Ezra (Ch 1-2)

The decree of Cyrus: marking an epoch of very great importance and therefore repeated almost word for word from the end of Chronicles:

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it also in writing, saying,

“Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.” II Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1

1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it also in writing, saying, — by the first year of Cyrus is to be understood the first year of his sovereignty over the Jews, or 538 BC when he took Babylon from Belshazzar; because he was known to have became king of Persia twenty years earlier in BC 559;

“Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: ‘The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. — the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus and charged him to build him an house at Jerusalem;

— that is, to give leave for the rebuilding of it and to encourage to it and assist in it; and to secure the favour of those who presided over different territories. 

Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is the God), which is in Jerusalem. — in conformity with the command of God, Cyrus not only invites the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple, but also requires all his subjects to assist the returning Jews, and to give free-will offerings for the temple.

And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver and with gold, and with goods and with beasts, besides the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.’” — and whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth; is left behind and cannot go up through poverty, not having a sufficiency to bear his charges in his journey to Jerusalem:

— let the men of his place keep him with silver, gold, goods and with beasts; with money to bear the expenses of his journey, with goods to furnish his house, or trade with, when he came to Judea and with cattle to carry him and his goods, and to till the ground with, when he came thither;

— and the men exhorted to this are either the Gentiles that dwelt in the cities where these poor Jews were or the richer Jews who chose as yet not to go up until they saw how things would succeed; and are therefore called upon to assist their brethren who had a will, but no ability;

— besides the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem: which they freely gave and sent by them for the rebuilding of the temple.

Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all those whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. — only a portion of the Israelites took advantage of the permission of Cyrus. Many remained in Babylon, since they were disinclined to relinquish their property. They who returned were people whom God had especially stirred up to make sacrifices for His glory.

And all those who were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. — strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, gold, goods and beasts and with precious things; which they either did of themselves at their own motion or by the direction and example of Cyrus, Ezra 1:4.

Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem and had put them in the house of his gods; — Cyrus brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord; though it is said (II King 24:13) that these were cut in pieces, that would not be done to the large and magnificent vases; and if they had been divided the parts could be reunited. But it may be doubted whether the pieces is of further use in the temple.

even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them over to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. — Mithredath, or “Mithridates” the treasurer – this name which means “given by Mithra” or “dedicated to Mithra” whose birthday was on December 25, is an indication that the Sun-worship of the Persians was at least as old as the time of Cyrus.

And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, — large knives used in the killing of the sacrifices, which are here mentioned, because the hafts of them were made of or covered with gold or silver;

— nine and twenty knives; which, because the handles of them were of gold or silver, were valuable, and might be very large knives, and what the priests used in slaying and cutting up the sacrifices.

10 thirty basins of gold, four hundred and ten silver basins of a second sort, and other vessels a thousand. — thirty basins of gold; cups or dishes with covers; but they could be vessels in which the blood of sacrifices was received and out of which it was sprinkled on the altar;

— silver basins of a second sort four hundred and ten; perhaps lesser than the other, however not so valuable, being of silver. 

11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with those of the captivity, who were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem. — all these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity, that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem: of whom there is a large and particular account in the following chapter;

— Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah; that is, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel (compare Ezra 3:8; 5:16). He was born in Babylon, and called by his family Zerubbabel, that is, stranger or exile in Babylon. Sheshbazzar, signifying “fire-worshipper,” was the name given him at court as other names were given to Daniel and his friends. He was recognized among the exiles as hereditary prince of Judah.

Ezra 2

1 Now these are the children of the province who came up out of the captivity, of those who 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, — children of the province; that is, Judea (Ezra 5:8), so called as being now reduced from an independent and powerful kingdom to an obscure, servile, tributary province of the Persian empire; now they are “the children of the province” as distinct from those who remained in Babylonia and Persia;

— that went out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon; who either in person or in their parents were carried captive by him and who were the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; and they are only mentioned because they were the principal that returned;

— came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city—either the city that had been occupied by his ancestors, or, as most parts of Judea were then either desolate or possessed by others, the city that was rebuilt and allotted to him now.

who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: — which came with Zerubbabel; he was the chief or leader of the first band of returning exiles; conspicuous in the number are Jeshua, the high priest and Nehemiah.

the children of Parosh, two thousand a hundred seventy and two;

the children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two;

the children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five;

the children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve;

the children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four;

the children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five;

the children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore;

10 the children of Bani, six hundred forty and two;

11 the children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three;

12 the children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two;

13 the children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six;

14 the children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six;

15 the children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four;

16 the children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight;

17 the children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three;

18 the children of Jorah, a hundred and twelve;

19 the children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three;

20 the children of Gibbar, ninety and five;

21 the children of Bethlehem, a hundred twenty and three;

22 the men of Netophah, fifty and six;

23 the men of Anathoth, a hundred twenty and eight;

24 the children of Azmaveth, forty and two;

25 the children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three;

26 the children of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one;

27 the men of Michmas, a hundred twenty and two;

28 the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three;

29 the children of Nebo, fifty and two;

30 the children of Magbish, a hundred fifty and six;

31 the children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four;

32 the children of Harim, three hundred and twenty;

33 the children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five;

34 the children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five;

35 the children of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty.

36 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three;

37 the children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two;

38 the children of Pashhur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven;

39 the children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.

40 The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four.

41 The singers: the children of Asaph, a hundred twenty and eight.

42 The children of the gatekeepers: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all a hundred thirty and nine.

43 The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth,

44 the children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon,

45 the children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub,

46 the children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan,

47 the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah,

48 the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam,

49 the children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai,

50 the children of Asnah, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephusim,

51 the children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,

52 the children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,

53 the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah,

54 the children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.

55 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda,

56 the children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,

57 the children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami.

58 All the Nethinim and the children of Solomon’s servants were three hundred ninety and two.

59 And these were they who went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not show their father’s house and their seed, whether they were of Israel:

60 the children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.

61 And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name.

62 These sought their register among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore were they as polluted, put from the priesthood. — were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood R.V. were they deemed polluted and put, Heb. they were polluted from;

— Q1. Is the list polluated from the Samaritans? Were these names polluted or edited by Tobiah who had penatrated the Temple and altered the register? (for more see Tobiah in the Temple at the end)

— Q2. Did Tobiah entered his own posterity in verse 60 above as “the children of Tobiah?”

63 And the Tirshatha said unto them that they should not eat of the most holy things until there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. — with Urim and with Thummim; without ark or temple, the people had not as yet that special presence of Yehovah before which the high priest could “inquire of the Lord by Urim and Thummim.”

— Zerubbabel might hope that this privilege would return and thought the official purity of the priestly line of sufficient importance for such an inquiry; but the holy of holies in the new temple never had in it the ancient “tokens “ and by Urim and Thummim Yehovah was never again inquired of.

64 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, — the particular sums recited above come to only 29,818; unto whom are added in this total sum, 12,542; which either were not counted; perhaps they were children, representatives of all the other tribes or for some other unknown reasons.

65 besides their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven; and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.

66 Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six, their mules two hundred forty and five,

67 their camels four hundred thirty and five, their asses six thousand seven hundred and twenty.

68 And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place.

69 They gave according to their ability to the treasury of the work, threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.

70 So the priests and the Levites and some of the people, and the singers and the gatekeepers and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities. — in their cities; not in Jerusalem only but in the neighboring towns also, such as Bethlehem, Anathoth, Ramah, Gaba, Michmash, Bethel, Ai, Nebo and Jericho;

— all Israel; Ezra very determinately puts forward this aspect of the return, that it was participated in by representatives of all the other tribes (see 2:2; 3:1; 6:16, 17; 7:13; 8:29, 35, etc.). He does not, however, exclude the other aspect, that it was especially a return of Judah, or “Judah and Benjamin” (see Ezra 5:1; Ezra 10:9).


Tobiah in the Temple – Nehemiah 13:4-9

4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah. 5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where previously they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense and the vessels and the tithes of the corn, the new wine and the oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and the singers and the gatekeepers, and the offerings of the priests. 6 But in all this time I (Nehemiah) was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I came unto the king, and after certain days I obtained leave from the king. 7 And I came to Jerusalem and learned of the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And it grieved me sore; therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers; and thither I brought back the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

There are four things mentioned in particular that show the backsliding of the people: the presence of Tobiah in the courts of the Temple; the failure to provide adequately for the Levites; the desecration of the Sabbath; and the return to mixed marriages.

When Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem he saw something that must have both grieved and angered him. He found that the priest Eliashib had entered into an agreement with one of the men who had been at the forefront of the opposition to the wall rebuilding.

Not only was Tobiah personally a proven enemy of the people of God, he was an Ammonite, a part of the ‘mixed multitude’ put out of the temple years before. In Nehemiah chapter 6, Tobiah was exerting his influence from outside and maintaining contact with some of the nobles within by letter. But now he was right inside! It is not at all surprising that Nehemiah was upset!

(a) The temple rooms that Tobiah was occupying were supposed to be used for the storage of tithes and offerings for the priests and for the service of God’s sanctuary. It was unthinkable that rooms set apart for a holy purpose should be used by a pagan opponent of the work of God.

(b) Eliashib had failed as the spiritual leader of the people and had neglected to maintain the purity of the house of God. He had not recognised the danger of having an alliance with such a man. Possibly Eliashib thought the regulations for ‘separation’ and ‘no mixing’ were far too strict and uncharitable, but we ignore God’s commands at our peril!

Nehemiah was not just grieved but determined to take radical measures to solve the problem: He threw Tobiah and all his possessions out of the temple; He restored the temple rooms to their proper function. No doubt some would see his action as being harsh but like the Lord Jesus when he cleansed the temple Nehemiah had the wisdom not to confuse ‘love’ with ‘being nice’!

~ by Joel Huan on May 7, 2022.

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