EZRA CHAPTER 8.
Details of Ezra’s Journey.
THE ASSEMBLING OF THE COMPANY. — V. 1. These are now the chief of their fathers, the oldest living heads or fathers of the descendants in one family, and this is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king. The register of families according to father-houses, under the leadership of Ezra, is now given. V.2. Of the sons of Phinehas: Gershom; of the sons of Ithamar: Daniel, these being of priestly descent; of the sons of David, direct descendants of the great king: Hattush. V.3. 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. V.4. Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Elihoenai, the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males. V. 5. Of the sons of Shechaniah: the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males. V. 6. Of the sons also of Adin: Ebed, the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males. V.7. males. V. 8. And of the sons of Shephatiab: Zebadiah, the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males. V. 9. Of the sons of Joab, treated separately here, probably because only a small number of them had returned with Zerubbabel, chap. 2, 6: Obadiah, the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males. V. 10. And of the sons of Shelomith: the son of Josiphiah, and with him an hundred and threescore males. V. 11. And of the Sons of Bebai: Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males. V. 12. And of the sons of Azgad: Johanan, the son of Hakkatan, and with him an hundred and ten males. V. 13. And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these: Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males. V. 14. Of the sons also of Bigvai: Uthai and Zabbud (or Zaccur), and with them seventy males. The number of males enumerated in this list amounts to 1,764, so that the caravan, including women and children, may easily have been six thousand strong. V. 15. And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava, a place or region on one of the canals of Mesopotamia communicating with the Euphrates; and there abode we in tents three days, after the Oriental custom, which gave the leader of the caravan .a chance to arrange it in proper order and to appoint his assistants. And I viewed the people and the priests and found there none of the sons of Levi, the ordinary Levites. V. 16. Then sent I for Eliezer, for Arid, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men, heads of little communities; also for Joiarib and for Elnathan, men of understanding, teachers among the people. V. 17. And I sent them, undoubtedly by virtue of the authority vested in him, with commandment unto Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia, this being either the name of a place between Ahava and Babylon or the designation of an office, that of treasurer to the king, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, putting the very words of their commission into their mouths, and to his brethren, the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God. It seems evident from this statement that the Jews had kept their religious organization in Babylon at that time for more than a century, almost a hundred and fifty years, and had also enjoyed the privilege of free worship, even the Nethinim, who were beneath the Levites in the tasks of the Temple, having maintained their identity. V. 18. And by the good hand of our God upon us, by a special manifestation of His merciful kindness, 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; v. 19. and Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty; v. 20. also of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, to assist the Levites in the lower and more menial tasks of the Temple, two hundred and twenty Nethinim; all of them were expressed by name. It is a strange fact that even the freedom from taxes did not induce’ more men of the tribe of Levi to join the company of Ezra at once. The prosperity of this world often results in a reduced amount of zeal for the welfare of God’s kingdom.
THE PRIESTS ENTRUSTED WITH THE LORD’S TREASURES. — V. 21. Then I proclaimed a fast there, in preparation for the journey, its purpose being to implore from God safety amidst the many and various dangers of the desert, 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, both safe and easy to travel, that they might not be forced to abandon the best route. V. 22. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, against the bands of Bedouins which infested the deserts and lived largely on robbery and plunder, because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him, but Him power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him. They had declared that they were traveling under the protection of the true God, and they did not want to lower the respect which Artaxerxes had for their religion at that time by applying for an armed escort. V. 23. So we fasted and besought our God for this; and He was intreated of us. He rewarded their faith in Him by permitting them to enjoy perfect safety during the entire journey. V. 24. Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them, apparently twelve, each, of priests and of Levites, v. 25. 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 counselors, and his lords, and all Israel there present had offered, chap. 7, 15. 16. V. 26. 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; v. 27. also twenty basins of gold, covered cups for pouring out drink-offerings, of a thousand drains, literally, “darics,” Persian money; and two vessels of fine copper, of excellent polish, precious as gold. The value of all these treasures has been estimated at about two and one half million dollars. V. 28. And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the Lord, set apart for the special service of Jehovah; the vessels are holy also, intended for use in divine worship only, set apart for this purpose; and the silver and the gold are a free-will offering unto the Lord God of your fathers, voluntarily contributed by both the Jews of Babylon and by their heathen neighbors, together with the king and his counselors. V. 29. Watch ye and keep them, as consecrated custodians, 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, where all these treasures were to be delivered intact. V. 30. 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, they accepted the commission with the same solemnity with which it was tendered. V. 31. Then we departed from the river of Ahava, from the region on the Euphrates known by that name, on the twelfth day of the first month, some time having elapsed during which the Levites who were summoned joined the caravan, 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, both the organized and the unorganized desert robbers. “To accomplish a journey so long and so arduous in perfect safety is one of the most astonishing events recorded in history. Nothing but the vigilant care of a superintending Providence could have brought them securely to their destination.” 2) V. 32. And we came to Jerusalem, after a journey of about four months, and abode there three days, resting from the effects of their journey. V. 33. 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 Xeremoth, the son of Uriah, the priest, apparently in charge of the Lord’s treasures; 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, all these witnesses being present to see that everything was done decently and in order; v. 34. by number and by weight of every one; and all the weight was written at that time, everything noted down carefully in an official document, so that the correct preservation might be confirmed. V. 35. Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, those who had returned in this caravan, 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. Cp. chap. 6, 17; Lev. 4. All this was a burnt offering unto the Lord. V. 36. And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants and to the governors on this side the river, both to the satraps, as civil officers, and to the chief military officers in the satrapy between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean; and they, these Persian magnates, furthered the people and the house of God, they brought their influence to bear in favor of the Jews. Even as the Jews of that time took care of the outward treasures of their worship, so the Christians must be the guardians of the spiritual treasures entrusted to them, the Gospel and the Sacraments.