Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.VIII.
(1-14) A list of the chief names, given by families, of those who accompanied Ezra.
(1) This is the genealogy.—The names of the heads of houses is followed generally by that of the wider families they belonged to. With this list is to be compared the register of those who went up with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2 seq.).
Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.(2, 3) According to 1Chronicles 3:22, Huttush was a descendant of David, and grandson of Shechaniab. The difficulty of the text therefore may probably be best solved by punctuating thus: “Of the sons of David. Hattush of the sons of Shechaniab. Of the sons of Pharosh, Zechariah.”
Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.(5) The son of Janaziel.—Obviously a name is omitted. The LXX. have, “of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah,” before Jahaziel.
And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him an hundred and threescore males.(10) Here also a name is wanting. The LXX. have, “of the sons of Bani, Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah.”
And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males.(13) And of the last sons.—The younger branches, the elder being reported in Ezra 2:13.
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.(15-31) The journey through Ahava to Jerusalem.
(15) Ahava.—Both river and town. Nine days’ journey brought them thither; and there is a place now called Hit, about eighty miles from Babylon, which has been identified with it.
None of the sons of Levi.—Only seventy-four had returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:40); and hero we have evidence that the disinclination continued. The importance of Levitcal service in the Temple accounts for the anxiety of Ezra.
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) Men of understanding.—Teachers, and perhaps priests. These were joined with nine chief men as a deputation to Iddo.
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) The place Casiphia.—Evidently near Ahavah, and a colony of Jews presided over by Iddo, one of the humble race of the Nethinims, but at present chief under the Persians. Ezra was aware of their existence in these parts.
Ministers.—A term obviously including Levites and Nethinims.
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) A man of understanding.—Probably a proper name, Ishsekel. This is required by the “and” before “Sherebiah,” who was a Levite, referred to by Nehemiah (Ezra 8:7).
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) The Nethinims—It is here alone recorded that David appointed these to aid the Levites.
All of them were expressed by name.—Not, as some think, that they were all famous, but that Iddo sent their names in a list not given. The relief of their coming is gratefully ascribed to the “good hand of our God upon us.”
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) To seek of him a right way for us.—The wilderness was now before them, and an enemy, indefinitely referred to, was in the way: probably desert tribes, always lying in wait for unprotected caravans.
Our little ones.—An intimation that whole households went up.
Our substance.—Chiefly the treasures for the Temple, though the term signifies cattle and other goods, with an undertone of abundance.
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) Because we had spoken unto the king.—The whole verse goes back to the past. Ezra had magnified God’s providence before the king: His “hand” upon his own “for good”—the habitual tribute to Providence in this book and Nehemiah—and His power “against” His enemies “for evil” not being expressed. This sublime testimony made the “seeking” God a condition of safety. Hence the solemn fasting and prayer, following many precedents (Judges 20:26; 1Samuel 7:6).
Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,(24) Sherebiah.—Rather, to Sherebiah—that is, these two Levites, alone mentioned, with ten others, were associated with an equal number of priests in the charge of the Temple treasure.
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.—The gold and silver were in bars. According to the best computation, the silver would amount to a quarter of a million of our money, and the gold to about three-quarters of a million.
Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.(27) A thousand drams.—Darics, and therefore the whole worth rather more than a thousand guineas.
Fine copper.—Probably the Roman Orichalcum, a metal very highly valued.
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) And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the Lord.—A unique verse in every respect. The treasures were consecrated, and they were committed to consecrated hands: a good account was to be given of them to the treasurers of the Temple.
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) The hand of our God was upon us.—This sums up the history of the journey.
And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.(32-36) The arrival in Jerusalem, and first proceedings there.
(32) Three days.—Devoted, as in the similar case of Nehemiah, to rest and more private devotion.
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) Meremoth the son of Uriah . . .—These names of priests and Levites, who had officially received the treasures, occur again in Nehemiah.
By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.(34) By number and by weight.—The number of the vessels and the weight of the ingots were recorded and laid up for security.
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) And they delivered the king’s commissions.—First came sacrifices of burnt offering to God (Ezra 8:35); then, having rendered to God the things which were God’s, they render to Cæsar the things of Cæsar. They delivered the king’s commission, or firman, to the lieutenants or satraps in military authority, and to the governors, or pechahs, or pashas, in civil authority under them. The firman was of course accepted and acted upon: “they furthered the people.”