Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,…
After these things, viz., the events which culminated in the dedication of the temple, and consequent ordering of the service of God. "In the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia," after an interval of nearly sixty years, during which the house of the Lord had so fallen into disrepair as to need "beautifying," and the civil state of the children of the restoration had become disordered, and needed readjustment. With these purposes, and with a view to leading back to Judaea another detachment of Israelites, Ezra received a commission from the king. In the text -
I. HE AUTHENTICATES HIMSELF AS THE LEADER OF THIS EXODUS.
1. He evinces his social qualification.
(1) He announces himself as "the son of Seraiah." This was the high priest who was killed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18, 21). Ezra was not immediately his son, for even supposing him to have been born the year of Seraiah's death, that would make him now 122 years of age! The immediate son of Seraiah who went into captivity was Jehozadak (1 Chronicles 6:14, 15). Ezra, therefore, was probably the grandson or great-grandson of Jehozadak, and nephew or grand-nephew to Jeshua, the high priest who accompanied Zerubbabel. By calling himself "the son of Seraiah" he seems to have claimed now to be in some sort his representative. Jeshua was probably deceased. This stepping over intermediate generations has other examples in this list (vers. 1-5), for it only reckons sixteen from Seraiah to Aaron, whereas, according to 1 Chronicles 6., there are twenty-two.
(2) Lineage is not without religious as well as civil advantages. Sons of Aaron only could officiate as priests. It was of substantial advantage to have descent from Abraham when temporal blessings of the covenant were limited to his seed, for these were not without their relation to the spiritual, though these are limited to the children of his faith. Children of godly persons are generally those who keep up the succession of the Church both in its membership and ministry (see Isaiah 65:23).
2. He evinces his moral qualifications. "He was a ready scribe," etc.
(1) This law is distinguished as that "which the Lord God of Israel had given." The solemnities of Sinai and the miracles of the first exodus are here called to mind. Such a glorious authentication can be pleaded in favour of no other system of religion. Buddhism? Hinduism? Confucianism? Mahommedanism?
(2) This is the law, therefore, to be studied. Its author, God. Its matter, truth the most sublime. Its spirit, holiness. Its end, heaven.
(3) A ready scribe (not a skilful penman only, but an able expounder also) of such a law has the noblest qualifications to be a leader of men.
3. He evinces his political qualification.
(1) He had the commission of the king. "The king granted him all his request." There was great advantage in this, viz., to influence the Jews to muster, to influence the heathen to aid them.
(2) This he had "according to the good hand of the Lord his God upon him." By God's blessing he had wisdom to influence the king. That blessing also disposed the king to listen (Ezra 6:22). Note - God is in everything good; it is our duty to discern this.
II. HE RELATES THE SUCCESS OF HIS UNDERTAKING.
1. In the muster.
(1) He had "some of the children of Israel." Those who came to his standard were volunteers (see ver. 13). They numbered 1773 adult males, which with a proportionate number of women and children would make 9000 persons.
(2) Amongst these were persons of influence. There were "priests and Levites." Of these last some were of the families of the "singers" and of the "porters."
(3) There were also Nethinims, descendants of those "whom David and the princes bad appointed for the service of the Levites" (Ezra 8:20). The limitation of particular functions to families tends to perfect efficiency. The service of God in all its departments should be the most efficient.
2. In the journey.
(1) Incidents are scantily given. The time occupied was four months (ver. 9). It appears to have been, at least for the able-bodied, a march; for whence could carriages be procured for the transport of 9000 persons? Amongst the requisites they were provided with they had tents for their encampment (Ezra 8:15). During their pilgrimage their hearts would be in Zion. So the Christian pilgrim on this earth, etc.
(2) If incidents are not particularly given, the success of the enterprise is, most emphatically. They "went up from Babylon" and "came to Jerusalem" (vers. 6, 8, 9). Far better go up from the mystic Babylon to the mystic Jerusalem than reverse the journey, as too many do. Ezra had not only the skill to plan an exodus, but also the energy to carry it out. Many a good thought perishes for lack of executive ability. Happy is the coincidence of noble thoughts and noble deeds.
3. In the blessing of God.
(1) Ezra "sought the law of the Lord." No study more remunerative - more ennobling - more pleasing to God.
(2) He sought it in earnest. "Prepared his heart," viz., by raising it above impure prejudices; by seeking the light of the great Inspirer in prayer.
(3) He reduced it to practice. He prepared his heart "to do it." Glorious example. His life was therefore righteous, and his influence consequently great - viz.,
(a) With God.
(b) With the king.
(c) With the people.
(4) And "he taught it to Israel." He taught Israel the "statutes," viz., precepts and "judgments," viz., sanctions (1 Kings 6:12; Ezekiel 11:12). What a degenerate succession from the noble Ezra were the scribes of our Lord's day! Let us emulate his qualities. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,