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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ezra 2

A.M. 3468. B.C. 536.

The leaders that returned, Ezra 2:1 , Ezra 2:2 . The people, Ezra 2:3-35 . The priests, Levites, and retainers to the temple, Ezra 2:36-63 . The sum total, and their substance, Ezra 2:64-67 . Their offerings, Ezra 2:68-70 .

Verse 1

Ezra 2:1. The children of the province That is, of Babylon, for they are here spoken of whom Nebuchadnezzar had brought captive to Babylon, and not those of the ten tribes, who had been dispersed before, by the kings of Assyria, into various provinces; and who afterward returned to Jerusalem in separate companies. Zerubbabel was in the province of Babylon, and to him those captives joined themselves who lived nearest in the same province. This is the reason why those of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin returned first, though a liberty of returning was granted to all the tribes. Another reason is, because the rebuilding of the temple principally concerned them, as Jerusalem was within their dominion. Houbigant. That went out of captivity By the words captivity and captives, when applied to the Jews being carried to Babylon, we are not to understand that they were made slaves to private persons, and bought and sold from one to another, as captives generally were: for they seem to have been transported to Babylon as a colony, to serve the king only. And we do not find that they ever became the property of private persons in Babylon, but lived there free; only subject, as is probable, to some services for the king. Otherwise Cyrus must have redeemed them from the masters, whose property they were, or at least have made a proclamation that every one should let them go free; of neither of which is any mention made. And besides this, when liberty was given to all, of returning to their own land, we find that but few, comparatively speaking, accepted of it, which would scarce have been the case had they been slaves to private persons. Every one unto his city Either those cities and towns which had belonged to their several ancestors; or rather, those which were now allotted to them, and from this time possessed by them. For their former cities were either demolished, or possessed by other persons, whom they were not now in a capacity to disturb.

Verse 2

Ezra 2:2 . Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, &c. These were their heads, who undertook to conduct them: among whom Zerubbabel was their prince or leader, as Jeshua was high-priest, who is mentioned next to him. Nehemiah, whose name follows, is not the person whose book comes after this: for he did not go to Judea now, but afterward; or, if he did, he returned to Babylon again. The number of the men of the people This is a kind of title to the following verses. This catalogue differs in some names and numbers from that Nehemiah 7:0., which might be, because several names were given to the same persons; and because of the many changes which might happen in the same families between the time of the first making of this catalogue by Ezra, and the making it anew so many years after.

Verse 3

Ezra 2:3. The children The posterity, as that word is generally taken in this catalogue. Of Parosh That descended either from Parosh, or from that family whereof Parosh was the chief. And so for the rest.

Verse 5

Ezra 2:5. Seven hundred, &c. In Nehemiah 7:10, they were only six hundred and fifty-two; it seems seven hundred and seventy-five marched out of Babylon, but some of them died, others were hindered by sickness or other casualties, and so there came only six hundred and fifty-two to Jerusalem. And the like is to be said in the like differences; which it suffices to hint once for all.

Verses 20-21

Ezra 2:20-21. The children of Gibbar Or , as it is in Nehemiah 7:25, of Gibeon, these being the citizens of that city. For this is not the name of a man, but of a place; and the same may be said of several names that follow. The children of Beth-lehem The remainders of the inhabitants of that city: so little was Beth-lehem among the thousands of Judah! Yet thence must the Messiah arise. Netophah and Anathoth also, in the next two verses, were towns, not men.

Verse 36

Ezra 2:36. The priests Having numbered the people that went of Judah and Benjamin, he proceeds now to the tribe of Levi, and first mentions the priests.

Verse 39

Ezra 2:39. The children of Harim The head of one of the twenty-four courses which David appointed, (1 Chronicles 24:8,) of all which courses, some observe here, are not above four or five that returned. There is another Harim mentioned above, Ezra 2:32, but that was no priest as this was, Ezra 2:36.

Verse 43

Ezra 2:43 . Nethinims Persons devoted to the inferior services of the priests and Levites. Commonly supposed to be the Gibeonites, given (so their name signifies) by Joshua first, and again by David, when Saul had expelled them, to the priests and Levites, for those services.

Verse 55

Ezra 2:55. The children of Solomon’s servants Who had lived in Solomon’s family, and after his death called themselves and their families by that name, esteeming it a great honour that they had been servants to so great a prince.

Verse 59

Ezra 2:59. Which went up from Tel-melah, &c. These were names of some cities in the Babylonish empire, from whence many went along with the Jews to Judea. They were of the Jewish religion, and probably were the children of those who had been carried captive before the general captivity; but they had lost their genealogies, and could not show from what families they were derived, and therefore could not obtain any certain possession in Judea, as those did who knew and could show to what family and city they belonged.

Verses 61-62

Ezra 2:61-62. And was called after their name Namely, Barzillai; a name which he preferred before that of his own family, accounting it, as appears, a greater honour to be allied to so noble a family than to be a priest of the Lord. But by this vain ambition he deprived himself of the honour and advantage of the priesthood, as is here noted. They sought their register The Jews were generally very exact in their genealogies, from their own choice and interest, that they might preserve the distinctions of the several tribes and families, which was necessary both to make out their titles to offices or inheritances, and to govern themselves thereby in the matter of marriages, and from the special providence of God, that so it might be certainly known of what tribe and family the Messiah was born.

Verse 63

Ezra 2:63. The Tirshatha The governor or king’s commissioner, namely, Zerubbabel: whence Nehemiah is so called, Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:2. That they should not eat of the most holy things That they should not partake of the sacrifices offered for sin, nor of the right shoulder of peace- offerings, nor of the show-bread; which were all most holy, and the portion of the priests alone. Till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim Till the Lord himself should show, by an answer given to some high- priest, inquiring of him by Urim and Thummim, as had been anciently done, whether they were of the line of Aaron or not. But as God had ceased to give an answer this way long before this time, therefore, it was as much as to say, that as their names were not found in the authentic genealogical registers of the priests, they should for ever be excluded, till some divine oracle pronounced them to have a right to the priesthood. Hereby it appears, that the Urim and Thummim were lost in the destruction of the city and temple, though the Jews fed themselves with hopes of recovering them, but in vain. And by the want of that oracle, they were taught to expect the great oracle, the Messiah.

Verse 64

Ezra 2:64. Forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore This is more than double the number which were carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar. But here occurs a small difficulty; (like that in the end of the foregoing chapter;) for if we put together the several sums before mentioned, they amount to no more than twenty-nine thousand eight hundred and eighteen; so there wants about twelve thousand to make up this number of forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty. Therefore, either these were of the rest of the tribes of Israel, who came up with those of Judah and Benjamin: or, they might be Levites or other Israelites, who could not make out their descent: or else, which is most probable, some mistake in the numbers has been made by transcribers, which might easily happen, even though in general very great care was taken.

Verse 65

Ezra 2:65. And singing-women For women as well as men were employed in this exercise, in the temple-service.

Verse 68

Ezra 2:68. When they came to the house of the Lord That is, to the place in which the temple had stood, and where the ruins still remained. Offered freely Made a new offering, besides that which they had brought out of Babylon, from their brethren there, mentioned Ezra 1:4; Ezra 1:6. By this it appears that the Jews were not made absolute slaves in Babylon, but had liberty to trade and get riches for themselves; some of them being advanced to considerable offices in the king’s court. Otherwise they could not have been able to offer such sums as are mentioned in the next verse.

Verse 69

Ezra 2:69. Threescore and one thousand drachms of gold, &c. About seventy-five thousand and five hundred pounds of our money; for every drachm of gold is worth ten shillings of our money, and every mina, or pound of silver, nine pounds; for it contains sixty shekels, and every shekel of silver is worth three shillings of our money. And one hundred priests’ garments Garments, as well as gold and silver, were wont to be laid up in treasuries, Matthew 6:20. We may infer then, from these rich offerings, not only, as has been just intimated, that the Jews were not made such poor slaves in Babylon as wrought for their lords and masters, but that there may not be all the truth imaginable in that common saying among them, that they were only the bran, that is, the dregs of the people, who returned to Jerusalem at the end of the captivity, and that all the fine flour stayed behind at Babylon. See Prideaux’s Connect., Ann. 536, and Dodd.

Verse 70

Ezra 2:70. And all Israel in their cities In the cities which their families had inhabited before their captivity. As to those who could not prove themselves Israelites by any genealogical register, they probably settled in those lands which were not claimed, or followed handicraft employments, of one sort or other, in the cities. Although their cities were out of repair, yea, in a ruinous state, yet, because they were their cities, such as God had assigned them, they were content to dwell in them; and were thankful for liberty and property, though they had little of pomp, plenty, or power. Their poverty was an afflictive cause, but their unity and unanimity were happy effects of it. Here was room enough for them all, and all their substance, so that there was no strife among them, but perfect harmony: a blessed presage of their comfortable settlement, as their discords in the latter times of that state were of their ruin.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezra 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezra-2.html. 1857.