The families are enumerated which went with Esdras. He sends for Levites from Casiphia, to whom he intrusts the gold and silver which was to be brought to Jerusalem; and arriving there, he offers solemn sacrifices.
Before Christ 458.
Ver. 15. Ahava— This was a river of Assyria, and, very probably, that which ran along the Adiabene, where the river Diava, or Adiava, is known to be, and upon which Ptolemy places the city of Abane, or Avano. Here, as some imagine, was the country which, in the 2nd book of Kings, 2 Kings 17:24 is called Ava, whence the king of Assyria translated the people called Avites into Palestine, and in their room settled some of the captive Israelites. It was a common thing for those who travelled from Babylon to Jerusalem, in order to avoid the scorching heat of the desart of Arabia, to shape their course northward at first, and then, turning westward, to pass through Syria into Palestine. But Ezra had a further reason for taking this route; for, as he intended to get together as many Israelites as he could, to carry along with him to Jerusalem, he took his course this way, and made a halt in the country of Ava, or Ahava, from which place he might send emissaries into the Caspian mountains, to invite such Jews as were there to come and join them. See Calmet.
Ver. 17. Casiphia— It is not easy to guess what place this was. The text calls it Casiphia the place. Some have taken it for the Caspian mountains situate between Media and Hyrcania, in the mines of which these captive Nethinims are supposed to have been sent to work; if so, it is no wonder that they should be so ready to embrace the benefit of the king's decree. The LXX render it a place of silver; for ףּכס keseph signifies silver.
Ver. 21. I proclaimed a fast— They had the greater reason to do this, because they carried with them things of considerable value, were apprehensive of enemies who lay in wait for them, and were ashamed to ask any guard of the king, who, being not much instructed in these matters, might possibly think, that what they said of God's favour towards them, and the prophesies concerning their restoration, were but vain boasts, if they should seem to distrust the power and favour of that God of whom they had spoken so magnificently, by making application to the king for his protection and defence. Rather, therefore, than give any such umbrage, they were resolved to commit themselves entirely to God; but then it was necessary that they should beseech that of him, which, without giving offence, they could not request of the king. See Bishop Patrick.
Ver. 26, 27. Six hundred and fifty talents of silver, &c.— The six hundred and fifty talents of silver, at three hundred and seventy-five pounds to the talent, make two hundred and forty-three thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds. The silver vessels weighed one hundred talents, which come to thirty-seven thousand five hundred pounds. The gold, in coin, was one hundred talents, which, at four thousand five hundred pounds per talent, make four hundred and fifty thousand pounds. And, besides all this, there were twenty basons of gold of one thousand drachms; and two vessels of fine copper as valuable as gold. Houbigant, however, reads, instead of two vessels, &c.—and vessels of fine copper, polished, and precious as gold.
From this new reformation made by Ezra in the Jewish church and common-wealth, the learned Prideaux begins the computation of Daniel's weeks.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The proclamation of Artaxerxes having given the Jews full liberty to return to their own land, we have here the muster-roll of those who accepted the proffered liberty.
1. The volunteers in this service were 1496, and among them several of great name. Many of the former families also followed their brethren; and all the sons of Adonikam now left Babylon for Jerusalem. Note; If our relations have led the way towards the good land, let it provoke us to jealousy, and to cast in our lot with them. Pity it is, that houses should be divided, and any dear relations choose to stay behind rather than go with us to the heavenly Jerusalem.
2. At a general review on new-year's day, among all this company no Levite was found. Ezra could not but be grieved at such a defection, and, as they came not of their own accord, he sends eleven of the principal people to Iddo, who was chief over them at Casiphia, that he might provide ministers for the house of God. Note; They who are backward to discharge their duty, must be stirred up to it. If ministers are negligent, they are to be put in mind, that they take heed to their ministry.
3. The application succeeded: thirty-eight Levites, under three principal leaders, offered themselves for the service; and two hundred and twenty Nethinims accompanied them, whose names were honourably inserted in the register. This Ezra justly ascribes to God's gracious interposition, inclining and disposing the hearts of his ministers to undertake the service.
2nd, Dangerous and tedious was the journey that they were about to undertake; and they had to fear from their enemies, the Arabs and Samaritans. They proclaim a fast, therefore, to humble their souls for their sins, and entreat God to direct their way aright, and preserve them and theirs. They might, indeed, have procured a guard; but Ezra, jealous for the honour of God, in whom, before the king, he had expressed his firm confidence, as the protector of his people, and the destroyer of his enemies, would rather meet the danger, dependent on his care, than give the least occasion of offence by such an application. And their prayers procured a better guard than legions of armed men; for God was entreated of them, and covered them with the shadow of his wing. Note; (1.) It becomes us ever to be jealous for the honour of God, and rather to expose ourselves to difficulty, than give any occasion of stumbling to others. (2.) They who humbly seek God, dependent on his care, will find him a very present help in trouble.
3rdly, Before they set forth on their journey, Ezra appointed twelve priests, and as many Levites, to take the charge of the treasures and vessels which were consecrated to God's service; with which they, as holy men employed also in the service of God, were the fittest to be entrusted, till they came to Jerusalem. Note; (1.) They who have the care of holy things, ought themselves to be holy men. (2.) They who are entrusted with the money of the public, or the contributions devoted to charitable uses, had need be exact in their accounts; that they may, without suspicion of dishonesty, minister the abundance confided to them. (3.) They who have the care of immortal souls, which are infinitely more precious than gold and silver, had need take heed, and incessantly watch over the flock of which the Holy Ghost hath made them pastors; that, when the chief Shepherd shall appear, they may with comfort and confidence give an account of their stewardship.
4thly, After a long journey of four months, we have,
1. Their safe arrival at Jerusalem, under the gracious conduct of a preserving God, notwithstanding all the wiles of their enemies. Note; (1.) Though the enemies of the children of God are mighty, many, and crafty, God will break through every snare, and make his people more than conquerors. (2.) Whenever we return in safety from a journey or a voyage, let us never forget the tribute of grateful acknowledgment for the mercy!
2. The faithful delivery of the dedicated treasures and vessels for the Lord's house into the hands of the chief priests and Levites appointed to receive them, in tale and weight exact as they were committed to Sherebiah and his brethren, and the receipt of them recorded to their honour. Note; It will be a happy day, when we give up our trust to Jesus, if we can hear him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
3. No sooner are they arrived, than their first care is to surround God's altar, and offer their sacrifices: a sin offering of atonement, to make peace with God; and burnt offerings of thanksgiving for all Israel, now once more united in the same happy service, and under the same leader. Note; When our persons are accepted through the atoning blood, our service becomes acceptable, a sacrifice of a sweet savour, well-pleasing to God.
4. Ezra delivered the commissions to the king's lieutenants in the neighbouring provinces; who, seeing the king's pleasure, contributed as they were required to the support of the people, and the house of God. Thus can God make his people's foes bow down at their feet, and know that he hath loved them.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent