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by Joseph Sutcliffe
THE BOOK OF EZRA.
The book of Ezra, or Esdras in Greek, and that of Nehemiah, formed but one in the ancient Hebrew. But the second book of Esdras bears indisputable marks of being the composition of Nehemiah, though in many places it may seem to be a transcription. Ezra was highpriest of the Jews, and son, or rather grandson, of Seraiah, as in Ezra 7:1; who was put to death in Riblah, with the princes of Judah, by command of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezra’s final return to Jerusalem was under the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, as he says, chap. Ezra 7:1; but he evidently had been in Jerusalem early in the reign of Cyrus, and had returned to Babylon to solicit more adequate protection against the Persian governors, who had menaced the rising city with destruction. After his second return, he appointed judges, and reformed the police of the city. On the variations of names and genealogies in the book of Ezra, and in the book of Nehemiah, we may repeat what was said before, that it arose from following different books: they are variations which the rabbins themselves could not relieve, and of small moment to future times. This history comprises affairs during the reign of five Persian kings; namely, Cyrus, Ezra 1:1: Darius, Ezra 4:5: Ahasuérus, Ezra 4:6, called Artaxerxes, Ezra 4:7: Darius Hystaspes, Ezra 5:6: Artaxerxes the Longhand, as noted in chap. 6., and Nehemiah 1:1. Greek names are assigned to those kings by Herodotus, Xenophon, and other historians. Ahasuérus was the Chaldaic, and Artaxerxes the Persian name of the same prince. The illustrious Ezra is accounted the prince of doctors, as Moses is accounted the prince of prophets. He revised the new edition of the sacred books, twenty two in number, as in the Vulgate Latin, which had in part been lost or dispersed, and in part corrupted. And as the text of Moses, still preserved in the text of the Samaritan pentateuch, had become obsolete, he clothed the sacred books in the present Hebrew characters. Ezra was attended with five scribes or shorthand writers, who in the space of forty days wrote from his dictation two hundred and four books, as is attested in 2Es 14:42 ; 2Es 14:44 . These short books are said to respect the traditions of the elders, often named in the gospels, and to form a large proportion of the Cabala of the Jews. Matthew 15:2. Mark 7:5. Ezra died in Jerusalem, at the advanced age of one hundred and thirty two years. The Jews have honoured him as a prophet by putting his book in the sacred canon. Joseph. Antiq. 1. 11. c. 5.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26