Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them,…
After fasting and prayer, before the caravan moved from the halt on the banks of the Ahava, Ezra made arrangements for the custody of the offerings with which he was intrusted. Whatever is done under Divine direction is intended to instruct, and in these arrangements we may seek for matter of profitable meditation. Let us then consider -
I. THE TREASURE. The vessels which were for the service of the house of the Lord typified his saints (Acts 9:15; 2 Timothy 2:20, 21).
1. The treasure was various.
(1) Various in its qualities. Some vessels were of silver, some of gold, and some of "fine copper precious as gold." This last the Syriac, somewhat oddly, construes as best Corinthian brass, referring to the amalgam, formed by the fusion together of copper, brass, silver, and gold, found by Lucius Mummius after the burning of Corinth. More probably it was some factitious metal (see A. Clarke, in loc.). Though all men have the attributes of each, yet these are variously developed. It should he our endeavour so to cultivate our powers that our service should be like gold, of the most valuable kind.
(2) Various in its sources. Some of the vessels were the free-will offerings of Jews. Some were from the Gentiles. So whether Jew or Greek now it matters not, for all believers are one in Christ (Matthew 8:11).
2. The treasure was precious.
(1) Gold, from its purity and costliness, has ever been taken as a symbol of preciousness. Silver also has the same signification, though in inferior degree. Here also were vessels of a "fine copper precious as gold."
(2) But what material substance can compare in value to the human spirit (Isaiah 13:12)?
(b) Capable of God (Job 28:19).
Redeemed by the Son of God (1 Peter 1:7).
3. The treasure was sacred.
(1) It was rendered so by being freely given to God. Having freely given ourselves, we have no right to resume the gift. What an anomalous position is that of the backslider from God!
(2) By virtue of God's acceptance of a gift it becomes holy. When God receives a sinner he sanctifies him by his Spirit. As the Levites and Nethinims kept the vessels of the sanctuary clean, so are all the ordinances of religion designed to keep believers pure. Consider -
II. THE TREASURERS.
1. These were twelve in number.
(1) This number is sacred in Old Testament Scripture. There were the twelve sons of Jacob, and so the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22; Genesis 49:28). According to the number of these tribes were the twelve pillars built by Moses; the twelve stones in the breastplate of judgment; the twelve stones in the Jordan, and in the altar of Elijah (Exodus 24:4; Exodus 28:21; Joshua 4:8; 1 Kings 18:31). So the twelve cakes on the table of shewbread, etc. (Leviticus 24:8).
(2) This number is no less sacred in the New Testament. Corresponding to the twelve patriarchs we have the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2). Twelve thrones are to be assigned to the apostles for the judging of the tribes of Israel. Twelve and multiples of twelve are common measures in the Apocalypse in things pertaining to the Lamb (Revelation 12:1; Revelation 21:12, 14, 21; Revelation 22:2).
2. They were of the chief of the priests.
(1) They had a consecration to God in their birth as sons of Aaron. So ministers of Christ who have the oversight of precious souls should be regenerate persons.
(2) They had also a consecration in their official separation. So ministers of Christ must have a vocation from Christ. God assigns special work to special men (see Acts 13:2). By this special service they become holy, though they were officially holy already (ver. 28). Every service we faithfully render to him God makes to react upon us with a sanctifying virtue.
III. THEIR DUTIES.
1. They were duly to estimate the value of their c/large.
(1) To impress this upon them, they had all the precious things weighed.
(2) The value of the soul cannot thus be estimated, yet it may be considered and pondered until the very spirit of a minister is penetrated with a sense of the magnitude of his responsibility in those over whom he is placed in the Lord.
2. They were to watch over it.
(1) To see that it was not lost through neglect, or by becoming mixed with other property. Ministerial neglect has resulted in the loss of many a precious soul.
(2) To defend it from the cupidity of robbers. These infested the way: some openly, others stealthily. So are souls in danger of encountering those who would rob them of peace.
3. They were to present it in its integrity in the temple.
(1) Having kept it amidst the dangers of the journey by the blessing of God, the custodians present the treasure in the house of the Lord. It will be a happy thing for ministers if they can as completely fulfil their commission in leading their flock into the better Jerusalem. For parents with their children, etc. (Ephesians 4:11-13).
(2) The balances of the sanctuary are true. The actions of all men will there be weighed up. May we not be found wanting in the great day of scrutiny. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,