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.
Ezra 8:22-23, Ezra 8:31-32
The symbolic phrase "the hand of our God," as expressive of the Divine protection, occurs with remarkable frequency in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and though not peculiar to them, is yet exceedingly characteristic of them. It has a certain beauty and force of its own. The hand is of course the seat of active power. It is on or over a man like some great shield held aloft above him, below which there is safe hiding. So that great hand bends itself over us, and we are secure beneath its hollow. As a child sometimes carries a tender-winged butterfly in the globe of its two hands, that the bloom on its wings may not be ruffled by its fluttering, so He carries our feeble, unarmoured souls enclosed in the covert of His almighty hand. God is upon us to impart power as well as protection; and our "bow abides in strength" when "the arms of our hands are made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." That was Ezra's faith, and that should be ours.
I. Note Ezra's sensitive shrinking from anything like inconsistency between his creed and his practice. With a keen and high sense of what was required by his avowed principles, he will have no guards for the road. There would have been no harm in his asking an escort, seeing that his whole enterprise was made possible by the king's support. But a true man often feels that he cannot do the things which he might without sin do. Let us learn again the lesson from this old story that if our faith in God is not the veriest sham, it demands, and will produce, the abandonment sometimes, the subordination always, of external helps and material good.
II. Notice, too, Ezra's preparation for receiving the Divine help. There was no foolhardiness in his courage; he was well aware of all: the possible dangers on the road; and whilst he was confident of the Divine protection, he knew that, in his own quiet, matter-of-fact words, it was given to "all them that seek Him." So his faith not only impels him to the renunciation of the Babylonian guard, but to earnest supplication for the defence in which he is so confident. He is sure it will be given, so sure that he will have no other shield; and yet he fasts and prays that he and his company may receive it. He prays because he is sure that he will receive it, and does receive it because he prays and is sure.
A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 37.
Ezra 8:29I may venture, without being unduly fanciful, to take these words as a type of the injunctions which are given to us Christian people, and to see in them a striking and picturesque representation of the duties that devolve upon us in the course of our journey across the desert to the temple home above.
I. Notice, first, what the precious treasure is which is thus entrusted to our keeping and care. The metaphor is capable of two applications. The first is to the rich treasure and solemn trust of our own nature, of our own, souls, the faculties and capacities precious beyond all count, rich beyond all else that a man has ever received. The treasure is, first, our own selves, with all that we are and may be under the stimulating and quickening influence of God's grace and Spirit. The treasure is, next, His great word of salvation, once delivered unto the saints, and to be handed on, without diminution or alteration in its fair perspective and manifold harmonies, to the generations that are to come.
II. A word next as to the command, the guardianship that is here set forth. "Watch ye, and keep them." The treasure which is given into our hands requires for its safe preservation unceasing vigilance. Guardianship is (1) vigilance; (2) trust, like the trust which is glorified in the context, depending only on "the good hand of our God upon us;" (3) purity, because, as Ezra said, "ye are holy unto the Lord. The vessels are holy also," and therefore ye are the fit persons to guard them. (4) And besides that, there is in our keeping, our trust, a method which does not apply to the incident before us, namely, use, in order to their preservation.
A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 45.
Reference: Ezra 9:9.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, 1st series, p. 240. Ezra 9:13, Ezra 9:14.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 168.
Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.
Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males an hundred and fifty.
Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males.
Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.
Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males.
And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males.
And of the sons of Shephatiah; Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males.
Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males.
And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him an hundred and threescore males.
And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males.
And of the sons of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him an hundred and ten males.
And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males.
Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
And 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 priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.
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.
And 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 Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.
And 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;
And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;
Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.
Then 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.
For 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 seek 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 intreated of us.
Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,
And 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 counsellers, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:
I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;
Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.
And 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.
Watch 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.
So 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.
Then 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.
And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
Now 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 the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites;
By number and by 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.
And they delivered the king'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.