THE NUMBER OF THOSE WHO RETURNED FROM CAPTIVITY
WITH ZERUBBABEL, AND THE NAMES OF THE CHIEFS (vs. 1-64).
It has been argued that the whole of this chapter is out of place
here, and has been transferred hither from Nehemiah 7:6-73, where it occupies its
rightful position. According to this view, the list is one embodying the results of
census made by Nehemiah, not a list of those who returned to
Zerubbabel But it seems strange that such a theory should ever have been seriously
maintained, since not only does Ezra declare the list to be a catalogue of
those “which came with Zerubbabel” (v. 2), but Nehemiah himself warns
us that it is “a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first”
(Nehemiah 7:5). The Jews, like other Semitic races, especially the Arabs, set
great store by their genealogies; and, to secure a sound basis for these in
the restored community, it was essential that a correct record should be
kept of the families by which the state was re-established. Already there
was a large number of Jews among the captives “which could not show
their father’s house, or their pedigree, whether they were of
It was essential, according to Jewish ideas, that such ignorance should,
at the least, be arrested, and not spread through the nation. Hence the
elaborate genealogies with which the first Book of Chronicles opens (chapters
1-8), and hence also the present list. The list may be divided into ten parts:
1. Enumeration of the leaders (v. 2).
2. Numbers of those who returned, arranged according to families (vs. 3-19).
3. Numbers of those who returned, arranged according to localities (vs. 20-35).
4. Numbers of the priests, arranged according to families (vs. 36-39).
5. Numbers of the Levites, arranged similarly (vs. 40-42).
6. Families of the Nethinim (vs. 43-54).
7. Families of “Solomon’s servants” (vs. 55-57).
8. Number of these last two classes together (v. 58).
9. Account of those who could not show their genealogy (vs. 59-63).
10. General summation (v. 64).
1 “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
Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;” These are the children of the
province. i.e. of Judaea, which was
standpoint of Ezra. Unto
was not the only site occupied by the people on their return. Many took up
their abodes in the neighboring towns and villages, such as
Mizpah, Zanoah, etc. (see Nehemiah 3:2-19, and 7:20-35). These were chiefly
persons whose families had belonged to those places.
2 “Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah,
Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The
number of the men of
the people of
corresponding verse of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:7) there are twelve names, one
of which (it is probable) has accidentally fallen out here. The twelve are reasonably
regarded as either the actual heads of the twelve tribes, or at any rate as
representing them. Notwithstanding the small number among the returned
exiles who belonged to other tribes than those of Judah, Benjamin, and
Levi, there was a manifest wish on the part of the chiefs to regard the
return as in some sort that of all the tribes (see v.70; ch. 6:17; 8:35, etc.).
The number of the men. The lists in Nehemiah and the apocryphal
Esdras differ in many details, and furnish strong evidence of the corruption
to which numbers are liable from the mistakes of copyists, and the facility
of error when there is no check from the context. Of the forty-two
numbers here given by Ezra (vs. 3-60), as many as eighteen differ from
the corresponding numbers in Nehemiah. The difference, however, is
mostly small; and even the sum of the differences is trivial (see comment on
This is an important subject. Great portion of Scripture is occupied with it.
Events of the utmost moment connected are with it.
HIS GATHERING BE.
Ø His tribes became distributed into two kingdoms.
o United until the evil days of Rehoboam (see I Kings 12:20).
priests and others of the tribe of Levi.
Ø The ten tribes were first carried captive by the Assyrians. This was in
o By Tiglath-pileser, B.C. 739 (see II Kings 15:29).
o By Shalmaneser eighteen years later, when the deportation was
complete (Ibid. ch.17:6, 18).
The Jews were afterwards carried away to
years later, and was also accomplished in two detachments, viz.:
o That, B.C. 599, when Nebuchadnezzar removed the principal
people (Ibid. ch. 24:14).
o That eleven years later, when the remnant was removed
(Ibid. ch. 25:11).
o Then, six centuries later, came the dispersion by the Romans.
Prophecy views the scattering as a whole, without breaking it
up into its details, and so it views the restoration; and as the
scattering was accomplished at long intervals by installments,
so may the gathering be.
ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROPHECIES.
Ø The ten tribes were not included in it.
They were the “children
of the province.” Not of
some think, for
Judaea, now a province of the
Behold the goodness and severity of God!
o Further specified as “those whom Nebuchadnezzar carried
away.” No mention made of those before carried into
Further, as “the
number of the men of the people of
Given in detail in this chapter. Here we find children of
of Benjamin, of Levi and the priests, and even of the Gibeonites,
but no mention of Ephraim and his associates.
o But the restoration of the ten tribes is promised (see Ezekiel
11:15-17 – Has not this been in the process of being fulfilled
since 1948? – CY – 2015). (What a rebuke to those who repeat
this conduct of
the promises made to
A GRAND RESTORATION FOR
said, “….and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
Ø This restoration did not reunite the divided nation.
o This fact already shown.
o But prophecy requires this (see Ezekiel 37:21-22).
Ø This restoration was not permanent.
o Even the Jews were subsequently scattered by the Romans
and have since been kept scattered by Romanists and
o But prophecy requires this (see Jeremiah 31:10;
Ezekiel 34:27-28; Amos 9:14-15). “Therefore,” etc.
Ø It answered great purposes of prophecy.
o Those connected with the incarnation. To take place while the
tribe-rod was yet with
family of David yet had their genealogies; while yet they dwelt
Those connected with
issue (see Isaiah 2:3; Joel 2:32).
Ø There is a prophecy in accomplished predictions.
o The preservation of the Jews amongst the nations. Without
a parallel in history. What for (see Jeremiah 30:11)? “Full end”
o History of the land as remarkable as that of the people. No
permanent settlers. Romans, Greeks, Saracens, Papists, Turks!
Ø The Jews expect their restoration.
o Good reason, for THE WORD IS SURE!
o Their faith is patient. Centuries of disappointment. Is our faith so
patient under trials?
3 “The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.”
4 “The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.”
5 “The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.”
6 “The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab,
two thousand eight hundred and twelve.”
7 “The children of
8 “The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five.
9 “The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.
10 “The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two.
11 “The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three.
12 “The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two.
13 “The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six.
14 “The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six.
15 “The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four.
16 “The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.
17 “The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three.
18 “The children of Jorah, an hundred and twelve.
19 “The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three.
20 “The children of Gibbar, ninety and five.”
The children of Gibbar. For “Gibbar” we should probably
(7:25). The writer at this point passes from persons to places, making the
latter portion of his list topographical.
Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). Other Benjamite towns in the list are
Anathoth, Ramah, Gaba,
the descendants of the captives carried off from these places retained a
traditional knowledge of the locality to which they belonged.
“The children of
22 “The men of Netophah, fifty and six.”
23 “The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.”
24 “The children of Azmaveth, forty and two.”
25 “The children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven
hundred and forty and three.”
26 “The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one.”
27 “The men of Michmas, an hundred twenty and two.”
“The men of
29 “The children of Nebo, fifty and two.”
30 “The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty and six.”
“The children of the other
32 “The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.”
33 “The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five.”
“The children of
35 “The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty.”
36 “The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine
hundred seventy and three.” The priests. Four priestly families went up with
Zerubbabel. Of these, three traced their descent to persons who had been heads
of the priestly courses in the reign of David, viz., Jedaiah, Immer, and Hardin
(I Chronicles 24:7-8, 14). The other family had for founder a priest
named Pashur, who was not otherwise distinguished. The numbers
assigned to the priests by Ezra are identical with those in Nehemiah
(Nehemiah 7:39-42). Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua. To whose
house, that is, Jeshua, the existing high priest, belonged. Hence, no doubt,
the precedency given to the house of Jedaiah, which numerically was the
37 “The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.”
38 “The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.”
39 “The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.”
40 “The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of
Hodaviah, seventy and four.” The Levites. The non-priestly Levites are divided
into three classes:
Ø Ordinary Levites (v. 40);
Ø Choral Levites (v. 41); and
Ø Levites descended from those who had had the charge of the temple
gates (v. 42).
Compare I Chronicles 24:20-31; 25:1-31; and 26:1-19. Of the first class, only two
families seem to have returned — those of Jeshua and Kadmiel, both of which
traced their descent to a certain Hodaviah, or Judah (Ezra 3:9).
41 “The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred twenty and eight.”
The singers, the children of Asaph. See II Chronicles 25:1. It is remarkable
that no descendants of either Heman or Jeduthun (ibid.) took part in the return.
42“The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of
Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children
of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all an hundred thirty and nine.”
The porters. Six families of doorkeepers returned; three of
which bear old names, those of Shallum, Talmon, and Akkub (I Chronicles
9:17), while the other three have names that are new to us. One
hundred and thirty-nine. The smallness of this and the two preceding
numbers is remarkable. While the returning priests numbered 4289, the
returning Levites of all classes were no more than 341 (350, Nehemiah). It
would seem as if some jealousy of the priests, like that which animated
Korah and his followers (Numbers 16:1-10), must have grown up
during the captivity (comp. below, Ezra 8:15).
43 “The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the
children of Tabbaoth,” The Nethiaims. See note on I Chronicles 9:2.
44 “The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon,”
45 “The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of
46 “The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of
47 “The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of
48 “The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of
49 “The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai,”
50 “The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of
51 “The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of
52 “The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of
53 “The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of
54 “The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.
55 “The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the
children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda, Solomon’s servants.
Solomon formed the remnant of the Canaanitish population which survived at
his day into a separate servile class, which he employed in forced labors (I Kings
9:20-21). It would seem that the descendants of these persons, having been
carried into captivity by the Chaldaeans, continued to form a distinct class, and
had become attached to the sacerdotal order, as a body of hieroduli inferior
even to the Nethinims. We may account for their special mention at this
time by the importance of their services, when such a work as that of
rebuilding the temple was about to be taken in hand.
56 “The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of
57 “The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of
Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami.”
58“All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were
three hundred ninety and two.”
59 “And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa,
Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s
house, and their seed,
whether they were of
Thelme of Ptolemy (‘Geograph.,’
5:20), a city of
situated in the salt tract near the
“Hill of Salt.” Cherub is no doubt Ptolemy’s Chiripha, which was in the same
region. The other places here mentioned are unknown to us, but probably
belonged to the same tract of country. Tel-Harsa means “Hill of the Wood.”
They could not show their father’s house. It is more surprising that so many
of the returning exiles had preserved their genealogies than that a certain
number had omitted to do so. Considering the duration of the exile, its
hardships, and the apparent improbability of a restoration, there could have
been no cause for wonder if the great majority had forgotten their descent.
60 “The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of
Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.”
61 “And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the
children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the
daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their
name:” Of the children of the priests. Some of those who claimed to
be descendants of Aaron, and therefore priests, had also lost the evidence
of their descent. This loss was held to disqualify them from the exercise of
the priestly office (v. 62).
62 “These sought their register among those that were reckoned by
genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as
polluted, put from the priesthood.
63 “And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the
most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with
Thummim.” The Tirshatha. As “Shesh-bazzar” was the Babylonian name
of Zerub-babel (Ezra 1:8), so “the Tirshatha” seems to have been his
Persian title. The word is probably a participial form from tars or tarsa, “to
fear,” and means literally “the Feared.” It is used only by Ezra and
Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:65; 8:9). Haggai calls Zerubbabel uniformly
pechah, “governor (Haggai 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21). They should not eat of
the most holy things. The priests’ portion of the offerings, called “most
holy” in Leviticus 2:2, 10, is intended. Of this no “stranger” might eat
(ibid. 22:10). Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
Zerubbabel evidently expected that the power of obtaining direct answers
from God by means of the Urim and Thummim, whatever they were (see
note on Exodus 28:30), which had existed in the pre-captivity Church,
would be restored when the Church was re-established in its ancient home.
The doubt whether the families of Habaiah and Coz (or Haccoz) belonged
to the priestly class or no might then be resolved. But Zerubbabel’s
expectation was disappointed. The gift of Urim and Thummin, forfeited
by disobedience, WAS NEVER RECOVERED!
The Privileges of the Priesthood (vs. 61-63)
We are here forcibly reminded:
Ø They were sanctified to the service of God.
o Distinguished from the tribes whose inheritance was in the soil
(see Numbers 18:20).
o Distinguished among the Levites. They were sons of Aaron.
Were served by the Levites. While they served in the holy places,
at the altar, within the veil (see (Ibid. v.7).
Ø They ate of the most holy things.
o As Levites, they had tithes from the nation.
o As priests, they had tithes from the Levites (Ibid. vs. 20-21,
o They partook of the altar (see Leviticus 6:16, 26; 7:6, etc.).
o They ate the shew bread of the Presence, viz., of the Shekinah,
the visible glory of God. All this symbolically expressed near
fellowship with God.
Ø In their birth, as sons of Aaron.
o Aaron was a type of Christ. See arguments in Epistle to
o Christians are of the family of Christ (see Ephesians 3:14-15;
Galatians 4:4-7). Have we the spiritual birth?
Ø In their office, as priests of God.
o Christians are a spiritual priesthood (see Isaiah 61:6; I Peter
2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6).
o They have a spiritual consecration (see II Corinthians 1:21;
I John 2:20, 27).
Ø They offer spiritual sacrifices. Themselves (Romans 12:1).
Sacrifices of prayer, of praise, of service (see Hosea 14:2;
Ø In the privileges of their office.
o They draw nigh to God. The law priest entered the holy place.
We enter the most holy (see Hebrews 10:19-22).
o They feast with God. This glorious fellowship is now expressed
in the Lord’s Supper.
TO SHOW A VALID TITLE,
Ø As to the priesthood under the law.
o Case of the children of Habai and Koz. These not elsewhere
or otherwise mentioned. Here acknowledged as sons of Aaron.
Their reputed descendants could not show their genealogy from
o Case of the children of Barzillai’s daughter. Honorable mention
made of Barzillai (see II Samuel 17:27-29; “…he returned to
his own place.” 19:31-39 ). This accounts for descendants of his
daughter assuming his name rather than that of their father.
o They were therefore excluded (Hebrews, polluted) from the
priesthood. Lost the sanctity; also the privileges.
Ø As to the priesthood under the gospel.
o As with the aspirants through Habai and Koz, the reputation of
being of the family of Jesus will not avail. Have you evidence
of spiritual birth?
o As with the aspirants bearing the honorable name of Barzillai,
respectability will not avail in place of a spiritual title. We
must be real.
o The Tirshatha will scrutinize our claims. We must all pass the
scrutiny of the judgment.
Ø But is it possible for us to make up a valid title?
o What does the Tirshatha say (see v. 68)?
o The Urim and Thummim were wanting then. These were used
in the breastplate of the high priest for obtaining responses
from the Shekinah of God in the temple. Neither these
“lights and perfections” (the traditional translation of Urim
and Thummim) nor the SHEKINAH to illuminate them
o We have an High Priest who stands up with these, even Jesus,
who ministers in the grander temple. Through His glorious Spirit,
THE TRUE SHEKINAH, we have in our breasts the most
perfect illuminations. By these we ascertain our spiritual birth
with its titles. Have we this most sacred, this most indubitable
64 “The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three
hundred and threescore,” Ezra’s numbers, as given in detail (vs. 3-60), produce
when added together a total of only 29,818; Nehemiah’s items (Nehemiah 7:8-62)
give a total of 31,089; those of the apocryphal Esdras a total of 33,950. The three
authorities agree, however, in their summation, all alike declaring that the actual
number of those who returned with Zerubbabel was 42,360. Esdras adds that
children under twelve years of age are not included. If this were so, the entire
number must have exceeded 50,000 — an enormous body of persons to
transport a distance of above a thousand miles, according to Western
experience, but one which will not surprise those acquainted with the East.
In the East caravans of from ten to twenty thousand souls often traverse
huge distances without serious mishap, and migrations frequently take
place on a much grander scale. In the year 1771, 50,000 families of
Torgouths, reckoned to number 300,000 souls, arrived on the frontiers of
and were given lands in the Chinese empire. They were followed in the
next year by 180,000 Eleuths and others, who had accomplished a similar
distance (see De Hell, ‘Travels,’ pp. 228, 229). Genghis Khan is said to
have forced 100,000 artisans and craftsmen to emigrate in a body from
transplantation of entire nations was an established practice among the
Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians.
THE NUMBER OF THE SLAVES, HORSES, MULES, CAMELS, AND
ASSES OF THOSE WHO RETURNED (vs. 65-67). It may seem
strange that matters of this trivial character should be recorded with such
exactness in Holy Writ; but enumerations similar in character are not
unfrequent (see Genesis 23:14-15; II Chronicles 17:11; Job 42:12).
They may perhaps be viewed as teaching the lesson that with God nothing
is too trivial for exact knowledge, even “all the hairs of our head” being
“numbered” (Matthew 10:30). In the present passage the enumeration
is not altogether without a further historical value, since it is indicative of
the general poverty and low estate of the returning exiles, who had but one
slave and one ass to every six of their number, one horse to every sixty,
one camel to every hundred, and one mule to every one hundred and
65 “Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven
thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among
them two hundred singing men and singing women.” Two hundred
singing men and singing women. Nehemiah says two hundred and forty-five,
and so the apocryphal Esdras. Perhaps, in the great default of Levites, the
services of these persons may have been used to swell the sacred choruses
of the time (ch.3:10). Hence, it may be, the mention of this otherwise
66 “Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two
hundred forty and five;
67 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand
seven hundred and twenty.” Their asses. The ass (we see) is still, as in the
earlier times, the chief beast of burden employed by the Israelites. Horses are
rare, camels and mules still rarer; but most emigrant families had, it would
seem, one ass (compare I Samuel 8:16; I Chronicles 27:30; Isaiah 30:6).
The Muster-Roll (vs. 1-67)
The last chapter gave us a catalogue of the sacred vessels returned. In that
portion of the present chapter which concludes with the above verses we
have a similar catalogue of the sacred people returned. The first verse
seems to show us where this catalogue was made out, viz., in the land
their exile, where
ch. 5:8; Nehemiah 1:3; 11:3). If the nearly identical catalogue which Nehemiah
(Nehemiah 7:5) describes himself as having found at
afterwards, were the same catalogue as corrected and laid up after the
arrival of the exiles at
differences which are discoverable between them. Many enrolled to start
might never start, or never arrive; some not enrolled to start might join
afterwards and be enrolled then. At any rate it is easier to suppose
something of this kind than to suppose, in connection with such careful and
formal documents of state, so many glaring “mistakes.” We may take the
catalogue before us, therefore, very much as it stands. Not improbably, according
to its own methods of interpretation, it is quite correct as it stands. Can we regard it
as being also instructive from a moral point of view? Perhaps if we merely regard it
in a general way, and as setting before our notice, first, the kind of men, and second,
the number of men, that came up, we shall find even this apparently barren Scripture
not without some sacred use to us. Some lessons can also be gathered from the
very names we find here.
men, in the main, loving the old state of things. They were conservatives,
e.g., in politics, keeping still, in the person of Zerubbabel as their chief civil
ruler, to the ancient dynasty, that of David. They are also thought by some,
comparing the names in v. 2 with the probably the more correct account in
Nehemiah 7:7, and with ch. 6:17 here; I Kings 18:31, to have
shown the same spirit touching the ancient twelve-fold “constitution” of
showed their strong respect for precedents and the past by submitting to
Jeshua as chief priest (see II Kings 25:18-21; I Chronicles 6:15;
Haggai 1:1, 14). Also we see another branch of this Church
conservatism of theirs in the especial importance attached by them to the
question of genealogy. While, further yet, on this last-mentioned matter,
the only proposal made for settling the doubts that beset it was by an
ancient method again (v. 63). Nor is it altogether unworthy of remark in
this connection that they also appear to have been men showing great
attachment to race and place, and assembling together for their proposed
described as “the children” of some one man. This is the case of vs. 1-17,
and again of vs. 33-35. In other cases (vs. 18-33) the groups are
described as being connected with particular towns, which, considering
how necessarily near of kin all Israelitish fellow-townsmen had formerly
been, comes to much the same thing (see Numbers 36:7; I Kings 21:3).
All the priests also who returned amongst them are in similar
groups, being all described as belonging to four “courses” or family lines
(vs. 36-39). The same kind of thing, again, is true of the Levites (vs. 40-42),
and even of those Nethinims and children of Solomon’s servants
who appear to have been the “hewers of wood” and “drawers of water” for
the congregation at large. A strong “clannish” spirit, a great desire to be
and do as in” the old times before them,” seems to have prevailed among
all; the same spirit which afterwards degenerated into that false
conservatism, the conservatism of mere human traditions (compare
Jeremiah 6:16 and 18:15), found in Pharisaism and Rabbinism.
Meanwhile, however, and while still uncorrupted, it made them just the
men for their work: returned refugees, not colonists; men called upon
merely to rebuild and restore, and not, like Moses before and the apostles
of Christ after them, to devise and create.
OF NOTE. They were only a few, all told; some 50,000, of all sorts, including,
so it would seem from comparing the items, about 10,000 souls of some kind
not mentioned in the detailed catalogue. How different from the 600,000
“that were men,” beside women and children and many others, that had come
up out of
been left behind (as some indication of the state of things on this point, see
Esther 9:16)! Counting also by the number of families or groups that
returned, what are thirty-five, the whole number mentioned here, out of the
many thousands of
what we read in ch. 8. of such names as Pharosh, Pahath-Moab, Adin,
Shephatiah, and others, shows that all the members even of these thirty-five
families did not come back at the first. So also, although the proportion of
priests returning was very considerable (about one tenth of the whole),
only four courses out of the twenty-four (vs. 36-39; 1 Chronicles 24.)
were represented among them; whilst some 341 Levites of all three
descriptions, as against 38,000 in David’s time, and some 392 Nethinims
and others, comprised in forty-five groups, complete the catalogue given,
except of cases of doubt. Yet even these few appear to be many, viewed
from a different point. Of beasts of burden of all kinds they had rather more
than 9000 amongst them (about one to every six travelers); but of these
only 736 were horses; and of camels, the animals so especially required by
them in the desert journey before them, there were only 435 — a very
different proportion indeed to that which we read of in Genesis 24:10,
where ten camels appear to have been provided for one traveler’s use.
Altogether it may well be questioned whether caravans of greater apparent
importance in every way do not annually cross the deserts of the East
without leaving any visible trace behind them on the history of the day. The
secret of the difference was in the “blessing” THAT WENT WITH THEM!
In those holy vessels, in the duty before them, and in the presence among
them of the prophets and priests of Jehovah, and of the ancestor of the
coming Saviour, they were indeed “bearing precious seed” (Psalm 126:6).
That being so, their small number was just the proper one for God’s use;
sufficient to form a nucleus and make a beginning, but not sufficient to give
them the appearance of being more than instruments in His hands (compare
Judges 7:2, 4; and in connection with the very people and time we are
speaking of, Zechariah 4:6).
coincidence that we find this second entrance into
Babylonian captivity, headed (ecclesiastically) by one bearing the greatest
of Jewish names. Are not such truths as we find in Psalm 68:18; Acts 7:45;
Colossians 2:15, etc. pointed to here by this name of Jeshua? See further,
as to the typical relation between this “Jeshua” and the man Christ “Jesus,”
Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 3:8-9; 6:11-13, etc. Also let the name of
recorded, the return, viz., of certain Bethlehemites to their ancestral home
Micah 5:2, and to make this town of
spot WHERE HEAVEN CAME NEAREST TO EARTH? When we
remember, indeed, yet further, as before noted, that we have in the name
of Zerubbabel the name of a direct ancestor of Messiah Himself (Matthew
1:13,16), as also what we read in Hebrews 7:9-10, can we not, in these three
names of Jeshua, Zerubbabel, and
Himself leading His people back to their land? And can we not also, in the
march of that little company, as it were, hear the very sound of His feet?
How true, therefore, and how much to be remembered by us, what we read
of as declared on this subject by apostles, by angels, by Himself (John
5:39, 46; Acts 10:43; Revelation 19:10).
Spiritual Significances (vs. 1-67)
What signifies to us, it may be asked, the exact number of the children of
Parosh and Shephatiah (vs. 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:
NUMBERS? The pains which the children of
record of their families in
Ø 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;
II Chronicles 36:21) 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
Ø 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. (God does! Psalm 87:5-6, Revelation 20:
11-15 – CY – 2015) It was important to count every head of every
division and rank of those who came out of
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
counts everything of consequence that relates to His redeemed ones.
62-63). “These could not show their father’s house, and their seed,
whether they were of
they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the
priesthood,” etc. (vs. 62-63).
Ø Some of the Jews had not taken sufficient pains to prove that they
were of the people of God.
Ø 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 (v. 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 “
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:
o carelessness about our own spiritual life,
o negligence in the worship of God,
o inattention to the claims of our spirit,
o 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.
(v. 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
slenderness of their number was fitted
Ø to bind them the more to the service of God, and
Ø 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.
RESOURCES (vs. 65-67). Their “servants and maids,” and their
“singing men and singing women” (v. 65), their “horses and mules”
(v. 66), their “camels and asses” (v. 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
least to leave behind them were most easily convinced of the wisdom of
returning. Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into
the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:23). “Blessed be ye poor, for yours
is the kingdom of heaven.” (Luke 6:20)
THE OFFERINGS MADE BY THE RETURNED EXILES
ON THEIR ARRIVAL AT
It has been customary among the pious of all ages and countries to make thank
offerings to the Almighty on the accomplishment of any important or dangerous
work. The long journey of the
exiles from Babylonia to
considerable risk (see ch.8:22, 31), and its successful termination NATURALLY
CALLED THEIR GRATITUDE! The character of the offerings made is
indicative of the fact, otherwise probable, that the exiles had turned all that they
possessed into money, and had brought to
68 “And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house
of the LORD which
God to set it up in his place:” Some of the chief of the fathers. That is,
“Some of the heads of families.” Each family went up under a recognized head
or chief, the number of such heads being, as it would seem, nearly a hundred
(vs. 3-61). When they came to the house of the Lord. No doubt considerable
ruins of Solomon’s temple existed when the exiles returned, and were
easily to be recognized, both by their situation and by the size of the stones
employed (I Kings 5:17). The place occupied by these ruins was that
whereto the emigrants flocked, and about which they, in the first instance,
located themselves. Offered freely for the house of God, to set it up in
its place. The first object of the returned exiles was the rebuilding of the
temple, and their offerings were consequently given expressly towards the
expenses of this costly work.
69 “They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work
threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand
pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.”
After their ability. As each was able; the richer more, the
poorer less. Threescore and one thousand drams of gold. The word
translated “dram” is darkemon, which appears to be the Hebrew
representative of the Persian word which the Greeks rendered by dareikos,
or “daric.” This was a gold coin, stamped with the figure of a Persian king,
wearing his crown, and armed with a bow and arrow. According to the
most exact computation, each such coin contained somewhat more pure
gold than an English guinea, and was worth £1 1s. 10.5d. of our money.
The 61,000 darics would therefore have been equal to £66,718 15s. Five
thousand pounds of silver. The word translated “pound” is maneh, an
equivalent of the Greek μνᾶ - mna - and the Latin mina. In
mina was worth a little more than £4 of our money. The value of the Hebrew
silver maneh is uncertain, but probably was not very different from the
Greek. Thus the sum contributed in silver may be estimated at above
£20,000, and the entire contribution at nearly £90,000. It must be noted,
however, that Nehemiah’s estimate ( Nehemiah 7:71-72) is less. One hundred
priests’ garments. Nehemiah says ninety-seven (ibid. vs. 70, 72), whence we
may conclude that Ezra uses a round number.
70 “So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the
singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities,
neighboring towns also, e.g.
that it was participated in by all the tribes (see v. 2; ch. 3:1; 6:16-17; 7:13; 8:29,
35, etc.). He does not, however, exclude the other aspect, that it was especially a
return of Judah, or “Judah and Benjamin” (see ch.5:1; 10:9).
Men Forsaking the Worldly Life (vs. 1-70)
We regard the people returning from
the worldly life into the life and work of the
Cyrus compelled no man to leave the land of captivity. The Jews left
man to forsake sin.
Ø It was a good choice. It was better to build the temple than to work in
Ø It was a wise choice. They would be honored as the heroic builders of
the second temple; and how would they be blessed in their holy toil!
It is wise to choose the unworldly life.
Ø It was a self-denying choice. They had to leave friends and companions
behind; they had to forsake vested interests, and enter an unknown
future. The unworldly life necessitates self-denial, but the reward is a
Ø It was a believing choice. They believed that God would be with them,
and that His angel would go before them. There are great duties in the
pursuit of an unworldly life; there are many temples to erect, but God is
an infinite resource.
FORSAKING THE WORLDLY LIFE.
Ø They have encouragements of a spiritual nature. “The priests” are with
them (v. 36). All that belongs to heaven’s priesthood goes along with the
unworldly life in its march from
Ø They have encouragements of a social nature (v. 64). The
companionships of the unworldly life are helpful.
Ø They have encouragements of a joyful nature. “The singers” are
with them (v. 41). And men who seek to live an unworldly life are
accompanied by many celestial joys.
Ø They have encouragements of a varied nature. There were many to aid
in unnumbered ways the people in their new work.
SOLICITOUS AS TO THE EVIDENCES OF THEIR MORAL
REALITY. “But they could not show their father’s house” (vs. 59-63).
These were with the returning people, and to all appearance as loyal as any
of them, but they could not prove their oneness with them.
Ø There is a register within. Are the dispositions of a renewed life within
us? have we the testimony of a good conscience?
Ø There is a register around us. Whom do men say that we are? Are our
lives such as become the builders of God’s temple?
Ø There is a register above us. God’s witness is true. The register is soon
lost by sin. Let us not sacrifice it to temporal gain; (Let us never
sacrifice principle for temporary gain!) let us not sacrifice it
by marriage (v. 61). If we lose it we shall be morally unclean, spiritually
depraved, and eternally cast out (vs. 62-63). We must prove our religion
as well as possess it.
THEMSELVES ENTIRELY TO THE NEW TOILS THAT DEVOLVE
UPON THEM (vs. 68-70).
Ø They came to the work. “They came to the house of the Lord which is
a sense of duty.
Ø They gave to the work. “They gave after their ability.” Ability is the
universal law of service. Men who enter upon the unworldly life must be
ready for all the work of the Lord.
The Arrival (vs. 68-70)
After the muster-roll, as described to us in vs. 1-67 of this chapter, the
next thing, naturally, is the expedition itself. In the present instance,
however, this is disposed of in a couple of syllables. “They came.” In these
modern days — so some one has noticed — in consequence of the great
comparative ease and rapidity of the means of locomotion, we speak rather
of arriving at than of traveling to our destinations. There is something
parallel here. Nothing is related of this journey except that it was duly
brought to an end. It does not follow from this, however, that it is
unworthy of note. Often, where little is said, all the more is implied. How
far this is the case in the present instance will be our first branch of inquiry.
What we are afterwards told of the doings of these pilgrims immediately on
their arrival at
does this show as to their method of coming? The route traversed, it must
be remembered, was by no means a short one.
considered a long way from
(ch.7:9), was four months on the road, a time, in these days, more
than sufficient to travel round the whole globe. The road also at that time,
viz., during the subsequent reign of Artaxerxes, was by no means a safe
one (ch.8:22; see also Nehemiah 2:9). On the other hand, such
travelers as these were, returning with spoils which had evidently seemed
precious even to Nebuchadnezzar in all his pride (Daniel 1:2), would be
especially liable to attack; to say nothing of the fact that their very errand
would rouse the hatred of not a few. At the same time, the character of
their company, as being a collection of families intending to “settle” again
of defense; as also in regard to progress, and commissariat too. It is not
every man who could have conducted even an army in safety so far; much
less so large a household, so mixed a multitude, a caravan at once so
vulnerable, so feeble, and yet so rich. It is something to be able to say of
such that they did arrive at
of this brevity more plainly still in the way of contrast.
journey before them, and their numbers were so vastly larger that they
were able in some measure, even at first, to defend themselves (Exodus
17:8-13). Yet how much we are told, and how copiously, of their
difficulties, their dangers, their deliverances, their many murmurings,
rebellions, and judgments, and all the long succession of marvelous
vicissitudes that befel them by the way (Numbers 20:14). That first
journey of theirs to
Never were any travelers so guided, so fed, so protected, so often so near
to destruction and so triumphantly rescued from it. Nowhere, at any rate,
are we told so much of any other journey on earth. The absolute silence of
Scripture, therefore, respecting all the incidents of this second journey of
the same people to the same land seems well worthy of note. We can only
account for it by supposing that there was nothing notable to be told. But
how much this implies, as we said. How much:
Ø As to the character of the pilgrims. How unlike the Israelites in the
desert, how quietly persevering, how free from “murmurings and
disputings” these Israelites must have been. Considering how many
occasions for disputing fellow travelers are known to find (Genesis
45:24; Mark 9:33), the fact that in this four months’ journey on the part
of 50,000 people there was nothing of the kind worth mentioning is not
without weight. Do we see in it one wholesome result of the heavy
discipline of their long captivity? Like the singular post-captivity
119:67)? How much:
Ø As to God’s rule in this world. It was certainly by God’s “good
hand upon them” (ch. 8:31-32; Psalm 107:7; James 4:13-15) that
they had come where they were, just as much so as in the case of
those addressed in Joshua 23:14. How complete, therefore, in both
cases, His faithfulness to His promise! How constant and effectual
His providence! How all-ruling His power. Yet how exceedingly
opposite His modes of operation! In the one ease by a succession of
incident that left any trace of its path; unless, indeed, we consider
such consummate finish and ease of operation to be a kind of miracle
in itself THE STANDING MIRACLE OF HIS RULE (see Colossians
1:17; Hebrews 1:3: “upholding all things,” etc.).
was first taken in hand? As far as possible, their first duty. They had come
up specially to build the LORD’S house. It was necessary, of course, in
order to do this, that they should have homes of their own. Before,
however, they see to this second point in any way, they do all they can for
the first. They cannot yet, whilst themselves homeless and unsettled,
actually begin the LORD’S house. But they can lay aside of their substance
for that purpose, and so show their desire; they can make their “offerings”
(v. 68) and put them into the “treasury” (v. 69), adding thus to that
which they had already collected in various ways (see ch.1:4, etc.)
for that end. And this they do, it seems, first. Such is the Scriptural, such
the politic, plan (see Deuteronomy 26:1-11; I Kings 17:13;
Matthew 6:33; Luke 11:41). It is also to be observed that they do
so “freely” — the Scriptural spirit (see Exodus 25:2; 35:5;
Deuteronomy 15:10; II Corinthians 9:7). And that they do so, once
more, sufficiently — the Scriptural proportion. “They gave after their
ability” (see Mark 12:43-44; 14:8; II Corinthians 8:12). It would
almost seem, indeed, as though (Ibid v. 2 had been fulfilled in
this case; so large, considering their numbers and probable condition, is the
computed value of their contributions. For example, if the 61,000 drams or
dareics of gold = £66,718 15s., and the 5000 pounds or minae of silver =
£20,000, we have a total contribution of about £90,000, which, for a
congregation of not quite 50,000 (children and poor and servants included,
as it would seem), is nearly two pounds per head. Well would it be if no
other “congregations” ever did any less. This additional provision thus
made for God’s house, they next see to their own; the result being as
briefly summed up to us in v. 70. Comparing this verse with
Nehemiah 7:73, which seems to relate to the same transaction, we find
that in both cases, with some diversity on other points, God’s ministers are
named first. If this means that they were attended to first, it harmonizes
well with what went before:
Ø God’s house before their own houses;
Ø God’s ministers before themselves.
In any case we seem invited to notice that all His ministers of all ranks were
attended to; not the “priests” only, but all the divisions of the “Levites”
(Levites proper, singers and porters), and even their assistants, the
“Nethinims,” too. Indeed, however we are to understand the peculiar
expression, found both in Ezra and Nehemiah, “[some] of the people,”
it would seem, from the special subsequent mention in both cases of
and probably also of all classes, including those mentioned in vs. 59-63,
were duly provided for in like manner. And if so, the picture is one of a
very beautiful kind. All these pilgrims, down to the humblest, were pilgrims
no more. All these once banished ones both arrived now and settled. In their
true country; in their proper “cities;” in their respective homes! In all which
we may see an illustration of the wonderful variety, order, and completeness
of God’s ways. In:
Ø creation (Psalm 104:27; 136:25; 145:15, etc.).
Ø providence (Acts 27:43-44).
Ø grace (John 10:28; 17:12).
Ø the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Daniel 12:13, as
contrasted with Psalm 1:5; Luke 21:36, etc.).
Happy, indeed, who can say, “We are journeying home to God”
Social and Spiritual Gradations (vs. 68-70)
The company that came out of Babylonian captivity was by no means a
disorderly or unorganized multitude. It was well officered, and was divided
and subdivided into ranks. It probably marched in regular order. Under the
“Tirshatha” Zerubbabel, Jeshua the high priest, and Mordecai (probably the
honored deliverer), with other natural leaders, came (v. 70), priests,
Levites (a singularly and disproportionately small number of these), the
people (typical Israelites — laymen, citizens), the singers, the porters, the
Nethinims. There were:
priests, and Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the
porters, and the Nethinims,” etc. Each man of the 42,000 had a part to play
in this exodus as well as in the settlement and the building which should
follow; but some had more difficult and responsible posts than others. No
service was without value of its kind. They could not have carried their
treasures without help from the porters, nor conveyed the sacred vessels
without the Nethinims; nor could they well have spared the singing men
and women, whose sweet songs of
helped them on over rough places and up steep heights towards the site of
the city of their hopes. Much less could they have spared the priests and
the leaders, who by their clear head and commanding will were to do more
than the others with their hand and tongue. One is our Master, even Christ:
we all take the truth which we hold and teach from the words of the great
Teacher Himself. But many are the parts we take, and varied the services
we render, as we journey toward the heavenly
house and kingdom of the Lord. In our Christian ranks are great leaders,
like Luther, and Calvin, and Knox, and Chalmers, and Wesley; great
writers and apologists, like Augustine, and
preachers and missionaries whose name is legion; and below these in
spiritual rank and influence are ministers, teachers, officers, “sweet
singers,” and all the company of those that help in the service of the
sanctuary, in the work of the Lord, down to the “doorkeeper of the
house.” (The Psalmist said, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the
house of my God, than to dwell in the house of wickedness.”
Psalm 84:10) Each man in his place renders valued service: service which,
if not marked “valuable” by the handwriting of man, is yet truly and really
valued by the observant and discerning Master. He who does well, working
conscientiously and devoutly, the work for which he is fitted, is rendering a
service to his race and to his God which is not overlooked, and will never
be forgotten. Its record is on high, and he who wrought it will hear of it
again, when every man (who is anywise praiseworthy) shall have praise of
God (At the judgment, “then shall every man have praise of God.”
I Corinthians 4:5) and the blessed, heart-satisfying “Well done” shall be
spoken by the Son of man. (Matthew 25:23)
narrative (vs. 68-69) anticipates the arrival in
which they there addressed themselves. It states that some of the chief of
the fathers “offered freely for the house of God,” and that they “gave after
their ability unto the treasure of the work.” Here were two acceptable
elements in all sacred service:
Ø cheerfulness, which the Lord loveth (II Corinthians 9:7); and
Ø fullness, according to ability, every one doing the best he can: not the
least that can be offered with decency, but the most that present
resources will allow. In building up the spiritual house of our Lord’s
kingdom — a work in which every Christian disciple is to be engaged —
we may bring silver and gold to the treasury, or we may bring manual
labor, or mental work, or spiritual exercises, or we may contribute the
services of the teacher or the organizer. We may help in one of a hundred
ways, more or less important. And not only is each one honorable and
valuable in its way, but each work admits of being done in varying degrees
of excellency — more or less cheerfully, more or less efficiently. We must
aim at perfection in every department. When we realize that we are giving
o who “gave Himself for us,” (Titus 2:14)
o who is giving His Spirit to us, and
o who will give His glory to us, we shall give, not of our weakness,
but our strength; not sluggishly and inefficiently, but “after our
ability.” The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive “riches,
and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”
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