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This chapter contains the record of the number which returned of the people from Babylon. Of certain priests, which could not show their pedigree.
We are not to suppose that these were individually the very same persons which were carried away and all lived to return. Seventy years must have produced both deaths and births in the several tribes. But I rather conceive, by this register, is meant the exact number of those in each tribe that survived to return.
No doubt during the captivity a faithful register was kept of the several families, and therefore their number was the more clearly ascertained. Chiefly with an eye to the promised Messiah, each father of the tribe carefully preserved his record. One feature in this record of the families of Israel I cannot help remarking. I mean the smallness of the children of Bethlehem compared to some; - only 123. This was what the prophet Micah had before noticed. And thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2 . What a sweet thought this suggests, not to despise the day of small things!
This list is of the priests. And a very large proportion they were to the whole mass; somewhat about a tenth part.
I include the whole of these in one list, for Levites, Nethinims, and the Singers, with the children of Solomon's servants, may be summed up as bearing offices in one and the same household, though in different departments.
This inability to prove their stock of Israel is mentioned as a reproach. But yet we find that they were of those whose hearts the Lord had inclined to go to Jerusalem; were they not types also of those concerning whom we read in the last call of the Jews, who shall take hold of the skirts of a true Israelite, saying, we will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. Zechariah 8:23 .
It is delightful to observe even in these times of deep poverty, how tenacious the Israelites were of their true origin and descent both from Israel and among the order of Aaron. And this is to be referred into an higher cause than merely human considerations or human wisdom. The hand of the Lord was in it that every tribe, and especially the tribe of Judah, might have a clear unquestionable descent from father to son.
If the Reader will compare accounts in this of the return with that of their carrying away, he will find that they had multiplied as they had done in Egypt under all their affliction. Precious thought! the church may be, must be, oppressed, assaulted, persecuted; but it is Jesus's church, and she shall increase. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. Isaiah 60:22 .
Their treasures of cattle make no inconsiderable figure, considering that they came out of a long captivity.
Their liberal offerings are taken notice of because they were given with a liberal heart, though compared to former gifts in the building of the first temple, their whole collection was small indeed. There they gave in talents. Now only in drachms. The widow's mite was a costly offering in the sight of the Lord.
Their residence is noticed inasmuch as it implied, amidst all the desolations of their cities, that they were delighted to be in Jerusalem once more. The prophet had said, that the Lord's servants should take pleasure in the very stones of Zion, and favor the dust thereof. And here we see it fulfilled. Psalms 102:14 . But Reader! think with what holy joy and rapture will the redeemed of Zion return to their Jerusalem, which is above, when the captivity of sin, and Satan, and death, and the grave, is forever over! Oh! what unknown, inexpressible, inconceivable delight will break in upon the soul when they shall come to Zion with songs of everlasting joy upon their heads; w hen all those enemies shall be known, and felt, and feared no more. In the blessed prospect of it I would say, Haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart, upon the mountains of Bether. Song of Solomon 2:17 .
VERY precious, and very highly interesting, are the thoughts which arise out of this chapter under the blessed Spirit's teaching. And Reader! let you and I see that we do not lose sight of them.
Behold, then, how careful the fathers were to preserve, amidst the most calamitous times, a faithful record that they were of the stock of Israel, and had Abraham for their father. Though living in Babylon, they had not incorporated with the seed of Babylon; but though cast down for their sins, they considered themselves not finally cast off. God was still their God, and his covenant engagements not broken. Let us interpret this of gospel-times, and see how highly it speaks to the true children of promise in Jesus. We are not simply recorded in the genealogy of families if we are children of God in Christ Jesus, but our record is on high, and our names written in the Lamb's book of life. And though we, like the church of old, live in the Babylon of this world, yet, blessed be God, Jesus tells us we are not of this world. And if Israel were saved and brought home, because of God's covenant promises to Abraham, think how everlastingly certain and sure must be the covenant engagements of Jehovah with his dear Son, purchased and confirmed by his blood, and all his people justified in his righteousness. Oh! the precious, precious privileges Jesus hath secured to his church to insure their final triumphs over all the captivity of sin and Satan. And oh! Reader! let us be highly jealous of these vast privileges. See, day by day, that we do not lose sight of our interest in them, but live in the constant use of them; and not like some of the priests and people, unable to prove their pedigree. Oh, dearest Jesus! may it be my daily delight, with the first of the morn and the last of the night, to look again and again over the love-tokens of thy favor. Surely I may say of thee as the church of old, Oh! that thou wert (for thou art) as a brother to me, that sucked the breasts of my mother; when I should find thee without I would kiss thee, yea, I should not be despised.
And while I am upon these sweet thoughts, suggested b y the view of the church as here numbered in their return from Babylon, do I not behold in it also a blessed and a glorious type of the whole nation of the redeemed on earth returning at the last day, when Babylon, the great mother of harlots, shall be cast down, and the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, shall fall to rise no more. Precious, precious Lord Jesus! ride forth now thou Almighty Lord of all, and win the nations to the sceptre of thy grace. Proclaim, as Cyrus thy type did, for thy people to return. Let the enemies of thy cross fall before thee, and dare no longer to retain thy captives. Bring them, Lord, to thine home, to build thee a spiritual temple, in thy strength, riches, and power. In every age make up the register of those whose names are written in thy book, until at length all that the Father hath given thee are gathered to thee, and the millions whose bodies sleep under the altar in heaven in hope, shall at thy call arise to all the wonders of futurity, and the whole purposes of creation and redemption being fully answered in the union of thy glorious body being brought to thee, the song of everlasting, unceasing praise and hallelujahs, shall fill the realms of bliss to the Holy Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, forevermore.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent