Bible Commentaries
Ezra 7

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-10


Ezra 7:1 to Ezra 10:44

The Permission to Return (7:1-28)

Ezra and His Company (7:1-10)

Over a century intervened between the time of the completion of the Temple, recorded in chapter 6, and the events which are taken up in chapter 7, a century which is passed over with the words, "after this." As in the case of the Pentateuchal narrative, this history is not concerned with giving a precise and full chronological account, but with chronicling "the mighty acts of God." The time is now the reign of Artaxerxes (see also Ezra 4:7). The main character of the new effort is introduced in customary fashion by a genealogy, tracing Ezra’s line back to Aaron (although the genealogy, parallel to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15, is marked by several gaps). Ezra is named as a "scribe," a term which probably had original reference to some responsibility at the court of Persia. In the biblical account it is defined in reference to "the law of Moses." From the outset the importance of Ezra is fixed by three points: his place in the priesthood, his skill in the Law, and his piety ("for the hand of the Lord his God was upon him").

Although it is not specifically stated, it is apparent from the story that Ezra had asked for permission either to go to Jerusalem himself, or to lead a company there. The story opens with the king’s permission (vs. 6) and continues with a brief list of the types of people who accompanied Ezra (vs. 7; see the list in Ezra 8:1-14). The vexing question of the date of Ezra’s return (vss. 8-9) has been discussed in the Introduction. The exemplary character of Ezra is further stressed in verse 10.

Verses 11-26

The Letter of Artaxerxes (7:11-26)

Artaxerxes’ letter of permission and charge to Ezra is given in Aramaic. Prominent features of this letter are its exaltation of Ezra, its insistence on "the law" (possibly one of the king’s reasons for encouraging this return was a desire to stabilize a part of the empire), familiarity with Jewish religious practice (Ezra may have been the court "scribe" who wrote the decree), a direct demand of "the treasurers" that they give financial support to the Temple worship, and exemption of Temple personnel from taxation. Most of the features were apparently normal procedure in Persian court decrees.

Verses 27-28

Doxology (7:27-28)

For the first time Ezra is designated as the speaker, an indication that the source used by the historian here was a "memoir" of Ezra himself. He speaks, appropriately, in a hymn of praise to God for his work in moving the king to act, and for his mercies to Ezra.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 7". "Layman's Bible Commentary".