Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
THE FIRST BOOK OF ESDRAS.
This Book taketh its name from the writer, who was a holy priest and doctor of the law. He is called by the Hebrews Ezra, (Challoner) and was son, (Tirinus) or rather, unless he lived above 150 years, a descendant of Saraias, 4 Kings xxv. 18. It is thought that he returned first with Zorobabel; and again, at the head of other captives, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, with ample authority. Esdras spent the latter part of his life in exhorting the people, and in explaining to them the law of God. He appeared with great dignity at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem, 2 Esdras xii. 26, 35. We have four books which bear his name. (Calmet) --- This and the following book of Nehemias, originally made but one in Hebrew, (St. Jerome, &c.) as the transactions of both those great men are recorded. The third and fourth are not in Hebrew nor received into the canon of the Holy Scriptures, though the Greek Church hold the third as canonical, and place it first; (Worthington) and Genebrard would assert that both ought to be received, as they were by several Fathers. But they contain many thing which appear to be erroneous, and have been rejected by others of great authority, and particularly by St. Jerome. The third book seems to have been written very early, by some Hellenist Jew, who was desirous of embellishing the history of Zorobabel; and the fourth was probably composed by some person of the same nation, who had been converted to Christianity, before the end of the second century; and who injudiciously attempted to convert his brethren, by assuming the name of a man who was so much respected. Many things have been falsely attributed to Esdras, on the same account. It is said that he invented the Masora; restored the Scriptures, which had been lost; fixed the canon of twenty-two books; substituted the Chaldaic characters instead of the ancient Hebrew, Samaritan, or Phnician. But though Esdras might sanction the latter, now become common, the characters might vary insensibly, (Bianconi; Kennicott, Dis. ii.) as those of other languages have done, (Haydock) and the sacred books never perished wholly; nor could the canon be determined in the time of Esdras. (Calmet) --- As for the Masoretic observations and points, they are too modern an invention. (Elias Levita; Capel.; Houbigant, &c.) --- What we know more positively of Esdras, is, (Worthington) that he was empowered by Artaxerxes to bring back the Jews, and that he acted with great zeal. (Haydock) --- This book contains the transactions of 82 years, till the year of the world 3550. The letter of Reum, and the king's answer, (chap. iv. 7., till chap. vi. 19., and well as chap. vii. 12, 27.) are in Chaldean; the rest of the work is in Hebrew. (Calmet) --- We may discover various mysteries concealed under the literal sense of this and the following book. (St. Jerome, ep. ad Paulin.) (Worthington) --- Esdras is supposed by this holy doctor, as well as by some of the Rabbins, &c., to have been the same person with the prophet Malachy[Malachias]; (Button) and several reasons seems to support this conjecture, though it must still remain very uncertain. (Calmet) --- Some think that (Haydock) Esdras wrote only the four last chapters, and the author of Paralipomenon the six preceding ones. (Du Hamel) --- But it is most probable that he compiled both from authentic documents. (Haydock) --- Some few additions may have been inserted since, by divine authority, 2 Esdras xii. 11, 22. (Tirinus)
In. Hebrew, "And (Calmet) or But in," as [in] 2 Paralipomenon xxxvi. 22. (Haydock) --- Thus the historical works are connected. Spinosa infers, from this book being inserted after Daniel in the Hebrew Bible, that the same author wrote both. But the order of the books in the Septuagint and Vulgate is far more natural, (Calmet) and this has often varied in Hebrew, &c. (Kennicott) See 2 Paralipomenon xxxvi. 23. (Haydock) --- First. The design was only put in execution the following year. (The year of the world 3468.) --- Cyrus (Hebrew coresh, (Haydock) or Koresch) means "the sun," according to Ctesias and Plutarch. Josephus ([Antiquities?] xi. 1.) informs us that this prince became a friend of the Jews, in consequence of having seen the prediction of Isaias (xliv. 28., and xlv. 1.) fulfilled in his own person. He took Babylon, the year of the world 3466, and established the Persian empire, which was subverted by Alexander. (Calmet) --- he had before ruled over Persia 27 years, and only reigned three as sole monarch at Babylon. (Tirinus) --- The Lord; every good notion, even in infidels, proceeds from him. (Du Hamel) --- Cyrus was one of the best and greatest conquerors of antiquity. He was the son of Cambyses, by Mandane, princess of Media. Xenophon informs us that he died in his bed; (Haydock) and had been lately conquered. (Tirinus)
Earth, which had belonged to the king of Babylon. (Haydock) --- This may be an hyperbole, or allusion to Isaias xlv. 1. (Menochius) --- The dominions of Cyrus were very extensive, (Xenophon, Cyrop. i. and viii.) reaching from Ethiopia to the Euxine sea, &c. He acknowledges that he received all from the hand of God. Nabuchodonosor makes a similar confession of his supreme dominion; (Daniel ii. 47.) and the potentates of Egypt and of Rome, procured sacrifices to be offered to him. But what advantage did they derive from this sterile knowledge of his divinity? since they did not honour him accordingly, but wished to join his worship with that of idols; though the force of miracles and of reason must have convinced them that there is but one God. (Calmet) --- House, or temple, Isaias xliv. 28. --- Judea. So the Septuagint read, but the Hebrew has "Juda," all along. The whole country now began to be know by the former name. (Haydock)
He is the God, is placed within a parenthesis, by the Protestants. But the pagans might suppose that God was attached to this city, like their idols; and the temple was not yet begun. (Haydock)
Rest, who do not please to return. The Jews went at different times, and under the different leaders, Zorobabel, Esdras, and Nehemias. Many did not return at all. Cyrus allowed them full liberty. He permits money to be exported, particularly the half sicle, required [in] Exodus xxx. 13, and all voluntary contributions for the temple. (Grotius) (Calmet) --- He also enjoins the prefects of the provinces, (ver. 6., and chap. iii. 7.) whom Josephus styles "the king's friends," to forward this work; and he even designed to perfect it at his own expence, chap. vi. 4.
Gazabar means, "the treasurer." (Hebrew; Syriac; Calmet; Protestants; 3 Esdras ii. 19.) (Haydock) --- Son is not in Hebrew, &c., (Menochius) and must be omitted. (Tirinus) --- Sassabasar. This was another name for Zorobabel, (Challoner) given by the Chaldeans, as they changed the name of Daniel into Baltassar. (Eusebius, Præp. Evan. xi. 3.) (Tirinus) --- But others think that this was the Persian "governor (Junius) of Judea," (3 Esdras) as one reside at Jerusalem, till the days of Nehemias, 2 Esdras v. 14. It does not appear that Zorobabel was invested with this dignity, before the reign of Darius Hystaspes, Aggeus ii. 24. (Calmet)
Knives. Septuagint, &c., "changes" of garments. (Calmet)
Sort. Septuagint and Syriac, "double;" yet of less value. (Calmet) --- As no first sort had been mentioned, and some Latin manuscripts read 2410, agreeably to 3 Esdras ii. 12., and the truth, (Hallet) it may be inferred that "thousands were expressed anciently by single letters, with a dot....over them." Afterwards, when numbers were expressed by words at length, the b being thus reduced to signify "two," was, of course, written shnim; but this word making nonsense with the following, has been changed into mishnim, a word not very agreeable to the sense here, and which leaves the sum total, now specified in the Hebrew text, very deficient for want of the 2000, thus omitted. (Kennicott, Dis. ii.) --- Josephus has, "30 golden cups, 2400 of silver." (Haydock)
Hundred. Only 2499 are specified. 3 Esdras reads, 5469. Josephus ([Antiquities?] xi. 1.) differs from all, reading 5210; which shews that the copies have varied, and that the Hebrew is incorrect. (Calmet) --- The use of number letters might cause this confusion. (Haydock) (Capel. iii. 20, 13.)