A LIST OF EZRA'S COMPANIONS
Those who voluntarily came to accompany Ezra to Jerusalem are recorded here, the men numbering almost 1500. Women also must have been present, but are not mentioned.Not that God thinks less of the faith of women, for He often commends them for their devotedness, but since the emphasis here is on publication, and the women do not hold a public place, there was no reason to refer to them.Children too are not mentioned. In fact, the emphasis inverse 1 is on "the heads of their father's houses," showing God's vital interest in households.
PRIESTS, LEVITES AND NETHINIM ADDED
Ezra gathered his company together by the river that flows to Ahava, camping there three days.However, among all these people he found none of the sons of Levi present (v. 15). How sad indeed was this deficiency! -- for their main concern was the temple of God at Jerusalem, and of all people the Levites ought to have been most anxious to return to Jerusalem, for they were rightly temple servants.Were they content to settle down in Babylon, concerned only for their own comfort in the midst of a world at enmity with God? May we not be like them, but be concerned to place God's interests first and be willing to labor for the blessing of His present house, the Church of God.
Ezra was not content to go to Jerusalem without Levites, so he called for a number of leaders among the Jews and commanded them to speak to Iddo, the chief man at the place Casiphia, which must have been a place where Levites and Nethinim had congregated, to tell him that Levites and Nethinim were required for the service of the house of God at Jerusalem.
Ezra must have been held in honor among these people, because his words had such effect as to lead eighteen men of one family and twenty of another family of Levites to respond to this call. But also 220 Nethinim responded.These were temple servants, likely Gentiles of the Gibeonites whom Joshua had put in the place of "woodcutters and water carriers" for the congregation" (Joshua 9:27).While the Levites were temple servants, the Nethinim were employed as helpers of the Levites, and there is every indication that they proved faithful through the years.
PRAYER AND FASTING
Even with all the required company now gathered, Ezra was not prepared to leave until they had earnestly sought the blessing and guidance of God. He proclaimed a fast that they might humble themselves before God "to seek the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions" (v. 21). This was to be a long journey in which they might be exposed to the dangers of being attacked by robbers, of illness or accidents, bad weather or plain weariness."For," he writes, "I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, "The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him" (v. 22).Thus, committing themselves simply to the Lord, they had full confidence their prayer was answered (v. 23).
PRIESTS ENTRUSTED WITH COSTLY PROPERTY
Before leaving also Ezra chose twelve leaders of the priests and ten of their brethren with them to take charge of the silver, gold and other articles that had been offered for the house of God, things given by the king and his counselors as well as by Israelites who were present.These things weighed out to them are detailed in verse 26, -- 650 talents of silver, articles of silver weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 gold basins and two vessels of fine polished bronze, precious as gold.The 100 talents of gold would be worth close to $800,000.This was no small amount to be entrusted with for a four months journey!
Likely these priests were thoroughly trustworthy men, but it was still necessary to have more than one or two in charge of the property, in order to honor the truth that Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 8:20-23, -- "avoiding this, that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us." Indeed the more honest a man is, the more he should desire to have his actions carefully scrutinized by others.Thus too, those who are trusted to handle money in an assembly should be careful to have the amounts and the disposition of any funds closely checked by others.
Ezra reminded the priests that they themselves were holy to the Lord and that what was entrusted to them was also holy (v. 28).Therefore he tells them, "Watch and keep them until you weight them before the leaders of the priests and heads of the fathers' houses of Israel in Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord" (v. 28).What a reminder for every believer today!We are entrusted with the truth of the Word of God, and should take to heart what Paul writes to Timothy, "O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust" (1 Timothy 6:20).Just as the priests were required to give account in Jerusalem of all that was committed to their trust, so we shall give account at the judgment seat of Christ of the way we handled the word of God committed to us.
COMING TO JERUSALEM
Only a brief mention is made of the four month trip to Jerusalem, but full credit is given to God for His preserving care in bringing them in safety, for verse 31 indicates that there were enemies along the road.Yet any effort by them to cause trouble was thwarted before it began. On the fourth day after arriving at Jerusalem the silver and gold and all the articles carried there were weighed in the house of God by two priests accompanied by three Levites.How rightly this was done, that everything might be found in proper order. Similarly, at the end of our Christian journey, all our life will be weighed in "the balances of the sanctuary."Do we exercise ourselves to have "a conscience void of offense toward God and men," so that we shall gladly welcome that review?Notice that all the weight was written down at the time (v. 34). So indeed there will be an eternal record of that which has been done in true devotion to the Lord.
Those who returned were children of those taken captive 70 years before, and they offered twelve bulls, 96 rams and 77 lambs as burnt offerings to "the God of Israel," not simply the God of Judah.The twelve bulls were for the twelve tribes of Israel, though all those tribes were not even represented there.Also twelve male goats were added as a sin offering (v. 35), again with the twelve tribes in view.Today also, when God brings about a return of even a small number to recognize the truth of the Assembly of God, we must never lose sight of the fact that He loves the entire body of Christ, of which we are only a small part. Though it is impossible to have practical fellowship with all the one body, it is only right that we embrace them in our affections. When we break bread (however few we may be), we should always remember that "the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ"? -- thus recognizing our fellowship with the entire body of Christ, not only those present.
Ezra's company delivered the king's orders to his officials in that area, which the officials honored by giving support to the Jews and to the work of the temple (v. 36).God in this way was giving special encouragement to His people in the work that was for His honor.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany