Ezra 8






This list is parallel with that of ch.2:3-19, and repeats for the most part

the same family names, though not quite in the same order. The numbers

are in each case very much smaller, never amounting to one-third, and

sometimes falling below one-twelfth. At the utmost, three new families are

mentioned as furnishing colonists those of Shechaniah (v. 5), Shelomith

(v. 10), and Joab (v. 9); but in two of these cases the reading is

doubtful Altogether, we may say that Ezra was accompanied to Jerusalem

by members of the same families as Zerubbabel, but by fewer families, and

by fewer members of each. Thus Ezra’s list is much shorter than

Zerubbabel’s. It contains, however, more names of chiefs, eighteen such

names being given, whereas in Zerubbabel’s list there are, including

Zerubbabel himself, only eleven. The entire number of adult male colonists

who accompanied Ezra was, including Levites and Nethinim, 1773.

Counting five to a family, this would give a total of nearly 9000 souls.

Among the chief men, there is no name that is remarkable, excepting that

of Hattush. Hattush, of the sons of Shechaniah,” is, beyond all reasonable

doubt, the descendant of David mentioned in I Chronicles 3:22, who

was a son of Shemaiah, and Zerubbabers great-great-grandson.


1  These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy

of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of

Artaxerxes the king.  2 Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons

of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.”  On the expression

chief of the fathers that is, each family went up under a recognized head

or chief.


3 “Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and

with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males an hundred and

fifty.  4 Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and

with him two hundred males.”  Of the sons of Shechaniah. This clause

should be attached to the preceding verse, since it refers to Hattush, who

was Shechaniah’s grandson; and v. 3 should begin with the words,

“Of the sons of Pharosh, Zechariah.”


5 “Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three

hundred males.  6 Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan,

and with him fifty males.  7  And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son

of Athaliah, and with him seventy males.  8 And of the sons of Shephatiah;

Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males.  9 Of the sons

of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen

males.”  A name has fallen out either between Shechaniah and “the son

of Jahaziel,” or between “of the sons” and “of Shechaniah.” The Septuagint

has, “Of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel.” Zattu is

mentioned in ch.2:8.


10 “And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him

an hundred and threescore males.  11 And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah

the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males.  12 And of the sons

of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him an hundred and

ten males.”  Here again there is a similar omission of a name, which the

Septuagint supplies by reading, “Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith, the son of

Josiphiah.” Bani appears as the head of a family in ch. 2:10.


13 “And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these,

Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males.

14  Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them

seventy males.”  The last sons of Adonikam are probably his younger sons,

whose descendants returned with Ezra, their elder brethren’s families

having returned with Zerubbabel.



                 FROM BABYLON TO JERUSALEM  (vs. 15-31).


We gather from scattered statements in this passage:


  • That Ezra, with his companions, after a journey of nine days’ duration,

reached Ahava from Babylon on the ninth day of the first month;


  • That he rested three days at Ahava, and proclaimed a fast;


  • That he was there joined by a small number of Levites and a

considerable body of Nethinims from the immediate



  • That, on the twelfth day of the first month, he resumed his journey, and,

though threatened by some opposition upon the way, arrived safely at his

destination fourteen weeks after he quitted Ahava, and exactly four

months after he had started from Babylon. The only other important fact

mentioned is, that at Ahava twelve of the principal priests were selected by

Ezra, and the royal offering of silver, gold, and vessels handed over to

them for safe custody, after having been carefully weighed. The weights

are recorded with Ezra’s usual exactness in vs. 26-27.


15 “And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava;

and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people,

and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.  16 Then sent

I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib,

and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam,

chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding.”

I  gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava. The “river that

runneth to Ahava is now generally identified with the Is of Herodotus (i. 179),

a small stream flowing into the Euphrates from the east, at a point where stood

a city of the same name, distant (according to Herodotus) eight days’ journey

from Babylon. The city appears to be mentioned under the slightly variant forms

of Ava (aW;[") and Ivah (hW;[i) in the Second Book of Kings (17:24; 19:13).

It is called Aia, or Aba, by the Septuagint; Ihi in the Talmud; Aei by Isidore

of Charax. The modern name is Hit. The town has always been one of some

importance in connection with the bitumen springs of the neighborhood. Ezra s

reason for selecting the place as a halting-point seems to have been the fact that

many Jews were settled in the district (see v. 17). We abode in tents. A

large caravan, like Ezra’s, even when it reached a town, would pitch its

tents outside, and remain in them rather than scatter itself among the khans

and caravanserais. The phrase is therefore to be understood literally. I

viewed the people. Rather, “I looked among the people” — I looked to

see whether there were any Levites or no. (“Quaesivi in populo et in

sacerdotibus de filiis Levi.Vulgate) And found there none of the sons

of Levi. It is difficult to account for the fact; but there seems certainly to

have been a special disinclination to return to Jerusalem on the part of the

Levites. Only seventy-four went up with Zerubbabel, when the priests who

returned were 4289 (ch.2:36-40); and now there was not a single one

in the whole of Ezra’s band. Did the jealous spirit of Korah (Numbers

16:8-10) still animate the great body of the tribe?


17 “And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the

place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo,

and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they

should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.”

Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia. Not “the Caspian”

certainly; nor even “Casvin,” which is at least 400 miles from Hit by the

nearest route, but some Babylonian village in the vicinity of Ahava, not

otherwise known to us. Unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims.

The “and” here is rightly supplied. It has fallen out in consequence of the

word Iddo ending with the same letter. Iddo, though the head man of the

village under the Persians, belonged by descent to the comparatively low

grade of the Nethinims.


18 “And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man

of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of

Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;

19 And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his

brethren and their sons, twenty;”  By the good hand of our God upon us.

This is Ezra’s usual mode of acknowledging the good providence and favor

of Almighty God (see ch.7:6, 9, 27; and 8:31). Similar expressions occur also

in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8, 18), but not elsewhere in Scripture. A

man of understanding. In the Hebrew Ish-sekel, which some take for a

proper name, but without any necessity. No such name is known to have

existed; and the real name of “the man of understanding” appears to have

been Sherebiah,” who is mentioned more than once in Nehemiah

(Nehemiah 8:7; 9:4-5) as a chief Levite. And Sherebiah should be

simply Sherebiah.” The preposition “and” (Hebrew ˆ) has been inserted

by a careless copyist.


20 “Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed

for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims:

all of them were expressed by name.”  The Nethinims, whom David and

the princes had appointed. We learn this fact from the present passage only;

since neither in Kings nor Chronicles is there any mention made of David’s

adding to the hieroduli, or temple servants. It is, however, quite in accordance

with his other arrangements that he should have done so. The original Nethinims

were the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:23). All… were expressed by name.

Iddo sent to Ezra a list of the Nethinims, which, however, he does not

think it necessary to insert.



The Rendezvous, or the Second Muster (vs. 1-20)


We have been told twice before in this story that Ezra went up from

Babylon to Jerusalem (ch.7:6-9), and that he did not go by

himself. But we only now enter upon the actual details of this second and

supplementary expedition. Who were those that went up with him? And

what was the nature of the first step which he and they took in common?

We may answer these questions in the opposite order. The first step was to

meet Ezra at the river or town of Ahava, situated, it is supposed, on the

road to Jerusalem via Carchemish, and far enough off from Babylon to

ensure comparative quiet and proper discrimination. Those who came

consisted of two principal detachments, one of which came to the spot not

only before the other, but in a somewhat different way. We may describe

the first detachment as one in which we find the first last; the second as

being one in which we find the last first.


  • THE FIRST LAST. Who might be expected to be foremost in a case of

this kind? Where do we find them in actual fact? Let us consider this —


Ø      As to family. Judging by all analogy, the family of David, the royal

family of Judah, ought to have been foremost in such a matter. Who so

likely to feel the evils of captivity as the heirs to a throne? Who so

eager to return from banishment (one would suppose) as those who

had been banished at once from dignity and from home? The previous

return, also, under the edict of Cyrus, seems to bear out this idea.

Though no figure there is so prominent as that of Ezra is here, yet the

most prominent of all those there mentioned is that of Zerubbabel, the

lineal descendant of David, and representative of his house. Under his

Babylonian name of Sheshbazzar he is the only person mentioned by

name as returning in ch. 1., and be comes first of all in the detailed

catalogue of ch. 2. Most probably, also, judging from what we read

long afterwards of the descendants of David in Luke 2:4, the 123

returning “men of Bethlehem mentioned in ch.2:21 in a later part of

the same catalogue were kinsmen of his. In the present instance, on the

other hand, we find apparent mention in vs. 2-3 of only one of this same

royal family as returning, viz., Hattush, of the sons of Shechaniah (so,

with many, we read these verses. Compare I Chronicles 3:22 and

preceding verses). Also we find even this solitary specimen of that

royal race only occupying the third place on the list of

those named. Whatever the reasons, therefore, this is the fact, that the

family first in rank and genealogy appears anything but first here

either in importance or position. Is it the beginning of that descent

which ends long after with finding David’s greatest descendant

as a “carpenter’s son”?


Ø      As to class. Here, also, judging from analogy, the class to take the lead

in a journey to the center and heart of Jewish worship and faith would be

that class to which belonged exclusively, in its various ramifications, the

administration of worship. Such, we find, too, in the previous expedition,

was the case on the whole. The Levites then, it is true, were not many

either in number or in proportion, when all told; but the priests then,

though all belonging, apparently, to only four out of the whole twenty-four

courses, were very many in proportion. The exact numbers of both

were 350 Levites and 4200 priests, out of a total of 42,300

Israelites, the priests, therefore, constituting about one-tenth of the whole

(ch. 2:36-42, 64). A very large proportion, if we bear in mind that the

priests represented only one family (that of Aaron) out of two families

(those of Aaron and Moses), both sprung from Amram, one of the eight

grandsons of Levi; a state of things, it will be easily seen, which would

probably make the priests about one-sixteenth of one tribe, instead of

being, as in this case, one-tenth of the whole assemblage. In contrast to

this, in the present case, though something more than twelve priests,

judging from v. 24, must have been present, only two, exclusive of Ezra

himself, were thought worthy of being named (see v. 2), those who

accompanied them (if any really did) being not referred to or even

mentioned, as was the case before in ch. 2:36-39, and as is the case

also here as to all the other Israelitish families referred to in vs. 3-14. The

case as to the Levites is still more surprising. Not only were none

numbered in this first detachment; none at all after three days’ search

were even to be found (end v. 15). They were “conspicuous by their

absence.”  Other families of Israelites that had sent up members before

were doing the same now (compare vs. 3-14 with ch.2:3 seq.); one such

family, apparently, their very last man (v. 13); but no Levitical family

had done anything of the kind. Many lay Israelites, a few priests, no

Levites at all.  Altogether, this is the most notable feature in this

detachment as here reviewed by Ezra (v. 15), viz., that those who

should have been in the van of all are either, as it were, in the rear,



  • THE LAST FIRST. This will be seen by considering the steps taken by

Ezra to remedy the state of things just described. We find that he went:


Ø      to the right quarter, viz., to a place called Casiphia (possibly the “White

House,” from keseph, white), the geography of which is unknown, but

which may have been a kind of college for Levites, or at any rate a

place where many dwelt in company with their associates the

Nethinims, and under the presidency of one Iddo, either himself

perhaps a Levite, or even a Nethinim (compare “his brethren,”

v. 17), of high repute.  Also he sent:


Ø      by the right sort of messengers, viz., by a considerable body of them,

even eleven well-known men, likely therefore to be of weight. Also by

men well qualified, being men accustomed to command (“chief”), and

yet prepared to obey (“with commandment”); some of them, further,

being accustomed to teach (“men of understanding” = teachers —

I Chronicles 15:22; 25:8; Nehemiah 8:7, 9, etc.), yet not unwilling

to be taught, and to have words put in their mouth (v. 17, margin); thus

showing, as noticed before, that Ezra understood men as well as books.


Ø      With the right kind of result.


o       As to number, bringing back 258 pilgrims in all;

o       as to qualifications, all brought back being such “ministers”

(v. 17) as were sought;

o       as to variety, being both Levites and their assistants;

o       as to character, being all men of resolution and purpose, whose

names” (end v. 20) would be given as those of MEN



Also, among these, two especially of much note, viz., Sherebiah and

Hashabiah (compare v. 24, and Nehemiah 8:7; 9:4; 10:11-12; 12:24),

the first named especially being a man of such acknowledged judgment and

learning that his coming was regarded as a special mark of God’s

providential goodness (so we understand, with many, begin, v. 18). Thus

conspicuously were the “last first;” thus happily were the vacant places in

Ezra’s company, as it were, more than supplied — Ezra himself being judge.




Ø      How important religious movements often begin, viz., with the

comparatively undistinguished, the rank and file. So with John

the Baptist (Matthew 21:26), and our Lord Himself (Mark 12:37;

John 7:48). Both cases seem referred to in Matthew 21:31-32.


Ø      How they are often perfected afterwards, viz., by the coming in then

of distinguished persons assuming the lead of the whole. So amongst

those baptized by John came Jesus among the last (Luke 3:21). See,

also, in regard to the burial of Christ, how the two “counselors,”

Joseph and Nicodemus, then interfered. And, finally, in the preaching

of the gospel, how Paul was “born” last and became the first

(I Corinthians 15:8-10; II Corinthians 11:5, 23, etc.; Galatians 2:5, 8).


Ø      How all so assisting have their peculiar points, both good and evil.

Some are to be praised for forwardness (II Corinthians 9:2), some

for steadiness when begun; some to be blamed for backwardness,

some for fickleness, as the Galatians. So John is first to reach the

sepulcher, Peter first to go in.


Ø      How perfect the impartiality of the Scriptural record. All this, so little

to the credit of the Levites, written by a Levitical hand. Compare the

story of Genesis 34., also 49:5-7, as recorded by Moses, himself a



Ø      How devoutly humble its spirit. Every advantage is attributed to the

good hand of our God (I Corinthians 15:10; Psalm 115:1;

Philippians 2:13).



The Halt at the Ahava (vs. 15-20)


The journey of the children of Israel from Babylon to Jerusalem may be

viewed, like that of their fathers from Egypt to Canaan, as a type of the

pilgrimage of Christians from the abominations and miseries of the sinful

world to the purity and happiness of heaven. In this view the halt at the

river that runneth to Ahava may suggest:




Ø      The halt furnished Ezra with such a season.


o       It gave him an opportunity for “viewing the people and the

priests.” His purpose was to see how the company he

conducted would be useful in recruiting the colony at

Jerusalem. Christians should consider of what service may

they be to the Church of the firstborn in heaven.


o       The value of service is measured by sympathy with its

purposes. Therefore we should cultivate fellowship with

God and with the purest and noblest of His people.


Ø      The review discovered to Ezra a want of Levites in the company.


o       There were priests there who were Levites. But the priests had

functions of their own distinct from those of the Levites who

were not of the family of Aaron.


o       There were no Levites who were not priests. These too had

their own proper functions.


o       As in Jerusalem there was work for every order of sacred

person, so should there be in the Church. So will there be

in Jerusalem above. Do we, as Ezra did, reflect upon the

needs of God’s Church? Is God’s cause ours, as it was his?




Ø      Ezra resolved upon a mission.


o       There were Levites still in Babylon. So are there Christians

mingled with the communities of Antichrist.


o       The Levites were congregated at Casiphia. This word comes

from a root which denotes silver. Some think Casiphia meant

the Caspian Mountains, in the silver mines of which these

Levites were working. Others construe it to mean Silver Street,

possibly some bazaar in Babylon in which silversmiths

conducted trade. How characteristic of the sons of Levi to be

where precious metals are exchanged!  (But for what purpose?

CY – 2014)


Ø      The mission he resolved upon he organized.


o       He chose “chief men” for his missionaries. If Providence has

given men high social position, its influence should be devoted

to the ministry of His message.


o       He also summoned “men of understanding.” The world should

not so monopolize the talent of our sons that only the refuse,

the imbeciles, are given to the Church. There is scope in the

message of God for the greatest ability.


o       “Men of understanding” here are not only those of good natural

parts, but those who are skilled in the teaching of God’s law

(Nehemiah 10:28-29).


Ø      He then instructed his missioners.


o       He sent them “with commandment unto Iddo, the chief at

the place of Casiphia.” Calls to the service of God come with

authority. Ministers of the gospel are ambassadors for Christ

(II Corinthians 5:20).


o       He sent them with arguments. He “put words into their mouths.”

The import of the words is suggested in the end to be

accomplished, viz., “that they should bring unto us ministers

for the house of God.”  SURELY THE SERVICE OF GOD

IN HIS HOUSE  is far more important than the trade in

Silver Street.




Ø      The missioners returned, having gained over a man of understanding.


o       This achievement is put in the forefront. This son of Mahli was

evidently a great acquisition to Ezra.


o       A man of understanding is an acquisition to any cause. How

valuable to the cause of order is the influence of such an one!


Ø      Thirty-eight Levites are next mentioned.


o       The “man of understanding” is mentioned before Sherebiah,

Hashabiah, and Jeshaiah, with their sons and brethren, perhaps

because of the influence he may have exerted in bringing them

over. A man is not only valuable for what he is, but for what

 he does.


o       We have Sherebiah the Levite again mentioned amongst them

that made religious confession of God’s goodness and their

own wickedness (see Nehemiah 9:5).


Ø      Then follow 220 Nethinims.


o       Here is an acquisition for which Ezra had not asked. God does

for us more than we ask (I Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:20).


o       All success is from God. Ezra recognized this (v. 18). Let us

follow his good example.


21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might

afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us,

and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”  Then I proclaimed a

fast there. The right of the civil ruler to “proclaim a fast” was unquestioned

among the Jews and Israelites. Jezebel proclaimed one in Ahab’s name when

she wished to impress the Jezreelites with the notion that a great crime had

been committed. Jehoshaphat did the same when he was invaded by the

Ammonites, Moabites, and Mehunim (II Chronicles 20:1-3). A fast was proclaimed

in the fifth year of Jehoiakim when the kingdom of Judah was menaced by

Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 36:9). Ezra therefore assumes that he may command

one now, in connection with the perils of the coming journey. That we might

afflict ourselves. The Jews were commanded to “afflict themselves” on the

great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29), and understood that the

affliction was to be mainly by fasting and abstaining from the bath. To ask

of him a right way. Or “a direct road,” i.e. a prosperous and unimpeded

journey to Jerusalem. For us and our little ones. The colonists went up

attended by their families.



22 “For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and

horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had

spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all

them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against

all them that forsake Him.  23 So we fasted and besought our God for

this: and He was entreated of us.”  I was ashamed to require of the king

a band of soldiers.  Before he apprehended danger Ezra had boasted to

Artaxerxes of the power and goodness of God, and had spoken of himself

and his brethren as assured of the Divine protection. Now that peril threatened

he found himself afraid, and would have been glad of such an escort as

Nehemiah obtained at a later date (Nehemiah 2:9). But after his boasts he was

ashamed to confess his fear. Who the enemy in the way was it is

impossible to decide; but we may gather from v. 31 that it was no

imaginary foe. Probably some of the Arab tribes, who owed no allegiance

to Persia, had formed a design to intercept the caravan and plunder it.



The Fast at the Ahava (vs. 21-23)


The halt on the banks of the Ahava lasted three days. Ezra lost no time. He

viewed his company, and finding no Levites, organized a mission to induce

some of them to join him. To the credit of the sons of Levi, strong as was

their attachment to the silver of Casiphia, they promptly forsook it in

favor of Zion. On the third day the caravan was made up; but before the

journey was undertaken Ezra proclaimed a fast. Consider:


  • THE OBJECT. It was to obtain the Divine guidance and protection.


Ø      The adults needed this for themselves.


o       The weight of responsibility rested with them.

Duties are claimed from adults which are not required from

children: religious, civil. Excuses may be pleaded for infants

which would not avail for adults.


o       Where responsibilities are onerous, the greater the need of

prayer and fasting. This is not sufficiently considered.

Hence the serious blunders, the disasters.


Ø      They needed it on behalf of their little ones.


o       Any army encumbered with women and children would be at

an immense disadvantage in the face of a foe. The claims of

natural affection would so distract as to destroy presence of

mind, and expose to a more easy prey the very objects of



o       This would be so in the highest degree in an army of civilians.

How helpless are we in the face of our spiritual adversaries!

What need have we for the hand of God upon us for good!


Ø      They needed it for the safety of the treasure in their custody.


o       It was vast in its value (vs. 24-27). The plate alone is estimated

at £1,038,600. Then there was the private property, “all the

substance,” of the whole caravan.


o       It was therefore tempting to the cupidity and rapacity of

marauders.  These were known to exist. “The enemy in the way.”

We have to guard our Christian honor, which is of priceless value,

against the rapacity of the “enemy in the way.” So have we need

of fasting and prayer.




Ø      Ezra was jealous for the honor of God.


o       He might have had an escort from the king. He had influence

enough at court to have procured this. The safety of the treasure,

to which the king himself and his counselors and princes had so

handsomely contributed, would have been a sufficient reason

to influence him.


o       But then he had proclaimed to him great principles, viz.:


§         That the hand of God is upon all them for good that

seek him.” The king might say, “Why then do you not

seek him and trust in Him?” May we not say this to

ourselves when we are tempted to lean upon an arm of



§         That “His power and his wrath are against all them

that forsake Him.”  The king might reply, “Why then

do you not confide your defense to Him from those

wicked persons who would molest you?”


o       What a testimony to Artaxerxes of their faith in their principles,

and of the jealousy of God for His honor, that Ezra did not ask

for a military escort, and yet was prospered in his way!


Ø      He was jealous for the honor of his people.


o       The great principles enunciated might be true, and yet the way

of the people might be disastrous. In that case it would argue

that they did not “seek God,” and that, “forsaking” Him, they

made Him their adversary.


o       To prevent this the fast was proclaimed. The “afflicting of the

soulwas to express repentance for departures from God,

that His wrath might be averted and His favor conciliated.

Do we not need this?


o       Prayer was then added to the fasting (v. 23). Fasting and

prayer are naturally associated (see Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 9:3;

Matthew 17:21).




Ø      The Lord was entreated of them.


o       Some favorable sign may have been given them. On another

occasion God authenticated His servant Ezra by sending

heavy rain to show His anger (see ch.10:9). Their faith in God

would have carried its own evidence. True faith is of Divine

inspiration (Colossians 2:12).  Therefore it is the subsistence

of things hoped for, i.e. things hoped for are to genuine faith

as certain as though they subsisted.  (Hebrews 11:1)


Ø      The success of their journey proved it.


o       They were “delivered from the hand of the enemy.” The enemy

was there, but he was restrained by the hand of God upon His

people. The lurking foes as well as the avowed enemies were

restrained (see v. 31).


o       They “came to Jerusalem in safety (v. 32). Our safe arrival

in heaven will be THE MOST GLORIOUS PROOF OF


would be folly to remain unassured of that good hand upon

us until this proof may or may not be given. Until a present

assurance be given we should not cease to pray; and if prayer

without fasting does not secure it, then let fasting be added

unto prayer.




The Spiritual and Secular Aids of Life (vs. 21-23)



require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the

enemy in the way” (v. 22). Ezra was about to conduct his comrades on a

perilous journey to Jerusalem; hence he felt the need of a military guard as

well as of the good hand of God upon him. The spiritual, as a rule, requires

the aid of the secular.


Ø      Divine truth needs secular aid. As the companions of Ezra would be in

danger during this march, so the word of God is often in peril in the

world; infidels assail it, and secular aids are necessary to defend it.


Ø      The Church of God needs secular aid. It is exposed to many enemies on

its journey to Jerusalem, and requires the defense of secular agencies:

o       legislative,

o       intellectual, and

o       social.


Ø      The life interests of the good need secular aid. The good man needs the

aid of the physician; his property must be protected, his ships must be

insured. True, God loves His own book, His own enterprise, His own

people, but it is His method to aid them in the use of means. As a

general rule Ezra must employ both horsemen and prayer; prayer and

precaution must go together.


Ø      The moral needs the aid of the secular:


o       Because God has ordained that the spiritual shall move in the

sphere of the secular. The sacred vessels of the sanctuary

journey in the desert under the care of man; piety is subject

to physical law.


o       Because the spiritual is in danger through the natural antagonism

of the sinful heart. Ezra and his companions were endangered

by men who wished to frustrate their mission; the carnal hates

the spiritual, hence the need of horsemen.


o       Because God has entrusted the spiritual to men as a discipline.

The truth of God is put within the power of men that they

may be cultured into a right attitude toward it; that they may

become “fellow-helpers of the truth.”  (III John 1:8)



SECULAR. “For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers.”


Ø      Why did Ezra act without the aid of the secular?


o       Because he feared lest he should manifest greater dependence

upon the aid of a heathen king than in the God of heaven. Ezra

did not wish Artaxerxes to take the place in his enterprise which

belonged to God; he had more confidence in his God than he

had in his king. There are times in religious life and in moral

service when it would be wrong to put any trust in man, when

Divine aid may alone be sought. Ezra wanted to show that

God was the object of his supreme confidence; that He was

indeed conducting the sacred vessels to Jerusalem.


o       Because he feared lest he should deprive God of the glory of

His own operation. Had Ezra obtained the band of soldiers,

they would have concealed the operation of God; Christian

workers must not give the glory of the Divine activity and

achievement to another, much less to the soldiers

of a heathen monarch.


o       Because he feared lest he should seem to compromise Divine

truth in the view of the king. Ezra had said to Artaxerxes that

the hand of our God was upon all them for good that seek

 Him;” he feared even in appearance to compromise this



o       Because he feared lest he should substitute a carnal expedient

for a spiritual preparation. Secular aids do not often avail in the

absence of moral fitness. Soldiers cannot give safety to



Ø      How did Ezra act without the aid of the secular? He was not indifferent

to the danger to which he might be exposed in marching without the

band of soldiers; he did not superstitiously seek to avert it; he did not

frantically rush into it; he religiously braved it.


o       Humility. He humbled himself before God in view of his

perilous journey.


o       Supplication. He sought the Divine aid. Thus must we act

when we are called upon to reject the secular aids of life.


Ø      When did Ezra act without the aid of the secular? Ezra traveled

without the soldiers in an important crisis; it is but seldom that

we are called upon to divorce prayer and precaution.


Ø      What moral qualities did Ezra exhibit in thus acting without the aid of

the spiritual? It is evident that he was zealous for the honor of God;

courageous in sacred toil; devout in daily life; and could act alone when

necessary. God answered his confidence by leading him safely to



24 “Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah,

Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,  Our translators, following

the Vulgate, have omitted to render the preposition l], which occurs in the

Hebrew text before the name of Sherebiah, and have thus represented Sherebiah

 and Hashabiah as priests, whereas they were not priests, but Levites, as appears

from vs. 18-19. The true sense is given by the Septuagint — “Then I assigned

twelve of the chief priests to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their

brethren; i.e. “then I appointed twelve chief priests to act with twelve chief

Levites, of whom Sherebiah and Hashabiah were two, in the matter of the

royal offering.” Ezra seems to have considered, that as the gift of

Artaxerxes was an offering to the house of God, it ought to be handed over

at once to the custody of the ministers of religion, and not remain in

secular hands (compare v. 28).



The Sacred Trusts of Life (v. 24)


  • THE TRUST GIVEN. “And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold,

and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God” (v. 25).


Ø      Their nature. As the men appointed by Ezra had costly and sacred

vessels committed to their care, so men have given to them money, time,

genius, and influence to carry through life.


Ø      Their purpose (v. 28). These vessels of gold and silver were given for

the use and adornment of the temple at Jerusalem. Men must hold their

sacred trusts for God.


Ø      Their measure (v. 26). The gold and silver given were carefully

weighed; all the capabilities of men are weighed by God: to some

He gives two talents, to others five talents; to each man according

to his several ability.  (Matthew 25:14-30)


Ø      Their responsibility. The comrades of Ezra had the responsible task of

safely conveying the vessels of the temple to Jerusalem; human talent

is a solemn gift.


Ø      Their registration (v. 34). The gifts of man are written in the book of



  • THE FIDELITY REQUIRED. “Watch ye, and keep them” (v. 29).


Ø      Their peril. The men conveying the costly vessels of the temple would

be exposed to many enemies by the way (v. 22); men of talent are

liable to many moral enemies — pride, indolence, misuse, and neglect

of culture.


Ø      Their safety. The prayers of these men were their protection. Ezra says,

“So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated

of us” (v. 23). Devotion is the safeguard of talent.


Ø      Their inspection. Weighed in the house of our God” (v. 33). At the

last GOD WILL JUDGE MEN for the use of their talents; then

every man will be morally weighed in the unerring balance of truth.


Ø      Their fidelity. The comrades of Ezra were faithful to their trust; happy if

at the close of life we are found faithful to the trusts we have received.


25  And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels,

even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his

counselors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:”

We may gather from this that the silver and gold were in bars or ingots,

and not in coined money. The Persians had coined money at this time,

but the Treasury kept the bulk of its stores in bars (Herod., 3:96).


26  I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of

silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an

hundred talents;”  Six hundred and fifty talents of silver, according to Mr.

Peele’s estimate of the talent, would be nearly a quarter of a million of our

money. The annual revenue of Persia was about three and a half millions

(Herod., 3:95). Of gold an hundred talents. Rather more than a million of

our money.  (Of course, with inflation, this amount in the 21st century

would be much greater than this – this commentary being written a

couple of centuries back! – CY – 2014)


27 “Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels

of fine copper, precious as gold.”  Twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams

(see comment on ch. 2:69). The “basons” would be worth about £55 each. Fine

copper, precious as gold. The metal intended is probably that known to

the Romans as orichalchum, which is generally believed to have been

brass, but which may have been a more complicated amalgam. Being

rarely, and perhaps only accidentally, produced, this metal was highly



28  And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are

holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto

the LORD God of your fathers.” Ye are holy. Consecrated to God by

their office, the priests and Levites were the fitting custodians of consecrated things.


29 “Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of

the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at

Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD.

30 So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the

gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of

our God.”  The chambers of the house of the Lord are the rooms placed

on either side of the main building (see I Kings 6:5), partly as chambers

for the priests, partly as store-rooms (see Nehemiah 13:5).



Before Starting (vs. 21-30)


Ezra’s body of travelers now duly assembled and organized, what else was

required? On the one hand, they were in a condition of much danger.

Without being very numerous, they were numerous enough to be worth

attacking while prosecuting their journey. On the other hand, they were in

a position of much responsibility, being entrusted with the care of many

treasures for God’s house. These were the two things Ezra had to see to

before they actually moved. The plans he adopted in doing so are very

characteristic and instructive, and may be employed to exhibit to us, in the

first place, an example of courage, and in the second a model of caution.


  • EZRA’S COURAGE. As we have partially noted already, the danger

was great. The travelers were possessed of some “substance” (v. 21).

They were carrying trust-treasures as well. They were also bound on a

route where persons so circumstanced were exceedingly likely to be

attacked. At the same time, as a company, they were by no means

organized for defense, being little more, in fact, than a large family party,

with many women and “little ones” (v. 21) among them. Almost like

Luke 10:3. How natural, in such circumstances, to think of military

protection! How readily obtainable, also, such protection in this case! Ezra

seems to feel (naturally enough under the terms of his commission,

ch.7:12-26) that he had only to ask for this to obtain it. Instead,

however, of going out of his way at all to obtain it, he rather goes out of

his way to avoid it. He turns from the king to Jehovah. Refusing to ask at

all in the one case, he asks with all his heart in the other, and prepares to

go forward armed with nothing whatever but promise and prayer. How

conspicuously great, therefore, his courage; more so even than that of

David in I Samuel 17:39-40, 45; still more so than that of Jacob

(Genesis 32.), and almost a contrast to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:9). The

secret of this was to be found:


Ø      In his confidence in God’s power. Whatever the king could do for him

in the way of protection, God could do more (compare Romans 8:31;

Psalm 20:7; Psalm 46:1-3, 7, 11).


Ø      In his confidence in God’s faithfulness. Here was just one of those

cases in which God might be expected to exert His great power.

His well-known promise (see II Chronicles 16:9) to defend all those

who sought Him in truth had been openly referred to before the king

(see end of v. 22). If Ezra, in such circumstances, had now asked for

an escort, he would have unsaid what he had said already, and put an

open reproach on God’s truth. On the other hand, if God, when thus

appealed to, had not granted His protection, may we not almost say

that He would have brought a reproach on Himself? It was Ezra’s

conviction of this being an impossibility which gave him his great

courage at this time. But chiefly, perhaps, that courage was due:


Ø      to his confidence in God’s mercy. God’s protection was ready for

those who sought it. Sought it on what terms? Sought it:


o       with becoming earnestness, as shown by their “fasting” or

turning aside from ordinary pleasures and occupations in

order to be wholly occupied in this seeking (compare

Isaiah 58, and v. 3; Acts 13:2).


o       with proper humility, as shown by their “afflicting” themselves

on account of their sins, and not asking this great favor as though

they in any way deserved it.


o       with a profound sense of His goodness, as being One concerned

much for the “little ones “  (v. 21; compare Genesis 32:11;

Jonah 4:11) of His people, and far from unconcerned also even

as to their “substance” or temporal welfare at large (compare

Psalm 35:27; Matthew 6:25-26, and 32; Luke 12:7). These were

the kind of thoughts which made these companions of Ezra as

we find them pictured to us here in v. 23, viz., with Babylon left

behind them, a perilous journey before them, yet all the

defense they sought for found in fasting and prayer (see

Psalm 36:7).


  • EZRA’S CAUTION As we have already intimated, he was in a

position now of great trust. The mere money value of the trust was

exceedingly large, amounting in silver alone (a talent is around 75 lbs).

It was also valuable as being contributed by many of the chief personages

of Persia (the “king,” etc., etc.), and by all the elite of Israel in those parts

(all Israel there present”). And it was especially precious as being intended

for the most sacred, as then known, of all purposes, “the house of the Lord.”

It was truly requisite, therefore, for such a steward not only to be “faithful,”

but to be “found” so (I Corinthians 4:2; II Corinthians 8:20-21).

Accordingly, Ezra took care, first, to transfer the safe-keeping of this

precious trust to other hands than his own, thus avoiding all ground for

mistrust or possibility of scandal in one important direction. Next he

selected for this purpose, out of the two classes most suitable by office for

such a trust, a company of no fewer (apparently) than twenty-four men

(v. 24), taking especial care to have among them two of those last comers

whose coming had been looked upon as so great a gain to them all.

Further, all that was entrusted to them he duly and carefully weighed (we

are told of this twice) in their presence, and then placed in their hands,

evidently accompanied by a correct catalogue of the whole. And, finally, in

handing it over, he sought to impress upon them a similar feeling of

responsibility to that entertained by himself. “Watch ye and keep” (v. 29)

these treasures. Do so:


Ø      as a matter of principle. Ye yourselves are “holy,” persons separated by

your own office and by my choice for this work. The treasures, also, are

holy;” the vessels made for God’s house, the money a “freewill

offering,” i.e. something deliberately separated for His service

whom we have worshipped so long. Nothing, therefore, can be

plainer, nothing more solemn, than this trust.


Ø      as a matter of prudence. You will be asked for an account of this

stewardship; a very exact account (“by weight”), a very public

account (“before the chief of the priests,” etc., etc.), a very solemn

account, viz., in God’s own city, in God’s own house. Thus

anxiously and scrupulously do we see him seeking to avoid any

injury, or any occasion of blame, either to others or to himself,

 in connection with this trust.


From the whole we learn:


  • To avoid some common mistakes. Courage is not imprudence. Caution

is not cowardice. It was brave conduct on Ezra’s part to be afraid of the

reproach of unfaithfulness or of bringing shame on God’s cause. It was

prudent conduct on Ezra’s part to neglect human defense for Divine.


  • To make an important distinction. Precaution, in trusting God, is always

weakness, generally folly, and sometimes sin. Precaution, in trusting men,

even men of God, is none of the three. In such a case it is not unadvisable

to associate men in companies so as to be checks and supports to one

another (Luke 10:1); and to appeal to comparatively low motives, such

as prudence and the fear of detection, and not only to high ones (Ibid.



  • To recognize the spiritual unity of the Bible. In Ezra we find a man so

identified with the “Law” that he has been called a second Moses. Yet the

gospel itself could not teach us more than we have learned here of THE

FREENESS OF GOD’S MERCY!   (So compare Exodus 20:6, in the

very heart of the Decalogue, with the Master’s own words “If ye love

me, keep my commandments.”   (John 14:15.)



The Custody of the Treasure (vs. 24-30)


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 entrusted. 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:


  • THE TREASURE. The vessels which were for the service of the house

of the Lord typified his saints (Acts 9:15; II Timothy 2:20-21).


Ø      The treasure was various.


o       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. Though all men have the attributes

of each, yet these are variously developed. It should be our

endeavor so to cultivate our powers that our service should

be like gold, of the most

valuable kind.


o       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).


Ø      The treasure was precious.


o       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.”


o       But what material substance can compare in value to the human

spirit (Isaiah 13:12)?


§         Immortal.

§         Capable of God (Job 28:19).

§         Redeemed by the Son of God (I Peter 1:7).


Ø      The treasure was sacred.


o       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!


o       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:




Ø      These were twelve in number.


o       This number is sacred in Old Testament Scripture. There were

the twelve sons of Jacob, and so the twelve tribes of Israel

(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;

28:21; Joshua 4:8; I Kings 18:31). So the twelve cakes on

the table of shewbread, etc. (Leviticus 24:5).


o       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; 21:12, 14, 21; 22:2).


Ø      They were of the chief of the priests.


o       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.


o       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 (v. 28). Every

service we faithfully render to him God makes to react

upon us with a sanctifying virtue.




Ø      They were duly to estimate the value of their charge.


o       To impress this upon them, they had all the precious things


o       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.


Ø      They were to watch over it.


o       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.


o       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.


Ø      They were to present it in its integrity in the temple.


o       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 fulfill their commission

in leading their flock into the better Jerusalem. For parents

with their children, etc. (Ephesians 4:11-13).


o       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.


31 “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.  The river of Ahava. Rather, “the river Ahava,”

as in the Vulgate (“a fiumine Ahava”). The place had probably taken its name

from the stream. The twelfth day of the first month. Compare ch.7:9,

and 8:15, from which it appears that Ahava was reached by Ezra and his

company on the ninth day after they left Babylon, which helps to identify

Ahava with Is, since Is (according to Herodotus) was eight days’ journey

from Babylon (see comment on v. 15). God delivered us from … . such

as lay in wait. The boast of Ezra (v. 22) was justified by the event. He

trusted in God,” and was “delivered” — how delivered we are not told,

but evidently through no “arm of flesh.” The hand of God led him safely

through all the perils of the way, and brought him and his companions

without loss or damage to the “city of their rest.”




           COMMISSIONS INTRUSTED TO HIM (vs. 32-36).


After the fatigues of a four months’ journey, a brief period of complete rest was

well-nigh necessary. Like Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:11), Ezra was

content with a rest of three days. On the fourth he discharged himself of his

commission to present to the temple treasury the offerings of the Persian

king, his counselors and lords (v. 25), together with that spontaneously

contributed by the Israelites who had accompanied him (ch.7:16).

This he did by appearing in person before the priests and Levites who were

in charge of the temple, and making over to them the entire offering of

gold, silver, and vessels which had been brought to Jerusalem from

Babylon. At the same time the exiles whom he had induced to return, and

whom he had conducted in safety through so long a journey, sacrificed on

the altar of burnt offerings a number of bullocks, rams, lambs, and he goats,

as a token of their thankfulness to God for delivering them from the

perils of the way. After this Ezra proceeded to make known to the satraps

and other governors of the provinces lying west of the Euphrates the terms

of the permanent commission which he had received from the king. The

result was that these officials thenceforth helped the Jews instead of

hindering them, and furnished the necessary supplies for the temple service.


32 “And we came to Jerusalem, and abode  there three days.

33 Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels

weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son

of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas;

and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son

of Binnui, Levites;”  Meremoth the son of Uriah, or Urijah, was one of the

heads of the priestly order, both under Ezra and under Nehemiah. He is

mentioned as repairing two pieces of the wall of Jerusalem when Nehemiah

was governor (Nehemiah 3:4, 21), and also as one of those who set

their seal to the covenant with God which the whole people entered into,

under Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s guidance, shortly after the completion of the

wall, in B.C. 444. Eleazar the son of Phinehas is perhaps the Eleazar

mentioned as taking part in the dedication of the wall (Nehemiah

12:42). Like Meremoth, he was a priest. Jozabad and Noadiah, chief

Levites, occur again in ch. 10:23, and Nehemiah 8:7; 10:9; and 12:3.


34 “By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was

written at that time.”  By number and by weight. The gold and the silver were

weighed; the vessels were both counted and weighed; the object being to

see that what was delivered to Meremoth corresponded exactly with what

Ezra had given in charge to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and others at Ahava

(see above, vs. 24-27). All the weight was written at that time. Not

only were the vessels counted and weighed, but an inventory of them was

made by the priests in charge of the temple, and the weight of every vessel

noted. Such was the care taken to prevent any embezzlement of the temple

property by its custodians.


35 “Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were

come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of

Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy

and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a

burnt offering unto the LORD.” Also the children of those who had been

carried away. i.e. the newly-returned exiles. Like their predecessors under

Zernbbabel, who had made an offering for all Israel (ch. 6:17), so the present

colonists under Ezra, assuming that they represented all Israel, offered for

the whole nation. The classes of animals offered are the same on the two

occasions, and the number of the he-goats is identical; but in every other

case the victims are far less numerous now than on the former occasion.

This is fully accounted for by the comparatively small number of those who

returned under Ezra.


36 “And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s

lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they

furthered the people, and the house of God.”

And they delivered the king’s commissions. Parts of Ezra’s

firman concerned vitally the other provincial governors, and had of

necessity to be communicated to them. Such were the provisos

concerning Ezra’s power of drawing upon the provincial treasuries for

corn, wine, oil, salt, and money (ch. 7:22-23), and concerning the

exemption of all ranks of the Jewish sacred order from taxation of any kind

whatsoever (ibid. v. 24). Unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the

governors. The word translated “lieutenants” is that which corresponds to

the Persian term “satrap,” and designates the highest class of the Persian

provincial governors. That translated “governor” is the term which has

been already applied by Ezra to Tatnai (ch.5:3-4) and Zerubbabel

(ch. 6:7). It denotes a lower grade of official. They furthered the

people. The satraps and lower officials, on being made acquainted with the

king’s wishes, readily complied with them, and became supporters and

favorers of the Jewish people.



After Arriving (vs. 31-36)


“We departed.” “We came.” Thus it is that Ezra here relates the rest of his

journey, the only thing worthy of note between Ahava and Jerusalem being

this, that, through “the good hand of God” upon the travelers, they were

kept in safety the whole way. This being acknowledged with a suitable note

of thanksgiving, as something remarkable in such a journey (see end of v. 31),

the story goes onto tell us of the first doings of the pilgrims after

reaching the place which they had sought and thought of so long. Some of

these doings, we shall find, affect their position principally as travelers just

arrived; and some have to do with them, on the other hand, rather as

residents just admitted.


  • TRAVELLERS JUST ARRIVED. Under this aspect we see them, very



Ø      enjoying their rest. For the first three days this is all that we are told of

them, that they abode or “sat” in Jerusalem for that time (compare

Nehemiah 2:11). We can imagine easily what took place: the stir

occasioned by their arrival (Ruth 1:19; Matthew 21:10); the family

inquiries and recognitions; the consequent dispersions and hospitalities;

and the final absorption and disappearance of all the newly-arrived

within walls.  There they would gradually recover from the effects of

their long journey, and realize the grateful fact that they were no longer

on the march. Those who have been long traveling, or otherwise laboring,

in connection with God’s service have a kind of right at times to such rest

(Mark 6:30-31; Acts 28:17), if only with the object of enabling them

thereby to do better service in time to come. In the present instance we

may well believe that some part of these days of quiet was employed in

this way, the result being that “on the fourth day” we see these just-

arrived travelers:


Ø      discharging their trust. On that day there appears to have been a

solemn gathering for this special purpose within the precincts of the

temple. Ezra and his twenty-four trustees (v. 24) would doubtless be on

the one side to hand over the treasures; and four representatives of the

Jerusalem hierarchy, two priests and two Levites, are described as being

present on the other side to receive them. Very carefully, also, as became

the place and the trust, was everything done. All the gifts of every

description“the silver and the gold and the vessels” — were

weighed;” they were weighed by “the hand” of the chief man who

had to receive them; they were weighed in the presence of the three

others associated with him, and probably also in that of all the chief

personages both in Church and state (see v. 29) at Jerusalem; they were

not only weighed in their presence, but also “numbered” — numbered

every one” — as a still fresher precaution against any error in the past;

and then, finally, with a view to their safety for the future, they were

written down,” or added formally to the existing catalogue of temple

treasures and gifts. So honorably and so completely were these travelling

treasurers relieved of their trust. And so happily, therefore, was their

journey now terminated, both as to its labors and as to its special cares.

Now they were able to rest indeed, both in body and mind.


  • AS RESIDENTS JUST ADMITTED. Their next cares, therefore, were

in connection not with their journey, but their arrival. What were the duties

devolving on them in connection with the place they had come to? They

had some such duties, it is clear,


Ø      in regard to God and their brethren. For example, having been

conducted safely, by God’s providence, to take up their abode in

that place which He had chosen to put His name there, it was

very fitting that they should openly declare their consecration to

THAT NAME!  This was represented by those “burnt offerings”

of which we are twice informed in this place (v. 35 and see also

Leviticus 1; II Chronicles 29. end 31, and Psalm 66:13-15, for the

connection of devotion or “vows” with burnt offerings, and the

various kinds of animals so offered, almost the same as here). In so

consecrating themselves, however, they only acted as a portion of

THAT WHOLE ISRAEL OF GOD to which they belonged. This

identification of themselves with the covenant people they appear

to have represented by their evidently studied reference in the

number of animals offered to the appointed number of the

covenant tribes, viz., by offering twelve bullocks, twelve he-goats,

and 8 X 12, or ninety-six rams. Note, also, how it is expressly said

of the twelve bullocks that they were offered “for all Israel,” and

compare ch. 6:17, and Numbers 7:2, etc. For the peculiar number of

lambs (seventy-seven) it seems difficult to account, but the mention

of the twelve he-goats as being for a “sin offering” was a silent

confession on their part of their own need, and of all Israel’s need,

of PROPITIATION and ATONEMENT!   In the next place,

these three religious duties of consecration, communion, and

confession being thus duly attended to, we find them turning

to those civil duties which were required by their position; i.e.

to their duties


Ø      in regard to their earthly ruler and king. In the discharge of these they

handed to the governors and deputy governors (v. 36) of that part of the

Persian empire the orders of Artaxerxes (ch. 7:21-24). This was done

in the proper order. It was certainly true, in their case, that they were

Israelites first, and Persian subjects afterwards (see also Matthew

22:21). It was also done with proper completeness. To hand these orders

of Artaxerxes to his deputies for the purpose of securing the advantages

therein specified was to acknowledge, in the fullest manner, both his

authority and theirs. It was to confess clearly that the Persian power

extended so far. It was to acknowledge the authority of the Persian laws

and officials over all souls in that land; and, therefore, to prove

themselves not only true Israelites, but loyal subjects too.  (Thus being

good citizens!  CY – 2014).


  • CONCLUSION. Let all those who name the name of Christ see from all



Ø      The importance of showing all good fidelity (Titus 2:10). Before

these returned children of the captivity allowed themselves to

present their offerings in that house of God which they had

traveled so far to visit and to benefit, they made all clear on

this other point. We find a somewhat similar spirit in I Samuel 12:3-5;

II Corinthians 8:20-21; and may be reminded in two different yet

equally instructive ways of Numbers 16:15, and Matthew 5:23-24.


Ø      The importance of believing in THE NECESSITY OF THE

ATONEMENT!   Even the burnt offerings of God’s own Israel,

without the sin offering, WOULD NOT BE ACCEPTABLE!

That which we desire to offer to Him MUST BE PURIFIED

FIRST!  But how can it be purified EXCEPT BY THE

SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS?  (Hebrews 9:22; 10:10)


Ø      The importance of being good subjects. We have seen the significance,

in this respect, of the beginning of v. 36. We may also see the good

results thus secured in what is recorded in the end of that verse. It

caused those who had the rule in that land to “further” the welfare

of God’s “people,” and the work of God’s “house.” This is one

advantage of honoring the “powers that be” as ordained of God.

It causes them, in return, to honor and favor the religion we profess.

(Contrast the attitude of secularists in America today!  CY – 2014)

Just as it is with servants in a household, so is it with subjects in a

kingdom; it is thus they may especially “adorn the doctrine of God

their Saviour(Titus 2:9-10).  Other branches of “politics” may not

be forbidden; this is positively enjoined (Romans 13:1-14).




Zionwards (vs. 24-36)


Ezra and the company he had gathered were now fairly on their way

homewards, and we may look at them, looking also at ourselves, as


  • TRAVELERS TO JERUSALEM. “Then we departed to go unto

Jerusalem (v. 31). They had come forth from a land of captivity and

comparative privation, and were on their way to the land where they would

no longer be bondsmen, and where every possible privilege would be theirs

to enjoy: they were “going home;” to the land consecrated to their thought

by innumerable hallowing associations; to the city whose walls should, to

their fond imagining, shut them in to liberty, security, and joy. Onwards we

move, we who have left the land of spiritual bondage behind us, to the land

of our hope; our faces are steadfastly set toward the heavenly Jerusalem.

We “seek a city yet to come.” Every day we are traveling forward to its

open gates; every night we pitch our tent “a day’s march nearer” this home

on high.  May we as Jesus “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.

(Luke 9:51)



of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy,”

etc. (v. 31). In answer to their earnest prayer and to their

humility (v. 23), God gave them His guidance and guardianship along the

road, and whatever enemies may have been near either refrained from

attacking them or were easily repelled. In answer to our earnest prayer and

our humility, God will be our guide and guardian along the heavenward

way. He will:


Ø      show us the path we should take, saving us from error, and thus

from evil, and

Ø      defend us from our adversaries:


o       those above us — principalities and powers, etc.;

o       those around us — evil men, dangerous fascinations,

worldly honors, pleasures of the flesh;

o       those within us — unholy propensities, wayward

dispositions, tendencies towards pride, sensuality,

selfishness, etc.



Ezra put into the hands of some of the priests and Levites very precious

treasure — the gold, silver, vessels, etc., which had been contributed for

the temple; they, as holy men, were to take charge of the holy things

(v. 28), to watch them and keep them intact, to be prepared to have them

weighed when they reached their journey’s end (v. 29). All of us who are

spiritual pilgrims are men charged with treasure — some with more than

others. All of us have in charge that most valuable treasure — more

precious than the precious gold they carried (v. 27) — our own spirit,

created in God’s likeness to bear His image, TO DWELL IN HIS

GLORIOUS PRESENCE!  Each one of us must sedulously, scrupulously,

devoutly watch and keep this unharmed, and be ready to have it “weighed

in the balances” of God, not being found wanting then. To some of us —

parents, teachers, pastors — God has Entrusted the precious treasure of

others’ souls, and He bids us take earnest heed of them, “watching for

them as those who must give account(Hebrews 13:17), doing our best

in every way, publicly and privately, by direct solicitation and by prayer

on their behalf, that they may be found whole and blameless “in that day.”

(I Corinthians 1:8)


  • AT THE END OF THEIR JOURNEY. They “came to Jerusalem

(v. 32), and their arrival was marked by three things:


Ø      judgment (vs. 33-34),

Ø      presentation of sacrifice (v. 35), and

Ø      kindly reception by those across the river (v. 36).


When we reach the end of our journey we shall find these three things:


Ø      Judgment, for we must all stand at the judgment seat, etc.

(II Corinthians 5:10). God will bring every work into judgment

(Ecclesiastes 12:14).


Ø      The offering of no more sacrifices as under the old dispensation, and no

more pleading of the one great Sacrifice for sin; no sin offering at all

(v. 35), but the offering of praise and of holy service — of our purified,

renewed, perfected selves, whole and without blemish, vessels meet

for the Master’s use (II Timothy 2:21) even in the heavenly sanctuary;



Ø      Welcome from those who are there. Those who are on that side the

river will wait, with outstretched hands, with eager hearts, to receive

us to those blessed shores, to lead us into that better land, to introduce

us to that country which has no temple because it is a temple, full of





Ø      They had peace in themselves.


o       This is the happy fruit of fidelity. Tranquility dwells with

integrity.  They faithfully delivered up their precious charge.

Now on the fourth day,” etc. (vs. 33-34).


o       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).


Ø      They had peace with God.


o       They went the right way to secure this by offering sacrifices

(see v. 35). CHRIST IS OUR PEACE!


o       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.  Is there not here an expression of faith in the

ultimate restoration of all Israel (Romans 11:26)?


Ø      They had peace from their neighbors.


o       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 (ch.7:21-23).


o       No wonder, then, that these lieutenants should “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.”  (Proverbs 16:7)

Let us never move without God. Let us ever move with God.



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