doctors of theology and superintendents. He who is of a sincere and unenvious disposition in the ministerial office will not always be alone, but can very well endure, yea, desires and assists, that more laborers and colleagues may be procured alongside of him, Num. 11:29; Matt. 9:37.
Ezra 8:21–30. Respecting the true preparation for the most important journey. 1) By fasting or overcoming one’s self; 2) By watchfulness with respect to the blessings and gifts that serve to glorify the divine name; 3) By conscientious execution of the higher duties.—STARKE: Although Christians are not bound to any particular time of fasting, yet they should ever lead a temperate and moderate life, in order that they may be the more qualified for prayer, 1 Peter 4:8.—Observe this, ye travellers: Divine protection sought by humble prayer is your safest escort.—God is the best guide (Ps. 91:11); though we walk in the dark valley we need not fear, Ps. 23:4. If after the offering of prayer our enterprise goes successsfully on, we ought not to think that it has been without dangers, but confidently believe that our prayer has been heard.
Ezra 8:31–36. The pilgrims to Zion. 1) Their journey (is towards Jerusalem under God’s especial protection); 2) their blessings and gifts (belong to the house and congregation of the Lord); 3) their aim (to offer to the Lord, and indeed, above all themselves, recognizing the authorities of the world). BRENTIUS: Sunt autem (Christiani), sanctificari in baptismo per fidem in Christum. Unde portare debent sancta vasa, quæ sunt sancta opera. Credere in Christum, sanctum opus est.
[HENRY: All our concerns about ourselves, our families, our estates, ’tis our Wisdom and Duty by Prayer to commit them to God and leave the care of them with Him. Our prayers must always be seconded with endeavors.—’Tis a great ease to one’s mind to be discharged from a trust; and a great honor to one’s name to be able to make it appear that it hath been faithfully discharged.—WORDSWORTH: It appears from the narrative that Ezra’s God was good, his treasurers faithful, and his companions devout; and that the royal governors furthered his work. Such were the salutary effects of prayer and fasting.—TR.]
[Rawlinson: “In the right direction and at about the right distance are found a river and a town bearing the same name, called by the early Greeks Is. (Herod. I. 179), and by the later Act (Isid. Chas., p.5), by the Babylonians themselves Ibi, and here apparently Ahava. 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 eighty miles from Babylon towards the northwest.”—TR..]
[Rawlinson in loco: “The writer seems to mean that he had before him a list of the two hundred and twenty, though he did not think it necessary that he should insert it.”—TR.].
[Rawlinson in loco: “The word is derived from khshatra, “crown”, and pal, “to protect.” the active part. of which would be pana. It is evident that the Hebrew term represents the older form of the word, and represents it pretty closely. There is a prosthetic Aleph, as in Adarkon and Ahasuerus, and the tr of the Persian becomes in the Hebrew dr; but otherwise the letters are correctly rendered.” Rawlinson refers the satrap to the chief ruler of the Persian provinces, from which the governors (pachavoth), rulers of smaller districts, are distinguished.—TR.]
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.