(1) After these things.—Fifty-seven years after: this special phrase is here alone used. During the interval we must place the events of the Book of Esther.
Ezra the son of Seraiah.—His lineage is given, as frequently in Scripture, compendiously, and according to the genealogical law which makes every ancestor a “father” and every descendant a “son.” We know not the reason why certain names supplied in 1 Chronicles 6 are here omitted; but Seraiah is claimed as the father of Ezra because he was the eminent high priest who last ministered in Solomon’s Temple and was slain at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18). The links wanting in the lineage are easily supplied.
II.—THE SECOND RETURN UNDER EZRA.
(1-10) A. general summary of Ezra’s expedition under Divine guidance.
(6) A ready scribe.—The “ready writer” of Psalms 45:1. Ezra was a priest, and this title is rightly placed before that of scribe in what follows; but here at the outset, when he first appears in history, the title is used which expressed his pre-eminent function, that of guarding and interpreting the law (Ezra 7:10).
All his request.—This anticipates the letter of Ezra 7:11; a series of supplementary notes intervenes.
According to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.—The full formula for that special providence over God’s servants which both Ezra and Nehemiah recognised.
(8) In the seventh year.—The repeated notes of time must be marked. The journey itself comes afterwards: it is here indicated as having occupied four months. Ezra’s company also is summarised beforehand, according to the manner of this book.
(10) For Ezra had prepared his heart.—It must be remembered that the providence of God over him immediately precedes—not as the reward of his preparing his heart, but as the reason of it. First, he gave himself to study the law, then to practise it himself, and lastly to teach its positive statutes or ordinances and its moral judgments or precepts—a perfect description of a teacher in the congregation. There is nothing discordant in Ezra saying of himself that he had thus “set his heart.”
(11) Even a scribe.—In the case of Ezra the function of scribe was more important than that of priest. The word scribe originally meant the writer or copier of the law; but now it meant the expositor of its general moral commandments and of its special ceremonial statutes. It is with the latter more especially that the commission of Ezra had to do.
(11-26) Credentials and commission of Ezra. After the general statement the particulars are given, beginning with the letter of authorisation, in which we discern throughout the hand of Ezra.
(12) Artaxerxes, king of kings.—Artachshatra in Persian, Artachshasta in Hebrew. The Persian monarchs inherited the title here given from the Babylonians (Daniel 2:37). It is not used by the historian, only by the king himself.
Perfect peace, and at such a time.—Literally, perfect, and so forth. The expression occurs only here, and is a difficult one. Our translation follows the apocryphal Esdras, and is on the whole to be accepted, a salutation being implied.
(14) Seven counsellors.—These are mentioned in Esther 1:14, and were probably the heads of those families who aided Darius Hystaspis against the pseudo-Smerdis, as mentioned by Herodotus.
According to the law of thy God.—Ezra’s commission was first to enquire into the condition of the city and province, with regard to the relation of both to the Divine law.
(16) Which is in Jerusalem.—The repetition of this and similar phrases is after the manner of the literature of this period; but here, as in some other places, it implies deep reverence.
(17) Buy speedily.—Provide first of all for the sacrificial ceremonial. Every sacrifice had its own meat-offerings and drink-offerings (Numbers 15). These phrases in the commission of course Ezra dictated.
(18) The rest . . .—This clause of large latitude would be of great importance for the general beautify. ing of the Temple (Ezra 7:27).
(19) The vessels.—Offered (see Ezra 8:25) to be added to those sent up by Zerubbabel.
(20) Out of the king’s treasure house.—Every satrap had his local treasury. The decree gives Ezra very large powers, but the following verses add a measure of qualification.
(22) Unto an hundred talents of silver . . .—A certain restriction is laid upon the amount, although the very restriction seems almost indefinite. The silver might reach £24,000 sterling. As to the rest, Palestine abounded in these productions, which were regularly remitted to the king’s service. Salt especially was plentiful near the Dead Sea.
(23) Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven.—The last is the strongest ground for such an ample authorisation. In the solemn and devout firman the phrase “the God of heaven” occurs twice, and the Persian prince deprecates His wrath. In this seventh year of Artaxerxes, B.C. 458, the tide of success turned for Persia against the Athenians in Egypt.
And his sons.—Though Artaxerxes Longimanus was young at this time, he is said to have left eighteen sons.
(24) We certify you.—The exemption of so large a number as the entire ministry of the Temple from all kinds of taxation is emphatically introduced.
(25) All such as know.—The firman, or king’s commission, returning directly to Ezra, makes him supreme in the province over the Jewish population.
And teach ye them that know them not.—That is, those Jews who had comparatively forsaken the law. Here he has absolute authority in religion.
(26) Let judgment be executed speedily upon him.—Hence civil authority is added to religious. All these powers were usually entrusted to the provincial administrators, with more or less of reservation, by the Persians. But it is obvious that their combination in the one person of this servant of Tehovah demanded express statement.
(27) Blessed be the Lord God.—This is the solitary expression of Ezra’s private devotion; and it is incorporated with his record in so artless a manner as to confirm the impression that the whole narrative is from his hand.
This sudden ejaculatory thanksgiving, in the midst of his narrative, reminds us of Nehemiah’s habit.
To beautify.—A general term, signifying all that belonged to the restoration of the Temple.
(28) And hath extended mercy unto me.—The honour done to himself before the council of Persia he ascribes to the mercy of God. Once more we have an anticipation of the journey, with a parenthesis intervening.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ezra 7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany