Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away…
What signifies to us, it may be asked, the exact number of the children of Parosh and Shephatiah (vers. 3, 4)? What does it signify to us that the heads of the returning families bore such and such a name? Why record this? What is -
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS RECORD OF NAMES AND NUMBERS? The pains which the children of Israel took to keep a strict record of their families in Persia may have been
(a) an act of faith: it may have been the expression of their belief that God's word of promise spoken by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1)would be fulfilled, and that the hour would come when they or their children would lay claim to their ancestral inheritance. Or it may have been
(b) a habit of obedience, which itself is suggestive enough. It was the will of their Divine Sovereign that everything, however minute, which pertained to his people should be scrupulously cared for. Nothing was unimportant that pertained to the people of God. It was worth while to chronicle every birth in every household of every family of every tribe of the holy nation. It was important to count every head of every division and rank of those who came out of Babylon, the "ransomed of the Lord." This striking particularity has no little interest to us. Things which the great and good among men would overlook as unimportant, are accounted not unworthy of regard by the Highest and the Best One. He who redeems us from a worse captivity than that of Babylon, and leads us to a better heritage than the earthly Jerusalem, counts everything of consequence that relates to his redeemed ones. He writes their names in the palms of his hand; he counts their tears; he hears their sighs; he orders their steps. Not one is overlooked; every name is entered in the book of life; every liberated soul has a place in the heart of the Redeemer.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LOSS OF THE RECORD (vers. 59, 62, 63). "These could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel" (ver. 59). "These sought their register .... but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood," etc. (vers. 62, 63).
(a) Some of the Jews had not taken sufficient pains to prove that they were of the people of God.
(b) Others, who believed themselves (rightly, no doubt) to be descendants of Aaron had lost their register; perhaps some of these may have more cared to claim and prove descent from the "honourable" house of Barzillai (ver. 61), esteeming such secular rank of greater value than the more sacred lineage. The descendants of both of these classes suffered through their neglect; the latter more particularly, for they were separated from the priesthood for an uncertain and, as it turned out, an indefinitely long period. The retention of our claim to be of the "Israel of God," or to be of those who" minister in holy things" in the gospel of Jesus Christ, does not depend on any documentary evidence; no revolutions here can affect the roll that is "written in heaven;" but carelessness about our own spiritual life, negligence in the worship of God, inattention to the claims of our spirit, indifference to the work and the want of other souls - this may lead to our name being "blotted out from the book of life," or to our being counted all unworthy to "speak in the temple the words of this life" to others.
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PAUCITY OF THEIR NUMBER (ver. 64). "The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and three score." Counting children they may have amounted to 50,000. This was but a small number compared with that of the exodus from Egypt, a feeble nucleus of a renewed nation! But the slenderness of their number was fitted
(a) to bind them the more to the service of God, and
(b) to knit them together in closer bonds of union.
A small number, devoted to Christ and united to one another, is far more powerful than an undevout and inharmonious multitude.
IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCANTINESS OF THEIR RESOURCES (vers. 65-67). Their "servants and maids," and their "singing men and singing women" (ver. 65), their "horses and mules" (ver. 66), their "camels and asses" (ver. 67), made but a small show of property for the ransomed people. Doubtless there were amongst them men "well to do," if not wealthy. But the greater part of the rich members of the community remained behind. They who had the most to lose were least likely to accept the invitation to go up to Jerusalem. They who had least to leave behind them were most easily convinced of the wisdom of returning. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;
WEB: Now these are the children of the province, who went up out of the captivity of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city;