Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Chap. Ezra 8:1-20. The List of those that went up with Ezra to Jerusalem
(a) 1–14. List of the Heads of Fathers’ Houses, accompanying Ezra
1. These are now the chief of their fathers] R.V. Now these are the heads of their fathers’ houses. Literally, ‘now these are the heads of their fathers’, a shortened form of expression, as in Ezra 2:68.
and this is the genealogy of them] In the following list we have the names both of the houses and of their chiefs or representatives.
On the word ‘genealogy’ see Ezra 2:62. The LXX. οἱ ὁδηγοί.
Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.2. The Priestly and Royal houses. The numbers from these houses are not given. They are placed in a position of honour at the head of the list.
Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom] R.V. Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. The punctuation is corrected throughout 2–14.
The family of Phinehas (son of Eleazar, son of Aaron) is represented by Gershom. To his ‘house’ Ezra must have belonged (cf. Ezra 7:1-5).
Daniel] represented the line or family of Ithamar, Aaron’s younger son, and gave his name to a house (see Nehemiah 10:6). His name appears as Gamael in 1Es 8:29. From this mention of “the sons of Ithamar we gather that the priesthood was not, as Ezekiel required (Ezekiel 43:19, Ezekiel 45:15) limited to the line of Zadok.
That Gershom and Daniel were not the only two priests, but heads of two ‘fathers’ houses’, is shown by Ezra 8:24.
of the sons of David; Hattush] According to 1 Chronicles 3:22, the words “Of the sons of Shechaniah” (Ezra 8:3) belong to the genealogy of Hattush. “And the sons of Shechaniah (query, Zerubbabel’s grandson); Shemaiah: and the sons of Shemaiah; Hattush and Igal.” Hattush was therefore the grandson of Shechaniah, and (?) the great-great-grandson of Zerubbabel. The line of David was represented by the house of Shechaniah, which was represented by Hattush.
1Es 8:29 has “Of the sons of David, Lettus the son of Sechenias”, which in conjunction with the rest of the list seems to show that our text should run “Of the sons of David, Hattush, the son of Shechaniah”. This Hattush of the lineage of David must therefore not be confounded with the priest of the same name mentioned Nehemiah 10:4; Nehemiah 12:2.
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.3. This verse should begin with ‘of the sons of Parosh’ (see note on Ezra 8:2).
‘by genealogy of the males’. The present list differs in this respect from that recorded in chap. 2. There the total numbers are given; here the number of the males only.
3–14. The register of the laity or “the men of the people of Israel” as in Ezra 2:2.
The names of these houses with the exception of Shechaniah (Ezra 8:5) and Shelomith (Ezra 8:10) appear also in chap. 2 and Nehemiah 7. But it is most probable that the text has in the case of both these exceptions suffered (see notes on the verses), and that the houses of Zattu and Bani (Ezra 2:8; Ezra 2:10) are represented by Shechaniah and Shelomith.
Twelve households are represented by their chiefs and the number of their males given. The number ‘twelve’ was perhaps designedly taken to symbolize the united Israel.
The parallel list in 1 Esdras does not contain many variations. The following table places them side by side.
1Es 8:30 ff.
Of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah,
Of the sons of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai, the son of Zerahiah,
Of the sons of Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel,
Of the sons of Zathoe, Sechenias, the son of Jezelus,
Of the sons of Adin, Ebed, the son of Jonathan,
Of the sons of Adin, Obeth, the son of Jonathan,
Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athalian,
Of the sons of Elam, Josias, the son of Gotholias,
Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah, the son of Michael,
Of the sons of Saphatias, Zaraias, son of Michael,
Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah, the son of Jehiel,
Of the sons of Joab, Abadias, the son of Jezelus,
Of the sons of Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah,
Of the sons of Banid, Assalimoth, the son of Josaphias,
Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai,
Of the sons of Astath, Johannes, the son of Acatan,
Of the sons of Azgad, Jonathan, the son of Hakkatan,
Of the sons of Adonikam, Eliphelet, Jeuel, Shemaiah,
Of the sons of Adonicam the last, … Eliphalet, Jeuel and Samaias,
Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zabbud,
Of the sons of Bago, Uthi, the son of Istalcurus,
The total numbers given in the Hebrew text are 1496, in 1 Esdr. 1690.
Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males.4. Elihoenai] R.V. Eliehoenai, literally, ‘unto Jehovah mine eyes’.
Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.5. The Hebrew text gives Shechaniah as the house, but fails to give the name of its representative. ‘Shecaniah’ does not occur in the other lists as the name of a house. The text of 1 Esdr. has ‘of the sons of Zathoe, Shechenias the son of Jezelus’ (1Es 8:32). ‘Zathoe’ is the same as Zattu (Ezra 2:8). This name has most probably accidentally dropped out. We should therefore read “Of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah the son of Jahaziel’, i.e. Shechaniah is the representative of the house of Zattu: so also the LXX. (ἀπὸ υἱῶν Ζαθόης Σεχενίας νἱὸς Ἀζιήλ).
Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males.6. The Hebrew text and the LXX. give ezra 50: 1 Esdras gives 250. The smaller number is probably the original.
And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males.
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.10. Here, as in Ezra 8:5, the name of the representative is not given, while the name of the house Shelomith does not occur in the other lists.
1Es 8:36 gives “Of the sons of Banid, Assalimoth son of Josaphias”, which is here supported by the LXX. (ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν Βαανί, Σελιμοὺθ υἱὸς Ἰωσεφία). This shows the original reading to have been in all probability “of the sons of Bani (cf. Ezra 2:10) Shelomith the son of Josiphiah”.
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.13. of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these] R.V. Of the sons of Adonikam, that were the last; and these are their names.
‘The sons of Adonikam, that were the last’. (Acheronim) is a peculiar expression. It is generally supposed that the elder branches of this house had joined with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:13) and that the younger branches (‘the last’) returned with Ezra.
Others have supposed that the sons of Adonikam attached themselves ‘late’, last of all, to Ezra’s company.
It is noteworthy that this ‘household’, is represented not by one name, but by three. Perhaps we have here the names of three families, Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, who had but recently attached themselves to the Adonikam ‘house’. It may be conjectured that these ‘last’ sons of Adonikam had not yet become sufficiently united to have a single representative.
Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.14. The house of Bigvai is represented by two names, though the parallel passage of 1Es 8:40 gives but one, i.e. Uthi the son of Istalcurus.
Zabbud] R.V. marg. Another reading is Zaccur. The variation illustrates the liability to confusion, in the MSS., between ב and כ (bêth = b and caph = c), and ד and ר (dâleth = d and rêsh = r).
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.(b) 15–20. The Encampment of Ahava; the Absence of Levites
15. The Rendezvous
15. the river that runneth to Ahava] ‘Ahava’ is here the name of a place, which seems to have also given its name to the river. Ewald conjectured that the river Ahava (or Peleg-Ahava) was to be identified with the Palacopas, which flowed S. of Babylon. Rawlinson identifies with the river Is mentioned by Herodotus (i. 179) flowing from the E. into the Euphrates at a point, where stood a town of the same name (the modern Hit), an eight days’ journey distant from Babylon. He points out that a well-known town upon the line of march would be a likely spot for a halting-place.
We do not however gather from the verse that Ezra’s march had actually begun. The rendezvous at Ahava enabled Ezra to make the necessary preliminary review of his large company. It is hardly likely that this first review would be held at a great distance from Babylon, where the great majority of the Jews were settled. On the other hand it is equally unlikely that a gathering of 1500 men and of a caravan which must have comprised 7000 or 8000 souls would have met within the walls of Babylon.
The conjecture therefore that the Ahava was one of the many canals or artificial rivers in the vicinity of Babylon, appears to be the most probable. Perhaps there was a specially influential settlement of Jews on the banks of the Ahava, as there had been once on the banks of the Chebar (cf. Ezekiel 1:1 &c.). For purposes of lustration the pious Jews may have met with special frequency by the banks of rivers (cf. the proseuchæ and synagogues of later times), “By the rivers of Babylon,” (Psalm 137:1). See Acts 16:13.
1Es 8:41 renders by ‘a river called Theras’ (ἐπὶ τὸν λεγόμενον Θερὰν πόταμον). The LXX. gives πρὸς τὸν Εὐί (Ezra 8:21 Ἀουέ).
abode we in tents] R.V. we encamped. The three days’ encampment preceded the final move. The short interval was employed by Ezra in securing the services of Levites. As the camp was struck and the march begun on the 12th day (see Ezra 8:31), the encampment lasted from the 9th to the 12th. Ezra’s preparations were begun on the 1st day (see Ezra 7:9 and note).
I viewed] i.e. gave attention to. The same word occurs in Nehemiah 13:7, “I came to Jerusalem and understood of the evil.” Cf. Proverbs 7:7, “I discerned among the youths”. Job 42:3; Daniel 12:8.
the people, and the priests] i.e. the laity (cf. Ezra 2:2), and the priests.
and found there none of the sons of Levi] On the occasion of Zerubbabel’s journey from Babylon, only seventy-four Levites accompanied him, although over four thousand priests returned (cf. Ezra 2:36, &c.). The backwardness of the Levites to join in the return to the Temple-worship is probably to be explained by their having been especially concerned in (a) the worship at the high places, (b) the idolatrous forms of worship, which the reformation of Josiah had sought to abolish. See Introduction § 7. iv. C.
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.16. Then sent I for Eliezer, &c.] “For”. (a) The preposition in the original is sometimes found as the sign of the object: thus 2 Chronicles 17:7, A.V., “he sent to his princes, even to Ben-hail”, R.V. “he sent his princes, even Benhail”, &c. This is the alternative rendering (“then sent I Eliezer”) of the Vulgate (misi Eliezer et Ariel et Semejam, &c.) and the Syriac, and gives the most natural sense. Ezra 8:16 then gives the general fact, Ezra 8:17 the details of the mission. (b) The rendering of the A.V., R.V. and LXX. (απέστειλα τῷ Ἐλεάζαρ) is quite literal: Ezra 8:16 then contains Ezra’s summons to these leading men: Ezra 8:17 the mission, with which he empowers them, upon their coming into his presence. Of these two renderings the first seems to give the better sense. It hardly seems suited to the context to mention that Ezra, who commanded the whole assembly, summoned to his presence certain leading men before sending them upon an important mission. On the other hand it was quite in keeping with Ezra’s position to despatch such men upon his errand at once; and while the first verse (Ezra 8:16) records the fact of the message and the names of the leading men, whom he sends, the second verse (Ezra 8:17) describes the object and purpose of the mission. The peculiar usage of the preposition is quite in character with the style of the Hebrew in the books. The probability that this is the correct rendering is increased by the variation in the reading of Ezra 8:17 (see note).
chief men] Literally ‘heads’: not ‘the heads’ referred to in Ezra 8:1, but certain leaders.
men of understanding] R.V. which were teachers. Marg. which had understanding. The word in the original occurs in Nehemiah 8:7 (R.V. ‘caused … to understand’); 1 Chronicles 15:22; 1 Chronicles 25:7 (R.V. ‘skilful’); 2 Chronicles 34:12 (R.V. ‘that … could skill of’).
Joiarib and Elnathan receive a distinguishing epithet corresponding to the ‘chief men’ applied to the other names. It is not probable that a merely general epithet describing mental capacity should be given to two out of the party of ten. The word therefore is better rendered “teachers”, describing their position, than ‘men of understanding’, describing their abilities (LXX. συνιέντας, Vulg. sapientes).
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.17. And I sent them with commandment] R.V. And I sent them forth. Marg. another reading is I gave them commandment. The A.V. combines the two readings.
The variety of reading arises from the uncertainty felt as to the true rendering of the previous verse. The rendering ‘then sent I for’ in that verse requires in this verse the reading ‘And I sent them forth’ (C’thib). The rendering ‘then sent I’ could be followed by either ‘I sent them forth’ or ‘I gave them commandment’ (K’ri), the latter being less a repetition of the previous sentence.
Supposing that “I gave them commandment” was the original reading, we can see that, when the Hebrew idiom in Ezra 8:16 ‘then sent I’ (the object expressed by a preposition) dropped out of sight and the literal translation seemed to be “then sent I for”, a reason was given for the very slight alteration, by which “I gave them commandment” was altered to “I sent them forth” (LXX. ἐξήνεγκα). This accounts for the existence of the two readings, and for the prevalence of that accepted in the R.V. text. But the R.V. margin seems preferable. It gives a natural sense and agrees well with what precedes and follows. On the other hand the alternative reading “I sent them forth” represents a word of great frequency in the sense of ‘bring forth or out’ (e.g. Ezra 1:7, Ezra 10:3; Ezra 10:19; Nehemiah 9:7; Nehemiah 9:15): it denotes ‘deliverance’, ‘dismissal’, ‘removal’, ‘utterance’: but is not at all suited to the description of the mission. It occurs very often in the O.T., but it may be questioned whether it is ever elsewhere rendered “send forth”.
unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia] Lit. ‘Iddo the head’. Iddo clearly exercised some position of authority over the Jews, and particularly over the Levites and Nethinim settled at Casiphia. We may conjecture that Iddo was a Levite presiding over a college of young Levites and Nethinim, and who might be ready to send young men to Ezra’s aid.
Casiphia] which some of the older commentators used to identify with the ‘Caspian’, was probably some village in the neighbourhood of Babylon. The LXX. rendered the word from the similarity of the first part of the word to the Hebrew ‘ceseph’ (silver), ἐν ἀργυρίῳ τοῦ τόπου.
and I told them what they should say] Lit. ‘And I put words in their mouth to speak’. The general charge comprised verbatim instructions. On the phrase “put words … in mouth”, cf. Exodus 4:15; Numbers 23:16; Deuteronomy 31:19.
unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims] R.V. unto Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim. Marg. ‘The text as pointed has, Iddo, his brother.’ The text is here corrupt. The uncertainty as to Iddo’s position, and the unlikelihood that a man of such influence would have been one of the Nethinim, has increased the doubtfulness of the true reading, (a) Adopting the pointed text, and supposing the letter Vaw (=and) to be accidentally dropped after the name of Iddo which ends with that letter, we could render ‘unto Iddo and his brother, the Nethinim’. (b) Altering the vowel-points and assuming the omission of the same letter, we obtain the rendering of the A.V. and R.V. “unto Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim” (cf. Ezra 3:2, Jeshua and his brethren the priests). (c) Supposing a second similar omission to have taken place, we have “unto Iddo and his brethren (i.e. Levites) and the Nethinim”.
Of these alternative renderings (c) appears to be the most probable. The appeal is made to Iddo and to his brethren the Levites. As the response (18–20) comes from Levites and Nethinim, we conclude that Iddo presided over the Nethinim as well as over the Levites. Just as a High-priest himself a priest, would preside over priests and Levites, so Iddo himself a Levite would preside over Levites and Nethinim. The Nethinim may have been more numerous and influential than the Levites. At any rate it is not likely that Iddo himself belonged to this inferior class.
ministers] A very general word in the original, to include Levites and Nethinim. Cf. 1 Samuel 2:11. The LXX., misreading a letter, renders “singers” (ᾄδοντας).
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;18. And by the good hand] R.V. And according to the good hand. For the phrase see on chap. Ezra 7:6.
a man of understanding] R.V. a man of discretion. Marg. Or Ish-sechel. Discretion (sechel). Cf. 1 Chronicles 22:12; 2 Chronicles 2:12; Proverbs 19:11 : = understanding, Proverbs 3:4; Proverbs 13:15; Proverbs 16:22; Psalm 111:10 : = wisdom Proverbs 12:8; Proverbs 23:9 : = policy Daniel 8:25. The fact that we find in the following clause “And Sherebiah”, &c. favours the supposition that we ought to have the name of the individual mentioned who was “of the sons of Mahli”. Either, as is most probable, this proper name has dropped out of the text before the words “a man of discretion”, or as is possible ‘Ish-sechel’ (LXX. ἀνὴρ Σαχὼν) is a proper name (cf. Ishbosheth, Ish-tob, 2 Samuel 10:6; Ish-hod, 1 Chronicles 7:18). But such names are rare, and the name Ish-sechel does not occur elsewhere. The view that the ‘and’ before Sherebiah has been carelessly inserted, and that Sherebiah himself is the man of discretion, fails to account for the order of the Hebrew words.
Mahli, the son of Levi, &c.] Cf. Exodus 6:16; Exodus 6:19; 1 Chronicles 6:19. Mahli was son of Merari, and therefore a grandson of Levi.
Sherebiah] Cf. Ezra 8:24; Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 9:4; Nehemiah 10:12; Nehemiah 12:24.
And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;19. Hashabiah] see Ezra 8:24; Nehemiah 10:11; Nehemiah 12:24.
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.20. also of the Nethinims] R.V. and of the Nethinim.
whom David and the princes had appointed] R.V. whom David and the princes had given. ‘Given’, not ‘appointed’, more literal rendering and corresponds with meaning of Nethinim (=given). See on Ezra 2:55. The sentence illustrates the prevailing tradition as to the origin of the Nethinim.
for the service of] here as usually = “for ministration or service to”; cf. Exodus 30:16 : frequent in Chron. in the phrase “the service of the house of God”. Sometimes = “service rendered by”, e.g. Exodus 38:21. For its primary meaning cf. Nehemiah 5:18 (bondage).
all … expressed by name] cf. the same phrase 1 Chronicles 12:31; 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 28:15; 2 Chronicles 31:19. The metaphor of the original is that of being ‘pricked’ off on the list. The list was probably before the compiler, who does not think it worth while to occupy space with the names.
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.21–36. The Events of the Journey
21–30. Preparations for the journey. (a) 21–23. The rendezvous and solemn fast at Ahava
21. I proclaimed a fast] For “fasting” see also on Ezra 9:3, Ezra 10:6. Here however the fast is not proclaimed in connexion with any special commission of sin. Ezra appoints the fast (a) as the symbol of submission before God’s will and of repentance from sin, (b) as the means of intensifying religious fervour in prayer through the restraint laid upon physical appetite, (c) as the testimony that ‘man lives not by bread alone’.
Viewed in this aspect, the public fast proclaimed by Ezra was a spiritual exercise; from which the pagan notion of propitiating God’s favour by voluntary human suffering was altogether absent. Cf. 2 Chronicles 20:3.
Compare the fast of Judas Maccabeus and his companions (1Ma 3:47) before they addressed themselves to the conflict with the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes.
that we might afflict ourselves] R.V. that we might humble ourselves. A moral not a physical discipline. The self-affliction or humiliation is expressed by a verb which gave rise to the regular word in later Hebrew for fasting, “Taanith”.
a right way] R.V. a straight way. Both a direct road, that they might not have to turn aside on account of attacks and dangers from robbers or enemies, and a level road without obstacles and inequalities. Cf. Isaiah 40:3, ‘make straight (or level) in the desert a high way for our God’; where the same word occurs.
our substance] same word as is rendered ‘goods’ in ch. Ezra 1:6 (see note).
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.22. I was ashamed] same word as in Ezra 9:6 ‘I am ashamed’, Jeremiah 31:19 ‘I was ashamed’.
to require] R.V. to ask. The simplest rendering for the commonest word.
a band of soldiers and horsemen] Such an escort as Nehemiah had, Nehemiah 2:9, ‘Now the king had sent with me captains of the army and horsemen’.
a band of soldiers] This word is rendered δύναμιν by the LXX. and ‘auxilium’ by the Vulgate. It is the word rendered ‘army’ in the passage just quoted (Nehemiah 2:9) and in Nehemiah 4:2; it is a word of frequent occurrence, e.g. 2 Kings 6:14, ‘horses, and chariots, and a great host’. Here it simply means ‘armed men’.
against the enemy in the way] against ‘the enemy’ generally. No enemy in particular, Samaritan (Ezra 4:1) or Syrian, is contemplated. Rather the reference is to the robbers and Bedouins of the desert, who night easily inflict damage upon a large caravan by robbing stragglers and harassing the line of march.
The hand of God] cf. on Ezra 7:6.
upon all them for good that seek him] R.V. upon all them that seek him, for good. The word rendered ‘seek’ here (biqqêsh) differs from hat rendered by the same English word in Ezra 4:2, Ezra 6:21, Ezra 7:10 (dârash). Both words occur in the same verse in Deuteronomy 4:29, ‘But if from thence he shall seek (biqqêsh) the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him if thou search after (dârash) him with all thy heart and all thy soul’. This word (biqqêsh) is the commonest, denoting ‘to look for’, e.g. Ezra 2:62; Genesis 37:16; Psalm 24:6.
for good] cf. Ezra 7:9; Nehemiah 2:18.
his power and his wrath] cf. the same two words in Psalm 90:11, ‘who knoweth the power of thine anger’, i.e. His might revealed in displeasure.
against all them that forsake him] as if Ezra and his companions, if they had relied on the protection of an armed escort rather than of their God, would have ‘forsaken’ Him. A common expression (cf. 1 Samuel 12:10; Isaiah 65:11; 2 Chronicles 7:22; 2 Chronicles 12:5; 2 Chronicles 13:11; 2 Chronicles 21:10; 2 Chronicles 24:20; 2 Chronicles 24:24) for religious faithlessness.
So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.23. for this] either prayed for this favour, or as in Ezra 9:15, ‘because of this’, i.e. on the ground of this mingled faith and self-abasement.
and he was intreated of us] This phrase occurs also in Genesis 25:21; 2 Samuel 21:14; 2 Samuel 24:25; 2 Chronicles 33:13.
Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,24–30. (b) Provision for the custody of the votive gifts and offerings during the march
24. twelve of the chief of the priests] R.V. twelve of the chiefs of the priests. Literally ‘twelve of the princes of the priests’. The R.V. margin adds, In Nehemiah 12:24, Levites.
Sherebiah, Hashabiah] R.V. even Sherebiah, Hashabiah. Marg. besides. The exact meaning is not very evident.
(a) The A.V. follows the Vulgate, “et separavi de principibus sacerdotum duodecim, Sarabiam et Hasabiam et cum eis de fratribus eorum decem”. The preposition which in the original stands before ‘Sherebiah’ is then treated (as in Ezra 8:16) as the sign of the object. The objection to this is that Sherebiah and Hashabiah seem to have been Levites.
(b) The LXX. translates the preposition as the sign of the dative, “And I assigned of the chiefs of the priests twelve unto Sherebiah, &c.” (καὶ διέστειλα … τῷ Σαραΐᾳ). The objection to be made to this rendering is that it represents the priests as placed in a subordinate position to those who were Levites.
(c) 1Es 8:54 and Eresibia (καὶ Ἐρεσιβίαν) suggests another reading (ו for ל), “And I separated … twelve and Sherebiah, &c.”
(d) The same result is obtained by the rendering of the R.V. margin, which is to be preferred, “I separated twelve of the chiefs of the priests, besides Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brethren with them”, i.e. 12 priests in addition to 12 Levites (Sherebiah, Hashabiah and their 10 brethren). Accepting this rendering, we see that Ezra selected two groups of twelve, one of priests, the other of Levites, to act as guardians of the treasure, which agrees with Ezra 8:30. The names of Sherebiah and Hashabiah are for some reason specially mentioned, either being the best known of the twenty-four, or perhaps alone recorded in the chronicle employed by the compiler. The only other explanation possible, that of the R.V. text, is that Sherebiah and Hashabiah were two of ‘the chiefs of the priests’ and not to be identified with the Levites of the same name in Nehemiah 12:24. This gives a satisfactory meaning, according to which Ezra selected twelve ‘chiefs of priests’ to act as custodians. But (1) the clause ‘and ten of their brethren with them’, after the previous mention of the ‘twelve’, rather denotes a second group of the same number: (2) it is expressly stated in Ezra 8:30, ‘the priests and the Levites received the weight of the silver, &c.’, while according to the R.V. text the Levites were not of the number.
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:25. and weighed] Money was still for the most part reckoned by weight (cf. on Ezra 7:22).
the silver, &c.] The offerings referred to in Ezra 7:15-18, and the vessels given by the king and others Ezra 7:19; Ezra 7:27.
the offering of the house, &c.] R.V. the offering for the house. A dedicatory offering (t‘rûmah), as is described in Exodus 35:24. Literally ‘the offering of’, as in Exodus 30:15, ‘the offering of the Lord’, or ‘heave offering unto the Lord’, Numbers 18:26; Numbers 18:28-29; Numbers 31:29; 2 Chronicles 31:14, ‘the oblations of the Lord’. Here ‘the offering of’, i.e. ‘belonging to the house’ is equivalent to ‘the offering for the house.’ The expression does not occur again.
his counsellers] cf. on Ezra 7:14.
his lords] R.V. his princes; as in Ezra 7:28.
and all Israel there present] Literally ‘and all Israel that were found’. A peculiar phrase, occurring also in 1 Chronicles 29:17, ‘thy people which are present here’ (lit. that are found here); 2 Chronicles 5:11, ‘all the priests that were present’ (lit. that were found).
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;26. unto their hand] R.V. into their hand. Cf. note on Ezra 1:8.
The enormous value of these gifts is startling. The suspicion that the figures have been exaggerated by copyists is not unnatural.
six hundred and fifty talents of silver] A talent of silver being reckoned as worth £375, this means a sum approaching to a quarter of a million sterling, £243,750.
silver vessels an hundred talents] i.e. worth a 100 talents = £37,500.
and of gold an hundred talents] R.V. omits ‘and’. A gold talent was worth about £6,750; 100 talents would then = £675,000.
Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.27. also twenty basons of gold] R.V. and twenty bowls of gold: ‘bowl’ as in Ezra 1:10.
of a thousand drams] R.V. of a thousand darics. About £1 each: see on Ezra 2:69.
The total specified values then are about
£243,750 + £37,500 + £675,000 + £1,000 = £957,250,
or nearly a million of our money.
fine copper] R.V. fine bright brass. The Hebrew word (Muçhâbh) occurs only here. LXX. στίλβοντος. Some have suggested ‘orichalchum’, a variety of brass.
1Es 8:57, ‘And twelve (not ‘two’) vessels of brass even of fine brass, glittering like gold’.
precious] a rare word in the Hebrew, occurring also in Genesis 27:15, ‘goodly raiment’; 2 Chronicles 20:25; Daniel 11:38; Daniel 11:43, ‘precious things’ (cf. Daniel 10:3, ‘pleasant bread’ or bread of preciousness), applied metaphorically to Daniel himself ‘greatly beloved’ (lit. a man of precious things), Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:11; Daniel 10:19.
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.28. Ye are holy] i.e. consecrated to the Lord, as priests and Levites. Their sanctity not lessened by life in exile.
the vessels are holy also] R.V. and the vessels are holy, being votive offerings.
unto the Lord God of your fathers] R.V. unto the Lord, the God of your fathers. Cf. note on Ezra 7:28. The appeal to their hereditary sanctity and to their special vocation recalls to memory the covenant of Jehovah with the Israelites. Cf. Exodus 19:5-6.
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.29. Watch ye] A word denoting vigilance and wakefulness (LXX. ἀγρυπνεῖτε): cf. Psalm 127:1, ‘The watchman waketh but in vain’: generally metaphorically Psalm 102:7, ‘I watch and am become like a sparrow’. Cf. Jeremiah 1:12; Jeremiah 5:6.
the chief of the priests] R.V. the chiefs of the priests. See note on Ezra 8:24.
and chief of the fathers of Israel] R.V. and the princes of the fathers’ houses in Israel. In Ezra 1:5, Ezra 3:12 we have ‘heads of the fathers’ houses’. Possibly the word ‘sarê’ (princes) is here an error for ‘rashe’ (heads).
in the chambers, &c.] Such chambers are described in 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Chronicles 28:12. They served as store-rooms and as places of meeting for the priests. The chambers here referred to probably belonged to the outer buildings of the Temple. Cf. 1 Chronicles 23:28; Jeremiah 35:2; Jeremiah 36:10; Nehemiah 10:39; Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:7-9.
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.30. So look the priests and the Levites] R.V. So the priests and the Levites received. This expression goes to prove that the body of men to whom Ezra entrusted the precious things consisted of two groups of twelve, the one priests the other Levites (see on Ezra 8:24).
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.31–36. The Journey and the Arrival at Jerusalem
31. from the river of Ahava] See note on Ezra 8:15. Here ‘the river of Ahava’ translates the Hebrew accurately as ‘the river Ahava’ does in Ezra 8:21. Vulg. ‘a flumine Ahava’.
on the twelfth day of the first month] Compare with this date the statements in chap. Ezra 7:8-9, Ezra 8:15. The encampment at Ahava lasted three days (Ezra 8:15). The arrival at Ahava was therefore on the ninth day of the month. Supposing that Ahava is the same as Is (cf. Ezra 8:15), those nine days would have been consumed in the march from Babylon, and the march would have actually begun on the first of the month, Ezra 7:9.
Preferring another explanation of chap. Ezra 7:9, and regarding the encampment at Ahava as a preliminary muster of the whole company made at a convenient spot not far from Babylon, we consider the actual march did not begin till ‘the twelfth day of the first month’ (Nisan).
the hand, &c.] Cf. on Ezra 7:6.
the enemy] See note on 22.
and of such as lay in wait by the way] R.V. and the lier in wait by the way. This explains more fully who ‘the enemy’ was. Whether any attack was made we are not told. The deliverance may either imply the repulse of such an attack or the absence of any hostile movement.
And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.32. And we came to Jerusalem] On the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:8). See note on the length of the journey. The size of the caravan, the number of women and children, the stoppages at Jewish settlements on the way to apply for further contributions (in accordance with the king’s decree), and to enforce the observance of the Law, the possible encounters with Bedouin tribes, were some among the elements of delay.
three days] A three days’ interval to rest after the journey and to prepare plans. Nehemiah waited for the same period, Nehemiah 2:11.
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;33, 34. The Presentation of the Gifts and Offerings
33. weighed … by the hand of] R.V. weighed … into the hand of. Marg. by. The expression “into the hand” has occurred in Ezra 8:26, and is probably right both here and in chap. Ezra 1:8. Meremoth and his three companions were probably deputed by ‘the chiefs of the people’ to receive the treasure, upon its being weighed and found to tally with the ‘invoice’, and to convey it to the sacred treasury. These official receivers, consisting of two priests and two Levites, corresponded with the priestly and Levitical commissioners appointed by Ezra for the transport.
The rendering “by the hand of” supposes that the act of weighing was performed by a special body of four men, two priests and two Levites, appointed by the people.
But the other rendering is more suitable. The names not of those who weighed the treasure, but of those who were deemed worthy to be entrusted with its charge were most likely to be preserved.
Meremoth the son of Uriah] is mentioned also in Nehemiah 3:4; Nehemiah 3:21; Nehemiah 12:3.
Eleazar, &c.] See Nehemiah 12:42.
Jozabad] Perhaps mentioned in Ezra 10:23; Nehemiah 8:7. ‘The son of Jeshua’, see on Ezra 2:40.
Noadiah the son of Binnui] The name of Binnui occurs in Nehemiah 10:10; Nehemiah 12:8. The first two names are those of priests; the latter two those of Levites.
By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.34. by number and by weight of every one] R.V. the whole by number and by weight. The amount of the silver and gold was tested by weighing. The vessels and gifts were numbered, and their value estimated by weight. This list and valuation would check that which was supplied by Ezra’s commissioners (Ezra 8:24).
was written at that time] An exact inventory made at the date and accessible among other state documents.
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.35. Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity] R.V. The children of the captivity which were come out of exile.
By this term is intended Ezra’s company which had just returned. The sacrifices offered by them resembled those offered by Zerubbabel and his companions at the dedication of the Temple (Ezra 6:17). (1) They consisted of the same animals, bullocks, rams and lambs; (2) they were offered in the name of the whole people.
For the expression ‘the children of the captivity’ compare Ezra 6:19, and see note on chap. Ezra 2:1. The ‘exile’ (sh‘bhi) refers to the condition of captivity, the ‘captivity’ (haggôlah) to the community of exiles.
twelve bullocks … twelve he goats] i.e. for the twelve tribes, cf. on Ezra 6:17, ‘for all Israel’.
ninety and six rams] i.e. eight for each tribe.
seventy and seven lambs] a magnification of the perfect number (cf. Genesis 4:24; Matthew 18:22).
for a sin offering] The twelve he goats as in Ezra 6:17.
all this was a burnt offering] i.e. it was completely consumed.
An offering, of thanksgiving for protection in the journey, and of consecration of the new life.
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.36. the king’s commissions] i.e. especially those mentioned in Ezra 7:21-22; Ezra 7:24 which would concern the provincial administration, by requisitioning for supplies and by exemption from taxation.
The word rendered “commissions” occurs elsewhere in the O.T. only in the Aramaic sections, e.g. = ‘law’ Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:14; Ezra 7:21; Ezra 7:25-26; Daniel 2:9; Daniel 6:5; Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; “decree” Daniel 2:13; Daniel 2:15.
the king’s lieutenants] R.V. the king’s satraps. A Persian word found in Esther 3:12; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3, and in Daniel 3:2-3; Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:2-4; Daniel 6:7-8. In Hebrew it is transliterated as “akhashdarpan”.
In the Persian inscriptions ‘khshatrapava’ occurs frequently as “governor of a district”. It is probably the same as our satrap, which is derived from the Greek (σατράπης).
The LXX. rendering (διοικηταῖς) reminds us of the original extensive area implied by the word ‘diocese’.
and to the governors] The ‘governor’ or ‘pekhah’, cf. Tatnai Ezra 5:3-4 and Zerubbabel Ezra 6:7; Haggai 1:1 &c. (LXX. ἐπάρχοις).
The ‘satrap’ was governor of a province; the ‘pekhah’ administered the affairs of a petty kingdom or a small district.
on this side the river] R.V. beyond the river. See note on Ezra 4:10.
and they furthered the people &c.] The word “furthered” is the same in Hebr. as that rendered “help” in Ezra 1:4; it conveniently reproduces the ‘zeugma’ of the Hebrew construction, by which the same verb is used of assistance to the people and of decoration for the Temple.
The LXX. ἐδόξασαν, Vulg. elevaverunt, give common but here in appropriate renderings.
The royal decree turned the scale in favour of the Jews. Officials now aided them. Foreign countries ceased to be neutral.