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EZRA'S RETURN TO JERUSALEM
These first ten verses form a brief introduction as to who Ezra was and the fact of his coming to Jerusalem. Details are given after this, verses 11 to 26 quoting a letter given to Ezra by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, in whose heart God had worked to encourage Ezra in returning to Jerusalem; then Chapter 8listing those who accompanied Ezra and reporting on the details of thisjourney, the gifts for the temple with which they had been entrusted and their eventual arrival at Jerusalem.
First (in Chapter 7) Ezra gives his genealogy, going back to Aaron through Phineas and Eliezer (vv. 1-5).Thus he was a priest of God through birth.But he was a skilled scribe, which did not come through birth, but through diligently applying himself to leaning the law of Moses (v. 6).This ought to have been true of all the priests (Leviticus 10:8-11), though most of them failed in this.
"The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him." How clearly God led Ezra, even preparing the king to favor his return to Jerusalem, for he evidently presented a request to the king concerning this project.
Apparently some of the children of Israel, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and Nethinim, had arrived earlier in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (v. 7), and Ezra did not arrive until the first day of the fifth month, according to the good hand of his God upon him" (vv. 8-9). Verse 10adds, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel" (v. 10). It seems that it is not many in whom God works this preparation of heart, not only to seek the truth of God, but to do it, and also to teach it to others. Learning is good, but teaching the truth comes only after obeying it. How can we expect our teaching to be effective if we ourselves are not examples of our teaching?
ARTAXERXES' LETTERTO EZRA
The letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra at this time is quoted in full.It appears that the king knew Ezra well enough (possibly only through reports) that he could have confidence in his being a true servant of God who had wisdom enough to both honor God and honor the king in his project of concern for the house of God in Jerusalem (v. 11).
He refers to himself as "king of kings," for there were kings in the Persian empire who were subject to him (v. 12). But how much more becoming is this title as applied to the Lord Jesus! (Revelation 19:16).However, he addressed Ezra as "a scribe of the law of the God of heaven."It seems he realized that Israel's God was much higher than the idols of Persia.
The king's decree was similar to that of Darius (ch. 1:3) in authorizing any of the people of Israel including priests and Levites who desired to volunteer for it, to go with Ezra to Jerusalem.He also wrote, "Whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors" (v. 14), that is, because it was by the king's authority, and because they were to carry the silver and gold contributed by the king and his counselors, and the silver and gold that was given them in all the province of Babylon, freewill offerings given for the house of God in Jerusalem (vv. 15-16), therefore Ezra was instructed to be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams and lambs with grain offerings and drink offerings to be offered on the altar of the house of God in Jerusalem (v. 17). It is good to see that the king's first priority was that which was for God's honor. All these offerings symbolize Christ in some special way.
Thus, if God was given His place first, the king had confidence that he could depend on Ezra to rightly use the rest of the silver and gold, telling him he could act in this as "seems good to you," and "according to the will of your God" (v. 18). Articles that Ezra was entrusted with for the service of the temple he was to deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem (v. 19).
Furthermore, the king instructed that anything more that might be needed for the furnishing of the temple would be given from the king's treasury (v. 20). This was backed up by a decree addressed to all the treasurers on Israel's side of the River Euphrates that they were to give Ezra whatever he might require, only limiting the silver to 100 talents, the wheat to 100 cors and the wine and oil to 100 baths each, with no limit to the salt (vv.21-22).
It may seem amazing that the King of Persia would decree that "whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven" (v. 23).We might expect such words from a godly king of Israel; but God knows how to work in the hearts of others outside Israel too. Artaxexes realized that the God of heaven was in such control that He might make Persia to suffer His wrath if they did not encourage Israel in being obedient to God.
More than this, the king ordered that it would be unlawful to impose tax, tribute or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim or servants of the house of God (v,24). Rehum and Shimshai had urged a previous Artaxerxes to stop the Jews from building by claiming that the Jews would not pay tax, tribute or custom (ch. 4:9-13), but the king now was ready to forego these things for heads of Israel, that Judah would prosper.
Ezra too was credited by the king a shaving God-given wisdom to appoint magistrates and judges in the region west of the River, who were conversant with the laws of God, so as to teach the people (v. 25).Thus, the king recognized that the land of Israel had a special place in the eyes of the God of heaven and earth, and desired that there should be due recognition of God's honor in that country.He rightly realized that it would be beneficial to his entire empire if God were given His place in Israel.
Finally, he instructed that the law of God was to be so fully enforced that anyone who would not observe it and the law of the king (which he regarded secondary to the law of God) would be exposed to judgment without delay, whether the case demanded death, banishment from Israel, confiscation of property or imprisonment (v. 26).If one's guilt was established beyond question, this is certainly good government, not like so many cases today, being dragged out for months without reason.The policy of the Medes and Persians that their laws could not be changed (Daniel 6:15) did have some merit, though in Daniel's case the law was bad and should never have been passed.But the Persians were not slow in carrying out sentence against law-breakers, and this is commendable.
Verses 27 and 28 record the words of Ezra in expressing his appreciation of the Lord's putting into the king's heart the desire "to beautify the house of the Lord," and also for the Lord's mercy to him in disposing the hearts of the king and his counselors favorably toward Ezra himself.He considered himself simply the object of God's mercy in his being shown favor by the king and his princes (v. 28).Being thus encouraged by the hand of the Lord upon him, he gathered leading men of Israel to accompany him to Jerusalem.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 7". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany