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2. The journey itself ch. 8
This chapter provides more details concerning the events of the return that the writer summarized earlier (Ezra 7:7-9).
The leading men who returned 8:1-14
The descendants of the priestly and royal families in Israel appear first in this list (Ezra 8:2-3). Then the names of the rest of the Jews follow. A comparison of Ezra 8:3-14 with Ezra 2:3-15 shows that Ezra’s companions were mainly the relatives of those Jews who had returned 80 years earlier under Sheshbazzar. The one exception was Joab’s family (Ezra 8:9).
The recruiting of Levites to return 8:15-20
The returnees assembled on the banks of the Ahava waterway that flowed through the district of Babylon that bore the same name. The site is presently unknown.
". . . Babylonia was crisscrossed by a network of irrigation canals that tapped the water of the Euphrates and flowed toward the Tigris, which had a slightly deeper bed." [Note: Vos, p. 65.]
No Levites had volunteered to return to Judah. In view of his plans for the restoration, Ezra needed more Levites than those already in Judah. Due to his recruiting efforts in Casiphia (site unknown, probably a district of Babylon), 38 Levites and 220 temple servants joined the immigrants. One writer estimated the total number of men who returned with Ezra as about 1,700-plus women and children. [Note: Laney, p. 126.] Another calculated the total number of men, women, and children as between 4,000 and 5,000. [Note: Martin, p. 667.]
|Chronology of Ezra 7-10|
|458||1||Ezra led 1,700 men out of Babylon (Ezra 7:1; Ezra 7:8).|
Ezra’s party left the Ahava waterway.
|5||Ezra’s party arrived in Jerusalem.|
Shecaniah proposed a solution to the mixed marriages problem.
|9||The Jews agreed to dissolve their mixed marriages.|
|12||The Jews finally dissolved 113 mixed marriages.|
The immigrants’ spiritual preparation 8:21-23
As is quite clear from these verses, Ezra sensed his great need for God’s help in the dangerous trip that lay before them. This moved him to seek God’s favor in prayer. Ezra 8:21 was the text of John Robinson’s last sermon at Leiden, Netherlands, before the Pilgrims sailed for the New World in 1620. [Note: R. A. Bowman, "The Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah," in The Interpreter’s Bible, 3:632.] Fasting enabled the people to give more time and concentration to their praying (cf. Nehemiah 1:4; Acts 13:3). Fasting facilitates prayer; it does not manipulate God. Ezra’s primary concern, as these verses indicate, was God’s reputation.
"The refusal of an armed escort (historically surprising, given the amount of bullion being transported) brought into play the same providence which was vouchsafed to the ancestors in the wilderness (Ezra 8:22)." [Note: Blenkinsopp, "A Theological . . .," p. 29.]
"It is well to affirm faith, as many Christians do regularly in the creeds. Yet it is salutary to ask whether anything that one ever does actually requires faith." [Note: McConville, p. 58.]
Ezra’s physical preparations 8:24-30
Ezra took special precautions to make sure the expensive temple utensils arrived safely and to guarantee that everyone would perceive that his handling of the precious cargo was completely honest (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:20-21). The Babylonian "talent" (Ezra 8:26) weighed about 66 pounds. The "daric" (Ezra 8:27) was a thick gold Persian coin that weighed 130 grams or about 4 1/2 ounces. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, "Money."] The total weight of the precious cargo the exiles took with them seems to have been about 28 tons. [Note: Myers, pp. 67-68.] There are records that indicate that there were some very wealthy Jews living in Babylon at this time. [Note: See Fensham, The Books . . ., p. 118.]
"Following Ezra’s example, Christian leaders should delegate responsibility. Ezra carefully chose the people to whom he gave responsibility. It may seem exaggerated to have taken such precautions with the money, to weigh it out carefully, to record every detail. However, to do things carefully, with decisions and transactions documented in writing, is a sign of wisdom rather than a lack of confidence. It protects everyone involved. Many present-day scandals could be avoided if Christian leaders would learn from Ezra." [Note: Breneman, p. 143.]
Safe arrival 8:31-36
The exiles had begun their journey on the first day of the first month (Ezra 7:9), but they had camped by the Ahava waterway for 12 days (Ezra 8:31). They arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:9). God kept them safe on their dangerous trip, and all their valuable cargo arrived safely.
Burnt offerings represented the consecration of the worshippers’ persons to God (Leviticus 1; Leviticus 6:8-13). Sin offerings provided atonement (covering) for the worshippers’ sinful natures (Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 5:13; Leviticus 6:24-30). A satrap (Ezra 8:36; lit. protector of the realm) ruled over governors in the Persian governmental structure.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezra 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent