THE NUMBER OF THOSE WHO WENT UP TO
WITH EZRA, AND THE NAMES OF THE CHIEF MEN (vs.1-14).
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
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
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
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
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.
DETAILS OF EZRA’S JOURNEY
We gather from scattered statements in this passage:
reached Ahava from
considerable body of Nethinims from the immediate
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
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),
small stream flowing into the
a city of the same name, distant (according to Herodotus) eight days’ journey
of Ava (aW;[") and Ivah (hW;[i) in the Second Book of Kings (17:24; 19:13).
It is called Aia, or
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
OR ELSE NOT PRESENT AT ALL!
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
WHOSE MINDS WERE MADE UP!
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;
The Halt at the Ahava (vs. 15-20)
The journey of the children of
viewed, like that of their fathers from
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
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.
person, so should there be in the Church. So will there be
needs of God’s Church? Is God’s cause ours, as it was his?
Ø Ezra resolved upon a mission.
There were Levites
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
Levites were working.
Others construe it to mean
possibly some bazaar in
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.
He chose “chief
men” for his missionaries. If
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
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
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
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
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
the fifth year of Jehoiakim when the
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
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
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
journey was undertaken Ezra proclaimed a fast. Consider:
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
soul” was 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;
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).
in heaven will be THE MOST GLORIOUS PROOF OF
THE GOOD HAND OF GOD UPON US! But it
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
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
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.
its journey to
o intellectual, and
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
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
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)
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
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
is a solemn gift.
Ø Their registration (v. 34). The gifts of man are written in the book of
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
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,
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
(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
30 So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the
gold, and the
vessels, to bring them to
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.
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
behind them, a perilous journey before them, yet all the
defense they sought for found in fasting and prayer (see
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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)?
§ 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
(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
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
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
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
first month, to go
upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of
such as lay in wait
by the way. The
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
Ahava with Is, since Is (according to Herodotus) was eight days’ journey
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.”
EZRA’S THREE DAYS’ REST AT
SUBSEQUENT EXECUTION OF THE MORE PRESSING OF THE
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
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
other governors of the provinces lying west of the
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
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
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
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
colonists under Ezra, assuming that they represented all
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
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.
Ø enjoying their rest. For the first three days this is all that we are told of
them, that they abode or “sat” in
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-
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
our hope; our faces are steadfastly set toward the heavenly
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
high. May we as Jesus “steadfastly
set His face to go to
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,
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)
(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
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
THE PRESENCE AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD!
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
were present, and these only by a representation, for the bulk
of the Jews remained on the Babylonish side of the river
ultimate restoration of all
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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