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THE ACTS OF EZRA. CHAPS. 7-10.
EZRA’S GOING UP TO JERUSALEM, Ezra 7:1-10.
1. After these things Fifty-seven years after the events narrated at the close of the last chapter.
In the reign of Artaxerxes In the seventh year of his reign, as appears from Ezra 7:7-8. So that between the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, with which the last chapter closed, (vi, 15,) and the present date, fall the last thirty years of Darius, (for he reigned thirty-six years,) and the whole of Xerxes’ reign of twenty years, and the first seven years of this Artaxerxes, who was the son and successor of Xerxes the Great, the Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther. The Artaxerxes of this chapter and of the Book of Nehemiah is commonly known as Artaxerxes Longimanus. According to Ctesias, he was the youngest of three sons who survived Xerxes, and succeeded to the throne by assassinating his eldest brother, and taking advantage of the absence of the other, who was at the time satrap of Bactria. Troubles accompanied this irregular accession, and rebellions broke out in various parts of the empire, and it occupied all the first years of his reign to restore peace to his vast dominions. From all we can gather outside the Scriptures as to the character of Artaxerxes, he seems to have been a weak and irresolute prince. He reigned forty years, a longer period than that of any previous Persian king. Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 13:6) mentions his thirty-second year, which fact serves to show that he cannot be identified with Xerxes, as some have proposed, since Xerxes reigned but twenty years. Ezra, the distinguished priest and scribe, whose acts are recorded in the four following chapters of this book, was born and reared in exile, but by assiduous study had made himself a profound student and most competent scribe in the law of Moses. Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:11. See notice of his character and life at the close of chap. 10.
Son of Seraiah It is somewhat uncertain whether by this Seraiah we are to understand the immediate father of Ezra, or that distinguished ancestor who was chief priest at the destruction of the temple, and was slain by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. 2 Kings 25:18-21. His son Jehozadak went into exile, (1 Chronicles 6:15,) and, perhaps, had a son Seraiah, who was father of Ezra. It would be very natural, however, for Ezra, in here recording his genealogy, to pass over his immediate ancestors, as he certainly does omit the name of Jehozadak, and link himself at once to that ancestor with whom the acting priesthood at Jerusalem had been broken off. He aims in this record to give the main links of his ancestry back to Aaron, and a comparison with the record of his genealogy, given in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15, will show that he has passed over several other names there registered.
6. A ready scribe in the law of Moses Not merely skilled as a copyist, the lowest function of a scribe, but a man thoroughly versed in the history and meaning of the law. From the time of the exile the office of scribe obtained among the Jews a character and worth that it never had before. From being a sort of secretary to the king, (see note on 2 Samuel 8:17,) he now came to be a professional student and expounder of the sacred books. The age of Ezra was a time when the exiles would be especially anxious to gather up and preserve the ancient laws, and all the sacred literature of their nation. The masses of the people had lost the use of the ancient language, and spoke the Aramaic. The times demanded a class of men competent to collect and transcribe the sacred books, and to explain what was difficult and obscure in them. Ezra seemed providentially raised up for this position and work, and, according to Ezra 7:10, “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” This ever after was the high office and work of the scribes in Israel, an order of men of which Ezra may be called the founder, and which superseded and took the place of the schools of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:5, note) of which Samuel was the founder.
All his request Ezra had probably asked the king for permission and authority to go up with a body of the exiles to Jerusalem. Perhaps he also made request for the silver and gold and other gifts which the king ordered to be given to him. Ezra 7:14-22.
According to the hand of the Lord… upon him According as it was evident from his abilities and devotion to the law of his God, that he was a divinely-chosen instrument for some important mission.
7. There went up A list of the chief persons who accompanied Ezra to Jerusalem is given in Ezra 8:1-20.
Singers… porters… Nethinim Comp. Ezra 2:41-43, and the passages there referred to.
8. The fifth month Ab, corresponding nearly with our August.
9. First… fifth month So the journey occupied precisely four months from April through July. But they tarried twelve days at the river of Ahava. Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21; Ezra 8:31.
10. Prepared his heart to seek the law Or, set his heart to search the law. It had been the great aim and purpose of his life to be a student and expounder of the law. And the sequel shows how God honoured his efforts.
ARTAXERXES’S LETTER AND DECREE, Ezra 7:11-26.
12. King of kings See note on 2 Kings 18:19.
Unto Ezra So this decree was at the same time a letter of authority to Ezra.
Perfect peace The word peace is improperly supplied by our translators. It is better to take the word perfect as an epithet of Ezra, and construe it as an adjective relating to the previous word scribe. As a scribe of the law of the God of heaven Ezra was perfect; that is, thoroughly skilled and accomplished; perfectly versed in it.
And at such a time Rather, and so forth. See on Ezra 4:10.
14. His seven counsellors Seven seems to have been a favourite and sacred number among the Persians as among the Jews. “Besides the royal family itself or clan of the Achaemenidae there were six great houses which had a rank superior to that of all the other grandees. According to Herodotus these houses derived their special dignity from the accident that their heads had been fellow-conspirators with Darius Hystaspes, ( Herod., 3:84;) but there is reason to suspect that the rank of the families was precedent to the conspiracy in question, certain families conspiring because they were great, and not becoming great because they conspired. At any rate, from the time of Darius I., there seem to have been seven great families, including that of the Achaemenidae, whose chiefs had the privilege of free communication with the monarch, and from which he was legally bound to choose his legitimate wives. The chiefs appear to have been known as ‘the seven princes,’ or the ‘ seven counsellors,’ of the king. Esther 1:14. They sat next to him at public festivals; they were privileged to tender him their advice whenever they pleased, ( Herod., 3:84, 118;) they recommended important measures of state, and were, in part, responsible for them; they could demand admission to the monarch’s presence at any time, unless he were in the female apartments; they had precedence on all great occasions of ceremony, and enjoyed a rank altogether independent of office. Sometimes perhaps most commonly they held office; but they rather conferred a lustre on the position which they consented to fill, than derived any additional splendour from it.” RAWLINSON, Ancient Monarchies, vol. iii, p. 223.
To inquire concerning Judah It would seem that Ezra had received some intimation of irregularities among the Jews at Jerusalem, and of their ignorance and neglect of the law, and had asked authority from the king to go and inquire about the matter, and, if possible, rectify it.
In thine hand In thy possession. Compare Ezra 7:25, where the wisdom of God is spoken of as in the hand of Ezra.
16. That thou canst find in all… Babylon That is, all that can be found in hands ready to contribute for the temple at Jerusalem all that Ezra could collect in any part of Babylon.
19. The vessels Gold and copper basins, and the like, which had been contributed by Persians or Israelites. Compare Ezra 8:25-27. The vessels mentioned in Ezra 1:7 were those which had been taken from Jerusalem, and that act of Cyrus was a restoration of what belonged to the temple. But the vessels here mentioned were an additional contribution to the treasures of the temple, and were the gifts, chiefly, of the king and his counsellors.
21. All the treasurers… beyond the river The Persian system of finance provided for a royal treasury in every province.
22. A hundred talents of silver About one hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars.
A hundred measures of wheat Or a hundred cors, about one thousand one hundred bushels.
A hundred baths Nearly eight hundred and seventy-five gallons, or more than fifteen hogsheads.
Salt without prescribing “The enemies of God’s Church had before said that they were salted with the salt of the palace, (Ezra 4:14, margin,) but now the king’s decree gives salt without measure to Ezra and his company.” Wordsworth.
23. Why should there be wrath From this remark it may be naturally inferred that the king had been led by words of Ezra, or of some other Jew, to fear the wrath of God against him if he did not favour these exiles. Perhaps he had been led to regard the troubles and rebellions that had recently taken place in his empire (see note on Ezra 7:1) as tokens of Divine anger against him. At any rate, he now seeks to avoid any further judgments of the kind by timely kindness toward the people of Jehovah.
24. Toll, tribute, or custom See note on Ezra 4:13.
25. Set magistrates and judges Hereby Ezra was commissioned with authority to appoint all officers of the State. The fact indicates that the new community at Jerusalem had fallen into great irregularities.
26. Unto death… banishment… confiscation… imprisonment All modes of punishment which any highly civilized State may practice.
EZRA’S THANKSGIVING, Ezra 7:27-28.
27. Blessed be the Lord Ezra appropriately appends to the royal document his thanksgiving to God for the favour shown him and his people by the granting of the decree to beautify the house of the Lord. This utterance of praise is evidence of his profound piety and entire devotion to the service of God.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezra 7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
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