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Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
by Johann Peter Lange
THEOLOGICALLY AND HOMILETICALLY EXPOUNDED,
FR. W. SCHULTZ,
professor in ordinary of theology in the university of breslau, prussia
translated, enlarged, and edited
Rev. CHARLES A. BRIGGS, D. D.,
professor of old testament exegesis in the union theological seminary, new york
BOOKS OF EZRA AND NEHEMIAH
§ 1. Their Significance, Character And Contents
1. Their Significance.—It might readily seem as if the development of Israel subsequent to the exile had been backwards, and it had had but a negative significance with reference to the history of redemption; that is, as if it was merely through the deficiencies of the present, that the desire for a better future had been awakened and pointed forward to it. If, however, it was the final destiny of Israel to overcome the empires of the world, and set up the kingdom of God, not through political, but religious forces; not as a nation in battle with the nations of the world, but as leaven cast in among them; not from without, but from within, and without political independence or power—in other words: if the kingdom of God, the preparation for which is here considered, was to be a higher spiritual kingdom, then even the circumstances of the exile, still more those subsequent to the exile, were peculiarly appropriate to prepare Israel for its work in a positive way, likewise; yea, they constrained this people at once from the very beginning to become a community which was not so much political as religious, which, in distinction from the previous royal kingdom, we may call a priestly kingdom. (Comp. J. P. Lange, Introd. to the Scriptures in the vol. of the Comm. on Matt., p. 4.) In all their public undertakings, even after the close of the exile, although so dependent upon their heathen rulers and overseers that they could not even build their temple, not to speak of the walls of Jerusalem, without permission, they yet had the important task of showing that in spite of the loss of their national independence, they were in a position to maintain victoriously their internal religious peculiarities, and that they had in them a treasure through which, if they faithfully cherished the inheritance entrusted to them from above, they might be enabled to rise above all external oppressions—yea, through which they might arise in the most powerful and glorious manner even from their apparent defeats. It is true that they still for a long time could not entirely dispense with externalities. It was necessary that their God should ever have a temple, in which to dwell among His people, though apart from them; their hearts were not yet sufficiently won and purified to become His dwelling and temple. And so Israel itself still needed a city in which they might be near the temple, in which more than any where else they might live as a religious community, and they must still secure it with walls and gates. But in view of their higher and proper aims, they were no longer called to reconquer their political independence and re-establish a worldly kingdom. The efforts of the Maccabees, so far as they tended to this result, and their consequences, were in a false and round-about way.
The development of the people of God, as such, at that time necessarily required that the external vessel, which indeed was entirely appropriate to its times and even indispensable, should gradually more and more completely fall away and disappear, as the chrysalis, out of which the butterfly, attired in the most beautiful colors, soared upward to the bright sky; so that that which was spiritual and belonged to eternity might attain its pure representation as spiritual and eternal, and that the words whose depth and fullness we still today so insufficiently appreciate: “My kingdom is not of this world,” might be more and more understood.
Now the more Israel was referred to their religion and religious customs, the more weight would they be likely to give to those things which still seemed to give their religion its greatest stability; the more decidedly they found their calling in being a holy people, the more might it seem that they were commanded to clothe with religious consecration those things which were externally as well as those which were ethically holy, e.g. the sanctuary, especially the temple and the institutions of worship, the ancient writings also which guided to the religion, the people which had its existence through the religion and the law over against the heathen world; yea, the city itself, in which alone they were able to preserve all these holy things. Yes, they were in great danger of regarding reverence and care for these sacred things as the highest and most important of all things, and thus of externalizing religion in a worse way than before the exile, when it was through the undue estimation of other things. In short both tendencies were possible. The times following the exile might just as well prepare the way for the new, real and internal organization of the kingdom of God, commencing with Christ and the apostles, as be the beginning of that entirely opposite extreme of Pharisaism through the cultivation of externals and of antichristian Judaism. And both possibilities have been realized. It is the great significance of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that they historically describe that effort, yea, likewise power and might of Israel in rising up again and maintaining the field, even without political independence, as a purely religious community, thus of struggling for the New Testament and spiritual mode of existence, so likewise it at least lets us, through the entire character of the persons with whom they have to do, yea even through the condition of the entire congregation, forebode the danger pointed out of a new external religion putting itself in place of the old. The book of Esther also shares in this characteristic, as on the one side it brings into view the faithfulness of Israel to the law of their fathers in the midst of the severest temptations and trials; whilst on the other it does not extol this faithfulness as being as pure and exalted as we could wish. Thus these three books were given for instruction, edification, consolation and warning, especially for those times when the congregation is again in the condition of doing away with their previous unreliable and frail props, of becoming poorer in apparent blessings and of being obliged to return to the real and substantial blessings. They bear witness to the congregation in the plainest and most unmistakable manner that it can show itself as internally, really rich even in external poverty, and can rise above all difficulties, trials and oppressions in spite of external weakness, yea, they prophesy to it, that whilst not of this world, it will abide ever anew as indestructible and eternal. But they likewise warn, in such times of mortification and trouble, not to be careless of self, or to find true piety, which can only consist in sincere devotion to God, in the estimation and cultivation of those things which are really the products of piety itself.
2. Their Character.—It might be questionable whether the period subsequent to the exile afforded the appropriate material for a sacred history. Sacred history had previously had especially to do with the government of God as it was more or less revealed in Israel. If now there were no longer any such manifestations of God as had previously been described, no more such preservation, deliverance, revival and advancement of the people; if the people continued to exist merely as a religious community, and accordingly lead merely a quiet, so to say a hidden life, without rejoicing in new revelations—then at least it is not quite clear why the history should still maintain a sacred character. But on the other hand the history might, yea, must exhibit, on the one side, the new beginning at all events, so far as the people had such a beginning in Jerusalem as a religious community, and thus the return of a portion of the exiles and the restoration as well of the temple as of the city with its walls, as a secure place of the community; but especially likewise the re-establishment of the community itself as a people separating themselves decidedly from the heathen, and living in accordance with the divine law in communion with God.
This beginning had been expressly set in prospect by the prophets as God’s own act, and so could not come to pass without the especial co-operation of God, that is, unless He had made the heathen world-powers subservient to His purpose, and inclined a portion of the exiles to return to their devastated land. Moreover, on the other side, the preservation of the portion remaining in the lands of the exile might at all events take such a form that it would not be an entirely inappropriate theme of sacred history. That is, if a danger should arise for this Judaism in the Diaspora too great to be overcome through human power and sagacity without a higher divine providence; if it should especially threaten Judaism as such, that is, on account of the law and their lawful reverence of God so that it became doubtful whether obedience to the divine law could be maintained in spite of the human claims to obedience—then there could, yea, must be such a preservation. That portion of Judaism remaining in heathen lauds had by no means been dismissed as such from communion with Jehovah; it had a not unimportant part to play for the kingdom of God, as is manifest in the apostolic times, where it constituted with its synagogues the best starting-point for the preaching of the gospel; and their remaining behind in exile was in some measure approved by the word of God itself, inasmuch as the prophets had placed the proper return in connection with the appearance of the Messiah.
The new beginning we find described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and a preservation of the character above pointed out in the book of Esther. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah by no means intend to narrate the history of the entire period which they embrace from Zerubbabel to Nehemiah; but they would in reality merely treat of that which was essential to the new beginning. This is clear not only from what they narrate, but also from that which they omit. And with respect to the book of Esther, the principal thing is not so much the person of Esther or Mordecai and their exaltation, as the deliverance of Israel, for which all else is as the means to the end. As it was to be expected, however, the history of this new period has a new method and a different tone. Whilst the representation of the times before the exile regarded the external affairs, that is, the people and their possession of the land, as the bearers of the internal; and the lower, that is, the political fortune as the outflow of the highest; and thus had ever occupied itself with the proper soul of that which occurred, with the thoughts and plans of God, especially with the holy and glorious acts of God: the historian of the times subsequent to the exile naturally took the external itself at once as an internal thing, so that he stopped with the lower, earthly and human. Whilst the history of the times previous to the exile, as a faithful copy of the great conflict, which the Lord had then conducted for the existence of His truth, against all heathenish influences within and without Israel, had on its part most earnestly taken part in the struggle, and become especially great and strong through its simple, constantly-repeated, but at the bottom the only valid criticism of the heathenish influence, the apostacy from Jehovah, the carnal impulses and errors—the history of the times subsequent to the exile contented itself with a simple account of that which transpired, and purposed merely to excite a grateful remembrance of that which God had done, or of the services of the prominent men and families. Whilst the history of the pre-exile times had a genuine prophetic character, in that it had immediately taken part in real life, as it then was also conducted by prophets; that of the post-exile times assumed a priestly Levitical character without doubt likewise proceeding from priests and Levites. This new method of conception and treatment had likewise its propriety. The view which supported this method was that ultimately all depends upon the divine service, and that which is connected therewith, that hence the temple and the capital deserve the most attention as the places of the divine service. This was sufficiently sustained by that advance in development, which marked the post-exile time and the new arrangement of affairs, and is entirely correct. And if now the singers and musicians appeared alongside of the priests, this is all the more established, as alongside of and after the offerings the worship must more and more gain through the word a higher and more spiritual value. We must find sufficiently good reasons for this, and recognize it with thankfulness that a historian subsequent to the exile in the books of Chronicles treated the entire history previous to the exile from the same point of view and according to the same principles.
But we must also bring into consideration a difference in the method of using the sources, which, if it is more of a formal character is yet not unimportant. Whilst in the pre-exile history the use of the sources was the subordinate and secondary thing, and the independent representation in accordance with practical aims was the principal thing; in the post-exile history, as it appears in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the chief thing appears to be the use of the sources. The author lets his own representation remain in the back-ground, at least so far as that he merely gives a sufficient introduction to the sources or original documents respecting the subject in hand, so far as he can use them, and seeks to put them in proper connection with one another, and even in the Chronicles he does not revise, but compiles. Hence he heaps up the original documents, especially in the book of Ezra, official letters, which naturally seem too detailed, and in addition registers of names, which strike us as too long-winded. But when we ask what induced him to make these so prominent, we might bring into consideration in general and above all that which was involved in the entire development of the times, the above-mentioned estimate of ancient pieces of composition as holy treasures; but the chief reason for the adoption of such epistolary documents, as we find especially in the book of Ezra, was certainly in the circumstance that the whole existence of the community subsequent to the exile, politically so dependent, was based upon them, so that they really had an inestimable worth; with respect to the register of names, we are likewise to consider, that in a time when the existence of the community gathered about the temple was no longer given by the simple mention of their membership in the tribe or people, but was dependent on the free resolution of the individuals who would return from Babylon, and as a matter of fact limited itself to individual households of the ancient families and tribes, that it was no longer sufficient to speak in general of Judah or Benjamin, but was natural to mention the individual families and households, yea, here and there likewise of individual persons, and to hold them as worthy of a thankful remembrance. These registers of names cannot but remind us from this point of view of the fact that the farther the congregation developed itself in accordance with this idea, the more the personality of the individual gained in importance and came into estimation.
3. Their Contents.—The chief topics of consideration after the exile were, on the one side, the temple as the dwelling place of God; on the other side the city with its walls as the place of the congregation, and besides the congregation itself. Thus in the book of Ezra the temple stands decidedly in the foreground, in the book of Nehemiah the city with its walls, whilst both books, in their second parts, take up the congregation itself, that is the organization of their life in accordance with the law. The book of Nehemiah, moreover, embraces the city walls and the life of the congregation in accordance with the law once more in a brief closing section. More closely considered there are only a few principal topics treated of with reference to these subjects. The book of Ezra begins with the year in which Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return (536), and extends at least to the seventh year of Artaxerxes (458), embracing accordingly a space of about eighty years. The book of Nehemiah alludes to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, and touches besides upon what happened after his thirty-second year, thus after 433. Limiting itself, however, to the beginnings, the book of Ezra occupies itself merely with the fundamental permission of Cyrus, the building of the temple under Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and finally merely with the negative consolidation of the life of the congregation under the law, which still so readily mixed itself with heathenism, namely, with the exclusion of heathen women by Ezra; it thus, after narrating the building of the temple, leaps over the entire period between the seventh year of Darius Hystaspis and the seventh year of Artaxerxes, a period of fifty-six years. The book of Nehemiah discourses merely respecting the restoration of the city-walls and the positive strengthening of the life under the law through the renewal of the covenant between God and the new congregation, with an emphasis of the conditions then particularly important. How much the author is inclined to make use of the documents and sources respecting the re-establishment of the congregation, or rather give them after a short introduction, is manifest enough from the beginning. After referring to Jeremiah’s words with reference to the end of the exile and re-establishment of Jerusalem, by which the subsequent history is put in the light of an act of God in fulfilment thereof, the edict of Cyrus follows, that called upon the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build the temple, and moreover called upon those who remained to assist the departing. The restoration of the vessels of the temple, once carried away from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, is likewise mentioned (Ezra 1:0). This is, however, in a certain sense, merely the introduction to Ezra 2:0. Without going further into a description of the return, yea, without even simply mentioning it in so many words, the author at once gives the register of those who returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua, whilst he adds at the close their number and the number of their servants, maidservants, horses, etc., at the same time, moreover, the sum which the heads of fathers among them offered for the building of the temple (Ezra 2:0). In Ezra 3:0 he again continues his narrative. The returned people again assembled from the different cities in which they had settled, towards the seventh month, and in order to be able to celebrate the feast of tabernacles, restored at first merely the ancient altar, then, moreover, directly prepared also for the building of the temple. Already in the second year and indeed in the second month occurred the laying of the foundation of the temple, when shouts of joy and cries of lamentation touchingly mingled. But sad to say (Ezra 4:0) the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, the Samaritans, interfered, who would have gladly assisted, but were necessarily excluded from the work, and in consequence of this had the permission to build revoked at the Persian royal court, who still even in the time of Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes raised obstacles by their calumniations. The author narrates this to us in order now directly to insert in Chaldee the letter of complaint of the Samaritans which they addressed to Artaxerxes, and the answer of the king to it, documents without doubt preserved in Jerusalem. In Ezra 5:6 he continues the history of the building of the temple in the time of Darius Hystaspis, but so that first of all he gives the report that the Persian officers sent to their king and his answer thereto. He concludes this section in Ezra 6:19-22 with a short account of the celebration of the first passover after the completion of the temple and the re-establishment of the worship.
A new section begins with Ezra 7:0 as it passes over from the seventh year of Darius Hystaspis, from Zerubbabel and Jeshua to Ezra. It narrates Ezra 7:1-10 summarily, that the priest Ezra, whose high-priestly origin is shown, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes had departed from Babylon for Jerusalem, and had arrived in the fifth month, in order to set up and teach the law of the Lord in Israel. But this is again only for an introduction to documents, which he has to communicate and directly subjoins. First a letter in the Chaldee language follows, which Artaxerxes gave Ezra to take along with him, in order to secure him the support of the officers for the complete establishment of the worship in Jerusalem, in order also to give him ample authority for the improvement of the administration of judgment, for the appointment of judges and officers of justice (Ezra 7:25); then comes the conclusion in the Hebrew language added by Ezra himself, in which he praises God for this decree of the king (Ezra 7:11-28). Next we have a list prepared by Ezra of the families who went up with him to Jerusalem (chap 8:1–14); furthermore a somewhat more extended narrative of Ezra’s, respecting the equipment of his company, respecting his journey to Jerusalem, and respecting the delivery of the treasures and vessels that he brought with him for the temple (Ezra 8:15-36); finally in Ezra 9:0 respecting his action against the intermarriage with heathen women or men, especially respecting his prayer that he made with reference to this matter. Ezra 9:0 introduces Ezra’s activity in Jerusalem. It is true it seems to treat only of a particular part of his activity; but this is yet in truth the foundation of all the rest, yea, it already involves the rest to a certain extent: it is the strengthening of the life of the congregation in the law; only it is merely the negative side, which alone could be undertaken at once, namely, the separation of the congregation from heathenism and from the life of the heathen. The author himself, as it seems, again takes the word in Ezra 10:0 in order to append what success Ezra had at first with the heads, but then also, when they had called all the Jews together to Jerusalem, with the great congregation, how he obtained the solemn promise of all, to dismiss the heathen women and its fulfilment. But even here there follows again a list, which he doubtless had come upon in some way, namely, an enumeration of all those who had married heathen women, and now dismissed them. The whole is divided into two parts, the first part again into three sections, and the second part into two sections; each of these sections, however, amounts to a principal document.
Part I. The Temple as the place of the Lord (times before Ezra). Ezra 1-6.
Section 1. The most important foundations. Ezra 1:2.
Ezra 1:0 The permission to build, and those who returned for this purpose.
Ezra 2:0 The document respecting the names of returning.
Section 2. The first effort. Ezra 3:4.
Ezra 3:0 Re-establishment of the altar and the preparation for building the temple.
Ezra 4:0 The interruption and a document respecting the machinations of the enemies.
Section 3. The renewal and completion of the work. Ezra 5:6.
Ezra 5:0 The renewal of the work and the report of the officers to Darius.
Ezra 6:0 Darius’ answer, with the completion of the temple. The Passover feast.
Part II. The congregation as the people of the Lord. Negative strengthening of their life in the law (Ezra’s activity). Ezra 7-10.
Section 1. Ezra’s emigration to Jerusalem. Ezra 7-8.
Ezra 7:0 Ezra’s journey and purpose, and Artaxerxes’ letter of authority.
Ezra 8:0 Ezra’s own documentary report (his companions, their completion and journey).
Section 2. The chief fault of that time, and its removal. Ezra 9-10.
Ezra 9:0 Chief fault of that period, and Ezra’s penitential prayer on that account.
Ezra 10:0 The removal of that fault, and documentary list of those who purified themselves from it.
In the book of Nehemiah the entire first part, chaps, 1 to 7, is devoted to the rebuilding of the walls of the city by Nehemiah, in spite of many hinderances and disappointments, but throughout taken from a documentary written source, namely, from Nehemiah’s own memorial. The second part then occupies itself with the congregation, in order now to give an account of the further activity of Neh with reference to it, or rather its results, the positive strengthening of the congregation in the life in the law, which led to the renewal of the covenant relation between the people and God; since, however, he adduces the names of the families belonging to it, he runs out into traditional lists. The third part describes the dedication of the city walls and the removal of various evils in that period; the latter is again accompanied with the documentary words of Nehemiah himself. The three chief parts may be again divided each into two sections, so that the following summary results:
Part I. The city as the place of the congregation. Re-establishment of the city walls and list of the first emigrants. Nehemiah 1-7. "
Section 1. How the re-establishment of the city walls came about. Nehemiah 1-3.
Nehemiah 1:0 Nehemiah hears of the sad condition of Judah and Jerusalem, and prays to the Lord for help.
Nehemiah 2:0 He asks permission of Artaxerxes, and journeys with authority from him to Jerusalem. There he brings about the resolution to re-establish the walls, in spite of the adversaries of the Jews.
Nehemiah 3:0 Each family of the congregation undertakes a certain portion of the work.
Section 2. How Nehemiah overcame all difficulties. Nehemiah 6-7.
Nehemiah 4:0 The difficulties from without: Sanballat, Tobia, etc., threaten to fall upon the Jews with force of arms; Nehemiah organizes against them a troop of warriors, and also arms the laborers themselves.
Nehemiah 5:0 The difficulties from within; the poor complain of oppression on the part of the rich; Nehemiah does away with usury, and works through the example of his own unselfishness.
Nehemiah 6:0 The difficulties that arise from the co-operation of external and internal factors. Sanballat frightens the Jews, as if Nehemiah stood in the odor of a rebel. The prophet Shemaiah attempted in the pay of Sanballat to deprive Nehemiah himself of courage, as if a real danger threatened him; the companions of Tobia carry on tale-bearing. But all these efforts fail on account of Nehemiah’s foresight.
Nehemiah 7:0 Nehemiah completes the building of the walls, and gives a review of the first emigrants after the exile.
Part II. The congregation as inhabitants of the city of God. Positive strengthening of their life in the law by the renewal of the covenant between them and God, and list of the members of the congregation. Nehemiah 8:1 to Nehemiah 12:26.
Sect. 1. The history of the renewal of the covenant. Nehemiah 8-10.
Nehemiah 8:0 The reading of the law under the leadership of Neh and Nehemiah leads at first to a feast of tabernacles according to the law, and then
Nehemiah 9:0, to a prayer for grace and redemption from the afflictions that were still present; finally,
Nehemiah 10:0, to a renewal of the covenant under conditions then particularly important, and indeed for many heads of families, who are especially adduced.
Sect. 2. The constituent parts of the entire congregation at that time. Nehemiah 11:1 to Nehemiah 12:26.
Nehemiah 11:0 The inhabitants of Jerusalem, and at the same time of the other cities of Judah.
Nehemiah 12:0 The priests and Levites, at first the earlier families who had already come up with Zerubbabel and Jeshua, Nehemiah 12:1-11, and then also the later ones, Nehemiah 12:12-26.
Part III. The city and the congregation. Dedication of the city walls. Removal of various evils in the life of the congregation. Nehemiah 12:27 to Nehemiah 13:31.
Sect. 1. Dedication of the city walls. Nehemiah 12:27-43.
Sect. 2. Removal of various evils in the life of the congregation. Nehemiah 12:44 to Nehemiah 13:31.
§ 2. Sources, Composition And Authenticity
1. Sources.—There can be no doubt but that the author really had original documents and sources before him, and introduced them unchanged in his narrative, to a great extent. That the list of names in Ezra 2:0 is such an original document is the less to be disputed that already Nehemiah came upon it as an ancient piece of writing and used it in Ezra 7:6-28. It must have been composed already in the earliest times of the re-establishment of the congregation. The same is true with reference to the letters that are given in Ezra 4-6, and that constitute the principal contents of the statements there made. Many interpreters even regard it as very probable that the few verses of a historical character that introduce the letters in Ezra 4-6, or unite them with one another, were taken from other sources, namely, a Chaldee history of the building of the temple. Yet the reasons given therefor are not very tenable, whilst those that are adduced against this view, are well worthy of attention. They appeal to the Chaldee language of these verses, which our author would have had no occasion to use himself. But perhaps he found some of these verses as an introductory superscription already on the letters themselves; the others, however, which he himself added and inserted between Chaldee passages, would have made the narrative too much mixed, if he had wished to write in Hebrew. They also appeal to the fact that the first person is used in Ezra 5:4, “then we spake to them” (the Persian officers), whereby the writing shows itself to be a work composed long before, by a man who participated in the building of the temple in the time of Darius Hystaspis, whilst the work as a whole could have originated only at a far later period. But the correctness of this first person is very doubtful, as we will see in the exegesis of Ezra 5:4. Still further they appeal to the fact that there occur here statements respecting names, close accounts of transactions and individuals, which, as Bertheau says, must have been derived altogether from written documents. Nevertheless there is nothing further in this respect than what is suggested by the letters. On the other hand, already in Ezra 6:14, Artaxerxes is mentioned alongside of Cyrus and Darius, as one of the Persian kings, through whose favor the Jews had re-established the temple, which shows at least that this piece cannot have been written already in the time of Darius, but at the earliest in the time of Artaxerxes. This name must then have been added at the later revision, at which time also Artaxerxes seemed well worthy of mention. In Ezra 6:16-18 furthermore, in the closing verse of the Chaldee section, the dedication of the temple, especially in Ezra 6:17, the offering of sacrifices, in Ezra 6:18, the arrangement of the priests and Levites, are spoken of in such a manner, and besides the arrangement of the priests and Levites, in accordance with the law, is so expressly emphasized, as is peculiar only to our author himself (comp. the parallel passages brought forward upon the verses in question). Finally, Ezra 4:24, which refers back to Ezra 4:5, has manifestly been added by the same person who in Ezra 4:6-23 has given the letter of Artaxerxes before. That this, however, was done by our author himself, there can be no doubt, since it only commended itself thus to his purposes and arrangement.—Again, on the other hand, that the lists of names, as they are given further in the book of Ezra (Ezra 8:10) especially, however, in the book of Nehemiah, were already met with as ancient pieces of writing, is not only said by the author himself quite plainly, since he speaks of different registrations of the Levites at different times (Nehemiah 12:23), but is likewise in itself probable, and is all the more sure, that a part of the register given in Nehemiah 11:3-36, occurs also in 1 Chronicles 9:3-33, and indeed with many deviations, which is best explained from the supposition that the author found the same writing in different places and in different forms.
It is only questionable, whether in Ezra 7:27 sq. likewise, we may speak of an original document, or whether the author of that which could be regarded as such, that is, Ezra, speaking of himself in the first person, must be regarded as the author of the rest of the second part, and accordingly also, as the Rabbinical tradition will have it, the author of the entire book. This leads us to our second point.
2. Composition.—That Ezra wrote a narrative of his journey to Jerusalem, and what he accomplished there, is clear from the passages in which the first person is used, without doubt. Yet it cannot be denied that, against the view still advocated by Keil [Pusey, Rawlinson, Wordsworth], that Ezra is the proper author of the book named after him, many very weighty arguments are opposed, which make it more probable that a later author compiled our book, as we now have it, with the use of Ezra’s writing. In general against Ezra as the author, is the incompleteness, we might say the fragmentary character of the second part; Ezra himself would, we should suppose, have communicated something more, and something more systematic respecting his work in Jerusalem. We learn from our book only the one thing, that he opposed the intermarriage with the heathen, whilst yet he was empowered to undertake a far more comprehensive work. More in detail comes into consideration, especially the circumstance, that in the genealogy of Ezra (7:1–5) his immediate ancestors are passed over, that at once the high-priest Seraiah, who lived at the beginning of the exile, is mentioned, since the design without doubt was to make him known above all as a descendant of the high-priestly family. Ezra himself would rather have been led by filial reverence to mention his own father before all. Furthermore we are struck by the honorable mention of Ezra in Ezra 7:6, that he was a סֹפֵר מָהִיר, a skilful scribe,1 then also the circumstance, that Ezra 7:0 anticipates chap 8, so that there is a repetition, which is only natural, if the author in Ezra 8:0 yet again cites from an original document the same thing that he had already previously briefly mentioned in Ezra 7:0; furthermore the fact, that in Ezra 7:1 sq. the third person is used,2 first in Ezra 7:27 sq. the first person,—finally and especially this fact, that the book of Ezra has so many things in common with the Chronicles in the manner of expression, and at the same time in many matters of fact, ad the preference for the different Levitical officials in the sanctuary, especially for musicians and doorkeepers, besides the interest in genealogies and registers of names. This is shown in the Com. of Zoeckler upon the Chronicles, Introduction, § 2. The view in recent times wide-spread and discussed in the Introduction to the Chronicles, § § 2 and 3, by Zoeckler that the author of Chronicles at the same time brought Ezra, yea also Nehemiah into the present form in which. we have them, has decidedly the most reasons in its favor. If it were really a fact, that the observed resemblances in Ezra and Nehemiah throughout occurred even in the original documents and written sources with entire indifference, then they would not have to be regarded as individual peculiarities of a common author, but be ascribed in general to the later period, to which the books in question belong, especially if they likewise occurred in other writings of essentially the same period. But this is true of only a, proportionally few of them, as for example with the expressions brought forward by Keil, קִבֵּל ,בִּזָּה and כְּיַד אֱלֹהַי עָלַי (the last is not found indeed in other books, but in the written sources, Ezra 7:28; Ezra 8:18; Ezra 8:22; Ezra 8:31, as well as in 7:6–9, and besides Nehemiah 2:8). By far the most of them occur, as we must at once remark, if we review the passages cited by Zoeckler in the Introduct. to Chronicles, § 2, not to speak of Chronicles, on the one side, in Ezra 1:3, as well also in the other passages not presenting themselves as original documents or sources, and on the other side in Nehemiah 8-10. Here belong most decidedly these very phenomena of the language, which may be regarded most properly as idiomatic expressions of the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah; thus the expression. עַל־עָמְדָם 2 Chronicles 30:16; 2 Chronicles 35:10; Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 8:11,—חֶדְוָה, 1 Chronicles 16:27; Ezra 6:16; Nehemiah 8:10—כְּפּוֹר = goblet, 1 Chronicles 28:17; Ezra 1:10; Ezra 8:27; עַד־לְמֵרָחוֹק, 2 Chronicles 26:15; Ezra 3:13; פְּלֻגָה, of divisions of the Levites, 2 Chronicles 35:15; Ezra 6:18; so also termini, which emphasize the being in accordance with the law, which in the later period seem so particularly important, especially כַּמִּשְפָט, 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2Ch 35:13; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:4; Nehemiah 8:18, for which, in the older writings כַּכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה occurs frequently, furthermore liturgical formula, as חוֹדוּ וְהַלְּלוּ לַיְהוָֹח, 1Ch 16:4; 1 Chronicles 23:30; 1 Chronicles 25:3, etc.; Ezra 3:11, לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלְּל, and “that Jehovah is good, and his mercy endure h forever,” 1 Chronicles 16:34; 1Ch 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ezra 3:11,—the standing expressions in connection with descriptions of festivals and the like: בְּשִׂמְחָה, 1 Chronicles 12:40, etc.; Ezra 3:12; and עַל־יְדֵי דָוִיד, 1Ch 25:2; 1 Chronicles 25:6; Ezra 3:10,—finally, the official names of the musicians and servants in the temple that only occur in our books, מְצִלְתַּיִם מְֹשׂרְרִים and נְתִינִים. But even those phenomena, which seem in general to belong to the later language on the whole, because they are found here and there in other books likewise, are found besides in the Chronicles, at least pre-eminently in those very parts of our books under consideration. To these belong 1), the brief method of subordination of the relative clauses, together with their collocation after a stat. constr., 1 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 31:19; Ezra 1:5; Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah 2:0) the case of the infin. with לְ, in order to express a potential mood, 1 Chronicles 5:1; 1 Chronicles 6:25; 1 Chronicles 8:4, el al.; Ezra 5:3; Ezra 10:12; Nehemiah 8:13; Nehemiah 3:0) the extraordinarily frequent use of the preposition לְ partly before the object as nota accusativi, partly after an accusative, to continue it, 1 Chronicles 28:1, etc.; Nehemiah 9:32, as especially before כֹּל, when in enumerations everything is to be included, 1 Chronicles 13:1; 2 Chronicles 5:12; Ezra 1:5 (certainly moreover also 7:28); Nehemiah 11:2, after the preposition עַד, 1 Chronicles 28:7; 1 Chronicles 28:20, etc; Ezra 3:13; Ezra 10:14 (moreover also 9:4, 6); 4) the redundant use of prepositions in general, e. g., in expressions like בְּיוֹמָם, Nehemiah 9:19; Nehemiah 5:0) the use of the article before a verb instead of the relative pronoun, 1 Chronicles 26:28; 1 Chronicles 29:8; 1 Chronicles 29:17, etc.: Ezra 8:25; Ezra 10:14; Ezra 10:17; Nehemiah 9:33.
The manner in which the section Nehemiah 8:1 sq. is connected with Chronicles and Ezra on the one side, and on the other is distinguished from the rest of the book of Nehemiah, is in a critical point of view very important. In order to carry out the latter point, how it separates itself from the rest of the book, we might already bring into consideration the subject-matter itself. This is not only suddenly entirely different from the previous context, since it no longer treats of the strengthening of the city wall and the like, but treats of religions acts, but it seems almost as if we might first have expected something else instead of it. Nehemiah in Ezra 7:0. has given an account of the completion of the building of the walls; it is singular that there is no reference here to the dedication of the walls, but that this comes only afterwards in 12:27 as supplementary. In Ezra 7:4 he has mentioned that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were too few; it is singular that their increase is first intimated in 11:1, and indeed only incidentally. It is very true that the book, as it now is, has a tolerable continuity, since the author allows himself to make use of the remark respecting the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 7:4, as an occasion for going over from the securing the safety of the capital, of which he had previously written, to the congregation, and its organization, in order further on to mention the increase of the inhabitants and the dedication of the walls, merely as a supplement, and as it were incidentally. Nevertheless this kind of progress of thought compared with the first part, has something surprising in it. It seems as if here suddenly a point of view was taken, which for the previous part of the work had originally not been considered important. But besides this there are still many other circumstances which render the difference of subject here very significant. 1. Nehemiah very suddenly ceases to speak of himself in the first person. 2. He here in general retires to the background, whilst Ezra, who is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah elsewhere only at the dedication of the walls incidentally (11:23), is the chief person. Nehemiah occurs only as supplementary, and indeed only twice, 8:9; 10:2. 3. He bears here both times the title of “the Tirshatha,” whilst in 5:14, 15, 18, he is called “Pechah.” 4. Whilst the chiefs are called 2:16; 4:8, 13; 5:7, 17; 6:17; 7:5; 7:40; 13:11, חֹרִים and סְגָנִים, the term רָאשֵׁי הָֽאָבוֹת occurs in 8:13. 5. The expressions peculiar and usual to Nehemiah are missing, as “according to God’s hand over me,” comp. 2:8 and 18; furthermore, “God gave to me in my heart,” comp. 2:12 and 7:5. Even Kleinert (Dorp. theol. Beitr. I., S. 114 sqq.) and HÆvernick (Einleit. II. 1, S. 305 sqq) find it probable that there was another author for 7:73 b—10:40; they suppose that this section was not composed by Nehemiah, but by Ezra as the leader of the religions transactions here described, and was only appropriated by Nehemiah 3:0 But, 6, The author speaks also of the times of Ezra and Nehemiah as past, yea, considers likewise the times subsequent to Nehemiah, Nehemiah 12:11; Nehemiah 12:22, and thereby makes himself known, as he does likewise in Chronicles as a later writer, as will be still more evident when we consider the time of its composition, The grounds adduced by Keil for the traditional view that Nehemiah 8:10 comes from the same hand as the rest of the book, namely, from Nehemiah himself, have little significance. That the previous threads of thought in Nehemiah 8:0 have been allowed so entirely to fall, yea, to be broken off, is to be explained, says he, simply and artlessly from the succession of the things narrated in time, as if the order in time could not yield at times to the logical order of facts, yea, in such cases as the present must not yield. What would have hindered in the author such a case, if, for the sake of chronological order, he would have come to the public reading of the law in Nehemiah 8:0 sq., from reserving the statement, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were few, and therefore also the list of the exiles who first returned, for another place, where he then could have spoken at once of the increase of the inhabitants ? That Nehemiah suddenly steps so decidedly into the back-ground with respect to Ezra, he says, has its ground in the fact that Nehemiah as civil, governor was not authorized to lead the religious feast here narrated which alone belonged to the priest and scribe Ezra (—at first it speaks only of the public reading of the law, which Nehemiah might have very well occasioned,—), that he here rather could only co-operate subordinately as membrum prœcipuum ecclesiæ Israeliticæ. But. if it were really so, the question would at once arise, how is it that Nehemiah narrates here something in which he had so little to do, since he elsewhere limits himself entirely to that which had been urged and brought about by himself. Moreover, under all circumstances, the failure of the first person, which is else where so consistently retained in the writings of Nehemiah, is not explained. When Keil, refers to 12:27 sq., where he says not “we”, but “they sought the Levites,” to prove that Nehemiah might very well put others in the foreground in connection with facts that did not originate primarily with himself, this very section suffices with reference to the principal point for a very decisive counter argument, For notwithstanding Nehemiah does not stand so much in the foreground as a matter of course as elsewhere, yet he uses the first person in vers. 31 and 38 even in this connection. What Keil says respecting the Tirshatha and Rashe, haaboth deserves no mention. With the different character of the section, Nehemiah 8-10, if critical probability is worth anything, we are to suppose that here another author has supplemented Nehemiah’s writing, whether from another document or from tradition. Who this was cannot remain in doubt in connection with the similarity of the style that is manifest here, in the book of Ezra and in the Chronicles.
The question whether this author is to he regarded moreover as the editor or the proper author of our two books, is answered from the foregoing of itself. It is possible, that already Ezra, when he described his journey to Jerusalem, and his principal work there, likewise collected the original documents respecting the previous times, and placed them, provided with historical introductions, before his book. Yet we have no right to derive from him in our present book, any more than Ezra 7:22; Ezra 7:28, and Ezra 8:1 to Ezra 9:15, that is, any more then the passages, which show clearly by the first person that they were written by him, which thereby distinguish themselves from all the other passages, especially from Ezra 7:1-10, and Ezra 10:0. Whatever is not as Ezra 2:4; Ezra 2:8-23, an original document, or as Ezra 5:6, Ezra 5:12, chaps, 8 and 9 sources, whatever serves as introduction to the original document or sources, as especially chaps, 1 and 3 and 5:1–10, bears the stamp of the so-called chronicler, or at least of his time. When Keil, in order to show that the whole, and therefore also the tenth chap, was composed by Ezra, raises the question, what could have determined the author to break off the further communication of the memoir of Ezra at the end of chap, 9 and narrate the end of the transaction in his own words,—criticism would not be required to answer this question, unless knew something more of the memoir of Ezra than it can know at present. Now we may think of various reasons.—With more propriety the book of Nehemiah might be spoken of as merely edited. Since however the last author has inserted Ezra 8-10, and indeed for the most part with the help of his own literary activity, he must be designated here at least as a supplementer. Although he already had before him the book of Ezra, and so also a book of Nehemiah, yet the form of these boots, as it lies before us, originated first with him, and the design which he on his part pursued in his literary activity. Perhaps he had also transformed, to some extent, the text of the registers and original documents, which he reproduced in his work here and there in accordance with his method, as it may perhaps be seen, for example in 6:68 sq., in comparison with Nehemiah 7:71 sq., and so also Ezra 6:16-18, if here an authority has been really used.
The question, when this last and real author actually lived, has already been answered by Zoeckler (in his introduction to the books of Chronicles), who, it is true, with reference to Ezra and Nehemiah regards him only as an editor. In Nehemiah 12:10-11; Nehemiah 12:22-23, the line of high-priest is carried down to Jaddua, who, according to Josephus’ statement, not to he doubted here [Antiqu. XI. 10) held his office is the time of Alexander the Great. Keil’s supposition that the author had known Jaddua not yet as high-priest, but only as a child, and had mentioned him merely as grandson of the last high-priest of his own time, Joiada, is already in itself improbable, and besides has against it the fact that the same person is mentioned with the others as one in whose days the Levites were recorded. It seems that the meaning of Nehemiah 12:22 is that under the four high-priests Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, four registrations of Levites had been made. Keil understands, it is true, that only one occurred, namely, under Eliashib and Joiada, and the others are mentioned merely because they then already lived. But this supposition is too clearly a mere evasion of the difficulty. If immediately afterwards only the one record of priests, which was made in the time of Darius, is mentioned, this is to be explained from the fact that this one chiefly, yea exclusively, comes into consideration for the author, since he according to the entire context, would mention only those belonging to the times of the beginning—at all events those living up to the lime of Ezra and Nehemiah—as he then also in Nehemiah 12:1-11 expressly names only those of the time of Zerubbabel, and then in Nehemiah 12:12 sq., only those of the times immediately following Joiakim, and in Nehemiah 12:12-16, after mentioning the heads of the Levites, expressly adds that he thereby had given only those of the time of Joiakim and Nehemiah.—This mark of a late period of composition that has been adduced, stands, it is true, somewhat apart by itself, and would not signify much if anything else contradicted it; we might readily suppose that the names of the later high-priests (and so also those of the later posterity of Zerubbabel in 1 Chronicles 3:19-24) were subsequently added as a supplement by a late hand; but since there is nothing of the kind, since on the contrary the times of Ezra and Nehemish are spoken of as of a previous period, and of themselves as of persons of the past in Nehemiah 12:26-27, so the probability is, so far as it can be established by criticism, that the author was one who at the earliest lived in the time of Jaddua,4 at the end of the Persian or the beginning of the Greek supremacy. [Rawlinson in loco thinks that Ezra, “who seems to have had only a temporary commission (7:14), returned to the Persian court when he had carried through the matter of the marriage, and either a little before or a little after his return wrote the Book which has come down to us.” He thus accounts for the abrupt conclusion of the book, and gives the date as 457 or 6. With regard to Nehemiah he thinks that it is most probable that the various sections of the book of Nehemiah “were collected by Nehemiah himself, who had written, at any rate, two of them (1–7:5 and 7:27–13:31). The date of the compilation would be about B. C. 430.”—Tr.]
3. Authenticity.—Already the style of composition, and also the kind of contents and the method of stating them, testifies that the author, even if he wrote a hundred or more years after Nehemiah, in general pursued a method that was entirely historical. We have seen that he supports almost every important event that he narrates, with original documents, or presents it in the language of the written authorities. There is not the least occasion for doubt with reference to the historical character of the original documents and written authorities. There is only one point that can be questioned, having no confirmatory document, unless we should recognize as such the report of the eiders in Jerusalem gives in the letter to Darius, Ezra 5:16. This is where it is said that the returned exiles already in the first year of their emigration had re-established the altar, and already in the second year had laid the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3:0). (Comp. Schrader Theol. Stud. und krit. 1867, S. 460 ff., and De Wette Einl., 8 Ausg., § 235). Since in later times Schrader supposes it has been presupposed that the returned exiles were pervaded with glowing love for the religion of their sires, were filled with the greatest joy over their finally successful redemption from Babylon, and of the most sincere thankfulness towards the God of their fathers, they have quite gradually it is true, and without having any historical foundation for it, been able to give way to the idea that the returned exiles, as soon as they arrived in the land of their fathers, had had nothing more speedily to be done than to think of the restoration of the temple. In reality, however, the congregation hardly went so far as to put their hands to this work until the time when they actually carried on the building to its completion, in the second to the sixth year of Darius. If they had really begun already in the time of Cyrus, we cannot think that they then would have let it remain idle for fourteen entire years: if they would not have ventured to undertake it again in the time of Cyrus, yet they might well do so under Cambyses or Smerdis. Yet these assertions gain some likelihood only from the fact that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, in the time of Darins, speak not of a fresh undertaking of the building, but of the building simply, yea, that they speak still of a laying of the foundation of the temple, as if it really had now been proposed for the first time. In that Haggai 2:18 “Consider now from this day find upward, from the 24th day of the 9th month, as from the day when the foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid consider” assigns the laving of the foundation of the temple to the 24th day of the 9th month, that he adds the phrase לְמִן הַיּוֹס אֲשֶר יֻסַּד in apposition and accordingly as of like meaning with the phrases, ‘from the 24th day of the 9th month,” is just as clear as the interpretation of Keil, according to which לְמִן etc., would be in apposition indeed, yet would reach back to the time of Cyrus, is artificial and untenable. And that Zechariah 8:9, “the prophets which were in the day when the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built,” does not mean the prophets after the exile in general (Keil) but those of the better times (Köhler) which were already bringing the fulfilment, as they, according to the immediately following verse, had not come previously, but for the first now after the failure of the harvest, that the laying of the temple’s foundations accordingly also here is recognized as of the present, can as little be denied. But with all this the conclusions which Schrader derives from it are by far too hasty. As בָּנָה often means continue the building, or also, rebuild, comp. Ps. 51:20; Psalms 69:36, so יָסַד also may be used in different senses, since in a narrower sense it refers merely to the laying, of the foundation stone, in a broader and fuller sense to the laying of the foundations in general. Only in the narrow sense had the laying, of the foundation taken place in. the time of Cyrus; for without doubt only a small portion of the congregation had as yet the leisure to occupy themselves therewith. Above all, moreover, the ruins had to be removed and the necessary new material be procured. In the fuller sense the laying of the foundations did not really take place until the time of Darius. Now for the first time was stone laid upon stone, as it was necessary, if the foundations as a whole were to be carried up. (Comp. Haggai 2:15).5
That the returned, however, had constantly undertaken, already in the time of Cyrus, the re-establishment of the temple, yea, regarded it as most necessary and important, is entirely probable, and cannot be conceived of as otherwise. (Comp. Ewald, Geschichte Israels IV. S. 129 sq.). Not only because that the pre-exile prophets, as Jeremiah, by whose utterances the returning exiles allowed themselves to be chiefly led, that Ezekiel also had seen in the re establishment and continuance of the temple worship and priestly office the best security for the continuance of the true religion itself, Jeremiah 33:17-26; Ezekiel 20:40; Ezekiel 34:26; Ezekiel 37:26; Ezekiel 37:28, and especially in Ezra 40–47. (comp. Ewald IV. S. 43) and that in Jeremiah 44:28 the re-establishment of the temple under and by Cyrus was set down definitely is the will of God, comp. also Isaiah 60:7—against which it might perhaps be said that passages of contrary purport may be found in Jeremiah 3:16 and Isaiah 66:1—but the edict of Cyrus itself, which constituted the foundation for the existence of the new congregation itself, had decidedly the same purport that the congregation should above all have the task of building the temple and restoring the temple worship, as is testified not only by Ezra 1:0, but also by the original Chaldee document given in Ezra 6:3 sq. Over against this edict they would have lost the right of their existence in Jerusalem if they had set aside the building of the temple for the sake of any incident that changed the posture of affairs, or had postponed it for fully fourteen years. That they, however, did not touch the building for a long time after they had been interrupted, and did not even in the time of Cambyses attempt to take it up again, is easily explained from the many sad circumstances, especially also from the external dangers threatening them, under which they had to suffer, as is to be seen from the book of Ezra, and especially from the book of Nehemiah.
§ 3. Relation Of The Two Books To One Another, To The Chronicles, And Esdras
If the composition of the two books was in the manner above described, the question readily arises whether the last author from the first regarded the Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah as three particular books, or planned them as one work. That the unity, which has in recent times been asserted by Zunz (Gottesdienstl. Vorträge der Juden), Ewald Berth et al, really exists in. a certain sense, cannot be ignored. The three books are so cut out that they unite to form a greater whole, not only in the looser way of the books of Samuel and Kings, but in a much more internal and firmer manner. Ezra begins with the same. edict of Cyrus with reference to the return of the Jews, with which the Chronicles end. Ezra and Nehemiah, moreover, on their side are united together in the closest manner by Nehemiah 8:1 to Nehemiah 12:26. Ezra’s activity, the first part of which alone is narrated in the book of Ezra, is here described as to its continuance and results; the strengthening of the life of the congregation by this activity, the negative side of which is taken into consideration in the book of Ezra, is here carried on to its completion by the positive side. The book of Ezra is thus continued in the book of Nehemiah, and only finished therein. Nehemiah 8-10 might have been added to the book of Ezra; it is annexed to the book of Nehemiah only because it describes a later period in which Nehemiah likewise came into consideration along side of Ezra. Moreover, there is properly in all three books throughout one and the same subject treated; the history of the city of Jerusalem, the worship of God in it, and the most important persons who rendered services to it.
But it is just as easy to see likewise that the division into three particular books cannot have been made at a subsequent period, still less that it rests upon arbitrary grounds. The book of Nehemiah begins with a particular title, which designates it as the history of Nehemiah, and clearly enough separates it as a particular and independent writing from the book of Ezra. This title, moreover, cannot have been appended at a later period, but must have been placed there already by Nehemiah, otherwise the first person that constantly occurs, could not be explained. Moreover the supposition that the boot, in spite of this title, should be regarded as merely a section of another larger book, would be against all Biblical analogies. And from this results also the independence of the book of Ezra. That which has been said in favor of the separation of Nehemiah, is also in favor of that of Ezra. To make Nehemiah independent, and append Ezra to the Chronicles (Movers) would be very inconsistent at any rate, and all the more so, indeed, that the book of Ezra treats of an entirely new period, which was separated by a great and gloomy chasm, from all that preceded it. Besides, if the author had written Chronicles and Ezra as a single book, he would have mentioned the edict of Cyrus but once, certainly, and he who separated Ezra would have caused the Chronicles to end before the introduction of this fact; in general before the mention of Cyrus at all. That edict would have its proper place only at the beginning of the book of Ezra, where it formed the foundation for the subsequent history, and where it was therefore Indispensable. To put it at the end of the Chronicles, moreover, would have been too refined for a mere arranger; this rather would come only into the mind of the author himself, who thereby would certainly merely satisfy the need of indicating by a brief word the restoration also after the exile and the destruction, which could not here be entirely absent.
In favor of the view that at least Ezra and Nehemiah originally constituted a single book, the circumstance is cited that both books from the most ancient times, namely, in the Talmud, yea, even in Joseph. and in the Alexandrine version, and accordingly also in Miletus of Sardis and Origen, in Eusebius’ Church Hist. II. 25, have been counted as one. But at the basis of this enumeration there is hardly more than the true recognition of the relationship that has been shown, and on the other side, the wish to have no more than just so many books in the Canon of the Old Test, as there are letters of the Alphabet. For the same reason the books of Judges and Ruth were connected together. For already Joseph. (c. Ap. I 8) enumerates, although he does not expressly give the reason, exactly twenty-two books, and Jerome says in the prologus gal., expressly that the Hebrews had twenty-two canonical books, according to the number of the letters of their alphabet, which lie, namely, mentions, and then adds that some, because the rabbins distinguish Sin and Shin, and for the sake of the sign of Jehovah, would set up a double yod in the alphabet, suppose that there are twenty-four, since they separate Ruth and Lam entations. That Ezra and Nehemiah are properly two books, can be the less denied, as they without doubt recognize two authors; for the book of Ezra, the priest of that name, of whom it is expressly said in the Talm. (Bab. batr. Fol. 14): “Esra scripsit librum suum et genealogias librorum chron. usque ad sua tempora,” and for the boot of Neh. with as much certainty the governor Nehemiah also makes himself known unmistakably as the author by the use of the first person. As for the Alex, version the connection of the two books is found indeed in Cod. Alex, and Cod. Frid.-Aug., but not in the Cod. Vatic.6
Now in the Alexandrine version there is found a translation at first of our boot of Ezra, enlarged by additions, and only afterward a translation that conforms closely to our text, and the question arises what weight the former has with its deviations, as well critical as exegetical The former is in the Alex, in the ancient Latin and in the Syriac versions (comp. libri vet. test. apocryphi syraice e recogn. de Lagarde) ‘́Εσδρας πρῶτος, the second ’́Εσδρας δεύτορος, the book of Nehemiah ’́Εσδρας τρίτος or also (probably from the time of Jerome) Nehemias; in the Vulgate, on the other hand, the book of Ezra in its present unenlarged form, is called I. Ezra, the book of Nehemiah, II. Esra, as then likewise already origen (in Eusebius’ church Hist. IV. 25), then the council Laodicœ, can. 80, and other lists, distinguish our books of Ezra and Nehemiah as ‘̀Εσδρας πρῶτος and δέυτερος,—the enlarged translation however is called 3. Ezra, and the apocalyptic, pseudepigraphic book of Ezra finally the 4. Ezra.—The enlargement of the translation was brought about on the one side by placing before the proper beginning the closing part of the Chronicles (Ezra 35 and 36), namely the description of the brilliant passover feast under Josiah, and at the same time the last history of Jerusalem before the exile, and by adding as a conclusion the beginning of the second part of Nehemiah, Nehemiah 7:73 to Nehemiah 8:13, namely, the public reading of the law by Ezra before the door of the restored temple. We see that as in the original book, so also in this enlargement nothing in so much regarded as the history of the temple worship, and indeed especially its indestructibleness. The translator would first of all recall the evening sky in which he rejoiced shortly before the exile, for this reason, because it was to him to a certain extent a prophecy of the morning and the resurrection, which might be expected after the temporary ruin in exile, through the power and grace of God. He then lets the contents of our book of Ezra follow, and adds Nehemiah 7:73 to Nehemiah 8:13, because here the fulfilment of that prophecy is narrated. For the public reading of the aw before the door of the temple, Nehemiah 7:73 sq., came into consideration for him without doubt as a kind of temple worship, yea, was regarded by him perhaps in accordance with the ideas subsequently formed, aa tho most suitable and important worship of God alongside of the sacrificial worship. He needed not to go further than Nehemiah 8:13, however; it was already sufficiently established by the history preceding, up in this time, that the restoration had been completed, and especially in the last verse does it still stand forth, what seems to have come into consideration for the author therewith that the people by their worship of God had again been exalted to prosperity and joy.—On the other side, however, the author has taken into his book likewise a passage entirely foreign to the canonical Old Test., which gives an account of a banquet which the Persian king Darius prepared in the second year of his reign, where Zerubbabel found opportunity to gain the king’s favor for himself and his people, so that he permitted the building of the temple, contributed to the restoration of the worship in Jerusalem and influenced many Jewish heads of families to return. This is the section, Ezra 3:1 to Ezra 5:6, which may be compared with the “passages in Esther.” It is quite probable that the author here had reproduced a popular tradition (Fritzsche) Einl, zu. III. Esra § 5); but without doubt, in the formation of the story the design had already co-operated of giving moral truth a historical dress (Zunz, Gottesdienstl, Vort., S. 106 and 123). Zerubbabel and two other young men were at that banquet, body-guards of the king; they agreed, when the latter had gone to sleep, to lay down their opinions before him with reference to what was the mightiest on earth, and see to which he would give his recognition. The one wrote “wine,” the second “the king,” the third (Zerubbabel) wrote “women are mightiest;” the latter added, however, “but truth gains the victory over every thing,” and this he explained afterwards so that every other thing, even the king, had fallen into unrighteousness, and hence likewise become perishable. Only truth lasts. The author might by this sentence of Zerubbabel, so to say, have indicated the spirit of his presentation of history; not the ting, that is worldly power and glory, can do everything. Their victory over the Lord is only apparent. The worship of Jehovah and the existence of Jerusalem can only be interrupted by them for a time. The king is not the mightiest, because on the one side even wine, and on the other women, rule over him; in other words, because he belongs to the world and its lusts, that is, to vanities; but it is the truth, the divine truth, which guarantees the eternal duration of the worship of God, because it is one with it; it proceeds from the eternal, and must therefore endure forever.
Now with respect to the critical value of this enlargement, it is by no means in the condition to make probable to us the already rejected view of an original external unity of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, notwithstanding the reasons for the opposite opinion; the in¬ternal connection is sufficient to explain why the author, if his object was the temple worships, went to work to collect material at the same time from the three fields. No more are we to suppose that he had found a basis in the original for the section, Ezra 3:1 to Ezra 5:6 that he inserted.” The language (of this passage) betrays itself throughout as originally Hellenistic (Fritzsche, l. c). It seems to Fritzsche that only the conclusion, Ezra 5:1-6, can be an exception. At any rate III. Ezra might come into consideration with reference to textual criticism. The translation is indeed frequently free, yet is as a whole in close conformity to the Hebrew text, in comparatively good Greek, and “is therefore an important evidence of the condition of our present Hebrew text at the time of this author” (Berth., S. 15). However, the author could not have lived earlier than the first century before Christ, and the changes in the text that he recommends to us, are only to be admitted with great caution.
Exegetically and historically the III. Ezra, might almost mate it questionable for us whether we interpret the names of the Persian kings aright when we understand by the Darius mentioned after Cyrus, Darius Hystaspis, and by Artasasta, Artaxerxes. After having informed us of the edict of Cyrus in Ezra 2:1-14 and other matters contained in the canonical book of Ezra, III Ezra lets the two original documents of Esra IV directly follow in Ezra 2:15-25, the letter of the officer to Artaxerxes and its answer, and in addition the transition verse, by which it is carried back to Darius, “then the work on the house of the Lord was discontinued until the twentieth year of Darius.” It also gains the appearance as if it had held the Artaxerxes, to whom the Samaritans turned themselves through the Persian offices, as one of the kings previous to Darius, perhaps Cambyses. Since then in Ezra 3:1 to Ezra 5:6, in his apocryphal addition, in that Zerubbabel still under Darius, and indeed still as a young man, stayed at the Persian court, he excites the appearance as if already before or even alongside of Cyrus, Darins had been favorable to the Jews, and had given them permission to return. The skein of difficulties, moreover, ia entangled, as soon as it is supposed that the author in his statement, so to say, has made two beginnings, and indeed the second time in Ezra 5:7, however little, there is here to be observed by the reader a larger pause. The announcement of the exiles who returned under Darius, which we read here in Ezra 5:4 “these are the names of the men who went up” etc., is only to be referred to the names that follow in Ezra 5:5-6, that ia to the priests, the sons of Phineas, to Jeshua the high-priest, and Joakim, the son of Zerubbabel, not at the same time to those following from Ezra 5:7 onward. In Ezra 5:7 a new announcement, corresponding to that of Ezra 1:2, introduces the names of those who returned already in the time of Cyrus, or as it is expressly said with Zerubbabel and Jeshua. The matter would be clearer if the fifth chapter did not begin until Ezra 5:7. It seems as if the author, before he passed over to the statement of the history proper, as it lies before us in Ezra 3:0, would anticipate all that which subsequently would have too much interrupted the connection of the history of the temple at Jerusalem, and which was yet of importance with reference to the course that affaire took; at first the edict of Cyrus, which constituted the foundation for all that followed, but then also the letter of the adversaries to Artaxerxes, with reference to the building of the city and its walls, and his unfavorable answer to the Jews, which original documents at the very beginning would throw a strong light upon the adversaries who were active at the time of the building of the temple likewise, and which already, because they are brought it out in so much detail in our canonical Ezra, must be mentioned somewhere—finally the apocryphal section respecting the events at the banquet of Darius, which explains the sentiments of this king as so favorable and so decided for the building of the temple. The letter to Artaxerxes and the reply, he probably placed before the apocryphal history from the time of Darius, because it would have interrupted the narrative if placed alter it, that is, would have too much separated similar things,—the names of those who returned under Darius on tho one side, and the list of those who returned under Cyrus on the other side. Perhaps it likewise comes into consideration, that the closing verse after the reply of Artaxerxes, “then the. building of the sanctuary at Jerusalem ceased until the second day of the reign of Darius” (Ezra 2:25), which here really has no sense at all, provided that under Artasasta we are to understand Artaxerxes, and under Darius the Darius Hystaspis, who had already reigned previously,—was well calculated to form the transition to the section respecting Darius. If it should be thought that the author thought of Cambyses as Artasasta, and therefore had placed the letter in question before, objections are excited by the close of the 5th chap., where he says, changing our Ezra freely, “they, namely, the Samaritans, hindered, that the building was not completed the entire period of the life of king Cyrus, and they were restrained from building two years, to the reign of Darius which sounds as if, according to his view, Darius had followed immediately after Cyrus, and indeed already two years after the interruption of the building of the temple.—That the author make. Zerubbabel still live in the time of Darius, and indeed still as a young man at the Persian court, although he yet, according to him, already active in Jerusalem under Cyrus, rests perhaps on a corruption of the text; perhaps the young man who influenced Darius so favorably in Ezra 3:0 was not Zerubbabel, as, it is true, it is expressly said in Ezra 4:13, but the son of Zerubbabel, Joiakim, who in Ezra 5:5 is mentioned as one who returned under Darius, and at the same time, also, expressly as the one who spake wise words under Darius, the king of Persia. To be sure, however, the difficulty still remains that as the high-priest, not Jeshua’s son, but Jeshua himself, stands alongside of him. It is possible that rather the name Joiakim in Ezra 5:5, rests on an alteration, by which a copyist would assist the author, and the appearance of Zerubbabel as a young man at the court of Darius is to be explained from the fact that the author himself thought of Darius, who already so soon after the interruption of the building of the temple attained the sovereignty, as the immediate successor of Cyrus; at any rate it must, properly be supposed that Zcrubbabel, after the interruption of the temple building, returned again to Babylon.
§ 4. Literature
As in the books of Chronicles, so here we have to complain of the small amount of exegetical and critical literature. Of Jewish interpreters, besides the well-known R. S. Jarchi and Aben Ezra, who wrote commentaries upon almost the entire Old Test., which are printed in the Rabbin. Bible of Buxtorf, we may mention R. Simeon ben Joiakim, whose Commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles, according to Bartolocci, (bibl. rabb. IV., p. 412) appeared at Venice from Bomberg,—furthermore Joseph. Bar Aben jechijja, of whom a Commentary on the 5 Megilloth and the rest of the Hagiographa is mentioned, and Isaak ben R. Solomon Jabez, whose Thorath chesed likewise embraces the Megilloth and the rest of the Hagiographa.
Of the Fathers of the Church only Beda. Ven. comes into consideration, who composed two books of allegorical interpretation upon Ezra and Nehemiah (op. t. IV., p. 462 sq.); he would show by both books how those who have fallen into ruin by carelessness or error, must turn to repentance, how great God’s grace is, etc. Of the Reformers, only John Brenz wrote a Commentar. in Esdram, and provided the first three chapters of Nehemiah with annotationes. Vict. Strigel’s scholia in libr. Esræ appeared at Leipsic, 1571; his scholia in libr. Nehemiæ, Leipsic, 1575; Erasmi Sarcerii scholia in Nehemiam and Cyriaci Spangenbergii tabulæ (Basel, 1563) are barely worthy of mention. The expository writings of the 16th and 17th Centuries are embraced, so far as they deserve mention, in the great collection “Critici sacri,” London, 1660, 9 vol. fol., and in the selections therefrom of Matth. Polus, Synopsis Criticorum s., London, 1669.
On the part of the Roman Catholics are to be mentioned: Thomas de Vio, Rome, 1553; Dionys. Carthusianus, Cologne, 1534; Caspar saitctius, Lyons, 1627, and Nicolaus Lombardus (Commentarius literalis, moralis, et allegoricus in Nehemiam et Esram. Paris, 1643).
Of the Reformed Church are: Ludov. Lavaterus (38 Homilies upon Ezra, and 58 upon Nehemiah), Zurich, 1586; Johann Wolff, Nehemias de instaurata Hierosolyma seu commentarius in librum Nehemiæ, Zurich, 1570; Christianus Schotanus, bibliotheca hist. sacr. 5. T. T. 2., p. 1154 sq.; Guilelm Pembelius, explicatio locorum obscurorum ex Esræ, etc., libro. Lond., 1658; H. Grotius, Annotatt. in. Vet. Test., Paris, 1644, ed. Vogel et Doederlein, Halle, 1775–6.; Franc. Burmannus, a Belgian Commentary upon the books of Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra, Amsterdam, 1694.
Of the 18th Century are only the works embracing the entire Old Test., or at least a greater part of it, by Aug. Calmet, Commentaire literal, Paris, 1707 sq.; by Jo. Clericus, Commentarius (3 vols. in Hagiographa), Amsterdam, 1731; by Joh. Heinr. Michaelis, adnotationes uberiores in hagiographos veteris testamenti libros, Halle, 1720 (the book of Ezra, by J. H. Michaelis himself, the book of Nehemiah, by J. J. Rambach, both in the third vol.); by H. B, Stark Notæ selectæ in Pent., etc., Leipsic, 1714,—by Joach. Lange, Mosaisches, Prophetisches u. s. w. Licht und Recht, Halle, 1729–38, by Chr, Starke the Synopsis 3.; by J. D. Michaelis, Die Uebersetzung des Alten Testaments mit Anmerkungen für Ungelehrte. Theil 12, 1785. Of the 19th Century we have, by J. B. D. Maurer, comment. gramm. crit. in, V. T., vol. 1., Leipsic, 1835; E. Bertheau, Die Bücher Esra, Nehemia, and Esther (17 Lieferung des kurzgefassten exegetinchen Handbuches zum A. Testament), Leipsic, 1862; Bunsen, Bibelwerk (Thl. I., Abth. 3, by AD. Kamphausen), Leipsic. 1865; C. F. Keil, Bibl. Kommentar übcr die nachexil, Geschichtsbücher; Chronik, Esra, Nehemia und Esther (Thl. 5 des bibl. Kommentars of Keil and Delitzsch. Leipsic, 1870—[Trans, in Clark’s For. Theol. Library]; Schirmer, observatt. exeget. crit. in 1 Esdræ, Breslau, 1820. There are the following introductory critical treatises on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah; Kleinert, über die Entstehung, die Bestandtheile und das Alter der Bücher Ezra und Nehemia, in the Beitr, zu den theol. Wissenschadften by the Professors of Theology at Dorpat, Hamburg, 1832, first volume; Keil, über die Integrität des Bücher Ezra in his Apol. Versuch über die Chronik, S. 93 sq.; F. W. Schultz, “Cyrus der Grosse” in the Stud. u. Krit, 1853, S. 624 sqq.; Baihinger, “zur Aufhellung der nachexil. Gesehichte Israels” Stud. u. Krit., 1857, S. 87 sqq.; E. Schrader, “die Dauer des zweiten Tempelbaus,” Stud. u. Krit, 1867, S. 460 sqq. E. Schrader’s book, “die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament” Giessen, 1872, contains contributions worthy of consideration with reference to the book of Ezra, fewer with reference to Nehemiah.
[To these we may add the few works upon Ezra and Nehemiah in English. The Holy Bible, with notes of the older Matthew Henry and Scott, and the more recent Holy Bible, with Notes of Wordsworth, vol. II., new ed., London, 1873; the Bible or Speaker’s Comm., vol. III., London, 1874, by Rawlinson, to which frequent reference is made by the translator. See also Davidson’s Introduction to the Old Test II., 121–132, Edin., 1862; Pusey on Daniel, p. 331 sq., 3d ed., London, 1869; also in Kitto’s Cyclopœdia, 3d edit, 1865, and Smith’s Biblical Dictionary—especially the American edition.—Tr.]
[Pusey, p. 339: “It is added merely that he was ready, fluent expositor of it. He mentions of himself, what others have observed of him in the books of Chronicles, that law of his God was the great study of his life, and that he made progress in it. Perhaps he meant, as one of the Psalmists, whose expression he used, said before him, that he was a “ready writer” of what he was taught by God, ascribing to himself only that he was, what he was, the instrument of God.”—Tr.]
[Rawlinson in loco: “But exactly parallel changes of person occur in the Book of Daniel (e.g., the third person from 1 to 7:2, the first from 7:2–9:27; the third in 10:1, and the first from 10:2 to the end), which there is good re on to regard as the work of Daniel himself, and not of a compiler; changes too, not very dissimilar occur in the nearly contemporary Greek writer Thucydides. Thucydides begins his history in the third person (1:1), and changes to the first after a few chapters (1:29–22). Further on , in book 4, he resumes the third (104–106). In book 5:26 he begins in the third, but runs on into the first, which he again uses in book 7:97.”—Tr.]
[Rawlinson in loco conjectures here that Zadok (or Zidkijah), Nehemiah’s scribe, or secretary, was the author as an eye—witness of the proceedings.—Tr.]
[Pusey and Rawlinson agree in regarding this verse as an interpolation or marginal gloss of a later date, that has crept into the text.—Tr.]
According to Haggai 1:14-15, it is true they had not for the first begun to work upon the house of the Lord on the 9th month and 24th day, when, according to Ezra 2:18, the foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid, but already in the 6th month. But that they then had merely performed the preparatory labor, removed the rubbish, and procured materials for building, that the proper work of building really began on the 24th day of the 9th month, is clear from the simple fact that the prophet makes this later day his great terminus a quo, with which the bad growth shall come to an end and a better and more fruitful time begin, and of a quid pro quo (Keil) there can be thought if we understand it thus.
[Davidson’s summary is as follows: “Intro II., p.148. The extended work of the Chronist embraced a postexile as well as a pre-exile part; but the former was afterwards separated from the latter, and received a distinct name, the book of Ezra, including what is now Nehemiah. In this postexile portion the Chronicle writher copied his sources more extensively than in the preceding part. In Ezra 2:1-69 he gave and old list; in 4:8–6:18 a fragment of an Aramean narrative which he had got. In 7:12–9:15 he inserted a piece of Ezra’s memoirs, and in 10:18–33 he put a list or register which had come into his hands. Thus more than two-thirds of the book of Ezra was transcribed from the sources at his disposal. With respect to the book of Nehemiah, which was merely intended as an appendix to the whole, he filled up gaps in Nehemiah’s memoirs with 7:73 b–9; 12:1–13:3 and with minor interpretations besides. We have then left for the authorship of Ezra 7:12 to Ezra 9:15; for Nehemiah 1:1 to Nehemiah 7:73 a, Nehemiah 7:10 at first; 9 a–13:4–31.”—Tr]