Ch. Ezr_7:1-10. A brief Summary of Events
1–5. Ezra’s Genealogy
Now after these things] An interval of 58 years is passed over in silence (516–458). One allusion has already been made to the reign of Xerxes (ch. Ezr_4:6). But with this exception the Compiler apparently found nothing to record of historic importance in the formation of the new religious community at Jerusalem during the period which elapsed between the completion of the Temple and the accession of Artaxerxes. The story of Esther belongs to Xerxes’ reign, which belongs to the chronicles of ‘the Dispersion’. It has no part in the development of the Jewish constitution. ‘Now after these things’. A not infrequent phrase combining connexion (‘now’ or ‘and’) with the previous narrative and statement of indefinite interval. Cf. Gen_15:1; Gen_22:1; Luk_10:1.
in the reign of Artaxerxes] Artaxerxes the son of Xerxes began to reign in 465 b.c.
Ezra, the son of Seraiah &c.] Ezra’s genealogy is here traced back to Aaron.
(a) His immediate connexion with the high-priestly line is through Seraiah. He is therefore here called ‘the son of Seraiah’, although Seraiah was High-priest in the days of king Zedekiah and was slain at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki_25:18-21) in 588 b.c. (i.e. 130 years before). Inasmuch as (1) the High-priest Jeshua (538) is described as the son of Jehozadak, (2) neither of these names occurs in Ezra’s genealogy, (3) Jehozadak was the eldest son of Seraiah (1Ch_6:14) succeeding to the High-priesthood, we conclude that Ezra was descended from a younger son of Seraiah.
(b) In this genealogy 15 names occur between Ezra and Aaron. This is manifestly too small a number for a period of about 1000 years (reckoning 30 years to a generation), especially when we find 26 names recorded between Zerubbabel (who was of the previous generation to that of Ezra) and Nashon, prince of Judah, the contemporary of Aaron, in 1Ch_2:10-15; 1Ch_3:1-19.
Ezra’s genealogy therefore appears here in an abbreviated form. We are enabled in a great measure, if not completely, to fill up its lacunæ by means of (a) Ezra’s genealogy in the parallel passage, 1Es_8:1-2, (b) in 2Es_1:1-3, (c) the genealogy of the High-priests Jehozadak and Seraiah in 1Ch_6:3-15, (d) in 1Ch_9:10-11; Neh_11:11.
The full genealogy then appears as follows:
1 Aaron, 2 Eleazar, 3 Phinehas, 4 Abishua, 5 Bukki, 6 Uzzi, 7 Zerahiah, 8 Meraioth, 9 Amariah, 10 Ahitub, 11 Zadok, 12 Ahimaaz, 13 Azariah, 14 Johanan, 15 Azariah, 16 Amariah, 17 Heli (?), 18 Phinehas (?), 19 Ahiah, 20 Ahitub, 21 Meraioth (see 1Ch_9:11), 22 Zadok, 23 Shallum, Meshullam (1Ch_9:11), 24 Hilkiah, 25 Azariah, 26 Seraiah, 27 son of Seraiah, 28 (?), contemporary with Zerubbabel, 29 father of Ezra, 30 Ezra.
Of these names 9–14 occur in 1 Chron. 6:7–10:21 in 1Ch_9:11: 17, 18, 19 in 2Es_1:2 are doubtful. At least three and possibly four generations must be inserted between Seraiah (died 588) and Ezra (? died circ. 430), the names being here omitted because they were not High-priests.
(c) Why does Ezra’s genealogy appear in this abbreviated form, if the materials of a fuller one were accessible to the compiler of our book in the materials of the book ‘Chronicles’?
(i) Jewish genealogies were often abbreviated by the omission of unimportant or dishonourable names, for the sake of securing a shorter list or an arrangement of names more easily remembered (see Gen_11:13; cf. Luk_3:36 and Mat_1:8).
It is possible that the present genealogy was artificially arranged. By reference to 1Ch_6:10, we find that Azariah (Ezr_7:3) is there specially described as ‘having executed the priest’s office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem’. Azariah’s name therefore represents the age of the foundation of the Temple, just as Aaron’s name represents the foundation of the Levitical system, Ezra’s its reconstitution. It is noteworthy that between Ezra and Azariah there are seven names, between Azariah and Aaron seven names: the first group contains the names of High-priests before the setting up of the Monarchy and before the Temple was built, the second group contains the list of the High-priests during the Monarchy down to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is possible that this twofold arrangement of seven names placed between the two names representative of the foundation and the revival of the Mosaic system, and linked by the name representative of the Temple, may be the explanation of the abbreviation (cf. the threefold grouping by ‘fourteen’ in Mat_1:1-16).
(ii) On the other hand it must be granted that a list containing two trios of Amariah, Ahitub, Zadok, three Azariahs, two Amariahs, and a Meraioth could easily give rise to errors in transcription; a copyist’s eye passing from one similar name or termination to another. It is thus quite possible that after Azariah (No. 15) the copyist accidentally passed on to Meraioth (No. 8) which followed the similarly sounding Amariah.
It is clear from the fewness of the names and from the omission of all names after Seraiah that the genealogy cannot pretend to be complete. The view that the six names (9–14) have accidentally dropped from the text, rests on the omission of the renowned Zadok and Ahimaaz, whose names we should naturally expect to find inserted in a list of Ezra’s forefathers (1Ch_6:8).
Hilkiah] the celebrated High-priest of the reign of Josiah: see 2Ki_22:4, &c.; 2Ch_34:14, &c.
THE GENEALOGY OF EZRA (Ezr_7:1-5). It is plain that this genealogy is incomplete. It gives no more than sixteen generations between Ezra and Aaron, whereas the number of generations between Zerubbabel and Nashon, prince of Judah in Aaron’s time (Num_1:7; Num_2:3), was twenty-six (1Ch_2:10-15; 1Ch_3:5-19), and that between Aaron himself and Eliashib at least as many (1Ch_6:3-15; 1Ch_9:11; Neh_12:10). Six names are omitted between the Azariah and Memioth of verse 3, which will be found in 1Ch_6:7-10; and at least three must be wanting between Ezra himself and Seraiah, who was the great-great-grandfather of Eliashib, Ezra’s contemporary (Neh_3:1; Neh_13:4). The curtailment of genealogies by the omission of names was a common practice of the Jews. A notable instance is the omission of three royal names in St. Matthew’s genealogy of our Lord (Mat_1:8).
The writer makes a marked division between his first and second sections by means of the words, “Now after these things,” which he uses in this place only. The actual interval seems to have been one of between fifty-seven and fifty-eight years, the sixth year of Darius being b.c. 516, and the seventh of Artaxerxes Longimanus b.c. 458. Artaxerxes is in the original “Artakhshata,” which reproduces the Persian Artakhshatra with the change of only one letter. That Longimanus, the grandson of Darius, is meant seems to follow from the fact that Eliashib, the grandson of Jeshua is high priest under him (Neh_3:1).
Darius, correspond to Jeshua,
Xerxes correspond to Joiakim
Artaxerxes correspond to Eliashib
But for this it would be possible to regard the Artaxerxes of Ezra (Ezr_7:1-28.) and Nehemiah as Mnemon. Ezra the son of Seraiah. Probably the great-great-grandson. In the language of the sacred writers, every descendant is a “son,” and every ancestor a “father.” Christ is “the son of David,” and David “the son of Abraham” (Mat_1:1). Joram “begat” Uzziah (Mat_1:8), his great-great-grandson. Jochebed was “the daughter of Levi (Exo_2:1). Ezra omits the names of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who were undistinguished, and claims descent from Seraiah, the last high priest who had ministered in Solomon’s temple (2Ki_25:18). Azariah, the father of Seraiah, does not occur in either Kings or Chronicles; but Hilkiah, Azariah’s father, is no doubt the high priest of Josiah’s time (2Ki_22:4-14; 2Ch_34:14-22, etc.).
ar-taks-ũrk´sēz (Ἀρταξε ́ρξης, Artaxérxēs): Is the Greek and Latin form of one, and perhaps of two or three kings of Persia mentioned in the Old Testament.
(1) All are agreed that the Artaxerxes at whose court Ezra and Nehemiah were officials is Artaxerxes I, the son of Xerxes, commonly called Longimanus, who reigned from 465 to 424 bc. This Artaxerxes was the third son of Xerxes and was raised to the throne by Artabanus, the murderer of Xerxes. Shortly after his accession, Artaxerxes put his older brother Darius to death; and a little later, Artabanus, who perhaps aimed to make himself king, was killed. Hystaspes, the second brother, who seems to have been satrap of Bactria at the time of his father’s death, rebelled, and after two battles was deprived of his power and probably of his life. The reign of Artaxerxes was further disturbed by the revolt of Egypt in 460 bc, and by that of Syria about 448 bc. The Egyptians were assisted by the Athenians, and their rebellion, led by Inarus and Amyrtaeus, was suppressed only after five years of strenuous exertions on the part of the Persians under the command of the great general Megabyzus. After the re-conquest of Egypt, Artaxerxes, fearing that the Athenians would make a permanent subjugation of Cyprus, concluded with them the peace of Callias, by which he retained the island of Cyprus; but agreed to grant freedom to all Greek cities of Asia Minor. Shortly after this Megabyzus led a revolt in Syria and compelled his sovereign to make peace with him on his own terms, and afterward lived and died in high favor with his humiliated king. Zopyrus, the son of Megabyzus at a later time, while satrap of Lycia and Caria, led a rebellion in which he was assisted by the Greeks. It is thought by some that the destruction of Jerusalem which is lamented by Nehemiah occurred during the rebellion of Syria under Megabyzus. Artaxerxes I died in 424 bc, and was succeeded by his son Xerxes II, and later by two other sons, Sogdianus and Ochus, the last of whom assumed the regnal name of Darius, whom the Greeks surnamed Nothus.
(2) Ewald and others have thought that the Artaxerxes of Ezr_4:7 was the pseudo-Smerdis. The principal objection against this view is that we have no evidence that either the pseudo-Smerdis, or the real Smerdis, was ever called Artaxerxes. The real Smerdis is said to have been called Tanyoxares, or according to others Oropastes. Ewald would change the latter to Ortosastes, which closely resembles Artaxerxes, and it must be admitted that many of the Persian kings had two or more names. It seems more probable, however, that Artaxerxes I is the king referred to; and there is little doubt that the identification of the Artaxerxes of Ezr_4:7 with the pseudo-Smerdis would never have been thought of had it not been for the difficulty of explaining the reference to him in this place.
(3) The Greek translation of the Septuagint renders the Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther by Artaxerxes, and is followed in this rendering by Josephus. There is no doubt that by this Artaxerxes Josephus meant the first of that name; for in the Antiquities, XI, vi, 1 he says that “after the death of Xerxes, the kingdom came to be transferred to his son Cyrus, whom the Greeks called Artaxerxes.” He then proceeds to show how he married a Jewish wife, who was herself of the royal family and who is related to have saved the nation of the Jews. In a long chapter, he then gives his account of the story of Vashti, Esther and Mordecai. In spite of this rendering of the Septuagint and Josephus, there is no doubt that the Hebrew ăḥashwērōsh is the same as the Greek Xerxes; and there is no evidence that Artaxerxes I was ever called Xerxes by any of his contemporaries. The reason of the confusion of the names by the Septuagint and Josephus will probably remain forever a mystery.
This portion of the genealogy agrees exactly with that of Jehozadak in 1Ch_6:3-15, excepting in the omission, which has been already noticed, of six names between Azariah and Meraioth. We may gather from 1Ch_9:11 that a Meraioth is also omitted between the Zadok and Ahitub of 1Ch_9:2.
6–10. Arrival at Jerusalem
6. went up from Babylon] i.e. to Jerusalem, cf. Ezr_1:11, Ezr_2:1. It will be observed that this description of Ezra is given in the 3rd person. At Ezr_7:27 there is a change to the 1st person.
and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses] Cf. Ezr_7:10; Ezr_7:12.
‘the scribe’ (Hebr. Sophêr) in the days of the Monarchy was the king’s State Secretary or Chancellor. Cf. Seraiah, the scribe (2Sa_8:17), Sheva, the scribe (2Sa_20:25) = Shavsha (1Ch_18:16): Elihoreph and Ahijah, scribes (1Ki_4:3): Shebna, the scribe (2Ki_18:18, &c.): Shaphan, the scribe (2Ki_22:3). Cf. Gemariah (Jer_36:10), Elishama (Jer_36:12), Jonathan (Jer_37:15).
During the latter days of the Monarchy, the name began to receive a special meaning as applied to those who were occupied in studying and copying the documents containing the sacred laws of the nation, e.g. Jer_8:8 ‘How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes hath wrought falsely’.
After the Captivity, the increased importance of the written law and the necessity of explaining its obligation upon the people brought ‘the scribes’ into great prominence. ‘The scribe’ took the place of the prophet and, in his influence upon his countrymen, eclipsed the priest. The name of Ezra is associated with the development of ‘the scribe’ and he is designated ‘the scribe’ as by an honourable title in Ezr_7:11, and Neh_8:1. He was the typical representative and in a measure the founder of the later type of scribes. Devoted to the minute study of the written law, he sought to expound it to his people and to impress upon them the duty of its rigid observance. (See Introduction.) To the same class perhaps belonged ‘the teachers’ mentioned in Ezr_8:16, and ‘Zadok the scribe’ (Neh_13:13).
The word ‘ready’ is the same as appears elsewhere in the O.T. only in Psa_45:1 ‘a ready writer’. Pro_22:29 ‘diligent in his business’. Isa_16:5 ‘swift to do righteousness’. A ‘ready scribe’ would be one prompt and skilful in interpreting the difficulties of the law. His quickness is the dexterity of his erudition, not of his pen.
the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given] R.V. the Lord the God of Israel, cf. Ezr_1:3. ‘The law of Moses’, see Ezr_3:2, Ezr_6:18, and cf. 1Ki_2:3, 2Ki_14:6; 2Ki_21:8.
The Divine origin of the law is here asserted with reverent emphasis. The expression is well illustrated by Mal_4:4 ‘the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and judgements’ and Neh_8:14 ‘The law which the Lord had commanded by Moses’.
all his request] What the request was, which Ezra preferred to Artaxerxes, we are not told, but are left to gather it from the letter of Artaxerxes (12–26). The word ‘request’ in the Hebrew denotes an eager quest, and occurs elsewhere in the O.T. only in the book of Esther (Ezr_5:3; Ezr_5:7-8, Ezr_7:3, Ezr_9:12).
according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him] This expression is characteristic of the writer. It occurs again Ezr_7:28, with the adjective ‘good’, Ezr_7:9, Ezr_8:18; Neh_2:8; Neh_2:18, and in a slightly different form Ezr_8:22; Ezr_8:31. ‘The hand of the Lord’ denotes the merciful favour, as may be seen from the context here and in Ezr_7:28, even without the addition of the adjective good: cf. ‘the eye of the Lord’, chap. Ezr_5:5. Similar is the phrase in 2Ch_30:12. From that ‘hand’ comes discipline as well as bounty, Job_2:10 ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ Job_19:21 ‘the hand of God hath touched me’. In adversity ‘the hand of the Lord’ is described as ‘against’, not ‘upon’ a person. See Deu_2:15; Rth_1:13.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
This Ezra … was a ready scribe in the law of Moses. The term “scribe” does not mean a penman, nor even an attorney well versant in forms of law, and skilled in the method of preparing public or private deeds. He was a rabbi, or doctor, learned in the Mosaic law, and in all that related to the civil and ecclesiastical polity and customs of the Hebrew people. Scribes of this description possessed great authority and influence (cf. Mat_23:25; Mar_12:28).
The king granted him all his request. Nothing is said as to the ground or channel of Ezra’s influence with the king. But Josephus (‘Antiquities,’ b. 11:, ch. 5:, sec. 1) says that he enjoyed a reputation in society for the integrity and high qualities of his character. He left Babylon entrusted with an important commission to be executed in Jerusalem. The manner in which he obtained this office is minutely related in a subsequent passage. Here it is noticed, but with a pious acknowledgment of the divine grace and goodness which disposed the royal mind in favour of Ezra’s patriotic objects. The Levites, etc. did not go at that time, and are mentioned here by anticipation.
This Ezra went up. See comment on Ezr_2:1, where the same expression ― “went up”—is used. He was a ready scribe in the law of Moses. On the meaning of this phrase, and the new position occupied by “scribes” after the captivity, see ‘Introduction to Ezra,’ § 5. Which the Lord God of Israel had given. It is characteristic of Ezra’s piety never to forget that the law was not a mere human code given by an earthly lawgiver, not even a national treasure, the accumulation of centuries, but a direct Divine gift “the law of the Lord” (verse 10), “the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel” (verse 11), “the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses” (Neh_8:14). According to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. i.e. “by reason of God’s favour to him.” God, by reason of his favour to Ezra, inclined the heart of Artaxerxes towards him, so that he granted all his request. The nature of the “request” is not directly stated, but may be gathered from the “letter of Artaxerxes,” especially verses 13, 14, 16.
The same six classes are here mentioned as furnishing colonists under Ezra which, according to the earlier narrative (Ezr_2:70), had accompanied Zerubbabel. The order in which the classes are mentioned is nearly, but not quite, the same. In the seventh year of Artaxerxes. This is the emphatic clause of the verse; Ezra’s main object in the section being to give the exact date of his journey. As Artaxerxes began to reign in b.c. 464, his seventh year would be b.c. 458.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. Came to Jerusalem in the fifth month – i:e., corresponding to the end of our July or beginning of our August. Since he left Babylon on New Year’s Day (Ezr_7:9), the journey must have occupied not less than four months-a long period; but it was necessary to move at a slow pace, and by short, easy stages, as he had to conduct a large caravan of poor people, including women, children, and all their household gear, (see the note at Ezr_8:1-36.)
And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month. From the ninth verse it appears that the first day of the first month—the opening day of the year—was selected for the commencement of the journey. This was no doubt viewed as an auspicious day for beginning an important undertaking. The time occupied on the way was exactly four months, which is longer than might have been supposed to be necessary. Herodotus reckoned it a three months journey from Sardis to Susa (verse 53), and the younger Cyrus conducted an army from Ephesus to Cunaxa, near Babylon, in ninety- three marching days (Xen, ‘Anab’ 2 1, § 6)—the distance in either case being considerably more than that from Babylon to Jerusalem, even supposing the route followed to have been by Balis and Aleppo. But a caravan, like an army, requires rests; and we hear of one such rest at Ahava (Ezr_8:15). Cyrus gave his troops more days of rest than of movement, and took half the year to reach Cunaxa from Ephesus. We need not be surprised, therefore, that Ezra’s journey occupied four months. Some delay must almost certainly have been caused by the perils of the route (see Ezr_8:31).
began he to go up] R.V. marg. Heb. that was the foundation of the going up. The R.V. and A.V. paraphrase the words.
The Hebrew text is intelligible; but (1) the word as here vocalized is very unusual, (2) the metaphor is ponderous and awkward, (3) the construction, shown in a literal translation “for upon the first day of the first month—that (i.e. that month) was the foundation of the going up from Babylon—and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem”, is almost intolerably involved and harsh, especially as the verb ‘came’ in the latter half of the verse has no subject expressed in the original, and presupposes the mention of a subject in an earlier clause.
The LXX. render “for upon the first day of the first month he (i.e. Ezra) laid the foundation of his going up” (αὐτὸς ἐθεμελίωσε τὴν ἀνάβασιν), treating the word rendered “foundation” as a simple verb (i.e. ‘yasad’ for ‘y‘sϋd’), cf. Vulg. ‘cœpit adscendere’.
Another method of explaining the verse makes Ezra the subject and reads the disputed word as if it were an intensive form (i.e. ‘yissκd’) of the verb “to lay the foundation of”, with the meaning ‘appoint’, as in Est_1:8 “the king had appointed”. This gives a good sense, as follows;
‘On the first day &c. he (i.e. Ezra) had appointed or determined to go up (the going up)’.
The rendezvous apparently took place on the 9th day of the 1st month (Nisan), and the journey did not commence until the 12th day (see chap. Ezr_8:15; Ezr_8:31).
upon the first day of the first month] i.e. 1st of Nisan (= Assyrian Nisanu), part of March and April.
on the first day of the fifth month] The journey lasted throughout 18 days of Nisan, and the three months Iyyar, Sivan, and Tammuz; in all about 108 days. As the crow flies, the distance from Babylon to Jerusalem is over 500 miles. But the road followed by Ezra’s caravan made a long detour by Carchemish so as to avoid the desert, and could hardly have been less than 900 miles. As the march was taken in the height of summer (April–August), the travellers probably moved only in the early morning and at night. A caravan with women and children and household effects would move more slowly than a trained and lightly equipped force. There is nothing therefore in the length of time spent in the march to cause any surprise. See on Ezr_8:32.
according to the good hand of his God &c.] Cf. note on Ezr_7:6.
For Ezra had prepared (R.V. set) his heart &c.] The precise meaning of the ‘for’ which determines the connexion of the verse, is not very evident. The verse either explains the preceding clause and attributes God’s favour towards Ezra during the journey to the latter’s devotion to the Divine Law, or is added as a general comment on the whole preceding section, explanatory of Ezra’s resolve and expedition. Those who take the former view illustrate it by ch. Ezr_8:31-32. But the latter interpretation of the verse is to be preferred. It corresponds better with the somewhat abrupt mention of Ezra’s rule of life. It harmonizes with the description of Ezra’s character. ‘Ezra had set his heart &c.’ That fact lay at the bottom of the religious movement which he set on foot. It explained something very much more than the mere fortunate issue of the journey.
‘Had set his heart’. A not uncommon phrase, cf. 2Ch_12:14; 2Ch_19:3; 2Ch_30:19. In every instance the R.V. has rightly changed ‘prepare his heart’ to ‘set his heart’. The idea of the original is not ‘preparedness for the unforeseen’, but ‘fixity and stability of purpose’. Compare the expression ‘my heart is fixed’ (Psa_57:7; Psa_108:1; Psa_112:7) where the same verb occurs.
to seek the law of the Lord] Cf. Psa_119:45; Psa_119:155; 1Ch_28:8. The search, no mere investigation of the letter, but for the sake of ascertaining the true principles of practical life embodied in the law, cf. 2Ch_14:4 ‘(Asa) commanded Judah to seek the Lord the God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment’.
and to teach] Those principles are self-diffusive, the teaching by example as much as by precept, cf. 2Ch_17:9 ‘And they (the priests) taught in Judah, having the book of the law with them’. Ezra’s purpose to search for truth, to live by it and to teach it his countrymen is an epitome of the ideal scribe’s career. We may compare Act_1:1 ‘All that Jesus began both to do and to teach’.
statutes and judgments] These words in the Hebrew are singular, and are rendered ‘a statute and an ordinance’ in Exo_15:25; Jos_24:25, where they are found together. The singular is generic. The two words are frequently found together in the plural: e.g. Lev_26:46; Deu_4:1; Deu_4:5; Deu_4:8; Deu_4:14; Deu_5:1; Deu_5:31; Deu_11:32; Deu_12:1 &c.; 2Ch_7:17; 2Ch_19:10 and Mal_4:4 ‘statutes and judgments’. ‘Statutes’ are the appointed rules or regulations of conduct or ceremony, ‘judgments’ are the duties and rights determined by equity, authority, or custom. The phrase is however used very generally without any close distinction in the shades of meaning.
III. (Sept. ῎Εσδρας v.r. ῎Εζρα, Josephus ῎Εσδρας,Vulg. Esdras.) The celebrated Jewish scribe (סֹפֵר) and priest (כֹּהֵן), who, in the year B.C. 459, led the second expedition of Jews back from the Babylonian exile into Palestine, and the author of one of the canonical books of Scripture.
1. Parentage. — Ezra was a lineal descendant from Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ezr_7:1-5). He is stated to be the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah; which Seraiah was slain at Riblah by order of Nebuchadnezzar, having been brought thither a captive by Nebuzaradan (2Ki_25:18-21). But, as 130 years elapsed between the death of Seraiah and the departure of Ezra from Babylon, and we read that a grandson of Seraiah was the high-priest who accompanied Zerubbabel on the first return to Jerusalem, seventy years before Ezra returned thither, we may suppose that by the term son here, as in some other places, the relationship of great-grandson, or of a still more remote direct descendant, is intended. All that is really known of Ezra is contained in the last four chapters of the book of Ezra, and in Nehemiah 8 and Neh_12:26. In addition to the information there given, that he was a “scribe,” a “ready scribe of the law of Moses,” “a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and of his statutes to Israel,” “a scribe of the law of the God of heaven,” and “a priest,” we are told by Josephus that he was high-priest of the Jews who were left in Babylon; that he was particularly conversant with the laws of Moses, and was held in universal esteem on account of his righteousness and virtue (Ant. 11:5, 1).
2. Scriptural History. — The rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been decreed by Cyrus in the year B.C. 536, was, aftei much powerful and vex” atious opposition, completed in the reign and by the permission of Darius Hystaspis, in the year B.C. 517.
The origin of Ezra’s influence with the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus does not appear, but in the seventh year of his reign, B.C. 459, in spite of the unfavorable report which had been sent by Rehum and Shimshai, he obtained leave to go to Jerusalem, and to take with him a company of Israelites, together with priests, Levites, singers, porters, and Nethinim. Of these a list, amounting to 1754, is given in Ezra 8; and these, also, doubtless form a part of the full list of the returned captives contained in Nehemiah 7, and in duplicate in Ezra 2. Ezra and his companions were allowed to take with them a large free-will offering of gold and silver, and silver vessels, contributed not only by the Babylonian Jews, but by the king himself and his counselors. These offerings were for the house of God, to beautify it, and for the purchase of bullocks, rams, and the other offerings required for the Temple service. In addition to this, Ezra was empowered to draw upon the king’s treasurers beyond the river for any further supplies he might require; and all priests, Levites, and other ministers of the Temple were exemnpted from taxation. Ezra had also authority given him to appoint magistrates and judges in Judaea, with power of life and death over all offenders. The reason of the interest for the worship of God at this time evinced by Artaxerxes appears to have been a fear of the divine displeasure, for we read in the conclusion of the decree to the treasurers beyond the river, “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?” We are also told (Ezr_7:6) that the king granted Ezra all his request; and Josephus informs us that Ezra, being desirous of going to Jerusalem, requested the king to grant him recommendatory letters to the governor of Syria (Ant. 11:5, 1). We may therefore suppose that the dread which Artaxerxes entertained of the divine judgments was the consequence of the exposition to him by Ezra of the history of the Jewish people. Some writers suppose that this favor shown to the Jews was consequent upon the marriage of Esther with Ahasuerus; but this could not be, even if we should grant, what is unlikely, that the Artaxerxes of the book of Ezra and the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther were the same person, because Ezra set out for Jerusalem in the first month in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, and Esther was not taken into the king’s house until the tenth month in the seventh year of the reign of Ahasuerus, and did not declare her connection with the Jewish people, and obtain favor for them until after the plot of Haman, in the twelfth year of Ahasuerus.
Ezra assembled the Jews who accompanied him on the banks of the river Ahava, where they halted three days in tents. Here Ezra proclaimed a fast, as an act of humiliation before God, and a season of prayer for divine direction and safe conduct; for, on setting out, he “was ashamed to require a band of soldiers and horsemen to help them against the enemy by the way,” because he had asserted to the king that the hand of his God is upon all them that seek him for good. Ezra next committed the care of the treasures which he carried with him to twelve of the chief priests, assisted by ten of their brethren, appointing these to take charge of the treasures by the way, and deliver them safely in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem. On the twelfth day from their first setting out Ezra and his companions left the river Ahava, ant arrived safely at Jerusalem in the fifth month, having been delivered from the hand of the enemy and of such as lay in wait by the way. Three days aftel their arrival the treasures were weighed and delivered hiato the custody of some Levites. The returning exiles offered burnt- offerings to the Lord. They delivered also the king’s commissions to the viceroys and governors, and gave needful help to the people and the ministers of the Temple.
Ezra’s ample commission had been granted him at his own request (Ezr_7:6), and it appears that his great design was to effect a religious reformation among the Palestinian Jews, and to bring them back to the obserrance of the law of Moses, from which they had grievously declined. His first care, accordingly, was to enforce a separation from theirwives of all who had iade heathen marriages, in which number were many priests and Levites, as well ass other Israelites. For this an. opportunity soon presented itself. When he had discharged the various trusts comannitted to him, the parincesa of the Jews came to him and complained that the Jewish people generally who had returned from the captivity, and also the priests and Levites but especially the rulers and princes, had not kept themselves sepapate from the people of the land, but had done according to the abominations of the remhant of the nations whom their forefathers had driven out, and married their daughters and allowed their children to intermarry with them. On this report Ezra evinced his deep affliction, according to the Jewish custom, by rending his mantle and tearing the hair of his head and beard. There gathered round him all those who still feared God, and dreaded his wrath for the transgression of those whom he had brought back from captivity. Having waited till the time of time evening sacrifice, Ezra rose up, and, having again rent his hair and his garments, made public prayer and confession of sin. The assembled people wept bitterly, and Shechaniah, one of the sons of Elam, came forward to propose a general covenant to put away the foreign wives and their children. Ezra then arose and administered an oath to the people that they would do accordingly. Proclamation was also made that all those who had returned from the captivity should within three days gather themselves together to Jerusalem, under pain of excommunication and forfeiture of their goods. The people assembled at the time appointed, trembling on account of their sin and of the heavy rain that fell. Ezra addressed them, declaring to them their sin, and exhorting them to amend their lives by dissolving their illegal connections. The people acknowledged the justice of his rebukes, and promised obedience. They then requested that, as the rain fell heavily, and the number of transgressors was great, he would appoint times at which they might severally come to be examined respecting this matter, accompanied by the judges and elders of every city. A commission emas therefore formed, consisting of Ezra and some others, to investigate the extent of the evil. This investigation occupied three months. Josephus relates the affecting scene which occurred on the reading of the law by Ezra (Ant. 11:5, 5). The account given by Josephus agrees with that of Nehemiah in all leading particulars, except that Josephus places the date and occasion in the reign of Xerxes (Ant. 11:5, 1).
With the detailed account of this important transaction Ezra’s autobiography ends abruptly, and we hear nothing more of him till, rheja- teen was afterwards, in the twentieth of Artaxerses, we find him again at Jerusalem with Nehemiah the “Tirshatha.” B.C. 446. It is generally assumed that Ezra had continued governor till Nehemiah superseded him; but as Ezra’s comemission was only of a temporary nature, “to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezr_7:14), and to carry thither “the silver; and gold which the king and his counselors had freely offered unto the God of Israel” (Ezr_7:15), and as there is no trace whatever of his presence at Jerusalem between the eighth and the twentieth of Artaxerses, it seems probable that after he had effected the above-named reformation, and had appointed competent judges and magistrates, with authority to maintain it, he himself returned to the king of Persia. This is in itself what one would expect, and what is borne out by the parallel case of Nehemiah, and it also accounts for the abrupt termination of Ezra’s narrative, and for that relapse of the Jews into their former irregularities which is apparent in the book of Nehemiah. Such a relapse, and such a state of affairs at Jerusalem in general, could scarcely have occurred if Ezra had continued there. Whether he returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah, or separately, does not appear certainly, but as he is not mentioned in Nehemiah’s narrative till after the completion of the wall (Neh_8:1), it is perhaps probable that he followed the latter some months later, having, perhaps, been sent for to aid him in his work. The functions he executed under Nehemiah’s government were purely of a priestly and ecclesiastical character, such as reading and interpreting the law of Moses to the people during the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles, praying in the congregation, and assisting at the dedication of the wall, and in promoting the religious reformation so happily effected by the Tirshatha. But in such he filled the first place, being repeatedly coupled with Nehemiah the Tiliathba (8:9; 12:26), while Eliashib the high-priest is not mentioned as taking any part in the reformation at all. In the sealing to the covenant described in Nehemiah 10, Ezra perhaps sealed under the patronymic Seraiah or Azariah (Neh_10:2). In Nehemiah we read that, on the occasion of the celebration of feast of the seventh month, subsequently to Nehemiah’s numbering the people, Ezra was requested reading the book of the law of Moses; and that he was herein standing upon a pulpit of wood, which rose him above all the people. As Ezra is not mentioned after Nehemiah’s departure for Babylon in the thirty-second, of Artaxerxes, and as everything fell into confusion during Nehemiah’s absence (Nehemiah 13), it is not unlikely that Ezra may have again returned to Babylon before that year.
Traditionary Acts. — Josephus, who should be our next best authority after Scripture, evidently knew nothing about the time or the place of his death. He vaguely says, “He died an old man, and, was buried in a magnificent manner at Jerusalem” (Ant. 11:5, 5), and places his death in the high-priesthood of Joacim, and before the government of Nehemiah! According to some Jewish chroniclers, he died in the year in which Alexander came to Jerusalem, on the tenth day of the month Tebeth (that is, the lunation in December), in the same yesear in which took place the death of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and in which prophecy became extinct. According to other taditions, Ezra returned to Babylon and died there at the age of 120 years. ‘The Talmudic statement is that he died at Zamzumu, a town on the Tigris, while on his road from Jerusalem to Susa, whither he was going to converse with Artaxerxes about the affairs of the Jews. Thus Benjamin of Tudela says of Nehar- Samorah (apparently Zamuza, otherwise’Zamzumu): “The sepulcher of Ezra the priest and scribe is in this place, where he died on his journey fromr Jerusalem to king Artaxerxes” (Travels, 1:116). A tomb said to be his is siuomin on the Tigris, near its junction with the Euphrates (Layard, Nin. and Bab. page 428, note). An interesting description of this tomb is given by Kitto (Pict. Bible, note at the end of Ezra).
As regards the traditional history of Ezra, it is extremely difficult to judge what portion of it has any historical foundation. The principal works ascribed to him by the Jews, and, on the strength of their testimony, by Christians also, are the following:
(1.) Some traditions assert that Ezra was, about A.M. 0113, the president of the כנסר הגדולה, Synagoga Magna, and the father of all Mishnic doctors. In piety and meekness he was like Moses’ (Yuchasin, page 13. See Zeusach David). When he went from Babylon to Jerusalem, he took with him all persons whose descent was either illegitiemate or unknown, so that the Jews left in Babylon should be נקי כסולתpure like flour (Kiddushin, c. 4, 1, Gem.). Ezra is said to have introduced the present square Hebrew character, and, in conjunction with some other elders, to heave made the Masora (q. .), the punctuation, and accentuation of the whole Bible (Abarbanel, Praefat. ad Nachalath Aboth Elias, Praef. 3 Masor.). Ezra is also said to have vigorously resisted the sect of the Sadducees, which sprang up in his days; and therefore to have put the words העולם עד עולם מןa seculo in seculam, at the head of all prayers, as a symbol by which the orthodox could be distinguished (Blb. Berachoth, fol. 54). Since the people, during the Babylonian captivity or exile, had become accustomed to the Aramaic languages and scarcely understood Hebrew Ezra established the office of turgomtan, תירגמוdragoman, or interpreter, who stood near the public reader in the synagogue, and translated every verse after it weas read (Megillah, fol. 74). Hence he is usually regarded as the founder of the synagogue worship. Ezra ordained that the year of jubilee should be reckoned from the seventh year after the rebuilding of the Temple (Alimnonides, Hal. Jobel. cap. 10).
(2.) Ezra is considered to be the author of the canon, and worthy to have been the lawgiver, if Moses had not preceded him (Bab. Sanhal. c. 2, f. 21 ). He is even said to have rewritten the whole of the Old Testament from memory, the copies of which had perished by neglect. To him is also ascribed the authorship of the hooks of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and, some add, Esther; and, many of the Jews say, also of the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve prophets; to which we may with more probability perhaps add the 119th Psalm. (See each book in its place.) Tischendorf has lately published (Apocalypses Apocrypha, Lips. 1861-3) an editio princeps of the Greek text of an “Apocalypsis Esdem.”
But we must abstain from recounting all the traditional amplifications of the doings of Ezra, since… it would be difficult to say what he did not do so strong has been the inclination to connect important facts with his person (comp. 2 Esdras 14; Irenaeus, adv. Heares. 3:25; Clem. Alexandr. Strom. 1, page 142, Augustin. De Mirabil. Script. 2:23; Jerome, ad Halrid. page 212; Buxtorf Tiberias, page 88 sq, Bertholdt, Einleit. 1:69 sq.; De Wvette, Einleit. 17 sq.; Sauer, Dissert. in canonem Vet. Test. etc., Altorf; 1792; Sanhedrin, fol. 21:1; Rau, De Synag. Magna, pages 31, 89; Hartmann, Verbindung des Altensund Neuen Testamentes, page 114 sq.).