Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The Congregation as the People of the Lord. Negative Strengthening of their Life in the Law (Ezra’s Activity)
Ezra’s Emigration to Jerusalem
A.—EZRA’S JOURNEY AND PURPOSE, AND ARTAXERXES’ LETTER OF COMMISSION
I. Ezra’s Journey and Purpose. Ezra 7:1–10
1Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, 2the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, 3the son of Ahitub, The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Ma 4rioth, The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest: 6This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, accord ing to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. 7And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
II. Artaxerxes’ Letter of Commission
11Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel. 12Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. 13I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee. 14Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand; 15And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem, 16And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem: 17That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat-offerings and their drink-offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. 18And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God. 19The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem. 20And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure-house. And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God 22of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily, Unto a hundred talents of silver, and to a hundred measures of wheat, and to a hundred baths of wine, and to a hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? 24Also we certify you, that, touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinim, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toil atribute, or custom, upon them. 25And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. 26And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
III. Ezra’s Thanksgiving
27Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem: And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of my LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Our author has no scruples in simply leaping over a period of fully fifty-seven years, in the use of the loose connecting formula: And after these things (comp. Gen. 15:1; 22:1, etc.). Such gaps the ancient sacred history has again and again; it is silent respecting the time between Joseph and Moses, respecting the time passed by the generation rejected of God in the wilderness, respecting the time of the exile. There was lacking in these times useful material calculated for the edification of the congregation, so much the more then must this have failed in the time subsequent to the building of the temple, when the congregation of Jehovah had been excused from the task of giving their life a civil organization, and accordingly was referred to a quiet life, in which there could be no longer expected, as in former times, new and important manifestations of God. Nevertheless the new beginning of the congregation after the exile, which the book of Ezra would describe, had not been entirely completed by that which had already transpired. It is true the temple and its worship had been re-established by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, but the law was only thereby secured at the basis, an objective validity. With the new and holy zeal that inspired all, at the beginning, it was their earnest endeavor, as we can hardly doubt, to carry the law out likewise subjectively in the domestic and personal life, with more and more completeness and thoroughness. But the vicinity of the heathen, their dependence upon their superior authorities, the manifold intercourse with many of them, which could hardly be avoided, made the temptation easy to be brought into closer association with them, even to intermarry with them, and thereby there was necessarily involved a neglect of the law, especially in its prescription as to food and purity. Besides, the descendants of Zerubbabel, if we may refer Neh. 5:15 to them, were not calculated to offer the congregation a higher support, they rather, in all probability, soon enough entirely withdrew. Thus notwithstanding the temple and its worship, that which was properly the principal thing, the life of the congregation in accordance with the law, yea the congregation itself as such, was soon again brought into question. The thorough subordination to the divine law, on the part of all, was now all the more necessary that it alone could hold the individuals together. What previously had been accomplished by the kingdom in Israel, must now be done by the law. It was necessary that the law, as never before, should be exalted on the throne. And only when a real strengthening of the life in the law had taken place could there be said to be such a new establishment of the congregation as really promised to be the beginning of a new and permanent existence. This re-establishment was now for the first the work of Ezra, and is rightly ascribed to him by a thankful posterity which honored him as a second Moses. Certainly if we look upon the letter of commission which Artaxerxes gave him to take along with him upon his first appearance in chap. 8. it seems as if for him likewise the worship of the temple and its furtherance stood in the foreground. And surely he took great pains in this direction likewise. But both of these, the elevation of the temple worship, that perhaps again threatened to fall into decay, and the strengthening of the congregation, in the life in the law, were too closely connected together, that Ezra should have thought the one possible without the other. And his real design was from the beginning very well given in Ezra 7:10: to teach in Israel statutes and judgments; and the letter of commission of Artaxerxes authorized him, in a manner worthy of attention (7:25), to set up magistrates and judges, who should provide for the enforcement of the law. In our book he accomplishes the re-establishment at least in a negative way, by the separation of heathen women, in general by the doing away with intermarriage with the heathen; in Neh. (8–10.) likewise in a positive way, that is, by renewing the covenant with God on the basis of those prescriptions of the law that were then most important.
Ezra 7:1–10. Artachshasta, which is here written אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא, as in Ezra 7:11, and 8:1; Neh. 2:1; 5:14; 13:6, is surely the same, who in 6:14 is called אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׁתְּא (so also Ezra 4:8, 11, 23), and in 4:7אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׁתָא, namely, Artaxerxes Longimanus. In Neh. 13:6, where the same person is certainly meant, since there is no doubt that Ezra and Nehemiah were cotemporaries according to Neh. 12:36, the reference is to the thirty-second year of his reign. This does not properly refer to Xerxes, whom Josephus (Arch. XI. 5, 1) and recently even Fritzsche (comp. Esdras 8:1), would understand, because it is most natural to think of him after the Darius of the previous chapter, but only to Artaxerxes Longimanus, to whom indeed the name itself refers with sufficient clearness. Ezra sprang, according to the accompanying genealogy from the family of the high-priest through Seraiah. For all the names from Seraiah up to Aaron are of the line of the high-priest (comp. 1 Chron. 5:30–40); only in. Ezra 7:3 six members of the line are passed over between Azariah and Meraioth (according to 1 Chron. 6:7–10), without doubt only for the sake of brevity, as is frequently the case in the longer genealogies. Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, was the high-priest whom Nebuchadnezzar had commanded to be slain at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18–21), was thus the father of the high-priest Jehozadak, who was carried into exile (1 Chronicles 6:14 sq.). It is very notable, however, that Ezra did not spring from Jehozadak in whose line the high-priesthood was inherited, but from a younger son; for else the intervening member between him and Seraiah would not have been left unmentioned. Ezra was probably the great grandson of Seraiah; for the high-priest Jeshua who had gone to Jerusalem seventy-eight years before with zerubbabel, was a grandson of Seraiah. One hundred and thirty years had already passed since the execution of the latter in the year 588.
Ezra 7:6. This Ezra went up from Babylon.—This renews the subject and gives the predicate of Ezra 7:1.—A ready scribe.—Since Ezra is designated already at the beginning as a skillful or learned scholar, that talent is ascribed to him, upon which under the present circumstances, the fostering of the life of the congregation most depended. סוֹפֵר, in the ancient writings, writer or secretary, has already obtained the meaning of γραμματεύς in Jer. 8:8, where it is parallel and synonymous with חֲכָמִים. If it became the official name of the chancellor in the sense of scribe, it has in the sense of scholar, as is clear especially from Ezra 7:11, already almost the character of a title of honor for the man of learning. The additional clause: the king granted him——all his request, indicates that his journey was no private undertaking, that he rather was provided with a certain authority, and journeyed as an official personage. Yet we must not think of him as governor of Judah; he is nowhere given this title. He had simply the authority to teach as a teacher his knowledge of the law, and at the same time as a superior judge—according to Ezra 7:25, likewise by the setting up of suitably subordinate judges—to vindicate the law.—בַקָשָׁה, the request, the petition, except here, is only found in the book of Esther, Ezra 5:3, 6. The question how this favoring of Ezra is related to the writing of Artaxerxes given in chap. 4., is best answered by the fact that Ezra’s journey occurred somewhat later, that Artaxerxes, since he had been moved to that writing by his officials, had paid more attention to the Jews, and that he furthered Ezra’s journey in order to strengthen the Jewish congregation; perhaps also in order to show thereby that he actually was ready to be as just as possible, notwithstanding the prohibition issued respecting the walls of the city. It is shown then by this approval that he would perhaps recall at a suitable time even that prohibition which indeed had been issued at first only provisionally.—According to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.—This language which occurs elsewhere only in Ezra 7:9, 28; 8:18; Neh. 2:8, 18, and whose foundation is contained in 8:22, 31, means so much as this, namely: “according to the goodness, providence and grace which ruled over him,” namely Ezra, as then this band of God sometimes is expressly designated as הַטּוֹבָה(Ezra 7:9 and 8:18) or לְטוֹבָה (8:22).
Ezra 7:7, 8, mentions in addition that Ezra at the same time led to Jerusalem a new increase of the population.—And there went up some.—This, in the view of the historian, so involves “with him” that he continues in Ezra 7:8 without any further ceremony with he came to Jerusalem. Comp. Ezra 7:13 and 28 and 8:1. מִן is used partitively in the sense “some of” as Ezra 2:70, etc. The Levites in distinction from the priests on the one side, and from the Levites in the broader sense, from the singers and porters on the other side, are those who performed the proper service of the Levites.
Ezra 7:9. For upon the first day of the first month he had fixed the departure from Babyion, and on the first of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem.—This would state the duration of the journey. Instead of יְסֻד we are probably to read יָסַד, and indeed in the sense of constituo, præcipio, in which it occurs, especially in Esther 1:8. Probably the punctators had scruples about admitting this unusual sense, especially as they supposed that they could better give the force of הוּא by understanding it as: on the first of the first month ipsum erat fundamentum profectionis, as R. Solomon and J. H. Mich. translate; הוּא would thus serve to emphasize the “fundamentum” or the beginning in distinction from the completion. But we should expect יְסוֹד instead of יְסֻד, moreover the following בָּא would not connect itself therewith. Besides, on the first of the first month they began to betake themselves to the common place of assembly, whence then the entire company entered upon the proper journey to Palestine on the 12th of the month. Comp. Ezra 8:31.1
Ezra 7:10. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.—This is not to explain the last subordinate clause of Ezra 7:9: according to the good hand of God upon him; but the entire undertaking of the journey. דָּרַשׁ is here in connection with אֶת־תּוֹרַת יהְוָֹה in the same sense as usual in connection with אֶת־יְהֹוָה, “adhere to the law as to a Lord and Benefactor.” This “adhere to the law” comes into consideration with respect to the following “doctrines” as a necessary foundation, without which the instruction can never be carried on with success. Ezra’s design was to bring again to the consciousness of the Jewish congregation, the law which they had in part neglected and consequently likewise forgotten, to direct their life according to it and strengthen their relations thereto.
Ezra 7:11. Now follows the documentary basis for the summary representation in the foregoing, and indeed first of all the letter of commission given to Ezra by Artaxerxes.—And these are the contents of the letter.—For פַּרְשֶׁנֶן, comp. 4:11, and for נִשְׁתְּוָן, 4:7. Ezra is called here and in Ezra 7:12 and 21Neh. 8:9; 12:26, first the priest, and then afterwards the scribe; in 10:10, 16; and Neh. 8:2 even, only the priest; hence he is then in Esdras likewise constantly designated merely as ὁ ἱερεύς.—The scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and of His statutes to Israel means: “the scribe who especially occupied himself with the words of the law, and who thus before all was learned with reference to it.”
Ezra 7:12. Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra—perfect (peace).—This is the introductory formula. נְּמִיר cannot be an adjective of סָפַר דָּתָא; it would then thus placed alone by itself have to be in the stat. emph. גְּמְירָא. yet it cannot before the following וּכְעֶנֶת mean that all that usually belonged to the introductory formula had been completely expressed in the original document (Berth.); in this way it would seem too peculiar. There is as little in favor of the view of Keil that it is an adverb in the sense of “very” belonging to an adjective to be supplied to ספר, as if the sense were: doctori doctissimo; the adjective could hardly have failed in such a cage. According to Ezra 7:7 we should expect that the letter, conformable to its contents of good will, would have contained in its introductory formula a greeting or wish of peace; so there is to be supplied in thought after נְּמִיר a verb as “he wishes,” and the sense is: Artaxerxes wishes, in a complete manner, or abundantly—namely, peace [so Esdras, χαίρειν, followed by A. V. perfect (peace).—TR.]
Ezra 7:13–19 gives the first part of the royal mandate: Let every one of Israel who will, go up with Ezra. Ezra, however, is to encourage further the worship in Jerusalem with the money that was given him for the purpose.
Ezra 7:13. I make a decree,etc. Comp. 6:8. לִמְהָךְ depends upon כָּל־מִתְנַדַּב = that every one who is freely minded to go. יְהָךְ depends upon ךִּי—may go with thee.—For the infin. מְהָךְ and the future יְהָךְ, comp. 5:5.
Ezra 7:14 would say: because the commission of the king and his seven counsellors is designed to encourage and strengthen the worship of Jehovah, and accordingly also the condition of His congregation. For the seven counsellors who constituted the supreme tribunal of the Persian kings, vid.Esther 1:14.2יַעֲטֹהִי, for which we might expect יָעֲטֹהִי because יַעֲטִין corresponds with the Heb. יוֹעֲצִים, and is used as חַשְׁחָן in 6:9. Naturally “thou” cannot be at once supplied to שְׁלִיחַ; rather the expression is a general one: the sending is made.—To inquire concerning Judah according to the law of thy God, which is in thine hand.—That the second person is prominent here, cannot be strange because, indeed, the whole matter is a communication to Ezra. בַּקָּוָה עַל “to hold investigation over,” thus, “revise something,” is then at the same time the same as “to put in order.”3בְּדַת, which st. constr. in Norzi’s edition is pointed דָּת, properly: with the law; means: according to the norm of the law. דִּי בִּידָךְ “which is in thy hand,” means, “which thou possesseth,” is not however to be under stood as if Ezra had a particular copy of the law, which Artaxerxes hereby would have explained as the ancient and true law of God; after that he had obtained the consent of the more distinguished of the Jews; but it is, as it were, “which thou knowest, understandest, and hast in hand.” [Rawlinson, in loco, “righteously and justly according to the principle of thy religion.”—TR.]
Ezra 7:15. And to carry the silver and gold,etc. For a fuller statement of this, vid.8:25.
Ezra 7:16. All the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the free-will offering of the people and of the priests,etc. The king here presupposes that in addition to himself and his counsellors there would likewise be found others, not Israelites, in the province of Babylon, who would be willing to contribute silver and gold for the support of the Jewish people; and indicates that he has given Ezra permission to take up a collection among them; for what is collected in the province of Babylon in general, is distinguished with sufficient clearness from the gifts of the people and priests, that is to say, the Jews, as is evident from the subsequent clauses. הִתְנַדָּבוּת an abstract formation from infin. Ithpaal, is that which is voluntarily given. מִתְנַדְּבִין, if it were in simple apposition to people and priests, or represented a relative clause, as Berth supposes, would necessarily have the article; it is rather loosely connected in the sense of: “if they, so far as they voluntarily contribute.”
Ezra 7:17–19. Even on this account, properly in view of these things, namely, because this sending is ordained by me to encourage the Jewish congregation and their worship.—Thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks—with their meat and drink offerings—that is, the meat and drink offerings belonging to the sacrifices according to Num. 15:1 sq.—And offer them on the altar.—The Pael. תְּקָרֵב is used instead of Aphel in 6:10, 17.
Ezra 7:18. And whatsoever shall seem good to thee.—The thorough organization of the Jewish congregational life might readily render necessary some additional expense, e. g. for the decoration of the temple; and Artaxerxes presupposes that the authorities in Jerusalem will be able also to make such arrangements that they may have something left of the gifts for such purposes—and thy brethren = the elders in Jerusalem, who also appear in 5. and 6. to decide such questions.—That do after the will of your God—namely, as it is declared in the law.
Ezra 7:19. And the vessels, for the service of the house of thy God deliver completely.—These vessels are numbered in 8:25, 27. The noun פָּלְחָן, which is only found here—but comp. פָּלְחֵי in Ezra 7:24—is identical with פוּלְחָן = “service” of the Syriac and Targums, and corresponds with the Hebrew עֲבוֹרָה. The meaning of הַשְׁלֵם “render completely” is usual in the Aphel in the Syriac, and is connected with the meaning of the Hebrew Piel שִלֵּם “pay.”—Before the God of Jerusalem is essentially the same as “before the God whose dwelling is in Jerusalem.” Comp. 1:3: He is the God, who is in Jerusalem.
Ezra 7:20–24. The second part of the decree orders that the royal treasury of the land beyond the river is to supply whatever else may prove to be necessary.
Ezra 7:20. And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which shall occur to thee, as to be given, that is to say, whatever need may arise when the other means have been exhausted—shalt thou give out of the house of the treasury of the king—that is, out of the royal treasury.4
Ezra 7:21 now gives at once the supplementary order for the treasurer in question; as a command to which Ezra might appeal. This must also be given here.—By me, Artaxerxes, myself, is decreed.—The pronoun אֲיָה serves to emphasize the suffix of מִנִּי (comp. Dan. 7:15), and so also the following noun. The order: all that Ezra shall require of you, turns itself directly to the treasurer, because it is thus so much the more clear and impressive.
Ezra 7:22. Unto an hundred talents, states the limit to which the giving may extend. The עַד־ (up to one hundred talents) is connected with the phrase: it shall be done of Ezra 7:21, so far as this involves: it shall be rendered or given. The כִּכָּר, the talent, weighed three thousand sacred shekels (comp. Ex. 38:25, 27), the holy shekel was about two marks, the Persian (comp. Xenoph. Anab. I. 5, 6) one and a quarter marks. The כֹּר, which occurs already in 1 Ki. 5:2; Ezek. 45:14, instead of the Chomer = ten ephahs or baths, thus almost two bushels.—Salt, which is not prescribed—which is not stated, not limited to a definite amount. [For the need of these things in the Jewish system of sacrifice, vid. 6:9. “As the Persian tribute was paid partly in money and partly in kind (see note on 4:13), the treasuries would be able to supply them as readily as they could furnish money.” Rawlinson in loco.—TR.]
Ezra 7:23 gives a still more comprehensive injunction—all that is in accordance with the command of the God of heaven—what is demanded according to the divine law—let it be completely done.—The ἅπ. λεγ. אַדְרַזְדָּא is regarded by Hitzig and Berth. as compounded of אֲדַר and אַזְדָּא (Hitz. Comm. on Daniel II. 5; Bertheau on II. 3) especially because אָדַר in אֲדַרְגָּזְרַיָּאDan. 3:2 can be clearly recognized as an intensive prefix (“very”). Haug, on the other hand, in Ewald’s Bib. Jahrb. V., S. 152 sq., derives it from the Persian dorest, the Zend. root doreç = “grow, prosper, become firm,” as formed by אprosth. in the meaning of “completely, punctually in every thing.”—For why—דִּי־לְמָה = for wherefore = “in order that not.” Comp. 4:22.
Ezra 7:24 gives an additional clause, which is for the consideration of the treasurer likewise.—And to you it is made known,etc., מְהוֹדְעִין has an indef. subject, or the active is for the passive; to you is it made known. Those addressed are still the same, as from Ezra 7:21 on, thus the treasurers.—That all priests,etc., that is, concerning all priests.—Ministers of the house of God.—The פָּלְחֵי בֵית אֱלָהָא are alongside of the priests not all worshippers of the true God in general, but official persons, perhaps the lowest class [Rawlinson] as we may infer from their position after the Nethinim, or those who are not included in the foregoing classes. Bertheau compares the servants of Solomon, who occur in 2:55, 58, after the Nethinim. For מִנְדָּה, etc., comp. 4:13. לָא שַׁלִּיט properly = one not having authority, with the infin., and ל = one who has not power, or: it is not allowed, as frequently in Syriac. לְמִרְמָא from רְמָא in the Targums for שִׂים. Such a liberation of priests and Levites from taxes, occurred also under Artaxerxes the great, Comp. Joseph. Arch., xv. 3, 3. 5
Ezra 7:25, 26. The third part of the decree authorizes Ezra to set up judges experienced in the law for the entire Jewish people, and impose punishments for infractions of the law; this contains that very matter in which he is to afford be very help to the congregation upon which all now depended, a matter in which Artaxerxes in his good-will made an important step in advance beyond Cyrus and Darius. Since the civil and social life of Israel was so closely connected with their religion by the law, they could not well prosper under judges who had neither appreciation nor understanding of their religion. It might appear strange to us that nothing more is expressly said of the setting up of Jewish judges. but our book, which limits itself to the negative side of confirmation in the law, to the separation. of the heathen women, was not the proper place for this. In the book of Nehemiah, which adds the positive side, since the congregation obligate themselves in chap. 10 to keep all the important parts of the law, this is implicitly involved.
Ezra 7:25. And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God,etc.—דִּי בִידָךְ as in verse 24, etc., “which thou possessest.” מֶּנִּי is imper. Pa. “appoint,” “set up,” for מַּנִּי, the less hard e sound is more easily uttered, and occurs as a matter of course when it is followed by a second syllable ma or man.—Magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river.—The imperf. לֶהֱוֹן, with the part. expresses continued action. The people to be judged are as a matter of course the Jewish people. Among them are not only those who know the law of God, but also others who yet for the first time must be instructed in it. We are not to think of the latter as proselytes, nevertheless it refers not only to the Jews of Palestine, but also to those dwelling widely scattered in the land to the West of the Euphrates. They are all to be subject to the judges set up by Ezra; the judges however are, according to the context, to watch over the observation of the Mosaic law, and maintain its authority. This is the foundation for the Jewish tradition of the institution of the great synagogue by Ezra.
Ezra 7:26. The object of this institution was that judgment might be diligently held over any one who did not keep the law of God and the king.—The law of the king can here be joined on to that of God, because so far as it required obedience to the law of God in the foregoing decree, it was transgressed by disobedience. Perhaps it had already been shown, likewise, that where obedience to the law of God ceased, usually also obedience to the royal command vanished. עֲבַד דִּינָה is in the Targ. not unusual for “hold judgment.” מִנֵּהּ “out from him” = “over him.” The point of beginning is here at the same time the point aimed at. The following הֵן—הֵן = sive—sive—whether it be unto death or to banishment, whether to confiscation of goods or to imprisonment.—שְׁרשׁוּ an entirely Syriac form of שֵׁרֵשׁ, properly rooting out, is here in distinction from death, banishment, Vulg: exilium, or at least excommunication (comp. 10:8) [Rawlinson], not παιδεία (Sept.). Respecting the punishment in נִכְסִין, treasure, property, as 6:8, comp. 10:8.
Ezra 7:27, 28. A closing doxology. Ezra cannot but add to the foregoing decree—whose communication we are without doubt to ascribe to his hand—his praise for the grace of God, which had been so gloriously exhibited in putting this into the heart of the king to beautify the temple in Jerusalem.6נָתַן בְּלֵב as Neh. 12; 7:15, yet likewise already in 1 Kings 10:24. כָּזֹאת = the like, namely, as is indicated in the foregoing decree. We are to consider that the exaltation of the worship is likewise a glorification of the house of the Lord.
Ezra 7:28. And hath extended mercy unto me before the king.—This is the continuation of the relative clause in Ezra 7:27. The לְ before כָּל־שָׂרֵי puts this word on one and the same footing as the foregoing. Comp. the לְ before שָׂבֵי in 6:7; that is to say it represents here essentially the לִפְנֵי, which is before הַמֶּלֶךְ. The clause: And I was strengthened, which leads over to the narrative, would say “I was able, would feel myself strong,—and I gathered together = so that I gathered together out of Israel chief men. These chief men were heads of households or families who, if they should be taken for the emigration to Judah, would naturally take their families with them.
THOUGHTS UPON THE HISTORY OF REDEMPTION
Ezra 7:1–10. (1) It seems that there were found among the Jews remaining behind in Babylon, even after Zerubbabel and Jeshua, at different times, such persons as were seized with a holy longing for the land of their fathers, especially for the temple of the Lord, with its lovely divine worship; who also, accordingly, went up thither not merely for a short time, but to remain forever, in order to become members of the congregation of Jerusalem, although many difficulties stood in the way of most of them, and it might be known to all what great deprivations, yea, evil circumstances, were to be endured in Judah. “Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar.” This was certainly in these times the sigh of many with the poet of the 120th Psalm; and “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help” was their subsequent triumphal song with the author of Psalm 121. How much more then should Christians be inspired with a holy longing to become pilgrims on the way to heaven, and become members of the upper Jerusalem, seeing that in the city of God, that is above, among the many thousand angels and saints every lack and every evil circumstance has vanished. Ezra and the others who went up to Jerusalem in order to be able to lift up their eyes to the heights of the earthly Zion, seem to us to be saints. That Christians should strive for the higher aim, that beckons them from heaven, is, after all, only natural, and so much the more are we obliged to charge ourselves with frivolity, if we lose sight of the aim and jewel of our heavenly calling—yea, are in a condition of entire forgetfulness of it.
(2) To reform the congregation when it has fallen away to the world is impossible without a faithfully preserved and unfalsified word of God, which is their heavenly archetype; or rather ever holds before them anew the eternal norm, according to which they are to be fashioned. Even in Jerusalem, even in the most immediate vicinity of the temple, the congregation, when they neglected and forgot the law of God, might fall into a condition in which a reformation was pressingly necessary. And even in the distance, even in Babylon, Ezra, because he was a true student of the Scripture, might be called to be the reformer.
Ezra 7:11–26. (1) The congregation in the Diaspora had, properly speaking, for the present the great task of awakening in the heathen world—even in heathen princes, in some way a presentiment that true knowledge of God and piety above all were with them, and thereby to beget in the deeper spirits a receptivity as well for the worship of the true God as for the observation of His law. The decree of Artaxerxes, the goodwill of the heathen king towards Jerusalem in general, might be an evidence of the important fact that the Diaspora actually fulfilled this allowed task. Thus there is involved therein the prophecy that they were to render this preparatory and mediatorial service for the first time to its proper extent in the Messianic times. This second edict of Artaxerxes was in distinction from the first (chap, 4), at any rate, an evidence that he was only prejudiced against the supposed political efforts of the Jews, that he had no objection to their worship of the true God, to their existence as a religious congregation; that on the contrary it caused him joy if the worship of God in Jerusalem was promoted in a suitable manner.
(2) Notwithstanding the commands of Artaxerxes respecting what should be done for the improvement of the worship of Jerusalem were so minute, he did not allow himself in the least degree to prescribe that which concerned the internal affairs, which were regulated by the word of God. He exercised only the so-called jus circa sacra, and we find this in him, the heathen prince, from good motives. Manifestly, since there is no longer any theocracy, all princes likewise should be thus discreet. For the internal affairs there are higher laws and authorities, in which an earthly authority can never interfere without punishment.
Ezra 7:27–28. The Lord’s praise expressed by Ezra is a thanksgiving that the Lord, by turning the heart of the king and his counsellors, had enabled him to make the journey to Jerusalem. We may, however, find still something more therein. After all he likewise expressed, if only mediately, his joy that the grace of God had succeeded in making such an impression upon the head of the world-monarchy at that time as the congregation, according to its highest task, was to make,—a joy which was well calculated to mark an era in the history of the congregation living in the Diaspora.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Ezra 7:1–10. God’s care over His congregation. 1) He awakens teachers (if it be necessary, even reformers) and other persons of importance to the divine worship. He wins also the hearts of the rulers, upon whose good-will the success of the teacher is conditioned.—STARKE: It is not enough to build houses and temples of stone, but we must have living instruments, that is, teachers and preachers. Preachers must first of all exhibit in their own life and consecration that which they preach to others of practical truth, as necessary and possible, 1 Cor. 9:27; 1 Tim. 4:12, 16.—No one should be presumptuous in any thing; he will then be sure of his calling, and it will give great comfort in all kinds of opposing circumstances.—Magistrates should also contribute their part to the building of churches and schools, and, above all, act with benevolence, because they can best do so; otherwise the heathen will put them to shame in that day. It is a sign of the great grace of God towards a people when He inclines the heart of their rulers to take suitable care that pious teachers be given to them. It is very easy for God to fill His people with blessings, for the earth is His, and the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1; 2 Chron. 30:12), and He has much more to give away than He has already given. 2) He protects and preserves His instruments in the way that they must go ere they can labor with the congregation. 3) He gives in their hearts the impulse and calling to do, as well as to teach His will.—The holy longing for Jerusalem 1) it urges us out of Babylon to Jerusalem, and wins for us the hearts of such as will sustain us; 2) it provides us with fellow-pilgrims; 3) it causes the journey to succeed.
Ezra 7:11–26 are to be treated in essentially the same way as the decree of Darius in chap. 6.
Ezra 7:27–28. The best grounds for thanksgiving to God: 1) God has made the authorities of earth serviceable for the glorifying of His house and name; 2) He has placed His called ones in the position of being active in the enlargement and strengthening of His congregation.—STARKE: It is a noble gift of God, if we have a magistrate who is devoted to the true religion.—The servants of God, it is true, must submit to receive unthankfulness and disfavor for all of their faithfulness from mankind in general and great lords in particular; but if the contrary should be the case, they should recognize the fact with all the more thankfulness.
[HENRY: Moses in Egypt, Ezra in Babylon, and both in captivity, were wonderfully fitted for eminent service to the church.—Would we secure our peace and prosperity, let us take care that the cause of God be not starved.—If any good appear to be in our own hearts, or in the hearts of others, we must own it was God that put it there, and bless Him for it.—WORDSWORTH: Even Artaxerxes, a heathen king, is conscious and proclaims his persuasion, that the neglect of God and His service brings down God’s anger on a nation.—TR.]
[Rawlinson: “The direct distance of Babylon from Jerusalem is not more than about five hundred and twenty miles; and it may therefore seem surprising that the journey should have occupied four months. But no doubt the route followed was that circuitous one by Carchemish and the Orontes valley, which was ordinarily taken by armies or large bodies of men, and which increased the distance to about nine hundred miles. Still the time occupied is long, and must be accounted for by the dangers alluded to, Ezra 8:22, 31, which may have necessitated delays and detours to avoid conflicts.”—TR.]
[“Herodotus relates that there were seven families pre-eminent in Persia, those of the seven conspirators against the Pseudo-Smerdis (3:84); and it is reason able to suppose that the heads of these families formed the special council of the king, the ‘Achæmenidæ,’ or royal family, being represented by the head of the branch next in succession to that of the reigning monarch.” Rawlinson in loco. See also. Ancient Monarchies. Vol .IV., pp. 403 and 404.—TR.]
[“Probably the commission was general to inquire into the state of the province. According to Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 6, § 16) it was a part of the Persian system for the king to send an officer once a year into each province to inspect it and report upon it.” Rawlinson in loco.—TR.]
[“The Persian system of taxing the provinces through the satraps involved the establishment in each province of at least one local treasury. Such treasuries are mentioned occasionally in Greek history (see Arrian, Exp. Alex. i. 17; iii. 18, 19, etc.).”Rawlinson in loco—TR.]
[“Here the decree of Artaxerxes was more favorable to the Jews than those of all previous Persian monarchs. We hear of a similar exemption of ecclesiastics from tribute, only to a less extent under the Seleucidæ. (Josephus’ Ant. Jud. xii. 3, §3).” Rawlinson in loco .—TR.]
[“This abrupt transition from the words of Artaxerxes to those of Ezra, may be compared with the almost equally abrupt change in 6:6. The language alters at the same time from Chaldee to Hebrew, continuing henceforth to be Hebrew till the close of the book.” Rawlinson in loco.—TR.]
Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,