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In the seventh year of Artaxerxes, Ezra goes to Jerusalem. The king's edict, permitting Ezra to teach the law of God, and to appoint judges.
Before Christ 458.
Ver. 1. Ezra the son of Seraiah— He calls himself here, according to the Hebrew idiom, the son of Seraiah, who was the high-priest that Nebuchadnezzar caused to be slain at the taking of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:18; 2 Kings 25:30.; but had he been his real son, he must then have been at least one hundred and thirty-two years old, supposing him to have been an infant when his father died; and so wholly unfit for such a journey and employment: whereas we find him capable of reading the Scriptures to the people from morning till noon, one whole week; and of assisting Nehemiah in his office thirteen years after, when he must have been at least one hundred and forty-five years old; but since he there also calls Azariah the son of Meraioth, though it appears from 1 Chronicles 6:7; 1Ch 6:81 that there were six descendants between them, it becomes very probable that he may himself have been some descents off Seraiah, though it does not appear how many.
Ver. 6. A ready scribe— The LXX, the Vulgate, and our translation, render the original words a ready scribe; as if to have a quick hand at writing out the law were any great perfection, or that an aged man, as Ezra was, should be renowned for it. It was not for writing, then, but for explaining the things of Scripture, that Ezra was so famous; for סופר soper denotes one skilled and learned, from ספר seper, a book; and, as no book was comparable to the book of the law, סופר soper became a name of great dignity, and signified one who taught God's law, and instructed the people out of it. In which sense we find the word γραμματεις, or scribes, used in the New Testament; for when our Saviour is said to have taught the people as one having authority, and not as the scribes, this plainly shews, that these scribes were not transcribers, but teachers and expounders of the law, though they did not do it with a proper authority. It can hardly be imagined but that some more than ordinary means were used to obtain so great a favour from Artaxerxes, as this commission was upon which Ezra went; and therefore we may suppose, that it was granted at the solicitation of Esther; for this Artaxerxes was the Ahasuerus of Esther. She was become the best-beloved of the king's concubines, though not yet advanced to the dignity of queen; for it being usual for the kings of Persia, on some particular days and occasions, to allow their women to ask what boons they pleased, it is not unlikely that, by the direction of Mordecai, upon some such occasion as this, Esther, though she had not discovered her kingdom and nation, might make this the matter of her request.
Ver. 25. That is in thine hand— Which is in thee. See Nold. 917.
Ver. 26. The law of the king— i.e. Says Bishop Patrick, this decree which was made in favour of the Jews, whereby they were authorized to use the laws of Moses: in any case where these were doubtful, they were to be directed by the king's ordinances.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Ezra seems, soon after the dedication of the temple, to have returned to court, either to give an account of their proceedings, or to complain of the backwardness of the governors to supply them according to the king's commission, or to invite more of his brethren to return, since their beginnings were now so prosperous.
1. His character answered his high birth. He was eminent for his learning, especially in the law of God; and as eminent for his practice. His knowledge was not barren and unfruitful; it engaged him to fidelity in doing the will of God, while he earnestly sought deeper discoveries of it; and he was zealously communicative of his spiritual wisdom, in order to teach others how to walk and please God. Note; (1.) Of all learning, scripture learning is most desirable: none beside can make us wise to salvation. (2.) They who would know God's truth, must search for it as for silver. Idleness and ignorance are necessarily connected. (3.) That is truly profitable knowledge, which is employed in the instruction of others in the good ways of our God. (4.) They who practise what they teach can speak with greater confidence, and may expect success. Little can be hoped from the scribe who sits in Moses's seat, and saith, and doth not.
2. Having executed successfully his commission at the Persian court, he returned to Jerusalem, bringing with him a number of his brethren, who, hearing of the prosperity of Zion, were desirous to share in it. Though the journey was long, God's presence and providence comforted and strengthened them, and they arrived safe, after a four months' journey, at Jerusalem. Note; God's merciful providence is continually to be acknowledged in all our goings out and comings in: every mercy that we enjoy comes from his good hand.
2nd, We have the honourable commission addressed to Ezra the scribe from the king of Babylon; whose dominions were so extensive, that he assumed the title of King of kings.
1. He gives liberty to all the Jews in his dominions to return to their own land under the conduct of Ezra, who is constituted chief inquisitor into the affairs of the Jewish people, and authorized to take care that the law of God in all things might be observed among them.
2. He sends by him a noble present from himself and his princes, with vessels of silver and gold, to be employed in the service of the temple, as Ezra and his brethren saw most adviseable; and authorizes him to collect from the Jews, who continued to reside in Babylon, whatever free-will offerings they chose to send to the house of God at Jerusalem, to be laid out according to the will of God. Note; (1.) The revealed will of God must be the constant standard of our conduct. (2.) They who are employed in such trusts of public money need be men of tried integrity.
3. He gives him a large order upon his governors, for whatever more might be wanting for the service of God; to maintain which, he would spare no expence, knowing how much it was his interest to engage him as a friend; and how dangerous, by neglect, to provoke him as an enemy. Note; (1.) How will the solicitude of a heathen king to obtain God's favour rise up in judgment, to reprove the negligence and carelessness of professed christians! (2.) They who are zealous in the cause of God will have generous hearts and open hands.
4. He exempts all the ministers of the sanctuary, from the highest to the lowest, from tribute; as an honourable mark of distinction. However they may now be slighted, there was a time when even heathen kings thought that they ought to be had in honour.
5. Ezra is empowered to nominate magistrates skilled in God's law over his own people, that no heathen judge might have jurisdiction among them. They were to administer justice, and instruct the ignorant; and all pains and penalties were put in their power to punish the disobedient, even to imprisonment or death. Note; (1.) Magistrates must not bear the sword in vain. (2.) Among the greatest temporal blessings, is an impartial administration of justice according to the law of God.
3rdly, With grateful acknowledgement Ezra interrupts the history, to offer up a pious and thankful ejaculation to his merciful God.
1. For the gracious commission which the Lord had put it into the king's heart to give him. Note; (1.) In all our blessings, we must look above men and means to the great author of all grace. (2.) If there be a good desire put into the heart, we may be assured that it is from above.
2. For the support and strength with which he had been supplied in negotiating this service. Note; Whatever abilities or natural fortitude we possess, we must ascribe all our success, not to ourselves, but to the support of God's good grace.
3. For the company that God gave him, inclining his brethren, and the chief of them, to go with him. Note; (1.) It is not our persuasions as ministers, but God's powerful operative grace upon the heart, that can engage any man to quit this Babylon of the world, to travel to Zion, the mount of God. (2.) It is matter of most unspeakable thankfulness to ministers, when their preaching is made effectual to the engaging of men's hearts to follow Christ and his gospel.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany