Bible Commentaries
Ezra 8

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-36

Ezra’s Return (8:1-36)

As was the case with the earlier return (chs. 1-2), the account of the return led by Ezra included a list of "the heads of their fathers’ houses" who accompanied him. The list testifies to the strong feeling of solidarity with the past and to the equally strong sense of racial and religious purity which marked the restoration and later Judaism. The list corresponds in the main with the one in chapter 2, so far as the family groups are concerned, although there are minor differences.

The numbers total close to 1500 men, a sizable group, since each would be accompanied by family and possibly some servants. This group, forming a caravan for travel, met by "the river that runs to Ahava" (see also vs. 31), possibly one of the canals near Babylon (see Ezekiel 1:1). In the earlier return the Levites were slack in responding; in the new venture no Levite appears as the preparations are made for the journey. Verses 16-20 describe the way Ezra met the problem, and the success of his deputation to "Iddo" at "Casiphia" (both otherwise unknown). Along with the bare account of preparation goes the affirmation of faith that all this was accomplished because of "the good hand of our God upon us."

The same faith is particularly stressed in the account of the fasting and prayer which were a prelude to the journey. Although fasting was known in Israel from early times, it was in the last centuries before Christ that it assumed its great importance for Judaism, not only as a sign of repentance but especially as a central expression of faith and devotion to God.

With the mixture of hard-headed practicality and deep faith which marks this entire literature, Ezra made special provision for the safe arrival of the treasures which the caravan carried. The aggregate value of the silver seems abnormally high — the total worth would run into millions by modem standards — and it is probable that the figures have suffered in the transmission of the text. The community of Jews at Jerusalem did not in later years give evidence of having access to any such wealth.

The four months (seeEzr_ 8:31 and Ezra 7:8-9) required for the journey, which would have followed the normal trade route, indicate something of the difficulty such an undertaking involved. On arrival in Jerusalem there was a suitable rest period for the company. Then the completion of the journey was marked on the one hand by discharging the responsibilities carried with the treasures, and on the other by sacrifices which testified to the reunion of Israel (twelve for the twelve tribes) and to God’s grace and blessing by which the journey had been begun and completed.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 8". "Layman's Bible Commentary".