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Ezra - Chapter 7
Ezra, a Prepared Man, Verses 1-10
Ezra arrived in Jerusalem about sixty years after the completion of the temple reconstruction. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, and Zechariah had passed from the scene, and all the Jews who had returned at the first under the decree of Cyrus. The Persian ruler in Ezra’s day was Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled over Persia from B. C. 465-425. The Persian empire was already in its decline, having suffered defeat at the hands of the Greeks in time of Xerxes, the husband of Esther (480 B. C.), but still a century before it was overrun by Alexander the Great.
Ezra introduces himself by recording his pedigree, coming down from the first high priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses, through some of the most noted high priests of Israel. These included Eleazar, who went with Joshua into Canaan; Phinehas, the zealot for God at the fornication of Baal-peor; Hilkiah, the discoverer of the lost book of the law in the temple, and the father of the prophet Jeremiah; Seraiah, who was executed by Nebuchadnezzar; Zadok, the true high priest under David.
He called himself a "ready scribe in the law of Moses," meaning that he was learned in the law, possessing the ability to interpret it according to the Lord’s will.
Ezra gave the Lord credit for his accomplishments. The king’s permission to go to Jerusalem to organize the temple worship he accredited to "the hand of the Lord his God upon him" He realized that obedience to the Lord keeps him in the hand of the Lord for good (Psalms 37:24). This caused the Lord to make Artaxerxes favorable to Ezra’s request.
In the group which departed Babylon with Ezra for Jerusalem were some of the Israelites, though chiefly there seem to have been priests, Levites, including singers and potters, and the Nethinim (temple servants).
The entourage began its preparations for the journey to Jerusalem on new year’s day (about March 25, modern calendar), in the seventh year of Artaxerxes’ reign (about 457 B. C.). They finally arrived in the fifth month of the same year (about August). Their safe arrival will be noted in detail later, but here in the beginning of his account Ezra acknowledges it to have been by the good hand of the Lord on them.
Ezra further shows why the good hand of the Lord was upon him.
He had 1) prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord; 2) to do the law of the Lord; 3) to teach the law of the Lord to others. Should not this be the aim of every Christian’s life? One seeks God’s law by familiarizing himself with the teaching of the word of God, the Bible. He then should put what he has learned into practice, living by God’s precepts. Finally, he should be capable and ready to teach the things of Christ to others whom he contacts.
King’s Decree, Verses 11-26
Artaxerxes sent instructions by Ezra to his officers in the lands beyond the river to furnish the priest with the things he would need for his work. First, he introduces Ezra as a priest and as a scribe of the commandments of the Lord and the statutes of Israel. This would let those know, who received the letter, that Ezra was capable of the work he was undertaking. A portion of the letter was also addressed to other Jews in the realm of Persia, allowing all those who wished of the people, priests, and Levites to accompany Ezra on his mission. None was to be forced or coerced into going, but must be "minded of his own freewill to go."
Ezra went to Jerusalem by the expressed authority of the king and his seven counselors. This statement gives insight to the system of government of the Persians. It was not so absolute a government as had been that of Babylon, but the king had to consult with counselors before issuing a decree. This is portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as the gold of absolute monarchy in the golden head which represented Babylon, deteriorating to silver in the upper torso which represented Persia (Daniel- Chapter 2).
The king and his counselors made gifts of gold and silver to the temple which they sent by Ezra and his group. They were allowed also to receive other offerings from whomever in the province of Babylon desired to contribute. This would doubtless have included many pious Jews, but did not prohibit others who might have a fear of the God of Israel. The purpose of the money was for purchase of bullocks, rams, lambs and other provisions which might be needed for the meat and drink offerings on the altar in the temple at Jerusalem: Any surplus not needed for this Ezra was free to use as he felt best according to the will of God. It even seems to direct that he might draw from the king’s treasury in the land if more was needed. This is seen by the direct address to the treasurers to supply Ezra’s wants (vv. 21-23).
There was a limit on the things to be furnished from the treasury, however. There could be supplied up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred measures of wheat, a hundred baths each of wine and oil, and salt without limit. All this was to be based on the requirements of the temple, as commanded by the "God of heaven," that there might not be divine wrath upon the king and his sons. This shows that the Persian
kings had a healthy respect for the God of Israel..
The decree of the king also made the priests, Levites, singers, porters, Nethinim privileged citizens of his realm. It was to be unlawful to impose any tax on them. Any who tried to subvert these provisions of the king’s decree, to obey the law of the Jews, were subject to punishment by death, confiscation, and imprisonment. This rigid provision of the king’s decree is a reminder of Hebrews 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Ezra Gives Thanks, verses 27-28
Ezra is an ideal example of a devoted and consecrated servant of the Lord. He remembers first of all that it is the Lord who makes him to prosper and succeed in his enterprise. He recognizes Him as the God of his fathers, who had done so many wonderful things in delivering them from bondage and giving them the land of Canaan. It is that God, he knows, who now has moved on the heart of the king to grant permission for his renewal of the temple. It is not that the temple worship was not being conducted, but it is to be remembered how disappointed some of the ancient elders were to see this restored temple so lacking in magnificence, in comparison to the first temple (Ezra 3:12-13).
Ezra was returning to Jerusalem to restore some of the beauty of the Lord’s house. This is indicated in the vast amount of silver and gold he was given for the purpose. The scribe renders God praise for making the king to desire to beautify the temple. Ezra had also been required to receive permission of the counselors and the princes of the land; his cause had to be approved by the great men of the empire, and God had made them favorable. This had served to strengthen him and give him confidence in gathering his people to go to Jerusalem. To be confident in the Lord is to be strengthened by Him (Ephesians 3:16).
Apply these lessons: 1) a godly ancestry is a great blessing; 2) the aim of every servant of God should be to be in readiness for the work He has for him to do; 3) God moves the powers of the world to accomplish His purpose; 4) the saved are to always give God first praise and honor for what is accomplished through his efforts.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 7". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany