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An account of those who returned from Babylon; their number, substance, and oblations.
Before Christ 536.
Ver. 1. The children of the province— i.e. 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 afterwards 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.
Ver. 31. The children of the other Elam— The children of Elam-ar. Houbigant.
Ver. 55. The children of Solomon's servants— i.e. Of the Nethinims. See 1Ch 9:2 and Calmet on the place.
Ver. 63. The Tirshatha— Tirshata, or Athirshata, the same as Nehemiah. The word תרשׁתא Tirshatha is the name of his employment, and signifies the king's cup-bearer, says Calmet. Some however think, that Zerubbabel, rather, is meant here. See Nehemiah 1:11. The meaning of the words till there stood up a priest, &c. seems to be, till the Lord himself should decide, by means of the high-priest, whether they were the sons of Aaron or not.
Ver. 64. The whole congregation—was forty-and-two thousand three hundred and threescore— Dr. Lightfoot observes on this passage, "Here is a summa totalis [a sum total] of forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, who returned out of captivity upon the proclamation of Cyrus; and there are here the numbers of several families reckoned, as making up that sum; whereas, if the total of these particulars be summed up, it reacheth not by sixteen thousand, or thereabouts, to that number of forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty. Where, then, must we find those sixteen thousand, since they arise not in the number of the families here named? The families, here named are of Judah and Benjamin; and then certainly those sixteen thousand can hardly be imagined any other than of the ten tribes. It is apparent, that the returns of Judah and Benjamin planted Judaea: whom then can we imagine, but some of the ten tribes, to have planted Galilee, as that country was inhabited by a good part of the ten tribes before the captivity? It is very probable, that most of the twelve apostles, and many of the rest of the disciples who were of Christ's constant retinue, were of the progeny of some of the ten tribes." This will account for the difference between the general and particular sums in Ezra, and why the particulars in Ezra differ from those in Nehemiah 7:0. Dr. Lightfoot also observes, that Nehemiah found the list and catalogue of those who came up in the first year of Cyrus as it was then taken, and that he called over the names of the families as they lay in order there: that he observed the order of the old list, in calling them over, and listing them; but took the real number of them as they were, when he numbered them: that some families were now more in number than they were when the first list was made, and some fewer; and some that were in that list were not to be found now; for some had more of the same stock come up from Babylon since the first numbering; and others who had come up at first, and were then numbered, were now gone back again. See Lightfoot's Chronol. p. 146.
Ver. 69. Threescore and one thousand drachms of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver— About seventy-five thousand 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; whence it appears, that the Jews were not made such poor slaves in Babylon as wrought for their lords and masters; but had some of them very considerable offices at court, and all liberty to trade and get riches for themselves; and consequently that there may not be all the truth imaginable in that common saying among them, that they were only the bran, i.e. 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.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have in this chapter an account of the people who returned from the captivity; a poor remnant, compared with the thousands of Israel in their former better days! yet it was a great mercy that any were left, and suffered to return. They are called children of the province; for to such was the kingdom of Judah now reduced. They are reckoned according to the towns where they formerly resided, and the ancestors from whom they sprung. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, and Jeshua the high-priest. Nehemiah and Mordecai, mentioned ver. 2 were different men from those whose names were afterwards so distinguished; unless we suppose that, after seeing the first colony settled, they returned again to Babylon. Note; (1.) It is a distinguishing mercy to be found among those who go up from the captivity of sin, under our prince and priest Jesus, the captain of our salvation. (2.) They who are eminent in their zeal for God's cause, deserve that their names should be recorded to their honour.
2nd, The priests, under four chief fathers, were near a tenth part of the whole. Their zeal for the service made them more ready to improve the present opportunity. The Levites, once so numerous, 1Ch 23:3 were now but few. The Nethinims, assistants to the Levites, supposed to be the descendants of the Gibeonites, whom Joshua appointed for the meaner offices of the tabernacle, to hew wood and draw water; and the children of Solomon's servants, who were the old inhabitants of Canaan, but, being proselyted, were employed by him in building the temple; these, to the number of three hundred and ninety-two, joined the returning colony: besides whom, many went up from some of the cities of Babylon, who, though Jews, had lost their genealogies; and many also who passed for children of the priests, but were rejected from ministering, by the Tirshatha, or governor, Zerubbabel, because they could not prove their lineal descent from Aaron. One of these, by a marriage into the family of the famed Barzillai, ambitious of having his children reckoned of that stock, neglected his priestly genealogy, and therefore was now excluded from the privileges and honour that he had despised. The exclusion, however, was not final; they hoped that some high-priest would arise, with Urim and Thummim, from whose illuminations these defects might be repaired. Note; (1.)
They who count the ministry a disparagement, are unworthy of the office. (2.) The great high-priest with Urim and Thummim hath appeared, not to fix Jewish genealogies, but to consecrate to himself faithful priests among all the nations of the world.
3rdly, Their retinue appears but mean, their servants few, and their, beasts of burden scarcely more than would suffice for their baggage; so that they must have taken their tedious journey on foot. Among their servants two hundred singing men and women are reckoned either kept for the recreation of the richer sort among them, or employed with mournful lamentations to awaken a sense of their desolations. When they were come to Jerusalem, they visited their beautiful house, though in ruins; and, grieving to see it in the dust, generously contributed, according to their abilities, toward its restoration. They were not rich now, as in David's days; but their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality, and made the gift more acceptable. Part of them settled immediately at Jerusalem; the rest were distributed into the several cities where their forefathers had been seated. Note; (1.) God's house and service lie nearest the heart of a faithful Israelite. (2.) It is not the greatness of the gift, but the temper of the giver, that stamps a value on the donation. (3.) What is spent in God's blessed work, though spared out of our poverty, will return again with abundant interest.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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