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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezra 2:0


The Captives Who Returned to JerusalemA Census of the First ReturnThe List of Those Who Returned from ExileList of the First Exiles to Return
Ezra 2:1-39Ezra 2:1-2aEzra 2:1-2aEzra 2:1-2a
Ezra 2:2-35Ezra 2:2-20Ezra 2:2-35
Ezra 2:21-35
Ezra 2:36-39Ezra 2:36-39Ezra 2:36-39
Ezra 2:40Ezra 2:40-42Ezra 2:40-42Ezra 2:40-42
Ezra 2:41
Ezra 2:42
Ezra 2:43-54Ezra 2:43-54Ezra 2:43-54Ezra 2:43-54
Ezra 2:55-58Ezra 2:55-57Ezra 2:55-57Ezra 2:55-58
Ezra 2:58Ezra 2:58
Ezra 2:59-63Ezra 2:59-63Ezra 2:59-60Ezra 2:59-63
Ezra 2:61-63
Ezra 2:64-67Ezra 2:64-67Ezra 2:64-67Ezra 2:64-67
Ezra 2:68-70Ezra 2:68-69Ezra 2:68-69Ezra 2:68-69
Ezra 2:70Ezra 2:70Ezra 2:70

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:1-2a 1Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. 2These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah.

Ezra 2:1 “Now these are the people of the province” The same list in Nehemiah 7:7 has twelve names listed (possibly symbolic of the twelve tribes returning). It was very important for the Jews who returned from the Exile to be able to prove their lineage. Their Jewish lineage involved inheritance rights in Judah (“each to his city”) as well as covenant renewal promises from YHWH.

Ezra 2:2 “Zerubbabel” This name (BDB 279) means “begotten in Babel” or “offspring of Babel” from the root, “sowing” (BDB 283), or NIDOTTE, “shoot of Babylon,” Ezra 2:4, p. 1312. Apparently this man was a grandson of Jehoachin, the exiled king of Judah (cf. 1 Chronicles 3:19). He led the second wave of returnees to Judah.

“Jeshua” This name (BDB 221) means “YHWH is salvation,” “YHWH brings salvation” or “salvation is of YHWH.” The names Jeshua (Aramaic), Joshua (Hebrew, cf. Haggai 1:1) and Jesus are exactly the same word combination (cf. Matthew 1:21). He is also a relative of Ezra (i.e., the tribe of Levi, family of priests, cf. Ezra 7:1-5).

Verses 2-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:2-35 2bThe number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 the sons of Parosh, 2,172; 4 the sons of Shephatiah, 372; 5 the sons of Arah, 775; 6 the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812; 7 the sons of Elam, 1,254; 8 the sons of Zattu, 945; 9 the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2,056; 15 the sons of Adin, 454; 16 the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98; 17 the sons of Bezai, 323; 18 the sons of Jorah, 112; 19 the sons of Hashum, 223; 20 the sons of Gibbar, 95; 21 the men of Bethlehem, 123; 22 the men of Netophah, 56; 23 the men of Anathoth, 128; 24 the sons of Azmaveth, 42; 25 the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743; 26 the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621; 27 the men of Michmas, 122; 28 the men of Bethel and Ai, 223; 29 the sons of Nebo, 52; 30 the sons of Magbish, 156; 31 the sons of the other Elam, 1,254; 32 the sons of Harim, 320; 33 the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725; 34 the men of Jericho, 345; 35 the sons of Senaah, 3,630.

“Nehemiah” This is not the cup bearer of Artaxerxes who later built the wall of Jerusalem. This man was a leader who returned with Zerubbabel in the second wave of returnees. The name (BDB 637) means “YHWH(iah) is comfort.”

“Seraiah” This was the name of the High Priest in Jerusalem who was killed when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple (cf. 2 Kings 25:18; Jeremiah 52:24).

The person listed here is a Levite or priest who returned with Zerubbabel. The name (BDB 976) means “YHWH(iah) persisteth.” Robert Young's Concordance, p. 861, and The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 606, has the meaning as “YHWH is Prince.” The parallel in Nehemiah 7:7 has Azariah.

“Reelaiah” This leader appears only here, as is true of the vast majority of these names. He was born in exile. His name means “YHWH(iah) causes trembling or reeling” (BDB 947). The parallel in Nehemiah 7:7 has Raamiah.

“Mordecai” This is not Esther's relative during Xerxes I's reign. This was another leader who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon. His name's meaning is uncertain, but seems to be from the god Marduk (BDB 598).

“Bilshan” This returning leader's name may be from the root “to search” (Young's Concordance) or “to inquire” (BDB 119). Nothing else is known of him.

“Mispar” This returning leader is called Mispereth in Nehemiah 7:7. The name is related to the Hebrew term “to write” and may mean “scribe” (BDB 709, Young's Concordance, p. 664).

“Bigvai” This returning leader is also mentioned in Ezra 2:14; Ezra 8:14 and Nehemiah 7:7, Nehemiah 7:19; Nehemiah 10:16. His family was active in post-exilic Jerusalem. The rabbis think he was governor of the province of Judah from 410-407 B.C., but this would make him far too old to have returned from Babylon in 538 B.C. His name comes from the Sanskrit root “to be happy” (BDB 94).

“Rehum” The returning leader is called Nehum in Nehemiah 7:7. The same name is (1) that of a Levite who helped organize the repair of Jerusalem's walls in Nehemiah 3:17 and (2) listed as a priest in Nehemiah 12:3. The name seems to be related to the Hebrew term for “soft,” “gentle,” or “compassionate” (BDB 933).

“Baanah” This returning leader forms the conclusion of a list of twelve in Nehemiah 7:0, but only eleven in Ezra 2:0. His name may mean “son of grief” or “son of distress” (BDB 128). A similar name is found in Nehemiah 3:4 of a man who helped repair the Fish Gate of Jerusalem. It also appears later in Nehemiah 10:17.

“the number of the men of the people of Israel” This listing is similar to Nehemiah 7:0. In Ezra 2:3-20 we deal with the genealogy of the returnees; in Ezra 2:21-35 we deal with the genealogy of the people in relation to their geographical place of family origin before the Exile. In Ezra 2:36-58 we deal with the personnel of the temple, and in Ezra 2:59-63 we deal with those who cannot serve as priests because they cannot document their genealogy.

There are several differences between this list and the list in Nehemiah 7:0, but also overwhelming similarity. Ezra and Nehemiah seem to have both worked from official lists, whether composed by Persian officials or Jewish scribes is uncertain, but apparently two distinct forms of the same list existed. Possibly later scribes updated either Ezra's or Nehemiah's copy. It is also possible that the differences reflect scribal errors in copying the lists over time (NET Bible, p. 712).

Ezra 2:6 “Pahath-moab” This name can mean

1. governor of Moab (Young's Concordance)

2. pit-Moab (BDB 809, “pit” can refer to calamity, cf. Jeremiah 48:43-44; Isaiah 24:17), referring to exile.

Both the Anchor Bible (vol. 14, pp. 12-13) and The Expositor's Bible Commentary (vol. 4, p. 608) state that it refers to transjordan Jews exiled by Tiglath-pilser III.

The Anchor Bible cites 1 Chronicles 5:26, while The Expositor's Bible Commentary cites 1 Chronicles 5:3-8.

Ezra 2:20 “Gibar” In Nehemiah 7:25 we have the word “Gibeon,” which seems to begin a list of cities (cf. Ezra 2:21-35). Gibeon was a Levitical city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin (cf. Joshua 18:25).

Ezra 2:22 “Netophah” This is a city south of Jerusalem near Bethlehem, apparently settled by Levites (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:14, 1 Chronicles 9:16). Men from this village are mentioned several times in the OT (cf. 2 Samuel 23:28, 2 Samuel 23:29; 2 Kings 25:23; 1 Chronicles 2:54; 1 Chronicles 9:16; 1 Chronicles 11:30; 1 Chronicles 27:13, 1 Chronicles 27:15; Jeremiah 40:8; Nehemiah 7:26).

Ezra 2:23 Other Benjaminite cities in this list are

1. Anathoth (a Levitical city, also Jeremiah's home town), Ezra 2:23

2. Ramah (cf. Nehemiah 7:30), Ezra 2:26

3. Geba (a Levitical city also spelled Gabe, cf. Joshua 21:17), Ezra 2:26

4. Michmas (the name means “place of Chemosh”), Ezra 2:27

5. Bethel, Ezra 2:28

6. Ai (close to Bethel), Ezra 2:28

7. Jericho, Ezra 2:34

Ezra 2:25 “Kiriath-arim” In Nehemiah 7:29 it is listed as “Kirioth Jearim,” which is a city northwest of Jerusalem.

Verses 36-39

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:36-39 36The priests: the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 973; 37 the sons of Immer, 1,052; 38 the sons of Pashhur, 1,247; 39 the sons of Harim, 1,017.

Ezra 2:36 “the priest” Ezra 2:36-58 lists a series of temple workers mentioned in order of their importance: priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the temple servants, and special servants.

Three of the families of priests listed go back to the names of priests in David's day (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:0).

1. Jedaiah (family of Joshua, the first post-exilic High Priest, cf. 1 Chronicles 9:10; Nehemiah 7:39)

2. Immer (cf. Jeremiah 20:1)

3. Harim (cf. Ezra 10:21; Nehemiah 3:11)

David had twenty-four groups of priests (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:7-19), but only four of them returned. Pashhur is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:12; Ezek. 2:38; Ezekiel 10:22; Nehemiah 7:41; Nehemiah 11:12.

Ezra 2:38 “Pashhur” He is of the line of Zadok from Jedaiah (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:10-12).

Verses 40-42

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:40-42 40The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hittite, the sons of Shobai, in all 139.

Ezra 2:40 “the Levites” It needs to be remembered that all priests are Levites, but not all Levites are priests. Only the descendants of the family of Aaron performed the sacrificial chores. The other Levites were to be helpers of the priests and teachers of the Law. Notice how few Levites (74) returned in comparison to priests (973). Possibly fewer of them were exiled or temple service for them was too physical and strenuous.

Ezra 2:41 “the singers: the sons of Asaph” From the time of David, we know that there were three groups of Levitical singers: Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun (cf. Ezra 2:1 Kgs. 25:1-8; 1 Chronicles 25:1-8). We do not know what happened to the other two groups.

Ezra 2:42 “the gatekeepers” These specialized temple workers are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; 1 Chronicles 26:1-19. Their duties are delineated in 1 Chronicles 9:26-27. Sometimes they are called Levites (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:26; 2 Chronicles 23:4; Nehemiah 12:25), but other times they seem to be listed as a separate, yet related, group (cf. 2 Chronicles 8:14; 2 Chronicles 35:15; Nehemiah 12:25).

“Shallum” This chief of the gatekeepers (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:17) is also called

1. Meshelemiah, 1 Chronicles 2:21

2. Shelemiah, 1 Chronicles 26:14

3. Meshullam, Nehemiah 12:25

This variety shows

1. they had several names or nicknames

2. the list is so easily corrupted in copying

3. often titles or occupations become names

Verses 43-54

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:43-54 43The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 44 the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, 45 the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, 46 the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, 47 the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, 48 the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, 49 the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, 50 the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephisim, 51 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 52 the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 53 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 54 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.

Ezra 2:43, Ezra 2:58, Ezra 2:70 “the temple servants” Nethinim means, “the given ones” (BDB 682). This term was used for the Levites being given by God to serve the temple to help the priests in Numbers 3:9; Numbers 8:16; Numbers 16:19, but here this group apparently were descendants of Canaanite slaves who were used for service in the temple. This is because of the unusual non-Jewish names. This use of captured people was not uncommon in David's day (cf. 2 Samuel 15:18-22). The Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua during the conquest, fall into the same kind of category (cf. Joshua 9:27). It also appears that Ezekiel speaks to this group in Ezekiel 44:6-31.

Verses 55-57

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:55-57 55The sons of Solomon's servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda, 56 the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 57 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Ami.

Ezra 2:55 “the sons of Solomon's servants” As David used captured Canaanaites as temple slaves (cf. 2 Samuel 15:18-22), so too, Solomon used Canaanites as forced labor (cf. 1 Kings 9:20-21).

“Hassophereth” This may be a proper name based on the root, “to write” (BDB 708) or a guild of scribes (cf. 1 Chronicles 2:55, “the family of scribes”). The form is FEMININE, but used with MASCULINE words (cf. Pochereth-hazzebaim of Ezra 2:57); therefore, it is like Qoheleth of Ecclesiastes, which is a title or office and not a proper name.

Verse 58

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:58 58All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon's servants were 392.

Ezra 2:58 Solomon's servants are also mentioned in Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 11:3, but nowhere else in the OT.

Verses 59-63

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:59-63 59Now these are those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan and Immer, but they were not able to give evidence of their fathers' households and their descendants, whether they were of Israel: 60the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 652. 61Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name. 62These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and were excluded from the priesthood. 63The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim.

Ezra 2:59 “Tel-melah” The term “tel” meant a hill of ruins on which another city was built. The name means “hill of salt” (BDB 1068), which could denote a cultural way of cursing a defeated city (“sowed it with salt” so that nothing would grow, cf. Judges 9:45) or a geographical place where salt is located (e.g., “Salt Sea”). This may refer to Thelma of Ptolemy (cf. The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 7, p. 18) located in lower Babylon near the Persian Gulf.

“Tel-harsha” This is another city in Babylon.

Ezra 2:61 “the sons of Hakkoz” It is possible when one compares Ezra 8:33 (“Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest”) with Nehemiah 3:4 (“Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz,” also Ezra 2:21) that this man's claims to priestly lineage may have been substantiated.

“Barzillai the Gileadite” This clan leader helped King David as he fled from Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 17:27-29). David later tried to reward him for his service and friendship (cf. 2 Samuel 19:31-39).

Ezra 2:63 “governor” This Persian term, Tirshatha (BDB 1077) may mean “the feared,” an idiom for government office. It is used of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 8:9 and Ezra 10:1. Sheshbazzar is called “governor” by a different name, Peha, which is an Assyrian term (BDB 1108) used in Ezra 5:36, Ezra 5:14; Ezra 6:6, Ezra 6:7, Ezra 6:13; Daniel 3:2, Daniel 3:3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:8; and Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2, Haggai 2:21. Both refer to the same office unless Sheshbazzar was subject to the satrap of Samaria.

NASB, NKJV“most holy things” NRSV“most holy food” TEV“the food offered to God” NJB“the consecrated food”

This refers to the priests' part of sacrifices.

“Urim and Thummim” This refers to the special, but unknown, means of knowing God's will. It was kept in the ephod of the High Priest (cf. Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6). They apparently had been lost or were unused for some reason (cf. Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21).

For a good brief discussion of the current theories as to what they were and how they worked, see The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE), vol. 1, pp. 329-330.

Verses 64-67

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:64-67 64The whole assembly numbered 42,360, 65besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and they had 200 singing men and women. 66Their horses were 736; their mules, 245; 67their camels, 435; their donkeys, 6,720.

Ezra 2:64 “the whole assembly numbered 42,360” This total is the same in Ezra 2:0, Nehemiah 7:0, and the apocryphal book of I Esdras.. However, when you add the number of individuals in the different lists, they are different: Ezra, 29,818; Nehemiah, 31,089 and I Esdras, 33,950.

Ezra 2:65 “200 singing men and women” This refers to secular musical entertainment (cf. 2 Samuel 19:35; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ezekiel 26:13).

Ezra 2:66-67 This list of domestic animals may relate to Ezra 1:6 (cf. Ezra 2:68-69).

Verses 68-69

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:68-69 68Some of the heads of fathers' households, when they arrived at the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation. 69According to their ability they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 gold drachmas and 5,000 silver minas and 100 priestly garments.

Ezra 2:68 “offered willingly” See note at Ezra 1:6.

Ezra 2:69 “According to their ability they gave” This becomes a Pauline principle (cf. Acts 11:29; 1 Corinthians 16:12; 2 Corinthians 8:3, 2 Corinthians 8:11). The heart, not a percentage, is the key in giving.

“drachmas” This is a weight of valuable metal serving as a set unit. Here it is spelled daric (alternative form is in 1 Chronicles 29:7), later it will become drachma (Greek word). It is a loan word from a Semitic root earlier than Hebrew. See Special Topic: Ancient Near East Weights and Volumes.

“minas” The term (BDB 584) means “a part” or “to count.” This weight of valuable metal took 50 (cf. Ezekiel 45:12) or 60 to make a shekel. See Special Topic: Ancient Near East Weights and Volumes.

Verse 70

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 2:70 70Now the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants lived in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.

Ezra 2:70 This three-fold division of the people (priests, Levites, the people [other tribes]) is consistent throughout the book. The other three groups (singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants) designate both Jews and foreign servants who serve the cultus.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Cyrus let the children of Israel return to Judah?

2. Why are the Persian decrees so Jewish (cf. Ezra 1:0 and 6)?

3. What is the relationship between Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel?

4. Why is such a detailed register of returnees made in chapter 2 and what is its relationship to Ezra 7:0 and Nehemiah 7:0?

5. List the temple workers and describe their functions.

6. Is Ezra 3:6 in contradiction to Ezra 5:16?

7. How many different returns to Jerusalem were there and under whom?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezra 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezra-2.html. 2021.
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