Ezra 8
Benson Commentary
These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.
Ezra 8:1. That went up with me from Babylon — Multitudes of the Jews, who loved their ease better than their religion, thinking themselves well where they were, and either not believing that Jerusalem would better their condition, or being deterred by a prospect of the difficulties they might meet with on their journey, preferred staying in Babylon. Some, however, willingly offered themselves to go with Ezra, and the heads of their several families are here recorded for their honour, and the number of males that each brought in, amounting in all to one thousand four hundred and ninety- six.

Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.
Ezra 8:2. Of the sons of Phinehas — of Ithamar — By the sons, he means the families of these two persons, two of which he particularly names, those of Gershom and Daniel: not Daniel the prophet, but some eminent person of Ithamar’s line.

Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males an hundred and fifty.
Ezra 8:3. By genealogy of the males — Though the males only be expressed, yet doubtless they carried the women along with them, as they did the little ones, Ezra 8:21.

Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males.
Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.
Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males.
And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males.
Ezra 8:7. Of the sons of Elam, &c. — Concerning these, and the families that follow, to Ezra 8:15, it may be observed, that out of them many went up with Zerubbabel, in the reign of Cyrus, as appears by the account given in the second chapter, and that now more went up with Ezra out of the very same families.

And of the sons of Shephatiah; Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males.
Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males.
And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him an hundred and threescore males.
And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males.
And of the sons of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him an hundred and ten males.
And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males.
Ezra 8:13. Of the last sons of Adonikam — It seems the rest went before, so that now all the sons of that family returned.

Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.
Ezra 8:15. To the river that runneth to Ahava — Or the river of Ahava, as it is called, Ezra 8:21; Ezra 8:31. By comparing of these places, it seems that Ahava was the name both of the river and of the town or place by which it ran. Either this was that river of Assyria, which other writers call Adiava, or Diava, which ran along the Adiabene, upon which Ptolemy places the city of Abane, or Aavane; or some other river which ran into the Euphrates. Here, some imagine, was the country which (2 Kings 17:24) is called Ava, from whence the king of Assyria translated the people called Avites into Palestine, and in their room settled some of the captive Israelites. It was a common thing for those who travelled from Babylon to Jerusalem, in order to avoid the scorching heat of the desert of Arabia, to shape their course northward at first, and then turning westward, to pass through Syria into Palestine. But Ezra had a further reason for his taking this route; for, as he intended to get together as many Israelites as he could, to carry along with him to Jerusalem, he took his course this way, and made a halt in the country of Ava, or Ahava, from whence he might send emissaries, to a place afterward mentioned, to invite such Jews as were there to come and join him. See Calmet’s Dict. on the word Ahava. And found there none of the sons of Levi — To wit, who were simple Levites, and not priests; and therefore the Levites mentioned Ezra 7:7, by anticipation, were not yet come to him.

Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding.
Ezra 8:16. Then sent I for Eliezer, &c. — To come to me, and go along with me to Jerusalem. He sent for these eleven persons, that he might employ them in a message to a place where he knew there were a great many Levites, as it follows in the next verse. Also for Joiarib and Elnathan, men of understanding — Who seem to have had more knowledge than pious zeal for God and his house, and solemn worship, which was confined to Jerusalem.

And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.
Ezra 8:17. And I sent them unto Iddo the chief — Chief among the Levites, who dwelt at the place here mentioned, and there had the free exercise of their religion, as this and many other passages in this book plainly enough prove. For we find the people resorting to Ezekiel in their captivity, and him preaching to them the word of God, in many places of his book, particularly Ezekiel 33:30-31, &c. And Ezra, in all likelihood, was an instructer among them, as Joiarib and Elnathan also were, and Iddo, to whom these were sent. By which means many proselytes were made, who left their own country, and came with them to Jerusalem when they returned, Ezra 6:21. At the place Casiphia — It is not easy to guess what place this was. The text calls it Casiphia the place. Some have taken it for the Caspian mountains, situate between Media and Hyrcania. But certainly these must have been at too great a distance from the road he was taking. Perhaps it was in Parthia, where was a city called Caspi, known to the ancient geographers. The LXX. render it, a place of silver, for כסŠ, keseph, signifies silver. That they should bring us ministers for the house of our God — The furnishing of God’s house with good ministers is a good work, and which will redound to the comfort and credit of all that have any hand it.

And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;
Ezra 8:18. By the good hand of our God — That is, by the blessing of God upon us, they brought us a man of understanding, &c. — They did not return without their errand; but, though the warning was short, they brought about forty Levites to attend Ezra. By this it appears they were not averse to go, but were slothful, and only wanted to be called upon to go.

And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;
Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.
Ezra 8:20. Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed — The Gibeonites, who were devoted to the service of the Levites by Joshua and the princes of his time, (Joshua 9:21,) and are said to have been appointed by David and his princes, because they were confirmed by them in their former office, and more particularly applied to the several services of the temple. Of them two hundred and twenty, upon this hasty summons, listed themselves, and had the honour to be expressed by name in Ezra’s muster-roll. This success Ezra ascribes to the good hand of God upon them. If, where ministers have been wanting, the vacancies are well supplied, let God have the glory, and his good hand, qualifying them for the service, inclining them to it, and then opening a door of opportunity for them.

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Ezra 8:21. Then I proclaimed a fast there — Ezra had procured Levites to go along with him, but what would that avail unless he had God with him? this is therefore his chief care. No doubt he had himself begged of God direction in this affair, from the first time he had it in his thoughts: but for public mercies, public prayers must be made, that all who are to share in the comfort of them, may join in requests for them. Thus, in all our ways we must acknowledge God, and in those particularly wherein we are endeavouring to serve the interests of his kingdom among men. That we might afflict ourselves before our God — For our sins, and so be qualified for the pardon of them. When we are entering on any new condition of life, our care should be to bring none of the guilt of the sins of our former condition into it. When we are in any imminent peril, let us be sure to make our peace with God, and then we are safe; nothing can do us any real hurt. To seek of him a right way for us — A safe and prosperous journey; such a way and course as might be best for us. And for our little ones, and for all our substance — They had the greater reason to fast and pray, because they carried with them their little children, treasures of gold and silver, and divers vessels, and other things, of very considerable value, and were apprehensive of enemies, who would waylay them to plunder them of their substance; namely, the Arabs, Samaritans, and others, against whom they peculiarly needed the divine protection and aid.

For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
Ezra 8:22. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers, &c. — He might have obtained from the king any thing that he desired; but he had so openly declared that he depended solely upon God for safe conduct, that he was ashamed to ask a guard of the king to secure them on their journey from their enemies. For the king, not being much instructed in divine matters, might possibly have thought that what they had said of God’s favour toward them, and the prophecies concerning their restoration, were but vain boasts, in case they had seemed to distrust the power and favour of that God of whom they had spoken so magnificently, by making application to the king for his protection and defence. Rather, therefore, than give any such umbrage, they were resolved to commit themselves entirely to God: but then it was necessary they should beseech that of him which they would not ask of the king; this they did, as we have just seen, by fasting and prayer.

So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Ezra 8:23. And he was entreated of us — They had some comfortable assurance in their own minds that their prayers were answered; and the event showed that they were, for they escaped all the dangers they had been afraid of, and in due time arrived safe in Judea.

Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,
Ezra 8:24. Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests — With whom he might intrust the gifts that had been offered for the temple. Having committed the keeping of them to God, he also committed the keeping of them, under God, to proper men, whose business it should be to watch over and take care of them. Thus our prayers must always be seconded with our endeavours; the care of Christ’s gospel, his church and ordinances, must not be so left with him, but that it must also be committed to faithful men, 2 Timothy 2:2.

And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellers, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:
Ezra 8:25. And weighed unto them the silver and the gold — Because he expected to receive it from them again by weight. In all trusts, but especially sacred ones, we ought to be punctual, and preserve a right understanding on both sides. In Zerubbabel’s time the vessels were delivered by number, here by weight, that all might be forth-coming, and it might easily appear if any were missing.

I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;
Ezra 8:26-27. Six hundred and fifty talents of silver — Making, at f375 sterling to the talent, f243,750 sterling. And silver vessels a hundred talents — Making near f40,000 sterling. And of gold (probably in coin) a hundred talents — Which at f4,500 per talent, make f450,000 sterling. Also twenty basins of gold of a thousand drachms — About f1,000 sterling value. And two vessels of fine copper — As valuable as gold.

Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.
And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers.
Ezra 8:28-29. I said, Ye are holy unto the Lord; the vessels are holy also — Being men consecrated to God’s service, you are bound, above all others, to be faithful in the discharge of your duty, especially being intrusted with holy things, which must be carefully delivered at Jerusalem, just as they were committed to your trust. Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them, &c. — That they be not lost or embezzled, or mingled with other things, keep them together; keep them by themselves; keep them safe, till you weigh them in the temple, before the great men there.

Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD.
So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God.
Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.
Ezra 8:31-32. The hand of our God was upon us — To protect and strengthen us in so dangerous and long a journey. And he delivered us from the hand of the enemy — There were not only many enemies who hated them, and were desirous to cut them off; but many robbers, who watched for a booty, whom God either diverted some other way, or disheartened from attempting any thing against them. And of such as lay in wait by the way — To wit, in the direct way. From this it may be conjectured, that God inclined them to fetch a little compass, and to go a more unsuspected way, as they had begged of him. And abode there three days — Before Ezra opened out his commission, or did any thing material.

And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites;
By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.
Ezra 8:34. All the weight was written at that time — There was a public record made of it; and the persons before mentioned, who brought the money and the vessels, were discharged by a public instrument signed by them that received it.

Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering unto the LORD.
Ezra 8:35. Which were come out of the captivity — Namely, those new- comers whom God had safely conducted thither. Offered burnt-offerings unto the God of Israel — Whereby they acknowledged the Lord for their God, and expressed their gratitude for their restoration. Twelve he-goats for a sin-offering — For it is the atonement that secures every mercy to us, which will not be truly comfortable, unless iniquity be taken away, and our peace be made with God. They offer twelve bullocks, twelve he-goats, and ninety-six rams, (eight times twelve,) signifying the union of the two kingdoms. They did not any longer go two tribes one way, and ten tribes another; but all the twelve met by their representatives at the same altar.

And they delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God.
Ezra 8:36. They delivered the king’s commissions to the lieutenants, and they furthered the people — Even the enemies of the Jews became their friends, yielded to Ezra’s commission, and, instead of hindering the people of God, furthered them, purely out of complaisance to the king. When he appeared moderate, they all coveted to appear so too. And the house of God — The completion of which they furthered, adorning and furnishing it with these vessels and other conveniences, and promoting God’s worship and service therein.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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