Ezra 8
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - On the expression chief of the fathers see comment on ch. 2:68.
Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.
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.
Verse 3. - Of the sons of Shechaniah. This clause should be attached to the preceding verse, since it refers to Hattush, who was Shechaniah's grandson; and ver. 3 should begin with the words, "Of the sons of Pharosh, Zechariah."
Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males.
Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.
Verse 5. - A name has fallen out either between "Shechaniah" and "the son of Jahaziel," or between "of the sons" and "of Shechaniah." The Septuagint has, "Of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel." Zattu is mentioned in Ezra 2:8.
Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males.
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.
Verse 10. - Here again there is a similar omission of a name, which the Septuagint supplies by reading, "Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah." Bani appears as the head of a family in Ezra 2:10.
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.
Verse 13. - The last sons of Adonikam are probably his younger sons, whose descendants returned with Ezra, their elder brethren's families having returned with Zerubbabel. DETAILS OF EZRA'S JOURNEY FROM BABYLON TO JERUSALEM (Ezra 8:15-31). We gather from scattered statements in this passage -

1. That Ezra, with his companions, after a journey of nine days' duration, reached Ahava from Babylon on the ninth day of the first month;

2. That he rested three days at Ahava, and proclaimed a fast;

3. That he was there joined by a small number of Levites and a considerable body of Nethinims from the immediate neighbourhood;

4. That, on the twelfth day of the first month, he resumed his journey, and, though threatened by some opposition upon the way, arrived safely at his destination fourteen weeks after he quitted Ahava, and exactly four months after he had started from Babylon. The only other important fact mentioned is, that at Ahava twelve of the principal priests were selected by Ezra, and the royal offering of silver, gold, and vessels handed over to them for safe custody, after having been carefully weighed. The weights are recorded with Ezra's usual exactness in vers. 26, 27.
Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
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.
Verse 15. -

I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava. The "river that runneth to Ahava" is now generally identified with the Is of Herodotus (1:179), a small stream flowing into the Euphrates from the east, at a point where stood a city of the same name, distant (according to Herodotus) eight days' journey from Babylon. The city appears to be mentioned under the slightly variant forms of Ava (עַוָּא) and Ivah (עִוָּה) in the Second Book of Kings (2 Kings 17:24; 19:13). It is called Aia, or Aba, by the LXX.; Ihi in the Talmud; Aei by Isidore of Charax. The modern name is Hit. The town has always been one of some importance in connection with the bitumen springs of the neighbourhood. Ezra s reason for selecting the place as a halting-point seems to have been the fact that many Jews were settled in the district (see ver. 17). We abode in tents. A large caravan, like Ezra's, even when it reached a town, would pitch its tents outside, and remain in them rather than scatter itself among the khans and caravanserais. The phrase is therefore to be understood literally. I viewed the people. Rather, "I looked among the people" - I looked to see whether there were any Levites or no. ("Quaesivi in populo et in sacerdotibus de filiis Levi. - Vulg.) And found there none of the sons of Levi. It is difficult to account for the fact; but there seems certainly to have been a special disinclination to return to Jerusalem on the part of the Levites. Only seventy-four went up with Zerubbabel, when the priests who returned were 4289 (Ezra 2:36-40); and now there was not a single one in the whole of Ezra's band. Did the jealous spirit of Korah (Numbers 16:8-10) still animate the great body of the tribe?
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.
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.
Verse 17. - Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia. Not "the Caspian" certainly; nor even "Casvin," which is at least 400 miles from Hit by the nearest route, but some Babylonian village in the vicinity of Ahava, not otherwise known to us. Unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims. The "and" here is rightly supplied. It has fallen out in consequence of the word Iddo ending with the same letter. Iddo, though the head man of the village under the Persians, belonged by descent to the comparatively low grade of the 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;
Verse 18. - By the good hand of our God upon us. This is Ezra's usual mode of acknowledging the good providence and favour of Almighty God (see Ezra 7:6, 9, 27; and Ezra 8:31). Similar expressions occur also in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8, 18), but not elsewhere in Scripture. A man of understanding. In the Hebrew Ish-sekel, which some take for a proper name, but without any necessity. No such name is known to have existed; and the real name of "the man of understanding" appears to have been "Sherebiah," who is mentioned more than once in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 9:4, 5) as a chief Levite. And Sherebiah should be simply "Sherebiah." The preposition "and" (Hebrew ן) has been inserted by a careless copyist.
And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;
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.
Verse 20. - The Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed. We learn this fact from the present passage only; since neither in Kings nor Chronicles is there any mention made of David's adding to the hieroduli, or temple servants. It is, however, quite in accordance with his other arrangements that he should have done so. The original Nethinims were the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:23). All... were expressed by name. Iddo sent to Ezra a list of the Nethinims, which, however, he does not think it necessary to insert.

CHAPTER 8:21-36
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.
Verse 21. - Then I proclaimed a fast there. The fight of the civil ruler to "proclaim a fast" was unquestioned among the Jews and Israelites. Jezebel proclaimed one in Ahab's name when she wished to impress the Jezreelites with the notion that a great crime had been committed. Jehoshaphat did the same when he was invaded by the Ammonites, Moabites, and Mehunim (2 Chronicles 20:1-3). A fast was proclaimed in the fifth year of Jehoiakim when the kingdom of Judah was menaced by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 36:9). Ezra therefore assumes that he may command one now, in connection with the perils of the coming journey. That we might afflict ourselves. The Jews were commanded to "afflict themselves" on the great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29), and understood that the affliction was to be mainly by fasting and abstaining from the bath. To ask of him a right way. Or "a direct road," i.e. a prosperous and unimpeded journey to Jerusalem. For us and our little ones. The colonists went up attended by their families.
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.
Verse 22. - I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers. Before he apprehended danger Ezra had boasted to Artaxerxes of the power and goodness of God, and had spoken of himself and his brethren as assured of the Divine protection. Now that peril threatened he found himself afraid, and would have been glad of such an escort as Nehemiah obtained at a later date (Nehemiah 2:9). But after his boasts he was ashamed to confess his fear. Who the enemy in the way was it is impossible to decide; but we may gather from ver. 31 that it was no imaginary foe. Probably some of the Arab tribes, who owed no allegiance to Persia, had formed a design to intercept the caravan and plunder it.
So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,
Verse 24. - Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, etc. Our translators, following the Vulgate, have omitted to render the preposition לְ, which occurs in the Hebrew text before the name of Sherebiah, and have thus represented Sherebiah and Hashabiah as priests, whereas they were not priests, but Levites, as appears from vers. 18, 19. The true sense is given by the LXX. - "Then I assigned twelve of the chief priests to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren; i.e. "then I appointed twelve chief priests to act with twelve chief Levites, of whom Sherebiah and Hashabiah were two, in the matter of the royal offering." Ezra seems to have considered, that as the gift of Artaxerxes was an offering to the house of God, it ought to be handed over at once to the custody of the ministers of religion, and not remain in secular hands (compare ver. 28).
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:
Verse 25. - And weighed unto the the silver, etc. We may gather from this that the silver and gold were in bars or ingots, and not in coined money. The Persians had coined money at this tin. e, but the Treasury kept the bulk of its stores in bars (Herod., 3:96).
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;
Verse 26. - Six hundred and fifty talents of silver, according to Mr. Peele's estimate of the talent, would be nearly a quarter of a million of our money. The annual revenue of Persia was about three and a half millions (Herod., 3:95). Of gold an hundred talents. Rather more than a million of our money.
Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.
Verse 27. - Twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams (see comment on Ezra 2:69). The "basons" would be worth about £55 each. Fine copper, precious as gold. The metal intended is probably that known to the Romans as orichalchum, which is generally believed to have been brass, but which may have been a more complicated amalgam. Being rarely, and perhaps only accidentally, produced, this metal was 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.
Verse 28. - Ye are holy. Consecrated to God by their office, the priests and Levites were the fitting custodians of consecrated things.
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.
Verse 29. - The chambers of the house of the Lord are the rooms placed on either side of the main building (see 1 Kings 6:5), partly as chambers for the priests, partly as store-rooms (see Nehemiah 13:5).
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.
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.
Verse 31. - The river of Ahava. Rather, "the river Ahava," as in the Vulgate ("a fiumine Ahava"). The place had probably taken its name from the stream. The twelfth day of the first month. Compare Ezra 7:9, and Ezra 8:15, from which it appears that Ahava was reached by Ezra and his company on the ninth day after they left Babylon, which helps to identify Ahava with Is, since Is (according to Herodotus) was eight days' journey from Babylon (see comment on ver. 15). God delivered us from ... . such as lay in wait. The boast of Ezra (ver. 22) was justified by the event. He "trusted in God," and was "delivered" - how delivered we are not told, but evidently through no "arm of flesh." The hand of God led him safely through all the perils of the way, and brought him and his companions without loss or damage to the "city of their rest." EZRA'S THREE DAYS' REST AT JERUSALEM, AND SUBSEQUENT EXECUTION OF THE MORE PRESSING OF THE COMMISSIONS INTRUSTED TO HIM (Ezra 8:32-36). After the fatigues of a four months' journey, a brief period of complete rest was well-nigh necessary. Like Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:11), Ezra was content with a rest of three days. On the fourth he discharged himself of his commission to present to the temple treasury the offerings of the Persian king, his counsellors and lords (ver. 25), together with that spontaneously contributed by the Israelites who had accompanied him (Ezra 7:16). This he did by appearing in person before the priests and Levites who were in charge of the temple, and making over to them the entire offering of gold, silver, and vessels which had been brought to Jerusalem from Babylon. At the same time the exiles whom he had induced to return, and whom he had conducted in safety through so long a journey, sacrificed on the altar of burnt offerings a number of bullocks, rams, lambs, and he-goats, as a token of their thankfulness to God for delivering them from the perils of the way. After this Ezra proceeded to make known to the satraps and other governors of the provinces lying west of the Euphrates the terms of the permanent commission which he had received from the king. The result was that these officials thenceforth helped the Jews instead of hindering them, and furnished the necessary supplies for the temple service.
And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
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;
Verse 33. - Meremoth the son of Uriah, or Urijah, was one of the heads of the priestly order, both under Ezra and under Nehemiah. He is mentioned as repairing two pieces of the wall of Jerusalem when Nehemiah was governor (Nehemiah 3:4, 21), and also as one of those who set their seal to the covenant with God which the whole people entered into, under Ezra's and Nehemiah's guidance, shortly after the completion of the wall, in B.C. 444. Eleazar the son of Phinehas is perhaps the Eleazar mentioned as taking part in the dedication of the wall (Nehemiah 12:42). Like Meremoth, he was a priest. Jozabad and Noadiah, chief Levites, occur again in ch. 10:23, and Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 10:9; and Nehemiah 12:3.
By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.
Verse 34. - By number and by weight. The gold and the silver were weighed; the vessels were both counted and weighed; the object being to see that what was delivered to Meremoth corresponded exactly with what Ezra had given in charge to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and others at Ahava (see above, vers. 24-27). All the weight was written at that time. Not only were the vessels counted and weighed, but an inventory of them was made by the priests in charge of the temple, and the weight of every vessel noted. Such was the care taken to prevent any embezzlement of the temple property by its custodians.
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.
Verse 35. - Also the children of those who had been carried away. i.e. the newly-returned exiles. Like their predecessors under Zernbbabel, who had made an offering for all Israel (Ezra 6:17), so the present colonists under Ezra, assuming that they represented all Israel, offered for the whole nation. The classes of animals offered are the same on the two occasions, and the number of the he-goats is identical; but in every other case the victims are far less numerous now than on the former occasion. This is fully accounted for by the comparatively small number of those who returned under Ezra.
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.
Verse 36. - And they delivered the king's commissions. Parts of Ezra's firman concerned vitally the other provincial governors, and had of necessity to be communicated to them. Such were the provisoes concerning Ezra's power of drawing upon the provincial treasuries for corn, wine, oil, salt, and money (Ezra 7:22, 23), and concerning the exemption of all ranks of the Jewish sacred order from taxation of any kind whatsoever (ibid. ver. 24). Unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors. The word translated "lieutenants" is that which corresponds to the Persian term "satrap," and designates the highest class of the Persian provincial governors. That translated "governor" is the term which has been already applied by Ezra to Tatnai (Ezra 5:3, 4) and Zerubbabel (Ezra 6:7). It denotes a lower grade of official. They furthered the people. The satraps and lower officials, on being made acquainted with the king's wishes, readily complied with them, and became supporters and favourers of the Jewish people.

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