Bible Commentaries
Ezra 8

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-14

Ezra - Chapter 8

Leaders of the Company, Verses 1-14

The list of chief of fathers who accompanied Ezra to Jerusalem is given next, but contains few meaningful names for the student. The sons of Phinehas were those of priestly lineage, the sons of Ithamar may have been Levite families, and the sons of David are supposedly descendants of the king. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar, through whom the high priesthood descended. Ithamar was the younger son of Aaron. He fathered a line of priests along with his older brother, Eleazar, so the reference may be also to the second line of the priests as established in the days of David.

Shechaniah is not further known, and is not to be identified with another of that name in Ezra 10:2, nor with the one in verse 5. Though these were prominent men in Israel of the times, the chief reason for preserving their genealogy seems to have been that the families might be able to show their pedigree back to captivity times and before. Such things were very important to an Israelite.

Each of the chief men named was over a number of others, the total of which made up the party returning to Jerusalem. The largest group was composed of three hundred, the smallest only twenty-eight. The twelve groups totaled fourteen hundred and ninety-six persons.

Verses 15-20

More Solicited, Verses 15-20

"The river that runneth to Ahava" is of uncertain location. In verse 21 it is referred to as ’the river of Ahava," so that it is uncertain whether "Ahava" is the name of the river or the place where the river was located. There is no known river or land by this name. It would appear from the context that it was somewhere in the province of Babylon, from which the party under Ezra was departing for Jerusalem. This is the most definite location possible at this time.

The body was in temporary lodgings already, tents, which were evidently to be their abode on the long journey to Jerusalem. Ezra used three days to review his people, and in doing so found there was a scarcity of Levites among them. On the basis of this it is probable that the sons of Ithamar (verse 2, above) was a group of lesser priests, rather than Levites. To remedy this shortage Ezra enlisted the aid of seven chief men and two others, called men of understanding. They were sent to Casiphia, seemingly a Levite settlement in Babylon. They were to deal with the chief man of the place, Iddo, who was of the Nethinim, or temple servants. This reference has led some commentators to think the Jews were allowed to pursue their worship in their settlements while in exile. They were asked to have Iddo send them ministers of the house of God.

This effort of Ezra might seem to violate the command of Artaxerxes, which provided that only those should go who did so of their own freewill (see chap. 7:13). Yet though there does seem to be some persuasion exercised here, it cannot be said that there was coercion against their will. The outcome was that a sufficient number responded to the plea as to fill the desire of Ezra. There were thirty-eight Levites of two families and two hundred and twenty Nethinim who joined the original group.

Verses 21-30

The deep piety and godliness of Ezra continues to be manifested. Before setting forth on the long journey to Jerusalem the party observed a fast and time of prayer to God. His stated purpose was to seek the right way for them to proceed, or to wait on the leadership of the Lord. Ezra sought God’s way for himself and people, including the children, and the great substance that was in their possession. This consisted of a great quantity of gold and silver, with gold and silver vessels, fine brass, for the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. Ezra meant to rely wholly on the protection of his God. He states that he was ashamed to ask for a guard of soldiers or cavalry from the king, although it would surely have been provided had he done so. He had spoken to the king of the power of God, how it is available to those who seek Him for good, and of how His wrath falls on those who forsake Him. To have sought a guard from the king would have meant that his faith was weak, and that he had doubts concerning what he had claimed for his God.

Some would have thought it would be foolhardy to set out on a journey such as Ezra’s, involving many hundred miles, through robber­ infested areas, without an armed escort. And so it would have been when relying on the power of man alone, but Ezra relied on God and had full confidence in Him. He knew they would need the Lord to make’ it safely, and that is the reason he proclaimed the fast at the river of Ahava. When he had done this he felt the assurance that God was entreated in his behalf.

Ezra provides many lessons for the saved today. In the journey of life the leadership of the Lord is needed, and prayer is necessary in maintaining this closeness of fellowship with God. God’s concerned children are mindful of this need for themselves, their families, and all they possess. Moses would not leave Egypt without absolute commitment of the Israelites to the Lord (Exodus 10:24-26). Then, again, the saved should be ashamed to look to the world for material things, when the Lord has promised to supply all that is needed (Matthew 6:25-34). One may have comfort and assurance by taking his burdens and cares to the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Ezra chose twelve of the elders, weighed the valuable cargo to them, and charged them with its keeping until they should arrive in Jeru­salem, where it would be weighed again to assure that it had been safely kept. The vast fortune consisted of six hundred and fifty talents of silver and silver vessels weighing a hundred talents (valued at present rates, $14,196,000); a hundred talents of gold ($109,200,000); gold basins and fine bronze ($270,000). Ezra reminded these men of their consecration to the Lord and of the consecration of the treasure they were to convey, implying that this should insure the Lord’s protection until the arrival in Jerusalem. The apostle Peter gives spiritual admonition concerning the Christian’s stewardship (1 Peter 4:10).

Verses 31-36

Arrival In Jerusalem, Verses 31-36

Reference back to Ezra 7:9 shows that Ezra and his party began their departure for Jerusalem on the first day of the first month of the year. The thirty-first verse of this passage shows that only twelve days had expired before the entourage left the river of Ahava. It was during these twelve days that the fast had been held, and before that, the solicitation of other Levites and Nethinim for the group occurred. Ezra seems to have been a man of action, who went promptly about his business without delay.

Of his journey Ezra says only that 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." Several things are apparent from this statement. the foremost is that Ezra’s faith in the Lord to keep them safe was well founded. It is also evident that potential dangers were prevalent along the journey. There were enemies who did not desire the progress of the temple worship in Jerusalem, and there were thieves and robbers lurking in the wilderness of their road. But the Lord saw them safely to Jerusalem, and the whole journey took four months (see Ezra 7:9).

The party rested for three days, then carried the silver, gold, and vessels to the temple, conveying it into the hand of the priests and chief Levites there. Record was made of all that Ezra’s party had brought and the tally was found to agree with that when they departed from the river of Ahava. A celebration was held in which the newcomers were joined by the people of the captivity who had returned to the land of Judah earlier. Burnt offerings were sacrificed to the number of twelve bullocks, ninety­-six rams, seventy-seven lambs. Twelve he goats were offered as a sin offering.

When all this was cared for Ezra delivered the commissions of the king to his lieutenants and governors of the land. These furthered the cause of the people and the temple because that is what the commissions required them to do. Again God’s dependability was proven (Proverbs 29:25).

Lessons from chapter 8: 1) a godly leader will attract the less bold to the service of God; 2) everything needful should be secured to do a task best for the Lord; 3) the saved have a rich spiritual treasure which the powers of darkness would destroy without God’s intervention; 4) the world cannot protect the Christian’s treasure; 5) going God’s way will assure a safe arrival.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 8". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.