Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was on us…
When the treasure was disposed in custody of priests sanctified to watch over it, and the caravan was otherwise ordered, the pilgrims started from the camp of the Ahava en route for Jerusalem. As we might expect from the piety which influenced them in their preparations -
I. THEY WERE PROSPERED IN THEIR JOURNEY.
1. They enjoyed the blessing of their God. "The hand of our God was upon us."
(1) The hand is the symbol of power (Judges 1:35; 2 Samuel 24:14). Appropriately so, since it is the instrument by which commonly we exert our strength. So when the "hand of God" is mentioned his omnipotence is supposed (Exodus 15:6; Psalm 17:7).
(2) The hand of God "upon" men sometimes denotes his almighty judgments (1 Samuel 5:11; 1 Peter 5:6). "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Sometimes it denotes his all-sufficient protection and defence (John 10:28, 29). In this good sense it is intended here (see also vers. 18, 22; 7:9; Nehemiah 2:18).
(3) The hand of God with his people coming up from Babylon may be likened to the glorious cloud which accompanied their fathers in their exodus from Egypt (see Zechariah 2:9, where "I will turn my hand upon the little ones" denotes the sheltering of the little ones when the sword smites the Great One).
2. The Divine protection was respected by the enemy.
(1) There was the open "enemy" in the way. There ever were, as to this day there are, bold marauders in the East. Temptations often, with impudent ostentation, attack the Christian pilgrim.
(2) There were also "those that lie in wait." There are stealthy as well as sturdy foemen. The brood of the old serpent is legion. Temptations are often most successful when they attack by surprise.
(3) But the people were armed with "all prayer." The knowledge of this so over-awed the enemies that they did not attack. Or else if they did attack they were overwhelmed by the "hand of God." "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
II. THEY ENTERED INTO JERUSALEM WITH JOY.
1. It was the end of a toilsome march.
(1) The journey occupied four months. They "departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month." They "came to Jerusalem in the fifth month" (Ezra 7:8). It would be a joy to them to have the discomfort of that tedious pilgrimage ended.
(2) It will be an inexpressible joy to the Christian pilgrim to end life's toils in the heavenly city.
2. It was the satisfaction of a cherished hope.
(1) They were "children of captivity," born in Babylon, never having seen Jerusalem. Yet would they not be without the traditions of the glory of their forefathers. The spirit which breathed in Psalm 79, and 137, could not leave them in ignorance of these things.
(2) They had also their Scriptures, which associated Zion with the glories of history and of prophecy. Now they were standing in the very place where their fathers had worshipped. In this also they had a pledge of the superior glories of the heavenly Jerusalem.
(3) They were relatives of those who had preceded them under the conduct of Zerubbabel. This is evident from a comparison of the catalogues of names (ch. 2. and ch. 8.). Therefore they would have happy recognitions, congratulations, and greetings. If in heaven now there is joy over the repentance of a sinner, what will be the joy of that entrance which shall be ministered abundantly into the kingdom!
III. THEY ABODE IN JERUSALEM IN PEACE.
1. They had peace in themselves.
(1) This is the happy fruit of fidelity. Tranquillity dwells with integrity. They faithfully delivered up their precious charge. "Now on the fourth day," etc. (vers. 33, 34).
(2) The balances of the sanctuary are true, and the weights are just. Sad is the case of him that shall be "found wanting" (see Daniel 5:27).
2. They had peace with God.
(1) They went the right way to secure this by offering sacrifices (see ver. 35). Christ is our peace.
(2) Note - These sacrifices were offered not only for themselves, but also "for all Israel." But "Judah and Benjamin" alone were present, and these only by a representation, for the bulk of the Jews remained on the Babylonish side of the river Euphrates. Query - Is there not here an expression of faith in the ultimate restoration of all Israel (Romans 10:26)?
3. They had peace from their neighbours.
(1) This was secured to them, through the good providence of God, by the king's commissions to lieutenants and governors. These documents were probably sealed; but the purport of them is evident from the letter of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21-23).
(2) No wonder, then, that these lieutenants should 6, further the people and the house of God." Persecution would cease. "When a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Let us never move without God. Let us ever move with God. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month, to go to Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the bandit by the way.