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Arno Clement Gaebelein

In the Public Domain

                             THE BOOK OF EZRA


     In the Hebrew Bible the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are placed at the
close of the third division of the Jewish canon, which is called "Ketubim."
In the Talmud, the Massorah, the Septuagint, and in the writings of
Josephus, Ezra and Nehemiah are treated as one book. It is claimed that
originally Chronicles with Ezra and Nehemiah formed one book. The last two
verses with which Second Chronicles closes are repeated in the opening
chapter of Ezra.

     (The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible is as follows: I. Tora
(the law) Genesis--2 Kings, except Ruth; II. Nevijin (the prophets)
Isaiah--Malachi, except Lamentations and Daniel; III. Ketubim (the
Writings) Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations,
Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles.)

                       Ezra, the Author of the Book

     No valid proof can be given that the Jewish and early Christian view,
that Ezra is the author of the book which bears his name, is incorrect. He
was a pious, deeply spiritual man. His genealogy is found in chapter 7:1-6.
We learn that he was a lineal descendant of Phineas, the son Of Eleazar,
the son of Aaron; and therefore Ezra was a priest. (See chapter 7:11;
10:10, 16.) He was also a scribe--"a ready scribe in the law of Moses,
which the LORD God of Israel had given" (7:6); "a scribe of the words of
the commandments and of the statutes of Israel" (7:11). We find him first
mentioned in the seventh chapter. The record is given that he went up to
Babylon ... "and the king granted him all his request, according to the
hand of the LORD God upon him." He received permission from King Artaxerxes
I (Longimanus) in the seventh year of his reign (458 B.C.) to lead a number
of the people back to Jerusalem. His beautiful, godly character may be seen
in the three last chapters of the book, in which he is the principal actor.
He was a great man of prayer and worship, with a childlike trust in the
LORD, with great zeal for God and an intense interest in His people and
their welfare. Much is said of Ezra in talmudical literature, where his
greatness and worthiness is celebrated. According to these traditions he
was in meekness and godliness like Moses. It is said that he first
introduced the Hebrew alphabet in square characters, and that he made the
Massorah and punctuation of the Scriptures. He is also considered to be the
author of the Jewish canon, and to have rewritten the whole of the Old
Testament from memory. most likely he wrote Chronicles besides the record
contained in this book. It is more than likely that he collected the Psalms
in a book and arranged them under the guidance of the Spirit of God in the
order in which we possess them now. His great reformation work we shall
point out in the annotations.

                           The Story of the Book

     The book of Ezra records chronologically the return of the remnant to
Jerusalem and the events which took place after their return. The
rebuilding of the temple and its dedication are fully described, while
Nehemiah records the rebuilding of the wall and the city. The edict of
Cyrus permitting the Jews to return and urging the rebuilding of the temple
is followed by the list of names of those who returned under Zerubbabel, a
son of David, to Jerusalem. The given number is 42,360. After their
reestablishment they proceeded with the building and dedication of the
altar, after which the foundation of the temple was laid. Then the mongrel
race, the Samaritans, came offering their fellowship in the building of the
temple; their cooperation was positively rejected. Then the adversaries
troubled them, hired counsellors against them, and for a number of years
the work stopped. A letter addressed to the king of Persia is inserted in
chapter 4 and is written in Aramaic (Chaldean). (The Aramaic portions of
Ezra are chapters 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26.) Then appeared in the midst of the
discouraged remnant, when the work had ceased, the two great post-exilic
prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. As a result of the fiery exhortations of
Haggai and the glorious visions of Zechariah, a revival took place and
under Zerubbabel with Joshua the high priest, the prophets helping, the
building of the house began. Next the governor Tatnai appeared, attempting
to stop their work; but he did not succeed. He appealed to the king in a
letter which is also given in full in Aramaic; he was confident that he
would succeed in ending the work of the remnant. Ezra had access to these
documents and reports them in the Chaldean language in which they were
written. But when Darius the king instituted a search there was found in
Achmetha, in the palace of Media, a roll with the record of Cyrus, which
Tatnai the governor had insinuated was a falsehood, used by the remnant to
continue the work. Then Darius made a decree by which Tatnai and his
companions were commanded not to interfere any more with the work of the
house of God, but that the Jews should build the house. The decree also
appointed a generous contribution day by day from the king's goods for the
Jews. The hostile governor was forced to carry out the decree of the king.
After that the temple was completed and dedicated. They kept the feast of
Passover and unleavened bread. This concludes the first section of the

     Many years after these events had taken place, Ezra comes upon the
scene. Ezra's work is described, and how, authorized by the decree of
Artaxerxes, he headed an expedition of exiles, who returned to Jerusalem.
Artaxerxes' letter is given in full in the language used by the Chaldeans
(Aramaic). Ezra's outburst of praise follows the decree of the king. A list
of all who joined Ezra in the return is found in the beginning of the
eighth chapter. They gathered at the river Ahava, encamping there for three
days. Ezra discovered that none of the sons of Levi were in the company. A
number of these were soon added to the returning exiles. Before the journey
was started there was a fast and humiliation before God; they looked to Him
for a straight way and for protection. They departed from Ahava on the
twelfth day of the first month and reached Jerusalem on the first day of
the fifth month, the LORD graciously protecting them from robbers. After
that follows the great reformation work in which Ezra dealt with the
deplorable moral conditions into which the people had fallen.

               The Spiritual and Dispensational Application

     This interesting historical account of a return of a remnant from
Babylon contains a message for us. Divine principles are revealed in this
book, which find their application to God's people at all times. These
spiritual and dispensational lessons will be pointed out in the

                     The Division of the Book of Ezra

     This book is divided into two sections. After the edict of Cyrus there
is a return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, the rebuilding of the temple and
its dedication. Then after sixty years the return under Ezra took place.



                         Analysis and Annotations

                       THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE

                                 CHAPTER 1

     1. The proclamation of Cyrus (1:1-4)
     2. The response of the chiefs of Judah and Benjamin (1:5-6)
     3. The vessels of the house of the LORD restored (1:7-11)

     Verses 1-4. Cyrus (meaning "the Sun") the King of Persia was,
according to ancient historians, the son of Cambyses, Prince of Persia, and
Mandam, daughter of Astyages, King of the Median Empire. The theory that he
was the offspring of Ahasuerus and Esther, and was trained by Mordecai and
Nehemiah, lacks all historical foundation. The heart of Cyrus in the
beginning of his reign was stirred by the LORD, because the time had come
that the Word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah might
be fulfilled. And this was the Word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: "For
thus saith the LORD, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I
will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to
return to this place" (Jer. 29:10). The seventy years were ended and God
was about to act in behalf of His people Israel. Daniel was praying in
Babylon after also having read the words of Jeremiah (Dan. 9:1-2). Cyrus
was the chosen instrument of the LORD to bring about the return of the Jews
and the rebuilding of the temple. Almost two hundred years before his birth
the LORD had revealed his name and his work to the prophet Isaiah. Twice
Isaiah mentions the name of this Persian King: "That saith of Cyrus, He is
my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasures, even saying to Jerusalem,
Thou shalt be built, and the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus
saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden,
to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open
before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut" (Isa.
44:28, 45:1). "I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all
his ways; he shall build my city and he shall let go my captives, not for
price nor reward, saith the LORD of Hosts" (Isa. 45:13). This was written
by this prophet of God over a century before the temple was destroyed by
Nebuchadnezzar. Previously in Isaiah Jehovah had spoken his challenge to
the idol-gods to show their power: "Let them bring forth, and show us what
shall happen, let them show the former things, what they be ... or declare
us things for to come; show the things that are to come afterward" (Isa.
41:22-23). In naming Cyrus the king, and the great work he would do for the
exiles and for Jerusalem, the LORD demonstrates His power to declare things
to come and to make the future known. And who would doubt that an
omniscient God, who knows all things, the end from the beginning, could do
this? Only infidels and destructive critics. The latter have invented a
Deutero-Isaiah who, it is claimed, wrote the above prophecies concerning
Cyrus after he had come into existence and done the work.

     It will be seen that the Spirit of God through Isaiah spoke of Cyrus
as the shepherd, the anointed, the man of my counsel (Isa. 46:11); whom the
LORD loveth (48:14); whose right hand the Lord upholdeth (45:1); who will
perform the LORD's pleasure (44:28); and yet he is also called "a ravenous
bird from the East" (46:11). Cyrus is, as the chosen instrument, a type of
the Messiah, Christ. A comparison of Cyrus with Christ, the work Cyrus did
for Israel and the work Christ will do in His second coming, is

     The proclamation which Cyrus issued and sent in writing throughout his
kingdom speaks of God as "the LORD God of heaven," and in his edict Cyrus
declares, "He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is
in Judah." How did Cyrus receive this knowledge? Beyond question he knew
Daniel, and may have heard from his lips the history of Nebuchadnezzar as
well as the great prophecies. This prophet may also have acquainted Cyrus
with the prophecies of Isaiah. According to Josephus, the great Jewish
historian, Cyrus read the book of Isaiah himself. When he came to the place
in which Isaiah mentioned him by name, an earnest desire and ambition
seized upon him to fulfill what was written in these prophecies. From the
record here we learn that it was the LORD who stirred him up to issue the
proclamation. In it permission was granted to those Jewish exiles
throughout his kingdom to return to Jerusalem to build the house of the
LORD; and those who remained were to help with silver and gold, with goods
and beasts, besides free-will offering for the house of God. Thus God's
Word spoken over two hundred years before was fulfilled in this
proclamation of Cyrus: "He shall let my captives go;" "Saying to Jerusalem,
Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid";
these were the two great prophetic statements of the work he was to do. And
so it came literally to pass. All predictions of a future restoration of
Israel to their land, not through a Gentile king, but through the coming of
Heaven's King, the Shepherd of His sheep, will soon find all their literal
fulfillment likewise.

     Verses 5-6. There was at once a response from the heads of the fathers
of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites. What joy must have
filled their hearts when they read the proclamation of Cyrus. What they had
longed and prayed for had come at last. God was acting in their behalf and
His promises were about to come to pass. It was the LORD who stirred them
to action and to turn their faces towards Jerusalem. But not all were ready
to go back; only a small remnant was willing. The great majority preferred
to remain in Babylon. There was nothing to attract them to Jerusalem--the
city of ruins, with the once magnificent temple in ruins. Those who
returned, loved Jerusalem, the place the LORD had chosen, where alone the
appointed offerings and sacrifices could be brought. They belonged to those
who sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept when they remembered Zion and
said, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning;
if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if
I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps. 137:5-6). And the Jews who
remained helped them generously in every way.

     Verses 7-11. Then Cyrus restored the vessels of the house of the LORD,
which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem and put into the house of
his gods (Daniel 1:2). His grandson, Belshazzar, defiled them at his
licentious feast (Dan. 5:2). In that night Belshazzar was slain and Babylon
fell. No doubt Cyrus had these vessels collected and carefully guarded.
Mithredath the treasurer handed them to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
This prince was Zerubbabel: Sheshbazzar was the name the Babylonians had
given him. He was born in Babylon; his name Means "stranger in Babylon." He
became the princely leader of the returning exiles. Besides being mentioned
in Ezra we find his name also in the book of Zechariah. In all there were
5,400 vessels of gold and silver which were handed over to Zerubbabel to
take back to Jerusalem. How it all shows that God had not forgotten His
people, and when His appointed time came He manifested His power in their
behalf. Nor has He forgotten His promise to bring a remnant back from the
great dispersion among all the nations of the world. When that return
comes, a greater than Zerubbabel the prince of Judah will be the leader.
The Lord Jesus, the Son of David, will be their Deliverer.

                                 CHAPTER 2

     1. The leaders (2:1-2)
     2. The names of the returning exiles (2:3-35)
     3. The priests (2:36-39)
     4. The Levites and singers (2:40)
     5. The porters and Nethinim (2:42-54)
     6. Solomon's servants (2:55-58)
     7. Those of doubtful descent (2:59-63)
     8. The number of the whole company (2:64-67)
     9. The offering of the house of God (2:68-70)

     Verses 1-2. This chapter contains the names of the returning remnant.
It is a specimen page of the records which God keeps, and from which we may
learn that He remembers His people, whom He knows by name and whose works
are not forgotten by Him. In the book of Nehemiah this list is repeated
(chapter 7) with an additional record of those who helped in building the
wall. He has a book of remembrance (Mal. 3:16); and the apostle reminded
the Hebrew believers of this fact when he wrote: "For God is not
unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed
toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister"
(Heb. 6:10). There were twelve leaders. Only eleven are given by Ezra; in
Nehemiah's record we find an additional name (Nahamani), making twelve in
all. Zerubbabel was the leader of the returning captives. His name means
"seed of Babylon." He is called the son of Shealtiel, the son or grandson
of Jeconiah, and was therefore a descendant of David. His name appears in
the two genealogies of Matthew (1:12) and Luke (3:27). In 1 Chronicles 3:19
he is called the son of Pedaiah, who was Shealtiel's brother. This double
ascription of parentage may probably be accounted for by Pedaiah having
contracted a levirate marriage with Shealtiel's widow. The second leader
was Jeshua, also called Joshua. He was a son of jehozadak and grandson of
the high priest Seraiah. Zerubbabel, the princely leader, son of David, and
Joshua, the high priest, are types of Christ. (See Zech. 4 and 6.) Nehemiah
is not the Nehemiah who led the other expedition years later, nor is
Mordecai the uncle of Queen Esther, who was an old man and evidently
remained in Shushan (Esther 10:3). The names Nehemiah and Mordecai were
quite common among the Jews. The names of some of the others appear in a
slightly changed form in Nehemiah; it was a Jewish custom to call a person
by different names.

     Verses 3-35. The descendants of the different persons are now given.
In all we find 24,144 descendants. Their individual names are not recorded
but the Lord knows them all, and cared for each member and sustained them
in the journey homeward. Even so He knows all His sheep and keeps every
member of His body, leading them home to glory. If some of the numbers do
not agree with Nehemiah's record, there is no doubt a good reason for it.
For instance, the descendants of Arah are here 775 and in Nehemiah we find
only 652 recorded. Probably 775 had enrolled their names but only 652 went.
All the names recorded may be traced in other portions of the Scriptures.

     Verses 36-39. The different temple officials are recorded next. These
are priests, Levites, singers, porters and Nethinim. The priests are first
mentioned. In 1 Chronicles 24 there are mentioned twenty-four courses.
Jedaiah, Immer and Harim are found in the record of the Chronicles. In all
there were 4,289 priests who went back. And these constituted four courses

     Verses 40-41. Only seventy-four Levites returned. This was a very
small number. (Hodaviah should be read Judah; chapter 3:9.) There were more
singers than Levites. The children of Asaph, that sweet and blessed singer
in Israel, were one hundred and twenty-eight. No doubt they encouraged the
returning exiles in song, by the spirit of praise and worship. The Babylon
experience, so beautifully expressed in Psalm 137, was passed. "By the
rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered
Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there
they that carried us away required of us a song; and they that wasted us
required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall
we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?" All was changed now. God was
working. Deliverance had come and singing no doubt was heard again among
the returning hosts. But why were so few Levites ready to go back?
According to the divine instruction in the Law they were to have no
inheritance save in the LORD. It was a test of faith to return under these
circumstances, and for this reason many Levites must have tarried in
Babylon, where things were abundant. Those who returned were tested (Neh.

     Verses 42-54. The names of the porters and Nethinim. There were in the
company one hundred and thirty-nine porters. The Nethinim were temple
servants. The word means "given" or "devoted," i.e., to God. We find this
name in only one other passage (1 Chron. 9:2). According to Ezra 8:20 this
order originated with King David. Jewish tradition identifies them with the
Gibeonites, whom Joshua appointed as helpers to the Levites (Josh. 9:3-27).
Whatever their origin, they were devoted servants of God assigned to
certain duties in the temple.

     Verses 55-58. Then comes the record of the children of Solomon's
servants. These with the Nethinim were three hundred and ninety-two.
Nothing certain is known of these additional servants, whose duty seems to
have been similar to that of the Nethinim. Some regard them as the
descendants of the strangers whom Solomon had enlisted in the building of
the temple (1 Kings 5:13).

     Verses 59-63. These verses tell us of the great caution exercised by
the people not to tolerate one in their midst whose origin was in any way
doubtful. They were determined that Israel should be an unmingled Israel.
Therefore they were most careful in examining the genealogies to exclude
all who could not be clearly established as true Israelites, for none but
such should engage in the work. The true family of God was now marked out
and all who could not clearly prove their connection were set aside. There
were six hundred and fifty-two who had joined the company from the
Babylonish places Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan and Immer. They were
the children of Delaiah, of Tobiah and Nekoda. These could not show their
descent. They were allowed to return with the rest, but their names are not
found in Ezra 10:25-43 or in Nehemiah 10:15-28. And also children of
priests sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy,
but they were not found; they were therefore counted as polluted and put
from the priesthood. Tirshatha is the governor (a Persian title meaning
"your severity"); his name was Sheshbazzar, the official title of
Zerubbabel, the prince (chapter 1:8). Nehemiah also had that title (Neh.
8:9). Zerubbabel, the governor, ruled that those uncertified priests should
not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and
Thummim. And how many are there today in the professing Church who are in
the same uncertainty. While making an outward profession, they have no
assurance, they have no clear title and do not know that they belong to the
holy priesthood into which grace brings all who have been born again. The
Church has become a great house (2 Tim. 2:20-21) in which we find the true
children of God and those who are such only in profession. If there is to
be a return from the Babylon which Christendom is today, the same principle
of separation must be maintained. Only those who are born again, who can
"show their father's house," constitute the members of the body of Christ.

     Verses 64-67. The number of the whole congregation was 42,360. There
were also 7,337 servants and maids, among them two hundred singers; the
latter must be distinguished from those mentioned in verses 41 and 70.
Singing was evidently a very prominent occupation on the journey towards
the homeland! Their groans were ended. The captivity was behind and freedom
before. How beautiful the chanting of their great psalms must have been as
they journeyed on. But greater still will be the time when the wandering
remnant, so long scattered among the nations, turns homeward; when through
the coming of their King their groans will end forever, and when they sing
the Hallelujah chorus in the kingdom of righteousness and peace.

     There were likewise 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6,720 asses.

     Verses 68-70. These last verses tell us of what happened when they
came to Jerusalem. They must have sought at once the ruins of the former
temple, for that is the spot they loved. Significant it is that though it
was razed to the ground, it still existed in the mind of God, and also in
the thoughts of the people. It does not say "when they came to the ruins,"
but "when they came to the house of the LORD." And then the hearts of the
fathers were touched, and they gave after their ability unto the treasurer
of the work 61,000 drams of gold and 5,000 pounds of silver and one hundred
priests' garments. They were faithful in their giving, not according to the
Law, the tenth part, but after their ability. And in the New Testament the
rule for the Church as to giving is stated in 1 Cor. 16:2, "Upon the first
day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store as God hath
prospered him."

                                 CHAPTER 3

     1. The altar set up (3:1-3)
     2. The feast of tabernacles celebrated (3:4)
     3. The sacrifices brought (3:5-7)
     4. The foundation of the temple laid (3:8-13)

     Verses 1-3. How long the journey lasted is not stated. The previous
chapter in its close states that all dwelt in their cities--"and all Israel
in their cities." The significant seventh month (Tishri) with its holy
convocation (feast of trumpets, day of atonement and feast of tabernacles)
having come, the remnant gathered "as one man to Jerusalem." It was the
time for such a general gathering, for the feast of trumpets is typical of
the restoration of Israel, a restoration which was not fulfilled in the
return of this remnant; only foreshadowing it. This gathering "as one man
to Jerusalem" reminds us of that other gathering in Jerusalem centuries
later "when they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1) and the
Holy Spirit came down from heaven and all were baptized into one body, the
Church. There is only one body, and all true believers are put into that
body by the same Spirit. This oneness was manifested in the beginning of
the church on earth (Acts 2:41-47; 4:23, 32). While its outward expression
is lost, yet still the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace can be
kept. (Sectarianism is a denial of that unity.) Whenever the Spirit of God
is permitted to manifest His power unhindered among God's people, the
result is always in bringing them together. The Spirit of God never
divides, but unites.

     Then Jeshua the high priest with his brethren priests, also Zerubbabel
and his brethren, built the altar of the God of Israel, to be enabled to
bring the burnt offerings as commanded in the law. Obedience to the Word of
God was their first concern. Fear was also upon them because of the people
of those countries, therefore they felt the need of protection. They knew
Jehovah is the Shield and the Refuge of His trusting people. First they
were obedient to His Word by setting up the altar for worship and approach
to God in the appointed way, and then they trusted Him that He would keep
them in the midst of their enemies. The altar and the burnt offerings
morning and evening are typical of Christ, who is the altar and the burnt
offering. Whenever the Spirit of God sends a true recovery and revival He
will make the Lord Jesus Christ and His blessed finished work the first
thing. He leads His people together, and then in true worship around the
Person of the Lord. This worship centers for the true Church in the Lord's
Supper, that precious feast of remembrance.

     Verse 4. Next they kept the feast of tabernacles--as it is written
(Lev. 23:33-36). They manifested a holy zeal in rendering a complete
obedience to the law of their fathers. The feast of tabernacles typifies
the consummation when the kingdom has come and the full harvest. Another
remnant of Israel will return in the future, under different circumstances,
and then when Messiah, the King, is in the midst of His people, the feast
will find its fulfillment. We learn from this how exact the returned exiles
were to be in obedience to the Word of God. Without having the house to
worship in, destitute of almost everything, they earnestly tried to please
God by leaving the ways of Babylon and submitting to the Word of God. This
is another mark of the power and energy of the Spirit of God in His
gracious work or recovery; He leads back to the Word of God and gives power
to walk in obedience.

     Verses 5-7. It was a complete return to the law of God. Continual
burnt offerings were offered, new moons and the set feasts of Jehovah were
kept. Then the spirit of sacrifice was also manifested--they offered a
free-will offering unto the LORD. And though the foundation of the temple
was not yet laid, they gave money to the masons and to the carpenters in
anticipation of the laying of the foundation and building of the temple.
Meat, drink and oil were given to them of Zidon and Tyre, to bring cedar
trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa. Permission had been given to do
this by King Cyrus.

     Verses 8-13. We doubt not that their faith also was tested in the
beginning, for nine months passed by before the work began. It was in the
second month of the second year after their arrival in Jerusalem, when the
Levites from twenty years and upward were appointed by Zerubbabel and
Jeshua "to set forward the work of the house of the LORD." The leaders were
foremost in the work, and associated the people with themselves in the
blessed enterprise. They were "laborers together" (1 Cor. 3:9). They took
hold of the work in earnest. The order in this chapter is the building of
the altar-worship; obedience to the Word of God, and then whole-souled and
united service for the Lord. This is the order still for God's people. And
in that work God's order was not ignored but conscientiously followed, for
the Levites are mentioned first (Numbers 4; 1 Chron. 23:24). In all things
they adhered strictly to the Word of God. And when the work was actually
begun a holy enthusiasm took hold of them, and all the people praised the
LORD with a great shout. It was a great celebration, led by the priests in
their apparel, with trumpets. Next came the sons of Asaph with cymbals.
Their praise was after the ordinance of David, King of Israel. They sang
together by courses in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD "because He
is good, for His mercy endureth forever toward Israel." Then all the people
shouted with a great shout. The Spirit of praise took hold upon their
hearts. They celebrated the goodness and mercy of Jehovah towards His
people, which are endless. But there were also tears. The old men, Priests
and Levites, and others who still remembered the Solomonic temple in its
great beauty, wept with a loud voice; while others shouted aloud for joy.
The voice of the shouting and of the weeping was so mingled together that
it could not be discerned. The tears were occasioned by remembering the
glories of the former days, which had passed away.

     Joy was in His presence and acceptable. Tears confessed the truth and
testified a just sense of what God had been for His people, and of the
blessing they had once enjoyed under His hand. Tears recognized, alas! that
which the people of God had been for God; and these tears were acceptable
to Him. The weeping could not be discerned from the shout of joy; this was
a truthful result, natural and sad, yet becoming in the presence of God.
For He rejoices in the joy of His people, and He understands their tears.
It was, indeed, a true expression of the state of things (Synopsis of the

     And when we too remember the former things and present conditions in
the ruin and confusion all around us in that which professes His Name, we
also weep. And yet we shout and praise Him when we remember His mercy,
which endureth forever.

                                 CHAPTER 4

     1. The offer of the Samaritans refused (4:1-6)
     2. The letter to King Artaxerxes (4:7-16)
     3. The king's reply (4:17-22)
     4. The work is stopped (4:23-24)

     Verses 1-6. The adversaries were the Samaritans. (There is an
interesting correspondence with the book of Acts. After the Spirit of God
had begun His blessed work, the enemy from without and then within started
his hindering work.) They had watched silently the work of restoration and
then appeared before Zerubbabel and the chief of the fathers and said unto
them, "Let us build with you, for we seek your God, as ye do, and we do
sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esar-haddon, King of Assur, who
brought us up hither." These words revealed their true origin. They were a
mongrel race settled by heathen kings in the conquered territory of the
house of Israel, the ten tribes. We find the history relating to them in 2
Kings 17:24. The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, Cuthah, Ara,
Hamath, and Sepharvaim and colonized them in Samaria. They were a wicked
lot, and the LORD punished them by sending lions in their midst. Then they
appealed to the Assyrian king and expressed a desire to get acquainted with
the "manner of the God in the land." Priests of Jeroboam, who were
captives, were then sent to them. One of these priests taught them in
Beth-el the corrupt worship which had been the downfall of the ten tribes.
The result was "they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the
lowest of them priests of the high places." They served their own idols at
the same time. The record saith, "Unto this day they do after the former
manners, they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or
after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD
commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel." These Assyrians
married Israelitish women who had been left in the land. (In the British
Museum is a cylinder containing the annals of Esar-haddon, giving the
deportation of the Israelites and the settlement of colonists in their
place.) These corrupt people with their well sounding words remind us of
the Gibeonites in Joshua's day. They illustrate the wiles of the devil. The
leaders of the remnant refused them participation in the building of the
house of the LORD. They realized that they were a separated people and to
permit these Samaritans to come in would have been disobedience to the Word
of God, bringing His displeasure upon them. If they had been permitted to
link themselves with the people of God, corruption and disaster would have
been the result. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua endowed with divine wisdom knew
that they were adversaries and had no call and no right to engage in the
work of the LORD. It was a decisive reply they received. "Ye have nothing
to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together
will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the King of Persia,
hath commanded us." At once they were unmasked. They turned against them,
molested them, and hired counsellors against them to frustrate their
purpose. They also wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and
Jerusalem. The Hebrew word (used only in this passage) is "sitnah," cognate
with the noun "Satan." Satan was the power behind these Samaritans and
their efforts to hinder the work. Their method was Satan's method. These
Samaritans may well be compared with the large masses in Christendom who
have a form of godliness and deny the power thereof. Like the Samaritans
the unsaved multitudes in professing Christendom pretend to serve the Lord,
but they are the enemies of the Cross, and their belly is their god, they
mind earthly things. The New Testament demands separation from such (2 Cor.
6:14-18; 2 Tim. 3:5; 2 John 11). Fellowship with them is disastrous, for
they are only natural men, not having the Spirit and are therefore unfit
for Christian fellowship, for they are serving the world and its god.

     Verses 7-16. Bishlam, Mithredath and Tabeel, Persians, and officials
of the government, probably closely identified with the Samaritans and
residents of Jerusalem, wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes. (Ahasuerus is a
regal title, meaning "the venerable king"; Artaxerxes also is such a title,
meaning "the great king.") With the eighth verse begins an Aramaic section
of the book, which extends to chapter 6:18. The Syrian tongue was Aramaic.
The letter is a very cunningly devised document, full of misrepresentation
and falsehood, inspired by him who is "the liar, and the father of it."
They accused the Jews of building Jerusalem and setting up the wall. This
was a falsehood, for only the house was being built and not the wall or the
city. What they said about the city, its former character of rebellion, was
true, and the accuser made use of the past sins of the nation. But God had
again been gracious to His people and turned their captivity. Reminding the
king of the possible danger if the city were built again and fortified by a
wall; and the loss of revenue, they inspired fear in the king's heart. The
same accuser of the brethren, liar and falsifier, who stood behind these
letter writers, is still at work and will continue till he is cast out
(Rev. 12).

     Verses 17-22. The king received the letter and instituted a search
into the former history of Jerusalem, which verified what the letter
claimed, and he commanded at once that the city should not be built. The
falsehood that they were building the city and the wall was not discovered.
The enemy was successful. Yet a faithful God watched over it all.

     Verses 23-24. We can well imagine that when the letter was read before
Rehum and Shimshai and their companions, with what a feverish haste they
must have rushed up to Jerusalem, and made them cease from the work by
force and power. "Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at
Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius, King
of Persia." The remnant was severely tested, and at that time there set in
a decline. The former energy seems to have left them, as we find when we
consider Haggai's message. Nor do we read anything at the close of this
chapter about turning to the LORD in prayer.

                                 CHAPTER 5

     1. The prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah (5: 1)
     2. The result of their ministry (5:2)
     3. Tatnai's interference (5:3-5)
     4. The letter to Darius (5:6-17)

     Verse 1. At that critical time when the enemy seemed to have
triumphed, and they were losing their interest, God graciously intervened
by sending them His two messengers the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Their
great prophetic messages will be more fully taken up in our annotations on
the books which contain their prophecies. The voice of prophecy is always
heard when the people of God are in decline. The greatest prophets appeared
at the darkest period of Israel--Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Daniel. Two months before Zechariah began his prophetic ministry Haggai
lifted up his voice and addressed Zerubbabel and Joshua (Jeshua). It was
the Word of the LORD which he communicated to the princely and priestly
leaders of the people. This first message gives an interesting light upon
the situation of the remnant. (Read Haggai 1.) The people were saying "The
time is not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built." This
they must have said on account of their enemies; they were waiting for a
more providential time, when they could pursue the building of the house.
The next words of Haggai reveal the moral condition of the people: "is it
time for you, O ye, to dwell in ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?"
Then the exhortation, "Consider your ways." From these words we learn that
they had settled down in comfort and were more occupied with building
themselves houses than with finishing the house of the Lord. And God had
dealt with them for this neglect; they had suffered on account of it (Hag.

     Verse 2. When the burning message of Haggai was delivered the LORD
revived them again. They arose from their state of apathy and began to
build the house of the LORD, the prophets of God helping them. The book of
Haggai tells us that they all obeyed the voice of the LORD their God ...
and the people did fear before the LORD. No sooner had they obeyed and
feared the LORD than another message came through the prophet: "I am with
you, saith the LORD." They no longer feared their enemies, nor the King's
command, but they feared the LORD, and at once the work was vigorously
resumed and the house finished (6:15). The Word of the LORD was used in
their revival. Every true and genuine revival always started and always
will start with the Word of God, hearing and believing what God has spoken.

     Verses 3-5. This new start attracted at once the attention of their
enemies. Tatnai, governor on this side of the river and Shethar-boznai with
their companions appeared on the scene. (In cuneiform tablets of the first
and third years of Darius Hystaspis, a governor Ustnai is mentioned. He is
described in Assyrian as the governor of the province.) They asked the
questions, "Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up the
wall? What are the names of the men that make this building?" ("We" in
verse 4 is "they," Tatnai and his companions, See verse 10.) Thus the enemy
made another effort to hinder the work. He never fails to attack that which
is done to the glory of God. But these enemies did not reckon with the
Keeper of Israel who neither sleeps nor slumbers. Little did they know that
what they were doing would lead to victory for God's people and would
result in finishing the house of God. The eye of God was upon the elders of
the Jews. He gave them strength, courage and assurance, so that they could
persevere in the work. God was with them, and who then could be against
them? God restrained Tatnai from giving order to suspend the work, so that
they worked right on. Blessed are all the servants of the LORD who toil in
the fear of the LORD, knowing that His eye is upon them and that He
sustains all who put their trust in Him.

     Verses 6-17. Then Tatnai and his associates sent a letter to King
Darius, which gives the unreported details of their visit to Jerusalem. The
letter tells us that the house was built with great stones and timber in
the walls, and that all prospered in their hands. Zerubbabel and his
companions had answered the inquiries to Tatnai as follows: "We are the
servants of the God of heaven and earth." Thus they gave a witness of
themselves and then related what had taken place, and how Cyrus had made
the decree to build the house of God. The letter stated that Sheshbazzar
(Zerubbabel) had laid the foundation and that the house was still
unfinished. Then follows the request: "Now, therefore, if it seem good to
the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which is
there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the
King to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his
pleasure to us concerning the matter." The builders must have had perfect
peace about this letter, knowing that the LORD was with them.

                                 CHAPTER 6

     1. The search of the king and the result (6:1-5)
     2. The command of Darius (6:6-12)
     3. The king's command obeyed (6:13)
     4. The house finished (6:14-15)
     5. The dedication of the house (6:16-18)
     6. The feast of Passover and unleavened bread (6:19-22)

     Verses 1-5. King Darius had a search made in the place where the
records of the empire were kept, "in the house of the rolls." The word
"rolls" is "books" and these consisted of clay tablets on which the
cuneiform inscriptions were preserved. Neither the Aramaic nor the Hebrew
language has a word for clay tablets. Whole libraries of such clay tablets
were found at Nineveh and elsewhere, and can now be seen in different
museums. The searchers found the desired record at Achmetha (the Ecbatana
of Greek writers, the capital city of Media, which is the modern Hamadan).
Divine providence had preserved this interesting command of Cyrus, and the
same providence guided the searchers to the place where it was kept. From
it we learn interesting details. Cyrus gave instructions concerning the
foundations, the height and the breadth of the building, the expenses were
to be met from the King's house, i.e., the royal treasure house. Persian
Kings controlled the religious affairs of the nation; but Cyrus acted under
divine guidance of the LORD (1:1).

     Verses 6-12. Darius answered the communication of Tatnai and
Shethar-boznai at once. He commands, "Be ye far from hence," do not hinder
the work, let the work of this house of God alone. And furthermore he
directed that the Jews were to be assisted in the building of the house by
the paying of the expenses. Darius was anxious that the house should be
built and speedily completed. The material mentioned was for the sacrifices
and offerings. Young bullocks, rams and lambs for the burnt offerings.
Wheat, oil and salt for the meal offering, and wine for the drink offering.
All these things were to be given to the priests without fail day by day.
"That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savour unto the God of heaven, and
pray for the life of the King and of his sons." God was working again, and
used Darius as His instrument for the accomplishment of His own purposes.
All the enemy was doing to hinder the work turned out to its furtherance.
How often this has been in the history of Israel and the Church. The decree
of Darius demanded the death penalty for all who altered the command he had
given. "And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all
kings and peoples that shall put their hand to alter and to destroy this
house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be
done with speed." These words warrant a belief that Darius had knowledge of
the God of heaven. The events which transpired during the reign of
Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian Empire, when Daniel was there, as well as
the things which happened under the reign of the other Darius (Daniel 6)
may have been fully known to Darius Hystaspis who gave this decree. And
solemn were his words that God would destroy all kings and people who alter
or destroy this house of God. How this came repeatedly to pass history
tells us. (Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod and the Romans defiled and destroyed
the house, and God's wrath came upon them for it.)

     Verse 13. What Darius commanded was speedily done. All opposition
ended and the enemies were completely defeated. God had undertaken in
behalf of His trusting people, whose faith had been revived through the
messages of Haggai and Zechariah.

     Verses 14-15. With revived zeal the elders builded, and they
prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the
son of Iddo. Haggai's ministry stirred up the conscience of the people,
exhorting them to consider their ways, which must have led them to seek His
face. Zechariah is the prophet of glory. The vision of glory, the ultimate
victory of God's people, the coming of the King and setting up of His
kingdom, the future overthrow of all their enemies--this vision of the
coming glory became an inspiration for them. God's people need this twofold
ministry which is so abundantly supplied in the Word of God. They builded
and finished the house according to the commandment of the God of Israel,
and according to the decree of the great Kings Cyrus and Darius. ("And
Artaxerxes, King of Persia," some claim should be omitted from the text.)
The house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in
the sixth year of the reign of Darius the King.

     Verses 16-18. Then the dedication of the house took place. It was a
feast of great joy. "The feast of dedication" which the Jews keep
(Chanukah) does not commemorate the dedication of this house, but the
cleansing of the temple from the defilement of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Tradition claims that Psalms 138, 146, and 148 were composed by Haggai and
Zechariah, and used in the dedication ceremony. But what a contrast with
the magnificent dedication of the Solomonic temple! Here they offered a
hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and for a sin
offering twelve he-goats. At the dedication of the first temple Solomon
offered 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep (2 Chron. 7:7). And the greatest
contrast with Solomon's temple, the glory cloud; the visible sign of
Jehovah's presence which filled the house; was absent. No glory came to
manifest the fact that Jehovah dwelt in the midst of His people. In the
future another temple will stand again in Jerusalem, and into that temple
the glory of the LORD will enter once more (Ezek. 43:1-3). It is the
millennial temple which will be erected by converted Israel after the King
has come back. Of this glorious event Zechariah bore witness: "Sing and
rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst
of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined unto the LORD in
that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of thee,
and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee" (Zech.
2:10-11). These prophetic words were certainly not fulfilled in the
dedication of the second temple, nor have they been fulfilled since.
Perhaps this prophecy was the prophecy of hope and comfort for the godly
then, as well as Haggai's prediction (Hag. 2:7-9). But note well the
obedience to God's Word manifested in the dedication service--"as it is
written in the book of Moses."

     Verses 19-22. The feast of Passover and unleavened bread was kept also
by the children of the captivity. Those who had separated themselves from
the filthiness of the heathen were not proselytes, Gentiles who turned to
Israel; they were Jews who had married heathen women (10:11). They were
true to the written Word. As to the meaning of this feast see our
annotations on Exodus 12, Leviticus 23 and 1 Corinthians 5.

     The connection is exceedingly beautiful. The house of their God
finished, His people celebrated the memorial of their redemption from the
land of Egypt, and thus remind themselves, to the praise of Jehovah, of the
ground on which they stood, and of the fact that the foundation of all
their blessing, of all God's actings in grace towards them was the blood of
the slain Lamb. This, according to the word of Moses, was "a night to be
much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt:
this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel
in their generations" (Exodus 12:42). Nothing could show more distinctly
that these children of the captivity were at this moment in possession of
the mind of the LORD than their observance of the Passover. Passing by the
glories of the kingdom, they travelled upward until they reached the
charter of all they possessed, whether in title or in prospect, and there
confessed God as the God of their salvation. They thus built on what God
was for them on the ground of the blood of the Passover lamb, and they
found in that, as individual souls ever find, a rock which is both
immutable and immovable. Their hearts were in this feast; "for," as we
read, "the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were
pure." (See Numbers 9:10-14.) They discerned what was due to Him whose
feast they kept (E. Dermett).


                                 CHAPTER 7

     1. The journey of Ezra to Jerusalem (7:1-10)
     2. The decree of Artaxerxes (7:11-26)
     3. Ezra's thanksgiving (7:27-28)

     Verses 1-10. The record of the return under Zerubbabel and the
rebuilding of the temple ends with the previous chapter. Many years passed
after the temple had been built before the godly Ezra and his companions
returned to Jerusalem. No record whatever is in existence covering the
years which intervened between Zerubabbel's expedition and work, and Ezra's
expedition. The critics claim that "it was in these apparently barren years
that the priestly code was elaborated by the priests who had not left
Babylon, and that part at least of the second half of Isaiah (chapter 40,
etc.) was composed and put together in Babylon." But what historical
foundation for their theory can they offer? There is nothing in existence
which in any way warrants such claims. The evidence that Moses wrote the
Pentateuch and that Isaiah is the author of the entire book which bears his
name is overwhelming. The theory of a priestly code, that the priestly laws
of Leviticus were collected in Babylon and brought back by Ezra, is an

     What became of Zerubbabel is not known. But we know that a sad decline
among the returned remnant set in. Their moral and religious condition had
suffered a severe relapse. Perhaps these very conditions moved Ezra to
leave Babylon and go to Jerusalem.

     It was in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, that Ezra
went up. The genealogy of Ezra is given, showing that he was a direct
descendant of Aaron, the chief priest. Ezra was "a ready scribe in the law
of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given." A blessed testimony that
the Law of Moses was given by God, and not put together piece-meal,
corrected, revised and added to by different hands. Ezra, occupied with the
Law and the Word of God, desired to go up to Jerusalem. God put it into his
heart, and the Gentile King granted him all his request. In all this the
hand of the Lord is acknowledged. "According to the hand of the Lord his
God upon him." This phrase we meet a number of times (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22,
31); and it shows how this man of God trusted in the LORD for guidance. He
saw His hand in having all his request granted by Artaxerxes. It was the
good hand of God who brought him to Jerusalem (7:9). His hand strengthened
him (7:28). The good hand of the LORD is again acknowledged in bringing
them ministers (8:18) and in deliverance (8:31). The same hand which was
for good upon Ezra, which guided, kept and shielded him, is still upon all
His people who trust Him and are obedient to His Word. (The character of
our work forbids an attempt to enlarge upon the identity of the different
rulers mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah--which is a difficult matter,
involving a careful examination of chronology. We suggest a good book on
chronology The Romance of Bible Chronology, by M. Anstey.)

     With Ezra a company of people went up to Jerusalem, 1,496 in all. They
left on the first day of the first month, and arrived on the first day of
the fifth month, corresponding to the end of July or beginning of August.
The distance they travelled by way of Carchemish was over 800 miles.

     In verse 10 we have the secret of Ezra's piety: "For Ezra had prepared
his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel
statutes and judgments." Diligently and prayerfully he sought the truth and
the will of God in the Word of God. The law of the LORD was his joy and
delight. How he must have searched the Scriptures with deep exercise of
soul. This is the foundation of godliness. The heart must enter into the
things of God as revealed in His Word. And his aim was "to do it;" to live
according to the truth God had given him. Finally, the third desire of Ezra
was "to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." Heart preparation in the
Word, obedience to the word, must be the marks of the true servant of the

     Verses 11-26. The copy of the letter that Artaxerxes gave to Ezra is
now recorded. This section is again in Aramaic. In the salutation of the
letter Artaxerxes calls himself "king of kings" and addresses Ezra as the
scribe of the law of the God of heaven. There can be no question that
Artaxerxes was divinely moved in all he did. The decree states that all
Israelites, priests and Levites in his realm who are minded of their own
free will to go up to Jerusalem, may go with Ezra. The name of God, the law
of God, the house of God are constantly used in this document. Then the
King and his seven counsellors freely gave silver and gold "unto the God of
Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem." In a future day, when all Israel
is saved, when Christ comes again, the Gentiles and their kings will offer
their silver and gold (Isaiah 60; Ps. 62:10-11). Besides the silver and
gold Artaxerxes and his counsellors gave, there were other offerings of
non-Jews and of the Jewish residents of Babylon. The king had perfect
confidence in Ezra. After buying bullocks, rams, lambs, etc., the king
wrote, "And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do
with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your

     Verses 27-28. Then Ezra broke out in a beautiful doxology. He blessed
the LORD God of his fathers. He had put all this in the King's heart. And
Ezra was strengthened as the hand of the LORD His God was upon him.

                                 CHAPTER 8

     1. Those who returned with Ezra (8:1-14)
     2. The gathering at Ahava (8:15-20)
     3. The fast proclaimed (8:21-23)
     4. The appointment of guardians (8:24-30)
     5. The departure and arrival in Jerusalem (8:31-36)

     Verses 1-14. The names of those who gathered around Ezra and went up
with him are here recorded. In view of the magnificent decree and
liberality of Artaxerxes, the company was very small. The majority
preferred Babylon, and remained there. The faithful ones are known to God,
and their names are here forever written in His Word. Though the Gentile
monarch had given the decree, and the people were abundantly supplied with
all necessary means, the undertaking was one of faith. They came out of
Babylon trusting the LORD; they marched on in faith. It must be especially
noticed that only males are mentioned. The mixed marriages of which we read
in the next chapter most likely were the result of the fact that no women
had joined Ezra's expedition.

     Verses 15-20. Ezra gathered them together at the river that runneth to
Ahava, which probably was a branch of the Euphrates, near Babylon. There
they dwelt in their tents for three days. They were pilgrims and strangers,
and had gone forth like Abraham, the father of the nation. Ezra viewed the
people and discovered the absence of the Levites. While a small number of
Levites had gone up with Zerubbabel, none had joined Ezra. Only two priests
were present, Gershon, son of Phinehas, and Daniel, son of Ithamar. What
indifference this reveals! They had settled down in the enemy's land and
were satisfied to remain there. They were minding earthly things, and the
things of God were forgotten by them. Still they were Levites in their holy
calling. It is so today with many who are no doubt saved, but they are
worldly-minded, and have but little desire to live in the separation
demanded by Him from His people. Ezra was not willing to leave the Levites
behind, knowing how absolutely necessary they were for the house of God.
How Ezra must have looked to God! Then he acted, and through the good hand
of God, which he once more acknowledged, a number of Levites and Nethinim
joined the party.

     Verses 21-23. He proclaimed a fast. The man of God felt the need of
seeking God's face and His gracious protection. The fasting was the outward
sign of deep humiliation and an expression of their dependence, "to seek of
Him a straight way, for us and for our little ones, and for all our
substance." The need of guidance as well as protection was fully recognized
by the gathered company, and they trusted the LORD for both. This is still
the blessed way of faith for God's servant, and for the children of God.
How great would be the success and the blessing if at all times and in all
service God's people would first seek His face, humble themselves in His
presence and trust Him fully. Ezra had told the king that he trusted the
LORD, that His hand is upon all them for good that seek Him, and so he was
ashamed to ask a military escort to protect them against robbers, who might
waylay them and rob them of their possessions. He knew His God was the best
shield, and His angels, the ministers used in guarding His people and
keeping evil away from them, would be the unseen companions of the caravan.
"So we fasted and besought our God for this, and He was entreated of us."
Their prayers were answered. And He still answers faith.

     Verses 24-30. Faith in God did not make Ezra careless. He felt his
great responsibility and made the most careful preparations. He set apart
twelve of the chief priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their
brethren with them. Levites were also selected by him (8:30). To their
custody he committed the holy vessels, as well as the silver and the gold
which had been so freely given. Then he gave them the charge, "Ye are holy
unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also and the silver and gold are a
freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers. Watch ye and keep
them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and Levites, and
chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house
of the LORD." He had weighed into their hand 650 talents of silver (about
$1,250,000) and of gold 100 talents (about $3,000,000) besides the costly
vessels of silver and gold. This careful weighing of everything when they
received the costly treasures, and the weighing when they delivered the
same in Jerusalem, does not mean that Ezra entertained any doubt as to the
honesty of the priests and Levites. It was done to avoid all suspicion. The
same principle is laid down in the New Testament for the Church: "Provide
for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight
of men" (2 Cor. 8:21).

     Verses 31-36. Then the departure was made on the twelfth day of the
first month. In faith and complete dependence on God they set out towards
the land of their fathers. And the LORD honored their faith. "And the hand
of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and
of such as lay in wait by the way. And we came to Jerusalem, and abode
there three days." They must have had many narrow escapes, but as they
constantly trusted in the LORD, in His good hand of mercy and power, He
delivered them from all dangers. The LORD who answered their faith and kept
them is the same today, and never disappoints faith. His hand is the same
as then, and we too can experience His gracious deliverance. The journey
occupied not quite four months. The three days at the end of the journey
correspond to the three days before the journey began at the river Ahava.
(8:15). What praise they must have rendered to God during these three days
in Jerusalem, when their eyes beheld once more the beloved city and the
house of the LORD!

     on the fourth day the treasures were turned over and were weighed in
the house of God. This was done by Meremoth, the son of Uriah, the priest.
He is mentioned by Nehemiah as one of the builders of the wall (Neh. 3:4,
21). With him was Eleazar, the son of Phinehas. Associated with them were
Jozabad, the son of Jeshua (mentioned also in 10:23 and Neh. 7:7) and
Noadiah, the son of Binnui. Thus in the house of God account was rendered,
as all His people will have to give an account before the judgment seat of

     Burnt offerings were then offered, twelve bullocks for all Israel,
ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs and twelve he-goats for a sin
offering. It is especially to be noticed that the small remnant which had
returned embraced in their faith all Israel. "All Israel" will some day be
saved and be brought back to the land, through Him who is the true burnt
and sin offering. And as their faith included all their brethren, the whole
house of Israel, though they were not with them, so our faith must include
all the saints of God.

     After having discharged their solemn obligation, giving God the first
place, they "delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants,
and to the governors on this side of the river; and they furthered the
people and the house of God."

                                 CHAPTER 9

     1. Ezra's astonishment and grief (9:1-4)
     2. Ezra's confession and prayer (9:5-15)

     Verses 1-4. When all these things had been done (that are related in
chapter 8:33-36) Ezra was confronted by a very sad condition of the people,
and even the priests and the Levites. The princes (civil leaders) came to
Ezra and told him that the demanded separation according to the law,
between God's people and the Canaanitish inhabitants of the land, had not
been obeyed. The people had taken of their daughters for themselves and of
their sons "so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people
of the lands; yea the hand of the princes and rulers hath been first in
this trespass." Not alone had they intermarried, but they were also doing
according to their abominations. Not alone had they fallen into the evil
things of the former inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, but they were
also contaminated with the wicked things of the Ammonites, the Moabites,
the Egyptians and the Amorites. In doing this they had wilfully broken the
command of the Lord as given in Exodus 34:12-16. God's people were to be
holy, a separated people. Israel was married unto Jehovah; their marriage
to the heathen was disobedience to the law and unfaithfulness to Jehovah.
It was an alliance with the world. God demanded separation of Israel; He
demands the same of His people in the New Testament. "But as He who hath
called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it
is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16). Like Israel,
believers in the New Testament are said to be married unto Christ (Romans
7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2). And therefore God's Spirit warns against alliance with
the world. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor.
6:14). "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1
John 2:15). "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the
friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a
friend of the world, maketh himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). That the
returned remnant, after a few years of the completion of the temple and
after the gracious and remarkable deliverance from Babylon, could plunge
into such depths of degradation, shows what the heart of man is. As it has
been said, when saints fall into sin, it is sometimes into worse and
grosser forms of sin than those committed by the people of the world. It
equally manifests the infinite patience and long-suffering of God, in
bearing with His people and not dealing with them at once in judgment.

     Let us listen to the words of pious Ezra, what he said and did after
receiving this sad report. "And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment
and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat
down astonished. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the
words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had
been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice." He
was seized with horror. The rending of his garments was the outward
expression of his indignation and grief (Gen. 37:29; Lev. 10:6; Judges
11:35; Esther 4:1). The plucking of the hair is also a sign of sorrow (Job
1:20; Ezek. 7:18). But how his heart must have felt the dishonor done to
Jehovah's holy Name! How he was deeply affected by the sins of the people.
Would to God such a spirit of deep grief and humiliation were more
manifested today over the sad and worldly conditions of those who profess
that worthy Name! His grief and sorrow brought others, who were also
trembling at the words of God, to his side, and he sat in their presence
astonished till the evening sacrifice.

     Verses 5-15. When the evening sacrifice came he arose from his deep
affliction and sorrow, with his garments rent. It is the sacrifice, the
burnt offering, which leads him to approach God; he trusted in the efficacy
of the sacrifice as the ground on which he could appear before God. He knew
by sacrifice he could come near to God and receive the answer. All this
blessedly foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ and our approach to God
through His finished work on the cross. The prayer which follows is like
Daniel's great prayer (Daniel 9:4-19). Daniel also received his answer at
the time of the evening sacrifice. Ezra fell upon his knees and spread out
his hands unto the LORD. What a confession of sins and deepest humiliation
breathe in the opening sentences of this remarkable prayer! He is ashamed
and blushes to lift his face up to God. Iniquities are owned as covering
the head of the people and "the guiltiness is grown unto the heavens." Not
alone is the present guilt acknowledged, but he owns the guilt of the
nation from its very start. Furthermore he declares God's righteousness and
justice in dealing with them in judgment. "For our iniquities have we, our
kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hands of the kings of the
lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to spoiling, and to confusion of
face, as it is today." He confessed the sins of the people and owned it all
in His presence. Such humiliation and confession is always pleasing to God,
for "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James

     Then, after having confessed and owned the sins of his brethren and
justified God in His judgment upon them, he mentions the grace which had
been manifested towards the people in bringing back the remnant from the
captivity. The remnant through His mercy had escaped, and God had given
them "a nail in His holy place" (Isaiah 22:23). Like a nail in the wall
fixed and immovable, so God had established them in Jerusalem. And after
the recital of all these mercies, he brings into the light of God's
presence their sin, their disobedience and ingratitude once more (9:10-12).

     It should also be observed that Ezra does not once pray for
forgiveness. Nay, with any intelligence of the mind of God, it was
impossible that he should do so. When there is known evil in our hearts or
in the assembly, our first responsibility is to judge it, not to pray for
forgiveness. Thus, when Joshua lay on his face before the LORD, after the
defeat of Israel by the men of Ai, the LORD said, "Get thee up; wherefore
liest thou thus upon thy face?" Israel hath sinned," etc. And yet how often
does Satan beguile the LORD's people, in a time of manifested evil, by
suggesting through one or another, Let us pray about it. Confess our sins
we surely should, but even then only as seeking grace and strength to deal
with the evil, and to separate ourselves from it; for if Ezra lay before
the LORD in this chapter owning his people's guilt, we shall see him in the
next energetic in dealing with the sin he had confessed, and resting not
until it had been put away. (E. Dennett, Exposition of Ezra.)

                                CHAPTER 10

     1. The effect of Ezra's prayer on the people (10:1-4)
     2. Ezra summons an assembly (10:5-8)
     3. The gathering, confession and the evil judged (10:9-17)
     4. The register of those who had married strange women (10:18-44)

     Verses 1-4. Ezra's prayer, confession and humiliation were before the
house of the LORD." The people saw his great sorrow and his tears, they
heard his words confessing the nation's sins. It produced a wonderful
effect among the people. "There assembled unto him out of Israel a great
congregation of men and women and children, for the people wept very sore."
Was this great weeping real contrition over their disobedience? or did they
weep in anticipation of the separation from the wives they had taken? No
doubt they thought of what the demanded separation would mean for them; yet
it was an aroused conscience which produced the tears of repentance.

     Schechaniah's voice is heard in behalf of the people. He was a son of
Jehiel. His own father is mentioned among those who had taken strange wives
(10:26). His words then must have condemned his own father. He said, "We
have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people
of the land." He acknowledged the sin of the people violating the direct
commandment of the LORD. But he also had confidence in the mercy of God,
that not all was lost on account of their disobedience, "yet now there is
hope in Israel concerning this thing." Yet this hope and mercy could only
be realized by self-judgment and by putting away all the wives and such as
were born of them. He therefore said, "Let us make a covenant with our God
to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the
counsel of my lord, and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God;
and let it be done according to the law." The law demanded the dismissal of
these wives and children, for they were unclean, and admission into the
congregation of Israel had to be denied to them. How different it is under
grace! In 1 Cor. 7:10, etc., we read what grace has done even for an
unbelieving husband who is sanctified by the believing wife, and the
unbelieving wife who is sanctified by the believing husband, and that their
children are not unclean, but holy.

     Then Schechaniah addressed weeping Ezra: "Arise! for this matter
belongeth unto thee; we also will be with thee; be of good courage and do
it." These words must have dried Ezra's tears, for they evidence the answer
to his humiliation and prayer. Confession, humiliation, self-judgment and
putting away the evil are always the condition of the restoration of God's

     Verses 5-8. Ezra took hold at once. The priests, Levites and all
Israel had to swear that they would act upon this word. But Ezra's grief
was not ended. He arose and went into the chambers of Johanan, the son of
Eliashib. He did not eat bread, nor did he drink water. He still mourned
because of the transgression of the people. God's presence was sought by
this deeply spiritual man of God, and in His holy presence he felt anew the
sin of the people. What deep soul exercise Ezra passed through! This is
what is so sadly lacking in our own days. So many make light of the sin and
worldliness of those who profess the Name of Christ, there is but little
heart searching, true humiliation and self-judgment to be seen. Such is the
spirit of Laodicea.

     A proclamation was then made. The time to act had come. All the
returned captives were to gather themselves together in Jerusalem. It had
to be within three days. Neglect of this commandment meant the confiscation
of their substance and separation from the congregation of Israel.

     Verses 9-17. The great gathering takes place. They all obeyed the
Word. We see them sitting in the wide space before the house of the LORD.
They were a trembling, Lightened company, on account of this matter and
also the great rain, for the cold and rainy season had started in. Ezra
addresses the multitude in simple but firm words. Once more he mentions
their sin and the guilt which rests upon them on account of it. He demands
confession, and separation from the peoples of the land and from the
strange women. There was an immediate response: "As thou hast said
concerning us, so must we do." Then a plan is inaugurated to bring the
separation about in as speedy a manner as possible. What self denial and
heartaches this must have meant! In verse 15 we read of those "who were
employed about this matter." But the translation of this sentence is more
than doubtful. It has been rendered "they stood up against this." If there
was opposition it was not opposition to the separation decree. They
probably opposed the method which had been suggested; they may have
demanded an immediate action.
     Verses 18-44. The examination of the whole matter as agreed upon began
on the first day of the first month (Nisan-March-April), the time of the
New Year, the new beginning according to Exodus 12:1. Then follows the list
of the men who had married the strange women. God's record is again before
us in these names. The names of the priests come first. Theirs was the
greater responsibility and guilt. The sons of Joshua head the list. What an
illustration of what man is, that the sons of the high priest, who, with
Zerubbabel, had been such great instruments of the Lord to lead the first
captives back, should corrupt themselves with these women! They gave their
hand that they would put away their wives, and confessing themselves
guilty, they brought a ram for an offering. In all, seventeen priests were
guilty, and six Levites. The guilty singers and porters are given by name
in verse 24. Then follow eighty-six more names who had all defiled
themselves by strange women.

     Ezra's great work was finished. In Nehemiah we read how he was still
active, ministering to the people in spiritual things, in reading and
expounding the Word of God (Neh. 8:8).

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