LIST OF RETURNED CAPTIVES
This chapter shows the definite interest God had in every individual who returned from the captivity, so that the number from each city is recorded, and the total number. We are reminded in verse 1 that it was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon who had taken these captive. Babylon means "confusion," so that Judah is pictured as being captives to a state of confusion, as is repeated in the history of the professing church. It is only by the power and grace of God that any measure of recovery can be accomplished. No full recovery will be made in Israel until the Lord Himself come in power and glory, and similarly, there will be no full recovery of the church's condition until in the presence of the Lord. Yet certain small measures of recovery have taken place from time to time by the clear intervention of the Spirit of God.
Verse 2 speaks of leaders who came with Zerubbabel, the first Jeshua, the high priest. The Nehemiah mentioned here cannot be the Nehemiah whose book follows Ezra, for he did not come at first, nor with so large a company (Nehemiah 2:9).
From verse 3 to verse 35 the people of various cities are enumerated, then from verse 36 to 39 priests are mentioned as being included in the number of those returning. Levites then are spoken of in verse 40 and singers in verses 41-42. Verse 43 introduces the Nethinim, whose total number was 392 (v.58). The Nethinim are referred to in Ezra 8:20 as having been appointed by David for the service of the Levites, probably Gibeonites who had been received by Joshua (Joshua 9:23).
We have remarked that the Nethinim were likely Gibeonites who had entered the congregation at the time of Joshua, who told them, "There shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Joshua 9:23). We do not read of any of them refusing this place of submission to Israel, and their willingness to return to Judah indicates a remarkable allegiance to the God of Israel, since they were Gentiles and had been away from Judah for 70 years. After so long an absence, not all of the Jews were prepared to return to their own country, so that the faith of their Gentile adherents shines out the more brightly.
SOME OF WHOM THERE WAS DOUBT
On the other hand, there were some whocame from Tel Melah, but could not prove that they were really Israelites (vv. 59-60). Do they not remind us of some today who would like to be regarded as Christians, yet do not present a clear testimony that they are saved? It is not told us what was done concerning these people; but verses 61-63 refer to sons of the priests who came, but their names were not found registered in the genealogy. In this case, the governor decreed that they should not be permitted to act as priests until a priest with Urim and Thummim would pronounce them fit for this service. The Urim and Thummim (meaning "lights and perfections") were 12 jewels set in the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8) attached to the ephod of the high priest. It was used for the discerning judgment of God's mind concerning any problems in Israel. The 12 stones speak of the unity of the tribes of Israel, indicating that all questions must be considered from the viewpoint of that unity of all. But since the 10 tribes had been separated from Judah and Benjamin, there is no mention of any priest having the Urim and Thummim; consequently, proper discernment according to God was lacking. Actually, this will only be restored when the Lord Jesus comes in power and glory to reunite Judah and Israel. He is the High Priest who has the Urim and Thummim.
It is important to apply these principles in the present day. In the professing church it has been the practice for many years to welcome anyone who claims to be a Christian to every Christian privilege of fellowship, including the breaking of bread. Many of these were not saved, and many proved to be enemies of the cross of Christ; some denying the deity of Christ and other basic doctrines of scripture. Just as in the return from Babylon, so when God brings His saints to realize the truth of His Word, there must be concern to know that those who gather in fellowship with the saints are truly saved by the grace of God. If there is any doubt about this matter, their being received to break bread should be delayed until no doubt remains.
If some should protest that this is too rigid, there is a clear scriptural answer for this, "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). If it is not faith that moves a person to desire to break bread, then it is sin. Should we encourage any person to sin? Therefore, it is only proper care for souls that we should seek to make sure they are acting by faith in so serious a matter.
TOTALS OF PEOPLE, LIVESTOCK, ETC.
The whole assembly totaled 42,360, plus servants and singers adding 7,537 to the number. This was only a small percentage of Judah and Benjamin, but the Lord took account of every one. Their livestock numbered 736 horses, 245 mules and 6,720 donkeys. As to the number of horses alone, this was as nothing compared to Solomon's 40,000 stalls of horses (1 Kings 4:26). But at least Judah did have "a little strength" (Compare Revelation 3:8).
As to the money necessary for rebuilding, there were those of the heads of the fathers' houses who offered freely, according to their ability, so that the treasury was benefited by 61,000 gold drachmas, 5000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. The gold and silver too was nothing compared to the amount that came to Solomon in one year (1 Kings 10:14; 1 Kings 10:17), but God records this because of His appreciation of the faith of these givers. The Lord Jesus said of Mary of Bethany, "She has done what she could" (Mark 14:8). These also had done what they could, and the Lord valued this. What more could be expected of anyone?
Not all of these who returned to Judah were engaged in rebuilding the temple: for the most part the priests and Levites, some of the people, the gatekeepers and Nethinim, dwelt in their cities. The temple would have had little significance if there were no residents in any of the cities of Judah. Though the numbers in the cities would be small in comparison to their size before the captivity, yet each city would be a testimony to the restoring grace of God. Today also, each little assembly that God restores is a testimony to His grace and faithfulness, though such testimonies are far from being an occasion for our own pride. While we are thankful for God's goodness, we are only humbled by our own weakness.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 2". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany