A Commentary on the Book of EzraBy Fred P Miller December 2001
Table of contents
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Introduction to the book of Ezra
The Larger Context
The succession of kings and governments from about 585 BCE to 440 BCE will enhance your understanding of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Also your understanding of prophetic books of the Bible contemporary with this period will be enhanced with a clear view of this background.
The most important Babylonian kings are Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. After Belshazzar: the "torch" of empire was passed to the Medo-Persians. In succession the rulers were Cyrus, Cambyses, Pseudo Smerdis, Darius I, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes I (called Longimanus) The last mentioned Emperor commissioned both Ezra and later Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem for the final work on restoration. Little is known of Artaxerxes I's reign. A treaty made with the Greeks is outlined in Xenophon's Hellenica. The revolt of Egypt which was put down and diplomacy between the Greeks and Artaxerxes I is also noted in Thucidides and he mentions him 3 more times 2nd time and 3rd time and 4th time. The more you know about the history of these personalities, just so will your understanding be advanced of the books of the Bible that are concurrent with them. These books are Nehemiah, Zechariah, Haggai, and although less evident, Malachai.
"Following Artaxerxes Longimanus, the history of the yishuv (settlement) in Palestine is obscure with little or no record of events."* The period from then (about 440 BCE) to the Macabees (about 160 BCE) is called "The Silent Years."
* Johnson, Paul; A History of The Jews; Harper & Row, New York; 1987. pg. 87.
We want to use several Hebrew words in the description of the history of those whose return is detailed in the Book of Ezra. This is a history of reestablishing a nation.
Yishuv: At the time of Cyrus' proclamation: There are no records or inferences to indicate that there was a remnant of Jews still living in Judea in 536 BCE. However if there were a settlement of Jewish people already dwelling there they would be called yoshviym meaning those dwelling (singular yoshav). A moshav is an actual settlement like a village where people live and cooperate together. The total population of the settlement of all the moshaviym or yoshviym together is called the yishuv. It is a passive participle meaning the settlement. I would like to use that word so please keep it in mind. For instance when Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem there was already a Yishuv which had been established by Zerubbabel 80 years before.
Hebrew Words for Immigration
'Oleh (singular) and 'oliym (plural) is from the word 'al which means up or to go up. One going up or immigrating to Palestine is an 'oleh and a group of immigrants to Palestine are 'oliym . The words for new immigrant both singular and plural are 'oley chadash and 'oliym chadashiym. The word 'oliym is used in Ezra 2:1 with a definite article as "ha-'oliym" and is translated there: the children... "who went up." The first act of reimmigration to Palestine was to be multiplied in separate periods or waves. These of periods or waves of immigration or "aliyahs" were to characterize the next few centuries of Jewish life.
Aliyah: The name given to one of these periods or waves of immigration is an "aliyah." Thus an "oleh" acts with other "oliym" and together they make an "aliyah" or period of immigration. This first one, led by Zerrubabel and Joshua the high Priest, is the "First Aliyah." Many more would follow. The "aliyah" of Ezra about 456 BCE would be eighty years after the First aliyah. Johnson calls Ezra's return the "Third Aliyah"* (World turmoil stopped the building of the temple shortly after the foundation was laid.) When the rebuilding resumed almost 13 years later, the second aliyah was made by a second wave of pioneers and volunteers who came to help build the temple. This happened after the peace of the world was restored by Darius in his second year. He made the decree to restart the building which had been stopped after the accession of Smerdis (about whom more later). The 'oliym of the second aliyah are mentioned in Zechariah 6:10ff. They are those artisans and craftsmen who were to be memorialized by installing gold crowns inside the temple, in their honor, for their sacrificial service of restoration of the temple . The crowns were placed in the temple 60 feel above the floor and inside the door.** Some in that aliyah returned to Babylon after their voluntary service, some remained and joined the settlement or yishuv. The fourth Aliyah were those who accompanied Nehemiah and joined Ezra and the yishuv.
* Johnson, Paul; A History of The Jews; Harper & Row, New York; 1987, pg. 86.
** Mishnah: Midd. 3:8
The historical background describing the concurrent political conditions of the third and fourth aliyahs is described prophetically by Daniel in his prophecy of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9.
25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and sixty two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times
"The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times" refers to the 49 years predicted for the period during which the infrastructure of Jerusalem was restored.. The temple foundation had been laid and the temple built within the first nineteen years of the First Aliyah. But restoration and cleansing of the priesthood and the rebuilding of the walls of the city and its streets and other infrastructure did not begin until 456 BCE. The seventy week prophecy's fulfillment begins from that point. The history recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah demonstrates the troublous times that were coincident with the final restoration of the city.
Both Artaxerxes and Ahasuerus are dynastic names similar to Pharoah. For instance Xerxes the Great of history is called Ahasuerus in the Bible (see Esther 1:1.) In the book of Ezra, Ahasuerus is the name given for Cambyses. The first mention of Artaxerxes in Ezra is the Bible name given to Pseudo Smerdis. Find these names in Ezra 4:6.
Behistun Inscription: In his first year [521 BCE] Darius recaptured and reorganized the 120 provinces of the Persian Empire. Darius and the discipline exacted upon Pseudo Smerdis and many of the leaders of the provinces which had revolted are depicted in reliefs on a cliff of a mountain side near Ekbatana. The extended inscription in three languages in Aramaic Cuneiform and Greek and probably Median script was the key that unlocked the Cuneiform languages. The inscriptions tell the details or Darius' recapture and restructure of the Empire in three languages. It was the political turmoil following the death of Cyrus that caused the rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem to cease. It was the restoration of peace under Darius and his policy of carrying out the will of Cyrus relative to the restoration of the captive nations that resulted in the restart of building the Temple. One of the best sources for this background can be viewed right here. Use both the Persian History with innumerable links and the link to the Behistun inscription and the translation of the Behistun inscription. If you spend time with these links you will increase your background knowledge exponentially. Knowledge about the Behistun inscription is of prime importance to anyone wanting to understand this period. Darius is not a dynastic title as some erroneously claim. It is a name which is repeated in the Persian dynasty like Cyrus and Cambyses. The later two names in the time context of the return from Babylon are actually Cyrus II and Cambyses II.
The reigns of Cambyses and Pseudo Smerdis: Historians date the reign of Pseudo Smerdis from the record on the Behistun Inscription which has been misread and makes his reign to be less than one year. We believe that is a mistake made from misinterpreting the obscure markings of the inscription. The History of Herodotus ascribes a much longer period (eight years) for Smerdis and a shorter period of about one year for Cambyses. Cambyses ruled jointly with Cyrus for a longer time but survived Cyrus by only a year or so. The scripture record is more harmonious with Herodotus' chronology. It accounts for the reason that there was no answer to the letter mentioned in chapter 4:6, which was sent to Cambyses who is called Ahasuerus there. That letter asked that the Temple construction be halted. Herodotus records that Cambyses died shortly after Cyrus died, on his way from Egypt back to Persia to claim his father's throne. Thus his death interdicted the opportunity to respond to the first request recorded in chapter 4. He did not answer the letter because his death made it impossible. A Magi who falsely claimed to be Smerdis then succeeded to the throne and the second letter requesting to stop the building and addressed to Smerdis (called Artaxerxes) reached him. It was Smerdis' search and answer that stopped the rebuilding of the temple and left it in hiatus for more than eight years. Then during the eight years of Smerdis' inept rule, most of the provinces opted for independence. After the overthrow of Smerdis, Darius spent his first year and most of his second year reconquering and reorganizing the Empire. It is this history of reconquest which is inscribed on the cliff face called Behistun Rock. The history in the first six chapters of Ezra is coincident with and follows the events inscribed on Behistun Rock. The history of Ezra himself does not begin until Ezra chapter 7. Ezra 7:1 begins 59 years after the last event mentioned in Chapter 6.
The Chronology of the Book of Ezra. The Chronology of the Book of Ezra therefore begins in 536 BCE with the decree of Cyrus to restore Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The first 6 chapters of Ezra comprise twenty one years from the decree of Cyrus to the dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 515 BCE. The Persian Kings who ruled in succession at the same time as the history recorded in the first six chapters are: Cyrus, Cambyses, Pseudo Smerdis, and Darius. Then there is a gap in Ezra between chapter 6 and chapter 7 of fifty nine years. During the unrecorded era in the gap the rest of the reign of Darius and the reign Xerxes and the first six years of Artaxerxes Longimanus took place. The history of Esther and Mordecai happened in that gap in the reign of Xerxes son of Darius. (Josephus makes, what is for him, a rare mistake in placing the history of Esther in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus. See antiquities XI:6) Chapter seven of Ezra begins the history of Ezra's return 59 years later in 456 BCE, which was the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus. Many of the events in Ezra's reform are recorded in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was commissioned by the same Artaxerxes Longimanus a few years after Ezra's return.. Ezra reformed the priesthood and with little doubt presided at the Great Synagogue where and when the setting and closing of the Canon of the Old Testament took place. The rebuilding of the walls and the infrastructure of Jerusalem was done by Nehemiah and recorded in his book. He is mentioned in Ezra only once by the name Tirshatha in Ezra 1:63 which records a decision made after 456 BCE about the priesthood. He is probably also named in Ezra 9:1 as one of the "princes." On the other hand Ezra is named more often in Nehemiah. That is: 9 times; seven times in Neh 8; and two times in Neh 12:1 and 12:13. The greatest spiritual event of the period was the religious revival led by Ezra, associated with wide scale repentance, reconsecrations and rededications, but is recorded in Nehemiah 8. The cleansing of the priesthood from foreign marriages was one of the results of the revival and the details of that are given in Ezra 9 and 10 and Neh 13.
Aramaic: Some portions of Ezra (4:8 - 6:18) are in Aramaic as noted in the text. However much of the rest of the book also has many Aramaic words in a text that is largely Hebrew. There are also Persian words in the text. Most Persian words are names of government offices. For instance "Tirshatha" is the name of the office Nehemiah occupied and is a name of Persian origin. Others are: Achashdarpen, Phacav translated lieutenants and governors in 8:36. The abundant sprinkling of Aramaic words in the Hebrew portions of the text of Ezra are actually confirmation of the contextual period during which the book was written.Ezra
1Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11) might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
The first year of Cyrus: Cyrus was a Median king for many years before his conquest of Babylon. Thus the reference to his first year is not to the beginning of his reign as King over the Medes and the Persians but of the passing of the "torch" of world power that was established first by the Chaldean Nebuchadnezzar. This occurred when King Cyrus conquered Babylon in 536 BCE. The "torch" of Empire passed to the Medo-Persians by Cyrus was prefigured by the silver portion of the prophetic statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2; and of the second beast in Daniel 7; and the two horned beast of Daniel 8. Thus began, what is called, the "first year of Cyrus" on the last day of Belshazzar's reign in 536 BCE recorded in Daniel 5. Ezra 5:13 speaks of "the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon" as the year of the commission to build the Temple,
By the mouth of Jeremiah: Although there are extensive and extended detailed prophecies in Isaiah about the person of Cyrus and his conquest of Babylon, it is Jeremiah who predicted the length of time of the Babylonian captivity in Jeremiah 25:11.11And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. 12And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, and the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, and will make it perpetual desolations, says the LORD.
And again in Jeremiah 29:10
10For thus says the LORD, That after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Daniel and others place the beginning of the seventy years in the third year of Jehoiakim or 606 BCE. Thus accomplishing seventy years of captivity by 536 BCE which is the first year of Cyrus as Emperor. Dan 1:1-3:
1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, so that he would bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
Made a proclamation: The policy of removing nations from their homelands and shuffling them around the empire had been started by the Assyrians and was continued by the Babylonians. Cyrus ended that policy and initiated a policy of restoration of the captive nations to their former homelands. The Jewish nation was one among many who were restored to their homelands. The policy and record of resettling the captive nations was recorded on a clay stele which is at present on display at the Library of the Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The writing that was specific to Judah has not been found but it is verified, by the historical context, that one would have existed which specified the rebuilding of the temple with official Persian support. That specific document is mentioned in the last part of Ezra 5 and Ezra 6:1-6 where specific instructions including the dimensions of the temple were detailed by Cyrus. A photo of the Stele of Cyrus and comment on the prophecy relating to it can be seen here.
2Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has charged me to build a house for him at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth: Thus it is plainly seen that Cyrus knew that his political situation had entered a new phase moving from being a king of Media-Persia to being Emperor of the civilized world and the second in the line of King of Kings.
3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
Let him go up: Going up to Jerusalem is now and has always been the expression used for going to Jerusalem no matter where on earth one may be. The Hebrew word describing "ones who go up" is "'oliym" which is the current Hebrew word for immigrants. The word is used in Ezra 2:1 with a definite article as "ha-'oliym" and is translated there "the children... 'who went up.'" The act of reimmigration to Palestine was to be multiplied in separate periods or waves. These of periods or waves of immigration were to characterize the next few centuries of Jewish life. The name given to one of these periods is an "aliyah." Thus an "oleh" acts with other "oliym" and together they make an "aliyah" or period of immigration. This one, led by Zerrubabel and Joshua the high Priest, is the "First Aliyah." Many more would follow. The "aliyah" of Ezra would be eighty years after the First aliyah. Johnson calls Ezra's return the third "aliyah"* (World turmoil stopped the building of the temple shortly after the foundation was laid.) The second aliyah was made by a second wave of pioneers and volunteers who came to help build the temple after the peace of the world was restored by Darius in his second year when he made the decree to restart the building which had been stopped after the accession of Smerdis (about whom more later). These 'oliym are mentioned in Zechariah 6:10ff as those who were to be memorialized for their sacrificial service by installing gold crowns in their honor in the temple 60 feel above and inside the door . Some of them returned to Babylon after their voluntary service, some remained and joined the settlement.
* Johnson, Paul; A History of The Jews; Harper & Row, New York; 1987, pg. 86
And build the house of the LORD: The commission to "go up" included the admonition to rebuild what is called the Second Temple. The record of the return and attempt to construct the Second Temple occupies the first six chapters of the book of Ezra and covers a period of about twenty one years of mostly turmoil and strife from 536 to 515 BCE. The main events recorded are those relating to the struggles of fighting opposition until the second temple was finally dedicated in the sixth year of Darius, in 515 BCE. In Ezra 6:1515And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
4And who ever remains in any place where he sojourns, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with animals, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
Who ever remains: This refers to the majority of the dispersed or captive inhabitants who stayed in Babylon. Only a minority of pioneers returned in the First Aliyah. Those who remained were encouraged to financially support the vanguard who returned, and to send free will financial contributions for the rebuilding of the temple, as well as the things and animals needed by the Levites for worship in the second temple. This admonition is a part of the official proclamation given by Cyrus. It is seen in verse six that it was carried out.
5Then the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin rose up, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. 6And all those who were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with animals, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. 7Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; 8Even those Cyrus king of Persia brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. 9And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, twenty nine knives, 10Thirty basins of gold, four hundred ten silver basins of a second sort, and a thousand. other vessels 11All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar brought up with them of the captivity who were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem.
The chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin: The majority of those who returned were from the nation of Judah. At the actual time of the captivity, seventy years previously, the kingdom of Judah consisted of more than four tribes. The main element of course was Judah then Benjamin then Simeon whose inheritance was within the confines of Judah. The majority of the Levites who survived also were a part of Judah from the days of Jeroboam I who set up the calves to worship in Dan and Bethel and set up priests who were not Levites to serve them. At that time the Levites abandoned the Kingdom of Israel and became a part of the Kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam. See in 1 Chron. 11:.
13And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. 14 For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD: 15 And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. 16 And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.
As verse 16 says: there were also remnants of other tribes in Judah who had been taken captive to Babylon as well and they were also among those making the First Aliyah. A large number of Levites were among the returnees according to Ezra 3:8. A fuller description of the returnees is seen in 1 Chronicles 9:2ff:
of Israel and Judah, who were carried away to Babylon for their transgression. 2 Now the first inhabitants that dwelt in their possessions in their cities were, the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinim. 3 And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh;
Thus the majority of the "oliym" or returnees were from Judah and Benjamin. The leaders of the pioneers were from those tribes but remnants of four other tribes were also in the first aliyah.
Sheshbazzar: Another name for Zerubbabal the governor about whom Zechariah has much to say, especially in the fourth chapter his prophecy. Shesh-bazzar, meaning "fire-worshiper," was so named by the Babylonians in the same way that Babylonian names were given to Daniel, Hannaniah Azariah and Mishael in Daniel 1:7. He is called Sheshbazzar four times in Ezra: in 1:8, 1:11; and 5:14, 16. He is called Zerubbabal in Ezra six times in 2:2; and 3:2, 3:8; and 4:2, 3; and 5:2. Zerubbabel probably means "bred in Babylon." But the name also indicates a difficult time of growing up, or a trial by fire, perhaps because he was not raised by his father. He is son of Pedaiah, but he is always called son of his father's brother, Salathiel or Shealtiel, by whom he was most probably reared, (See 1 Chronicles 3:17-19.) He is therefore the grandson of Jehoiachin, the last king in the direct line from David and is therefore legally a Prince and properly chosen as governor.. He is also listed in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
1Now these are the children of the province who went up out of the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and came again to Jerusalem and Judah, every one to his city; 2Who came with Zerubbabel: Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.
The number of the people of the nation of Israel:
People of the nation: ['anshey ha'am] The phrase would imply that women and children are counted in the totals for the first aliyah. This is not the case for the third aliyah which can be seen below in Ezra 8:1ff. But the acknowledgment that there were small children in the returning group is seen in Ezra 8:21.
3The children of Parosh, two thousand one hundred seventy two. 4The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy two. 5The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy five. 6The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Joshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred twelve. 7The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty four. 8The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty five. 9The children of Zaccai, seven hundred sixty. 10The children of Bani, six hundred forty two. 11The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty three. 12The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty two. 13The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty six. 14The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty six. 15The children of Adin, four hundred fifty four. 16The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety eight. 17The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty three. 18The children of Jorah, one hundred twelve. 19The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty three. 20The children of Gibbar, ninety five. 21The children of Bethlehem, one hundred twenty three. 22The men of Netophah, fifty six. 23The men of Anathoth, one hundred twenty eight. 24The children of Azmaveth, forty two. 25The children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty three. 26The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty one. 27The men of Michmas, one hundred twenty two. 28The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty three. 29The children of Nebo, fifty two. 30The children of Magbish, one hundred fifty six. 31The children of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty four. 32The children of Harim, three hundred twenty. 33The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty five. 34The children of Jericho, three hundred forty five. 35The children of Senaah, three thousand six hundred thirty.
The specific families and their number are given here and in Nehemiah 7:5ff where Nehemiah says he found (more than 80 years later) the same register that is being quoted here. .
36The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Joshua, nine hundred seventy three. 37The children of Immer, one thousand fifty two. 38The children of Pashur, one thousand two hundred forty seven. 39The children of Harim, one thousand seventeen. 40The Levites: the children of Joshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy four. 41The singers: the children of Asaph, one hundred twenty eight. 42The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all one hundred thirty nine. 43The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 44The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon, 45The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub, 46The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan, 47The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, 48The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam, 49The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, 50The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim, 51The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 52The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 53The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah, 54The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha. 55The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda, 56The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 57The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami.
The Number of Priests: Only a fraction of the priestly class joined the first Aliyah. The academies that grew up in Babylon were led by those priests who remained. The primacy of the intellectual influence of the Babylonian Rabbis would continue through and beyond the Apostolic period for more than 1000 years and beyond since their writings in the Talmud are still a central part of Jewish Rabbinical study. But some of the priests who remained in Babylon would join the third Aliyah at the time of Ezra's return. 456 BCE See Ezra 7:12 -13: and especially notes under 8:13-17
12Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. 13I make a decree, that all those of the people of Israel, and of their priests and Levites, in my realm, who are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with you.
The enumeration of the Priests and Levites includes others who served in the Temple service. The singers, children of Asaph, and porters are Israelites. They are not Temple slaves. The class of Temple slaves called Nethinim are enumerated separately. They were not Israelites
58All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety two.
Nethinim ("im" and "iym" are plural endings in Hebrew) These are servants of a slave class taken from the remnants of the Canaanites who were relegated to bondage at the time of the conquest under Joshua. They were made servants and used for all the work of Solomon's Temple. The word Nethinim is used only in Ezra and Nehemiah and no where else in the Bible except 1 Chronicles 9:2 which describes the varied nature of the ones who returned, - beside some rich but mostly poor Jews, there were also Levites and those who were the slaves of the Levites and the descendants of Asaph, the musicians. See further description of the social make up of the 'oliym under verse 65 below. Ezra 8:20 give the specific definition of who the Nethinim were.
Ezra 8:20 Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites,
59And these were those who went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel: 60The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty two. 61And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: 62These sought their register among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore they were put from the priesthood as polluted.
And these were those: This passage is repeated in Nehemiah 7:61 indicating that this separation of this group from the priesthood was not undertaken until after the arrival of Ezra and Nehemiah and they were not immediately separated from the priesthood during the time of Zerubbabel's government. Compare the passage with that from Nehemiah 7:
Nehemiah 7:61 And these were they which went up also from Telmelah, Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not show their father's house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel. 62 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. 63 And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. 64 These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.
63And the Tirshatha said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.
Compare with Nehemiah 7:65.
65 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
Tirshatha: The Persian title given to the governor. Nehemiah was sent by the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes Longimanus and functioned under his authority. Therefore he is called the Tirshatha, a Persian title. Nehemiah is identified as the Tirshatha in Neh 8:9 and 10:1. So the decision of the separation of certain ones from the priesthood, as noted above, was made more than 80 years after the departure of those named here from Babylon. If the new immigrants of the first Aliyah, under Zerubbabel left as is supposed, late in the first year after the giving of the decree, that is in the second year of Cyrus, 536 or 535 BCE then the death of Cyrus followed three to four years later. Then came a short period of reign by Cambyses son of Cyrus who died on his way back to Persia from Egypt on his way to claim his father's throne. Following him was the misrule of the Pseudo Smerdis, a magus who usurped the throne posing as son of Cyrus. The turmoil created by his inept reign resulted in many of the Persian provinces opting for independence. A coup ended his reign and resulted in the rise of Darius who established a dynasty which continued for about 200 years. Darius was followed by his son Xerxes and he by his son Artaxerxes Longimanus. It was during the reign of the latter that Ezra first and then Nehemiah shortly after arrived at Jerusalem. Thus the reformation and cleansing of the priesthood, coincident with the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem was more than 80 years and the accession of 6 monarchs after the decree of Cyrus and the return under Zerubbabel. The first six chapters of Ezra comprise twenty one years from the decree of Cyrus to the dedication of the second temple in 515 BCE. Then there is a gap of 59 years between chapters six and seven. The history of Esther and Mordecai belongs in this chronological gap. The arrival of Ezra at Jerusalem in 456 BCE closes the gap.
64The whole congregation together was forty two thousand three hundred sixty, 65Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.
The total: The total number of the returnees with servants and entertainers was near 50,000. Incidentally the musicians here were entertainers and not servants in the temple. The singers in the Temple were Levites, children of Asaph. The Nethinim were slaves of Canaanite origins. The general social make up of the immigrants can be surmised from this description and the makeup of their supporters who remained in Babylon. It is understood that the majority of the "Jews" remained in Babylon ("Jews" is a name, from this time forward that all the Israelites would be called regardless of their tribal background). Many years before those in Babylon had followed the advice of Jeremiah given in Jer. 29:4-7. He told them to build houses and seek their wealth in the wealth of the place they found themselves, which they did and prospered. Thus many were reluctant to leave the relative comfort of their lives in Babylon. In this way, with the majority of the Jews in Babylon it became the center of world Jewry. The condition existed then which is similar to today where more Jews live in metropolitan NYC than live in Palestine. The primacy of Babylonian Jews and of the Babylonian academies in Jewish life continued through the "silent years" and the apostolic period and through the rise of the Christian church in the western world, until late in the first millennium.
The persons taking part in First Aliyah can be characterized by the number of servants who were not Nethinim.. Of the 50,000 over 80 per cent did not own slaves if one attributes slave owners with only one slave. If they owned more than one slave then this class of rich Jews was much smaller. Indeed only a small part of the First Aliyah were wealthy. Landless persons made up the majority. Beside the religiously zealous, the make up of those who returned was heavily weighted with unskilled and untrained volunteers. The next verse also speaks of the poverty of the majority of those who returned.
66Their horses were seven hundred thirty six; their mules, two hundred forty five; 67Their camels, four hundred thirty five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred twenty.
Beasts of Burden There would be barely one beast for each of the servant class and thus this speaks further of the poverty of the group who are to return to a land where there are no houses and no infrastructure, no roads or streets, no wells, no synagogues or schools. Probably less than 10 per cent owned a working animal. The few rich were very rich in comparison. The poor were very poor. Zechariah speaks of the endemic dishonesty that prevailed among the poor which was not eradicated until the Ezra's revival 80 years later. See Zechariah 5 where these conditions and their cure are described under the two figures of The Flying Roll and The Woman in the Ephah. That prophecy says that the coming of the written word of God would be the agent to drive out the evil from the households of the yishuv or population.
68And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place:
House of the LORD: The building site was a ruin but it is called the house of the LORD in both retrospect and prospect. Almost in the same way Jews speak of the Temple Mount today.
69They gave after their ability to the treasure of the work sixty one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments.
They gave after their ability: They rich among the 'oliym are meant here and this must be an offering in excess of what had been given by the rest of the nation who remained in Babylon. Compare this offering of about 50,000 people with the offering of the lesser number in Ezra's third aliyah 80 years later and composed of wealthier Jews who had remained in Babylon when Zerubbabel led the first return. See notes under 8:28.
70So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, dwelled in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
Dwelled in their cities The division of locations of the place where each of the different groups among the returnees is described in 1 Chronicles 9: in some detail especially in light of this context in verse 2ff. The reason they did not all dwell in Jerusalem is discussed below in the next comment
1And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.
When the seventh month was come The seventh month of the first year of their return after they had time to settle into their cities. Most of the new immigrants settled in cities outside Jerusalem that had not suffered the complete destruction brought on by the siege and destruction of 585 BC, 51 years previously. The 'oliym were reluctant to resettle Jerusalem because of the harsh living conditions. Even as late as Nehemiah's return it was necessary to draft conscripts to take up habitation in Jerusalem. See this in Nehemiah 11:1-2.
And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem, the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men, who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
Thus it was a sacrifice to dwell in Jerusalem.
2Then Joshua the son of Jozadak stood up, and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brothers, and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.
As it is written in the law of Moses: There is a fair description of the altar and it appurtenances, in the Law of Moses. To reproduce it accurately would require that some one present would have seen the original altar. That there were such is seen in verse 12 below. But the oral traditions were the central theme of study in the academies that had grown up and would continue in Babylon and the descriptions of the temple and its furniture would have been fully passed on there.
3And they set the altar on its bases; for fear was on them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.
Morning and evening: The renewal of the daily sacrifice (Hebrew "tamiyd" meaning continual.) This ended the hiatus in offering the daily sacrifice. There had been no break in regularly offering the daily sacrifice since it was first instituted by Moses in the wilderness, until the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. In spite of the movement of the nation for 40 years and the conquest period and the various events of the kingdom, period including the separation of the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle for many years, This separation of the ark included all the period of the reigns of Saul and of David and of Solomon until the Temple was built. The ark of the covenant was only restored to the rest of the tabernacle-temple furniture at the dedication of the first temple. But the daily sacrifice continued in an unbroken line. When the daily sacrifice was restored here in the seventh month of the first year its observance would continue unbroken until it was stopped by the Greek Seleucid kingdom for three years and ten days of no morning and no evening sacrifices. During that period, the Maccabees fought the Greeks and regained religious freedom about 160 BCE and restored the daily sacrifice which then continued unabated until the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. The cleansing of the temple and restoration of the sacrifice by the Maccabees is commemorated yearly in the Feast of Lights known more popularly as Hanukkah. The prophecy in Daniel of the cessation of 2300 sacrifices, one in the morning and one in the evening comprising exactly three years and ten days is fully discussed in the chapter, The 2300 Day Prophecy.
4They also kept the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 5And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD. 6From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD.
6From the first day of the seventh month: This marks the beginning of the ritual worship of the tabernacle or temple but only the sacrificial part of the worship and the set feasts were set in motion. The priestly functions in the holy place with the lamp and the show bread and the continual incense on the altar before the veil and the blood upon the mercy seat within the veil would have to wait for more than a decade. Those functions required the temple and it was yet to be built.
But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. 7They gave money also to the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, to them of Sidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.
The foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid: But preparations went on to gain the building materials to get the building under way. Thus some time would be required to get preparations to the place where actual building could begin. That would not happen for another seven months.
8Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all they who were come out of the captivity to Jerusalem began; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.
The remnant of their brothers the priests and the Levites: It is reasonable to conclude as most of the nation remained in Babylon so did most of the Priests and Levites. Only those who had zeal for restoration braved the hardships of travel and rebuilding from the ground and beneath the ground upward.
Not long after this the elite class of Pharisees and Sadducees began probably first in Babylon, that is, conservative and liberal sects who would continue and enlarge on the study of the Oral Law in the academies which become famous in Pumbadita, Nahardea, and Sura. There in Babylon and later in Judea, the traditions of the Fathers would become the more important intellectual pursuit rather than the Torah.
9Then Joshua stood with his sons and his brothers, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brothers the Levites.
The Prophets; no urging of the prophets was needed as yet, that would be required later after obstacles had stopped the initial attempt to rebuild.
10And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
It had to be a pitiable site. They were laying the foundation of a building smaller than the average ranch house.
11And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endures for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
But they made the best of it and did their superlative best to make the momentous occasion seem important.
12But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, who had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: 13So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
Who had seen the first house: The date of laying the foundation of the Temple is 535 or 534 BCE. The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 585 BCE. Thus some present may only have been in their early 70's and had seen the first temple and its destruction.Chapter 4
1Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity built the temple to the LORD God of Israel; 2Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said to them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as you do; and we do sacrifice to him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, who brought us up here.
Since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur: Esarhaddon was the son of Sennecherib. The first deportations of Israelites by the Assyrians from the northern Kingdom of Israel took place about 740 BCE under Tiglath Pilezer. There were three major waves of deportation of the Northern Kingdom associated with importation of foreigners into the former Israeli territories. The first deportation was of the tribes in Gilead beyond the Jordan about 740 BCE. Then the rest of the tribes of Galilee were taken captive about 732 BCE. Samaria (Ephraim) fell in 722 BCE to Sargon II. The tribes that were imported to that region became the partial basis for those later on called Samaritans. Sennecherib son of Sargon II began his assault on Judah's defenced cities about 710 BCE and the Siege of Jerusalem by Sennecherib took place about 700 to 699 BCE. Sennecherib survived the debacle at Jerusalem by about 20 years when some of his sons put him to death. They were in turned killed for their action and their brother Esarhaddon became the King of the Assyrian Empire circa 670 BCE. Essarhaddon invaded Judah and took the king of Judah, Manasseh son of Hezekiah, captive in the latter part of his 55 year reign. It is supposed that coincident with this campaign, Esarhaddon took captive the remaining members of the tribe of Ephraim who still lived in the land which now belonged to the Samaritans. When the last of the Ephraimites were displaced about 640 BCE Esarhaddon replaced them with another imported nation to take their place and thus in 534 BCE these new "Samaritans" told Zerubbabal "we do sacrifice to him (YHWH) since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, who brought us up here. They were not the first to be relocated in the former land of Ephraim but they became the most active.
3But Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said to them, you have nothing to do with us to build a house to our God; but we ourselves together will build to the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.
As king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us. Cyrus was a Median King, he became the King of Babylon and the King of Persia. He is called King of Persia is this verse and Cyrus the king of Babylon in 5:13.
4Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5And hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
From Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia: From Cyrus: No letter of complaint was written to Cyrus. We are left wondering what avenues of frustration the Samaritans offered in the days of Cyrus. But Cyrus died in battle just three years after the laying of the foundation of the Temple.
6And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation to him against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign: Ahasuerus: is the name called here to Cambyses son of Cyrus. Cambyses survived about one year after the death of Cyrus. His death made it impossible for him to act on the letter sent to him complaining of the Jews. He is said to have died on his way back from Egypt to Persia where he intended to succeed his father as the king of kings. Varius reports are given as to the cause of his death. He was succeeded by Pseudo Smerdis, magi who claimed to be the son of Cyrus. Smerdis is called Artaxerxes in the next verse.
7And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions wrote, to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.
Artaxerxes: There are Persian kings both before and after this king who carry the title Artaxerxes. It is not a name but a title.
Aramaic: From verse 8 onward the book of Ezra is written in Aramaic through 6:18. 6:19 returns to Hebrew.:
8Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
And in the days of Artaxerxes: Pseudo Smerdis is here called Artaxerxes which is a dynastic name like Pharoah. He is actually a usurper and for this reason found it politically expedient to cause the building of the Temple to cease. The temple building was stopped by the authority from Persia and would not be resumed until Smerdis was overthrown by Darius I. More on this below.
9Then Rehum the chancellor wrote, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, 10And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.
Asnappar: another name for Esarhaddan who is mentioned in verse 2 as having brought the complainants to Samaria during the Assyrian period. See 2 Kings 17:24-33
11This is the copy of the letter that they sent to him, even to Artaxerxes the king;
Artaxerxes the king: False Smerdis
Your servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. 12Be it known to the king, that the Jews who came up from you to us are come to Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up its walls, and joined the foundations. 13Be it known now to the king, that, if this city is built, and the walls set up again, then they will not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so you shall damage the revenue of the kings. 14Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not fitting for us to see the king's dishonor, therefore we have sent and certified the king; 15That search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers: so shall you find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful to kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause this city was destroyed. 16We certify the king that, if this city is built again, and the walls of it set up, by this means you shall have no portion on this side the river.
17Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time. 18The letter which you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19And I commanded, and search has been made, and it is found that this city of old time has made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid to them. 21Now give commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city not be built, until another commandment shall be given from me. 22Take heed now that you do not fail to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
Thus in the reign of the second ruler after Cyrus who is universally accepted to be Pseudo Smerdis or also named Gaumata, the temple work stopped.
23Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. 24Then the work of the house of God who is at Jerusalem ceased. So it ceased to the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Second year of the reign of Darius: It would do the reader much good to have the history of Darius' overthrow of Smerdis and the reorganization that followed the first year and part of the second year of his reign. A period of peace which had no precedent for over a century previous to this was to ensue following Darius' restructure of the Persian Empire. The period of peace in prophesied in the first Chapter of Zechariah and repeated in Zechariah 6. The purpose of these chapters is to urge on the nation to rebuild the temple and not to be afraid because the period of disorder was over by the second year of Darius.
1Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even to them.
Then the prophets: The urging of the prophets actually cajoled the nation into getting the Temple building under way after the forced cessation under Smerdis. It is actually the will of the people through the inspiration of God to his prophets that restarted the work. The decree of Darius which helped greatly followed the restarting of the work on the temple.
2Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jozadak rose up, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and the prophets of God were with them helping them.
Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jozadak rose up: Thus the urging of the prophets with their assurance, that it was not only the will of God but the historical time was right, helped the Governor and the High Priest to move forward in the actual work. Haggai preached that the nation was negligent in restarting the work (after all Smerdis was dead for more than a year) and he, Haggai made note that the physical blessing would begin at a certain named date by which time the nation's will to work was established. Haggai said the days of drought were over and agricultural blessing would follow. Zechariah promised that a period of peace on earth and religious freedom for the Jews had started and would last for a long time into the future. It happened as predicted. We call that period the "Silent Years."
3At the same time Tatnai, governor on this side the river came to them, and Shetharboz nai, and their companions, and said thus to them, Who has commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 4Then we said to them after this manner, What are the names of the men who make this building? 5But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter. 6The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, who were on this side the river, sent to Darius the king:
The following letter is written in Aramaic:
7They sent a letter to him, in which was written thus; to Darius the king, all peace. 8Be it known to the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is built with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goes on fast, and prospers in their hands. 9Then we asked those elders, and said to them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls? 10We asked their names also, to certify you, that we might write the names of the men who were the chief of them. 11And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was built these many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and set up. 12But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to anger, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon. 13But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.
First year of Cyrus the king of Babylon: See the explanation of the "first year" of Cyrus above in Ezra 1:1 and in 6:3 below.
14And also the vessels of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15And said to him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be built in its place. 16Then the same Sheshbazzar came, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now it has been in building, and yet it is not finished. 17Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king's treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it is so, that a decree was made by Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
1Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. 2And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and in it was a record thus written:
There was found at Achmetha: The search began at Babylon. At least the diligence of the search is seen in finally finding the records in Ekbatana. or Achmetha.
Achmetha - (Ezra 6:2), called Ecbatana by classical writers, the capital of northern Media. Here was the palace which was the residence of the old Median monarchs, and of Cyrus and Cambyses. In the time of Ezra, the Persian kings resided usually at Susa of Babylon. But Cyrus held his court at Achmetha; and Ezra, writing a century after, correctly mentions the place where the decree of Cyrus was found. Easton Bible Dictionary
Pronounced As: ekbatn, ekbtään , capital of ancient Media, later beginning with Darius the summer residence of Achaemenid and Parthian kings, beautifully situated at the foot of Mt. Elvend and NE of Behistun. In 549 BCE it was captured by Cyrus the Great. It possessed a royal treasury and was plundered in turn by Alexander, Seleucus, and Antiochus III. The site has never been thoroughly excavated, since it is covered by the modern city, Hamadan, Iran, where the traditional tomb of Esther is still honored by the Jewish community. Ecbatana was the Achmetha of Ezra and the Apocrypha. It is also called Hangmatana.
Achmetha or Ekbatana is very near the site of Darius I's inscription at Behistun Rock and thus was well known to Darius. It is this fact that leads many to believe that the third language (yet untranslated) on the Behistun inscription is Median.
3In the first year of King Cyrus the same King Cyrus made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be built, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations of it be strongly laid; the height of it sixty cubits, and the breadth of it sixty cubits; 4With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house: 5And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought to Babylon, be restored, and brought again to the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.
First Year of King Cyrus: As explained before, the first year of Cyrus refers to his being King of kings after his capture of Babylon which is described in Herodotus and Daniel 5. He had been King of the Medes for almost 28 years previous to the fall of Babylon. His exploits in uniting the Medes and the Persians into one Kingdom and his wars against Greek king Croesus in central Anatolia which extended his power there are described in Herodotus. These events preceded his march on Babylon. Cyrus was King of the Medes and the Persians (modern Iran) for many years before his position as King of the civilized word began in 536 BCE with the fall of Babylon; which insured his control of the whole fertile crescent including Egypt. Thus he became King of the nations from the Indus river to the Bosporus and from the Black Sea to Ethiopia.. This is called the First Year of King Cyrus here .
Dimensions: The cubit is usually considered about 1 ½ feet and if so the temple is describes as being 90 feet in height and width. The great doorway of the temple was 60 feet in height leaving a space of 30 feet above the door. Zechariah describes gold crowns which a passage in the Mishnah says were placed inside the temple above the door, 60 feet above the floor.(Mishnah: Midd. 3:8) See also Zechariah 6:11.
6Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, who are beyond the river, get far from there: 7Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in its place. 8Also I make a decree of what you shall do to the elders of these Jews for building this house of God: that expenses be given quickly to these men, of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, so that they are not hindered. 9And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests who are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: 10So that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons. 11Also I have made a decree, that who ever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.
12And the God who has caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, who shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.
Caused his name to dwell: This is a "Shekina" reference made by Darius. Darius as explained above was a monotheist. The return of the Shekina to the second temple in the same measure that it indwelled the first temple took place about this time. At least before the dedication of the temple in 515 BCE. Thus the return probably took place in 516 BCE which is exactly seventy years after the departure of the Shekina from the first Temple. This would correspond with Jeremiah's prophecy that seventy years would be accomplished in the desolations of Jerusalem. The land was desolate exactly seventy years from the first captivity of people in 606 BCE to the return in 536 BCE , exactly 70 years and the Glory of YHWH abandoned the Temple in 586 and returned in 516 BCE exactly seventy years. For a more thorough treatment of this event read the History of the Shekina.
13Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. 14And the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
Who is the Artaxerxes of this verse? He can not be Artaxerxes of 4:6. That is Pseudo Smerdis who stopped the building. He may be Xerxes the Great who was son of Darius and he may have been acting with his father. The problem is that these "commandments" all seem here to precede the dedication of the finished Temple in the 6th year of Darius or the year 515 BCE.. But this clearly marks Artaxerxes as a dynastic title rather than a name. Jamison.Faucett. and Brown mistakenly say that the Ahasuerus of 4:6 is Xerxes, son of Darius who preceded his son Artaxerxes. This is clearly a mistake and the chronology would be completely mixed up if that were the case. Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes are titles. Xerxes the Great is called Ahasuerus in Esther and perhaps Artaxerxes here in vs. 14. Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius are names not a titles.
15And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. 16And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, 17And offered at the dedication of this house of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
For all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel: Here is a plain statement that those who returned considered all 12 tribes to be represented among those who returned. This fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel in chapter 37 where he predicted that in the return all the tribes would be held in the hand of Judah. Various cults have taught that the 10 lost tribes are still wandering out there somewhere. Many other verses beside this one refute that false position. See a more detailed exposition of this fact.
18And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.
For the service of God: The service that the Levites and Priests offered is described in detail in the Pentateuch, particularly in the book of Leviticus. The divisions and courses were set by David not by Moses.. David did not amend the law of Moses in this point but simply organized the work of the priest to share the work-load more efficiently. This verse does not say that the divisions and courses were "written in the book of Moses" but that the leaders of the returnees set the priests and Levites in their courses so they could perform the services which Moses described for them in the Pentateuch.
19And the children of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 20For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the Passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brothers the priests, and for themselves. 21And the children of Israel who were come again out of captivity ate, and all such as had separated themselves to them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel,
The First Generation: More than sixty years passed before the ministry of Ezra to reform the priesthood commenced. By that time the initial purity and zeal mentioned here had been lost and there was need for wide spread repentance which is recorded beginning in Nehemiah 8:1ff; Ezra 9:1ff and Nehemiah 13:
22And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the King of Assyria to them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
King of Assyria: Darius is called King of Assyria here. This may be because the Babylonians who preceded the Persian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire which they continued and enlarged. The Persians therefore were the recipients of the Assyrian culture which had been adopted by the Babylonians and passed on the Persians, Darius is called the Persian and his Winter Palace was at the old Median capitol at Ekbatana; thus he is likely Darius the Mede also..
Darius was a monotheist. Although he worshiped Ahuramazda he praised him as the sole creator of all. See the translation of the inscription on Behistun Rock for his devotion to Ahuramazda, This may account for the great favor that he and his descendants showed to the Jews and their temple.
The next chapter begins 59 years after this last event of dedicating the restored temple by the members of the First and Second Aliyahs.
1Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
Artaxerxes I: called by the Greeks Macrocheir (Longhand; in Latin Longimanus), was an Achamenid king of Persia who ruled 465-24 BC. He came to the throne after the assassination of his father, Xerxes I, and his elder brother Darius. Court intrigues at the beginning of his reign were followed by revolts in the province of Bactria and in the province of Egypt, which were put down after much fighting recorded in Thucidides. A peace treaty was also signed (449) with Athens, [according to Thucidides] and some say Ezra and Nehemiah codified the laws of Israel by order of Artaxerxes. The reign of Artaxerxes was marked by increased taxation and discontent, but through diplomacy the king maintained his empire in peace during the last years of his rule. His building inscriptions say that he spent most of his life at Susa [but also used the winter palace of the Medes at Ekbatana] and later retired to Persepolis. He died peacefully.Grolier's Enc. [brackets FPM]
Artaxerxes son of Xerxes continued the diplomatic discussions with the Athenians interacting with two of the greatest statesmen in Athens, Aristides and Themisticles. Though enemies, the diplomacy continued to the end of Artaxeres' life. Thucidides wrote that a Greek envoy was en route to the court of Artaxerxes accompanied by a Persian Ambassador when the news of Artaxerxes death reached them and aborted the trip see the section here. Further negotiations continued with the Persian Dynasty with Greeks still sending ambassadors for diplomatic purposes to the still militarily superior Assyrians in the reign of Artaxerxes' son Darius II. See the reference in Thucidides. The Anabasis by Xenophon is a history that shows that Greek armies were still mercenaries for the Assyrians, as the Greeks called them, well in the reign of Artaxerxes II, son of Darius II, hired by Cyrus the Younger in hopes of affecting a coup against his brother and installing himself as King. The coup failed and the Anabasis is the history of the Greeks escape from Persian territory. What is most interesting is that Palestine was undisturbed by any intrigues that may have gone on and enjoyed peace and contentment through the whole of the Persian period.
Some commentators erroneously attribute the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus to his father Xerxes. It was in Xerxes' reign that Esther became his queen. He is said to have died in 465 BCE and the decree to send Ezra was in 456 BCE which is eleven years after the death of Xerxes and well into the reign of his son Artaxerxes called Long-hand by the Greeks but he is known by the Latin, Longimanus.
2The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
Genealogy: This is an abridged Gerontology but the line going back to Aaron is recognizable and places Ezra not only in the lineage of the priesthood but as a direct descendant of the High Priest.
6This Ezra Went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God on him.
Went up from Babylon: Babylon was not the seat of government. Artaxerxes, like the other Persian Kings made Susa, Persepolis, and Ekbatana places where his palaces were. But Babylon was the location of the Jewish academies and the schools of scribes who remained in the major metropolis of the ancient world. Thus Ezra and the priests went up from there.
7And some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim went up, to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
Some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites: Most of the priests and Levites and other servants of the temple service had stayed in Babylon at the time of the first aliyah. It had been necessary to conscript the priests and helpers of the first aliyah in the days of Zerubbabel 60 years before. There was no city much less a Temple and therefore there was no place to perform the service. Thus the reluctance to return created a large religious community in Babylon which would continue for many centuries. Ezra 3:12 indicates that many of the priests of the first aliyah were old, very old since they had seen the temple of Solomon with their own eyes. Thus this is a new group of younger men who join Ezra in the third aliyah.
8And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God on him.
A dangerous journey which will be described later. Four months were required to make the journey.
10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Aramaic: The following text is in Aramaic in the original.
11Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
The letter follows:
12Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. 13I make a decree, that all those of the people of Israel, and of their priests and Levites, in my realm, who are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with you.
Free Will: This concession may refer to the first aliyah when the priests and Levites were disinclined to join the first return and there was actual need to coerce the reluctant priests to send a contingent. At this time, there was some ground work laid and the nation was ready for the reforms that were soon to take place and more priests were willing to volunteer. However the majority of Priests and Levites still stayed in Babylon where Jewish religious life flourished more than it did in Judea.
14Forasmuch as you are sent by the king, and by his seven counselors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your hand; 15And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
Habitation: Hebrew is Mishkan related to Shekina. Darius also mentioned the Shekina in 6:12..
16And all the silver and gold that you can find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem: 17That you may speedily buy with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. 18And what ever shall seem good to you, and to your brothers, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God. 19The vessels also that are given you for the service of the house of your God, deliver those before the God of Jerusalem. 20And what ever more shall be needful for the house of your God, which you shall have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house.
The exact accounting of the wealth carried by the third aliyah is detailed in chapter 8 below.
21And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers who are beyond the river, that what ever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, let it be done speedily, 22To a hundred talents of silver, and to a hundred measures of wheat, and to a hundred baths of wine, and to a hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing. 23What ever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be anger against the realm of the king and his sons? 24Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinim, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, on them.
25And you, Ezra, after the wisdom of your God, that is in your hand, set magistrates and judges, who may judge all the people who are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach them who do not know them. 26And whoever will not do the law of your God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it is to death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
Aramaic: from verse 7 discontinues with verse 26 and Hebrew commences for the rest of the book with the next verse with many Aramaic words interspersed through the text. Considering that Ezra and his entourage had spent upward to 130 years in Babylon and the Jews in Palestine were almost all Aramaic speakers it is a confirmation of the integrity of the text to find the language a bit contaminated.
27Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem: 28And has extended mercy to me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
Gathered: some were conscripted although they were supposed to be of a willing heart. See under verse 16 in the next chapter.
1These now are the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.
This lengthy list of men that follows. It illustrates what has been said above about the majority of exiles, including priests who were reluctant to leave the relative comfort that they had in Babylon to return to Jerusalem which still had no walls and the streets were unpaved and a good bit of the city was still a ruin.
2Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush. 3Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males one hundred fifty. 4Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males. 5Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males. 6Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males. 7And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males. 8And of the sons of Shephatiah; Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him eighty males. 9Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred eighteen males. 10And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him one hundred sixty males. 11And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty eight males. 12And of the sons of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him one hundred ten males. 13And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them sixty males. 14Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
The Number of those in the Third Aliyah: The total of men, not including women and children of the priests was 1,460. This number does not include Levites and Nethinim (non Israeli temple servants) who for this aliyah are recorded below. That number brings the number of men in the third aliyah to 1718. This does not include women and children. Adding an appropriate number for the women and children would bring the number of participants in the third aliyah to more than 3000. Thus it is no small number of people who were to camp at the river near Ahava.
15And I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there we abode in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found none of the sons of Levi there.
Three days: the reason for the three days is explained below. There was a need to fast and also to make an account of the treasure they were returning to Jerusalem. But the news to conscript some Levites and their Nethinim required another eight days so that the departure actually took place on twelfth day of the first month. See verse 31 below.
I viewed the people, and the priests: This strongly implies that the priests were counted among the number given above. But the Levites were not.
16Then I sent 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.
Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah: Eliezer and Ariel are not named in the list just above but Shemiah is. Yet they are all here called Chief men. These men are to be sent to recruit Levites and Nethinim for the Temple service. The reluctance of the Levites to join the third aliyah may be explained by what they would have known about the desolation that still prevailed in Jerusalem. The following passages from Nehemiah give a description of the city at this very time which accounts for the response of the Levites to the return which was less than enthusiastic
Neh. 1:3 The remnant who are left of the captivity there in the province [of Jerusalem] are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, its gates are burned with fire. 2:17Then I said to them, you see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire:
17And I sent them with commandment to Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say to Iddo, and to his brothers the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring to us ministers for the house of our God.
Iddo: is most likely a Levite who was in charge of other Levites and the Nethinim who remained in Babylon.. Casiphia the location which is unknown was probably near Babylon from which the aliyah departed and from which area around it the 'oliym or new immigrants were gathered and encamped.
18And by the good hand of our God on 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 brothers, eighteen; 19And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brothers and their sons, twenty;
Levites: Thus only 38 Levites responded to this special call to join the third aliyah.
20Also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred twenty Nethinim: all of them were expressed by name.
Nethinim : The Nethinim are servants of the Levites from the non Jewish population. This number (220) added to the Levites brings the number of men in the third aliyah to 1718. The names of the Nethinim though known by Ezra are not listed in his writing.
21Then 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. 22For 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 to the king, saying, The hand of our God is for good on all those who seek him; but his power and his anger is against all those who forsake him. 23So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.
Our Little ones: Here is the positive statement that little children were part of the aliyah.
Fast: The pressing insistence for the Fast can be understood from the next verses 29-30 and the notes under them.
24Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them, 25And weighed the silver, and the gold to them, 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: 26I even weighed to their hand six hundred fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels a hundred talents, and a hundred talents of gold; 27Also twenty basins of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold. 28And I said to them, you are holy to the LORD; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD God of your fathers.
The Free Will Offering: Most of the Temple vessels had been returned by Cyrus in the first aliyah with Zerubbabel and Joshua. These then were offerings from those who remained in Babylon as an offering for the restoration still going on after eighty years. The returnees and their animals already mentioned made a large group with much wealth. It is no wonder that the fast mentioned in vs. 21 above had preceded their departure from Babylon when they were seeking God's protection on the way. There would have been much loot for robbers.
29Watch, and keep them, until you weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, in the chambers of the house of the LORD at Jerusalem. 30So the priests and the Levites took the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God.
The weight: Using tables of equivalents make this calculation of immense proportions. The Babylonian talent is said to be near seventy pounds. Perhaps there is a different equivalent to recon the materials brought in the offering but with any system of comparison the amounts would be calculated in tons not pounds. But the considerable amount is confirmed by the length of time it took to re-weigh the offering when they arrived in Jerusalem. The accounting probably took place during the three day fast and was the reason for that duration. It took that long to make the accounting. See below for the similar time to re-weigh all at the end of the journey. All the more reason to fear robbers on the way and to start the journey with fasting and prayer.
31Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and from such as lay in wait by the way. 32And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
The journey: would have taken them up the Euphrates River to the region near Carchemish and then south through the "Entering in of Hamath" through Lebanon to Samaria where Ezra delivered the official decrees of Artaxerxes to the governors of Palestine. This is mentioned in vs. 36 below but was probably done in the order proposed here. There would not have been any easy way to circumvent Samaria before arriving at their destination. Then on to Jerusalem.
33Now on the fourth day the silver and the gold and the vessels was 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 Joshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites; 34By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.
The fourth day: The accounting that was to match the quantities that they started with probably took as long as the weighing at the time of the departure. Thus three days were required to make the total accounting which was finished by the fourth day.
35Also the children of those who had been carried away, who were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety six rams, seventy seven lambs, twelve male goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering to the LORD.
Thank Offering: This offering, no doubt offered only by those of Ezra's aliyah was a thank offering for their safe passage through what would have been hostile territory.
36And they delivered the king's commissions to the king's lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God.
Commissions: The word here is a Persian word translated laws, decrees, commandments, which had been decreed by the King himself.
The king's lieutenants, and the governors: Interestingly, the words for these offices are given here in Persian. The word translated lieutenant is "achashdarpen" for which word the NIV uses the word Satrap, and the word translated governor is "phachav" which is similar to the Hebrew word for political officer or "phakad."
When: See the order of events above. Delivering the commissions was probably done before their arrival at Jerusalem. Samaria rather than Jerusalem was more likely the seat of Persian government in Palestine. Thus Nehemiah probably reported first to Samaria before his arrival at Jerusalem.
1Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Chapters 9 and 10: comprise the repentances of the nation and the priesthood which resulted in the putting away of foreign wives, especially from the priesthood. The moral changes went far beyond the question of leverite marriage that would have been more important to Ezra the priest. That may be the reason that the practical changes in the character of the populace is recorded in Nehemiah rather than Ezra..
The events in Nehemiah are contemporary or concurrent with the revival of Ezra. Chronologically the events recorded in Nehemiah follow the words in verse 1 above (Now when these things were done) then all of Nehemiah follows in order to the last part of Nehemiah 13:22. Then what is described Nehemiah in 13:23 to the end of the chapter and book is coincident with the events beginning with the words following "Now when these things were done." That is: (the princes came to me, saying) No doubt, Nehemiah would have been the leading "prince." he takes credit for initiating the events that led to the cleansing of the priesthood from foreign marriages.
What else is left out: Many of the events that led up to the cleansing of the priesthood from foreign marriages and the great revival are left out of Ezra. The arrival of Nehemiah, the rebuilding of the walls of the city and the gates in the walls and the temple precede the events mentioned here in Ezra 9 and 10. Left out also are previous and precedent setting events which made the reading and explanation of the scriptures the primary religious activity of the Yishuv (Jewish population in Palestine) from then on through the silent years up to the beginning of the Christian era. The major religious event led by Ezra that preceded the repentances recorded in chapters 9 and 10 is not recorded in Ezra. It is found in Nehemiah 8. That should be read to understand the religious climate. The revival led by Ezra recorded in Nehemiah 8 sets the precedent for the religious activity of the Jewish nation for the next four centuries. The office of prophet disappeared and the reading of the scriptures in the weekly synagogue took its place. All manner of changes were affected. A description of these new norms can be found in the commentary on Zechariah Chapter III. named Glimpses into the "Silent Years" 450-180 B.C.E.
2For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed has mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yes, the hand of the princes and rulers has been chief in this trespass. 3And when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished. 4Then every one who trembled at the words of the God of Israel were assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.
The events of this chapter, that is, the cleansing of the priesthood is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah of the filthy garments worn by Joshuah the High Priest and their being cast aside for new clean garments. The priesthood was corrupt, wearing the same problems that had plagued them until the reformation under Ezra. See Zec 3:1-7. Malachai also describes the immoral condition of the priesthood before the revival led by Ezra. See Mal. 1:6-14 It is at this time, more than 80 years after the initial return, that the condition reported by Malachi was changed by the revival and repentance and reform wrought by Ezra. Zechariah's prophecy of the cleansed priesthood is also fulfilled in these events recorded here in Ezra 9 and 10. I will not comment on the reforms as they speak for themselves.
5And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having torn my garment and my mantle, I fell on my knees, and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, 6And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up to the heavens. 7Since the days of our fathers we have been in a great trespass to this day; and for our iniquities and our kings, and our priests, we have, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. 8And now for a little space grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. 9For we were bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations of it, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. 10And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken your commandments, 11Which you have commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, The land, to which you go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. 12Now therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that you may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. 13And after all that is come on us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that you our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this; 14Should we again break your commandments, and join in affinity with the people in these abominations? would you not be angry with us till you had consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? 15O LORD God of Israel, you are righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before you in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before you because of this.
1Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled to him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. 2And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said to Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken foreign wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. 3Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4Arise; for this matter belongs to you: we also will be with you: be of good courage, and do it. 5Then Ezra arose, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear that they should do according to this word. And they swore.
The Priests and Levites are the main objects of this reform. More stringent laws of marriage were laid on the Priests and Levites than the general population.
6Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came there, he ate no bread, nor drank water: for he mourned because of the transgression of those who had been carried away. 7And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together to Jerusalem; 8And that whoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those who had been carried away. 9Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together to Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain. 10And Ezra the priest stood up, and said to them, you have transgressed, and have taken foreign wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11Now therefore make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the foreign wives. 12Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As you have said, so must we do. 13But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand outside, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many who have transgressed in this thing. 14Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them who have taken foreign wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and its judges, until the fierce anger of our God for this matter is turned from us.
15Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them. 16And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. 17And they made an end with all the men who had taken foreign wives by the first day of the first month. 18And among the sons of the priests there were found those who had taken foreign wives: namely, of the sons of Joshua the son of Jozadak, and his brothers; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. 19And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass. 20And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah. 21And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah. 23Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri. 25Also of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah. 26And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah. 27And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza. 28Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth. 30And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh. 31And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel, 35Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh, 36Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau, 38And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei, 39And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah, 40Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah. 44All these had taken foreign wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.