Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;CHAPTER 2
1. The leaders (Ezra 2:1-2)
2. The names of the returning exiles (Ezra 2:3-35)
3. The priests (Ezra 2:36-39)
4. The Levites and singers (Ezra 2:40)
5. The porters and Nethinim (Ezra 2:42-54)
6. Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2:55-58)
7. Those of doubtful descent (Ezra 2:59-63)
8. The number of the whole company (Ezra 2:64-67)
9. The offering of the house of God (Ezra 2:68-70)
Ezra 2:1-2. This chapter contains the names of the returning remnant. It is a specimen page of the records which God keeps, and from which we may learn that He remembers His people, whom He knows by name and whose works are not forgotten by Him. In the book of Nehemiah this list is repeated (chapter 7) with an additional record of those who helped in building the wall. He has a book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16); and the apostle reminded the Hebrew believers of this fact when he wrote: “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). There were twelve leaders. Only eleven are given by Ezra; in Nehemiah’s record we find an additional name (Nahamani), making twelve in all. Zerubbabel was the leader of the returning captives. His name means “seed of Babylon.” He is called the son of Shealtiel, the son or grandson of Jeconiah, and was therefore a descendant of David. His name appears in the two genealogies of Matthew (Matthew 1:12) and Luke (Luke 3:27). In 1Chronicles 3:19 he is called the son of Pedaiah, who was Shealtiel’s brother. This double ascription of parentage may probably be accounted for by Pedaiah having contracted a levirate marriage with Shealtiel’s widow. The second leader was Jeshua, also called Joshua. He was a son of jehozadak and grandson of the high priest Seraiah. Zerubbabel, the princely leader, son of David, and Joshua, the high priest, are types of Christ. (See Zech. 4 and 6.) Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah who led the other expedition years later, nor is Mordecai the uncle of Queen Esther, who was an old man and evidently remained in Shushan (Esther 10:3). The names Nehemiah and Mordecai were quite common among the Jews. The names of some of the others appear in a slightly changed form in Nehemiah; it was a Jewish custom to call a person by different names.
Ezra 2:3-35. The descendants of the different persons are now given. In all we find 24,144 descendants. Their individual names are not recorded but the Lord knows them all, and cared for each member and sustained them in the journey homeward. Even so He knows all His sheep and keeps every member of His body, leading them home to glory. If some of the numbers do not agree with Nehemiah’s record, there is no doubt a good reason for it. For instance, the descendants of Arah are here 775 and in Nehemiah we find only 652 recorded. Probably 775 had enrolled their names but only 652 went. All the names recorded may be traced in other portions of the Scriptures.
Ezra 2:36-39. The different temple officials are recorded next. These are priests, Levites, singers, porters and Nethinim. The priests are first mentioned. In 1 Chronicles 24 there are mentioned twenty-four courses. Jedaiah, Immer and Harim are found in the record of the Chronicles. In all there were 4,289 priests who went back. And these constituted four courses only.
Ezra 2:40-41. Only seventy-four Levites returned. This was a very small number. (Hodaviah should be read Judah; chapter 3:9.) There were more singers than Levites. The children of Asaph, that sweet and blessed singer in Israel, were one hundred and twenty-eight. No doubt they encouraged the returning exiles in song, by the spirit of praise and worship. The Babylon experience, so beautifully expressed in Psalm 137, was passed. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?” All was changed now. God was working. Deliverance had come and singing no doubt was heard again among the returning hosts. But why were so few Levites ready to go back? According to the divine instruction in the Law they were to have no inheritance save in the LORD. It was a test of faith to return under these circumstances, and for this reason many Levites must have tarried in Babylon, where things were abundant. Those who returned were tested (Nehemiah 13:10).
Ezra 2:42-54. The names of the porters and Nethinim. There were in the company one hundred and thirty-nine porters. The Nethinim were temple servants. The word means “given” or “devoted,” i.e., to God. We find this name in only one other passage (1Chronicles 9:2). According to Ezra 8:20 this order originated with King David. Jewish tradition identifies them with the Gibeonites, whom Joshua appointed as helpers to the Levites (Joshua 9:3-27). Whatever their origin, they were devoted servants of God assigned to certain duties in the temple.
Ezra 2:55-58. Then comes the record of the children of Solomon’s servants. These with the Nethinim were three hundred and ninety-two. Nothing certain is known of these additional servants, whose duty seems to have been similar to that of the Nethinim. Some regard them as the descendants of the strangers whom Solomon had enlisted in the building of the temple (1Kings 5:13).
Ezra 2:59-63. These verses tell us of the great caution exercised by the people not to tolerate one in their midst whose origin was in any way doubtful. They were determined that Israel should be an unmingled Israel. Therefore they were most careful in examining the genealogies to exclude all who could not be clearly established as true Israelites, for none but such should engage in the work. The true family of God was now marked out and all who could not clearly prove their connection were set aside. There were six hundred and fifty-two who had joined the company from the Babylonish places Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan and Immer. They were the children of Delaiah, of Tobiah and Nekoda. These could not show their descent. They were allowed to return with the rest, but their names are not found in Ezra 10:25-43 or in Nehemiah 10:15-28. And also children of priests sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found; they were therefore counted as polluted and put from the priesthood. Tirshatha is the governor (a Persian title meaning “your severity”); his name was Sheshbazzar, the official title of Zerubbabel, the prince (chapter 1:8). Nehemiah also had that title (Nehemiah 8:9). Zerubbabel, the governor, ruled that those uncertified priests should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. And how many are there today in the professing Church who are in the same uncertainty. While making an outward profession, they have no assurance, they have no clear title and do not know that they belong to the holy priesthood into which grace brings all who have been born again. The Church has become a great house (2Timothy 2:20-21) in which we find the true children of God and those who are such only in profession. If there is to be a return from the Babylon which Christendom is today, the same principle of separation must be maintained. Only those who are born again, who can “show their father’s house,” constitute the members of the body of Christ.
Ezra 2:64-67. The number of the whole congregation was 42,360. There were also 7,337 servants and maids, among them two hundred singers; the latter must be distinguished from those mentioned in verses 41 and 70. Singing was evidently a very prominent occupation on the journey towards the homeland! Their groans were ended. The captivity was behind and freedom before. How beautiful the chanting of their great psalms must have been as they journeyed on. But greater still will be the time when the wandering remnant, so long scattered among the nations, turns homeward; when through the coming of their King their groans will end forever, and when they sing the Hallelujah chorus in the kingdom of righteousness and peace.
There were likewise 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6,720 asses.
Ezra 2:68-70. These last verses tell us of what happened when they came to Jerusalem. They must have sought at once the ruins of the former temple, for that is the spot they loved. Significant it is that though it was razed to the ground, it still existed in the mind of God, and also in the thoughts of the people. It does not say “when they came to the ruins,” but “when they came to the house of the LORD.” And then the hearts of the fathers were touched, and they gave after their ability unto the treasurer of the work 61,000 drams of gold and 5,000 pounds of silver and one hundred priests’ garments. They were faithful in their giving, not according to the Law, the tenth part, but after their ability. And in the New Testament the rule for the Church as to giving is stated in 1Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.”