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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezra 2

Verses 1-70

The Lists of Returning Jews (2:1-70)

The first of a number of lists added to the story is made up of men who were apparently leaders. (The Greek version calls them "guides,") The same list occurs with a few variations and with one more name in Nehemiah 7:7. The probability is that the original list contained twelve names (as in Nehemiah), thus preserving the pattern of the twelve tribes of the original Exodus and of the first settlement of the land (see also the selection of twelve disciples by Jesus).

The major list of returnees occurs in verses 2b-35. The numbers again, as is often the case with the Ezra material, are uncertain and vary considerably between the Greek version and the Hebrew, and also in the similar lists in Nehemiah 7. The variations suggest errors of copying from the official lists of the Persian Empire which must have been used in the compilation of this history. A Bible dictionary will give the derivation of the various names, which are not arranged by type of name but fall into two large classifications: those named by family group (2b-20) and those named by city (21-35).

At verse 36 another list begins, covering Temple personnel, naming first of all certain "priests" (vss. 36-39), then "Levites," who at this time were regarded as Temple servants and apparently were mainly unwilling to return (vs. 40; see also 8:15-20), then "singers" (vs. 41), then porters (vs. 42), then other Temple servants (vss. 43-54), and finally "the sons of Solomon’s servants," apparently an ancient class among the larger group of servants (vss. 55-58).

The next list is made up of those whose genealogy was uncertain. These took part in the return, although possibly not in a fully accredited status. In this brief list there appears the note of deep concern for racial and religious purity which became later so pronounced an aspect of the whole period of the restoration. It cannot be doubted that one factor that helped strengthen the sense of exclusiveness that came to mark the Jewish people was this very preparation for return and the rigid search for bona fide Jewish exiles among the empire lists of Persia. The "Urim and Thummim" represent the sacred lot, although there is no evidence that such a device was used in the Temple that was built by these returned exiles (see 1 Samuel 14:41).

The lists close with a group of summaries, again disagreeing in the various versions as to the exact numbers. The expression "they came to the house of the Lord" in verse 68 refers to the site of the Temple, or the verse may be misplaced, as some interpreters believe.

Verse 70 closes the list and the account of the initial stages of the return with a kind of idealized summary, suggesting that the new conquest of the land is complete.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezra-2.html.