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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 8

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezra 8:0


Heads of Families Who Returned With EzraA List of Priestly and Lay Clans Who Returned with EzraThe People Who Returned From ExileEzra's Journey from Babylonia to Palestine(Ezra 7:27-36)
Ezra 7:27-1
Ezra 8:1-14Ezra 8:1-14Ezra 8:1-14
Ezra 8:2-14
Servants for the TempleEzra Finds Levites for the Temple
Ezra 8:15-20Ezra 8:15-20Ezra 8:15-20Ezra 8:15-20
Fasting and Prayer for ProtectionEzra Leads the People in Fasting and Prayer
Ezra 8:21-23Ezra 8:21-23Ezra 8:21-23Ezra 8:21-23
Gifts for the TempleThe Gifts for the Temple
Ezra 8:24-30Ezra 8:24-30Ezra 8:24-30Ezra 8:24-30
The Return to JerusalemThe Return to Jerusalem
Ezra 8:31-35Ezra 8:31-34Ezra 8:31-34Ezra 8:31-34
Ezra 8:35-36Ezra 8:35-36Ezra 8:35
Ezra 8:36Ezra 8:36

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 1-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:1-14 1Now these are the heads of their fathers' households and the genealogical enrollment of those who went up with me from Babylon in the reign of King Artaxerxes: 2of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom; of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel; of the sons of David, Hattush; 3of the sons of Shecaniah who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah and with him 150 males who were in the genealogical list; 4of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah and 200 males with him; 5of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah, the son of Jahaziel and 300 males with him; 6and of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan and 50 males with him; 7and of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah and 70 males with him; 8and of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael and 80 males with him; 9of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel and 218 males with him; 10and of the sons of Bani, Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah and 160 males with him; 11and of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah the son of Bebai and 28 males with him; 12and of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan and 110 males with him; 13and of the sons of Adonikam, the last ones, these being their names, Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and 60 males with them; 14and of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zabbud, and 70 males with them.

8:l-14 This is a list of those Jewish people who returned from exile in Babylon with Ezra. They are, for the most part, members of the same families who returned under Zerubbabel.

This list begins with two priests and one descendant of the royal line of David. In a sense this parallels Zerubbabel (royal line) and Jeshua (family of Aaronic High Priest). The author is trying to show that both groups of leaders (royal and priestly) were also involved in the third return (first, Sheshbazzar, cf. Ezra 1:0, under Cyrus; second, Zerubbabel/Jeshua, cf. Ezra 2-6, under Darius and now Ezra, some 57-58 years later, under Artaxerxes I).

Ezra 8:1 “with me” This shows that Ezra himself is writing or dictating his own experience. Ezra's actions continue in Nehemiah 7:72-18.

“I” sections are present in both Ezra and Nehemiah, which show they are two separate books even though they are combined in Hebrew tradition.

Ezra 8:2 “the sons of Phinehas, Gershom” Phinehas was a son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron (cf. Exodus 6:25; 1 Chronicles 6:4, 1 Chronicles 6:50; 1 Chronicles 9:20; I Esdras 8:2). In this context, we learn that he was the father of Gershom, a priest who returned with Ezra. He was a relative of Ezra (cf. Ezra 7:5).

“the sons of Ithamar, Daniel” Ithamar was one of the four sons of Aaron (cf. Exodus 6:23). Daniel, one of his descendants, returned with Ezra. Daniel is also listed as a priest in Nehemiah 10:6. Nothing else is known about him.

Ithamar's descendants', Eli's (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-16) and Abiathar's (cf. 1 Kings 2:27) actions caused this family of priests to be depreciated in importance and service. Jeremiah was of this family.

“the sons of David, Hattush” After the list of priests, there is a mention of the royal line of Judah, Hattush. He is mentioned in the Davidic genealogy of 1 Chronicles 3:0 (cf. Ezra 8:22) and in the extra-canonical book of I Esdras (Ezra 8:29).

“sons of Shecaniah” This man was a relative of Zerubbabel (also of the royal line of Judah) listed in 1 Chronicles 3:21-22. Because of the recurrent pattern in this context, he may be related to Hattush and not Parosh (cf. Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, p. 475 and The NET Bible, p. 720).

“Parosh” This name appears several times in Ezra and Nehemiah as an Israelite family that returned with Zerubbabel. A descendant by the same name was active in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 2:3; Ezra 8:3; Ezra 10:25; Nehemiah 3:25; Nehemiah 7:8; Nehemiah 10:14; and I Esdras 8:30).

“Zechariah” Several persons by this name are listed in the returnees with Ezra (cf. Ezra 8:3, Ezra 8:4, Ezra 8:11, Ezra 8:16; Ezra 10:26). This one was a descendant of Parosh. The NASB is translated in such a way that it implies he is related to Shecaniah, which would make him of the tribe of Judah, but the Hebrew seems to separate this man into another group, not necessarily from any specific tribe.

Ezra 8:4 “Pahath-moab” This is a leader of the returning Jews who is mentioned several times (cf. Ezra 2:6; Ezra 8:4; Nehemiah 3:11; Nehemiah 7:11; Nehemiah 10:14). The name implies that this large clan was from the area of Moab or they served David there (cf. 1 Samuel 22:3-4). Two thousand eight hundred and twelve of his descendants returned under Zerubbabel and 200 more under Ezra.

Ezra 8:5 “Zattu” This name is omitted in the Hebrew text, but is included in the Septuagint and I Esdras 8:32. It is also missing in the Peshitta. He is the head of a large family that returned with Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 2:8; Ezra 8:5; Nehemiah 7:13; I Esdras 8:32). A large number returned with Zerubbabel (i.e., 945 males) and possibly 300 more males with Ezra (cf. I Esdras 8:32).

“Shecaniah” I Esdras 8:32 makes him a descendant of Zattu and son of Jahaziel.

Ezra 8:6 “Adin” This man's descendants (i.e., Jonathan, Ebed) returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel in 454 (cf. Ezra 2:15) and under Ezra 50 more males made the long trip from Babylon to Judah.

Ezra 8:7 “Elam” This name, like Pahath-moab, may reflect the area to which these Jewish men were exiled (cf. Ezra 2:7). There is another group from this area mentioned in Ezra 2:31. The first group had 1,254 who returned under Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 2:7; Nehemiah 7:12; I Esdras 5:12).

In this text a second group returns under Ezra with Athaliah, Jeshaiah, and 70 males.

Ezra 8:8 “Shephatiah” This is another family who returned under Zerubbabel with 372 males (cf. Ezra 2:4), and later, under Ezra (Ezra 8:8; I Esdras 8:34) another 81 or 82 (which included Michael and Zebadiah). The parallel non-canonical account in I Esdras puts their numbers as 472 and 71 (cf. I Esd. 5:9).

Ezra 8:9 “Joab” This family is related to Pahath-moab (cf. Ezra 2:6; Nehemiah 7:11). They returned with 2,812 males under Zerubbabel and 80 plus (Jehiel and Obadiah) with Ezra (Ezra 8:8).

Ezra 8:10 “Bani” This family is listed in Ezra 2:10 as bringing 642 males back with Zerubbabel (cf. I Esd. 5:12). Nehemiah 7:15, which is a parallel genealogy, has “Binnui” and lists the returning males as 648. Many scholars believe this refers to the same person, which is surely possibly, but the mentioning of both “Bani” and “Binnui” in Ezra 10:38 makes one wonder.

The name is omitted in the Hebrew text and the Peshitta, but is present in the several manuscripts of the Septuagint, as well as I Esdras 8:36.

Ezra 8:11 “Bebai” This is another family who returned under Zerubbabel with 623 males (cf. Ezra 2:11; Nehemiah 7:16 has 628). Then later under Ezra another 28-29 (cf. Ezra 8:11, which includes Zechariah).

Ezra 8:12 “Azgad” This name means “Gad is strong” (BDB 739) and may reflect a tribal origin. This family returned initially under Zerubbabel with 1,222 males (cf. Ezra 2:12; Nehemiah 7:17; I Esd. 5:13) and then later under Ezra another 110 plus (including Hakkatan and Johanan, cf. Ezra 8:12).

Ezra 8:13 “Adonikam” The name (BDB 12) means “the Lord has arisen.” This family returned under Zerubbabel with 666 or 667 males (Nehemiah 7:18). They are mentioned again here by three proper names and 60 males as returning under Ezra (cf. I Esd. 5:14; 8:39).

Ezra 8:13

NASB“the last ones” NKJV“of the last sons of” NRSV“those who came later” TEV“(they returned at a later date)” NJB“the younger sons”

This possibly means that the whole family returned, some with Zerubbabel, and the rest, at a later time, with Ezra. It is obvious from these English translations that the phrase's meaning is uncertain. BDB (p. 30) supports the NRSV and TEV's understanding as an ADJECTIVE of time.

Ezra 8:14 “Bigvai” This is a significant family that returned with Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7). He is listed in Ezra 8:2 and then the number of males who returned is given in Ezra 8:14 as 2,056. Two of his sons and 70 males returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:14; I Esd. 5:14; 8:14, which says they came from Persia).

NASB, NKJV“Zabbud” NRSV, TEV, NIV, JPSOA”Zaccur” NJB, LXX”Azbud”

The NASB follows the Kethiv (written) of the Hebrew text (MT), but NRSV follows the Qere (read) of the MT (and the Peshitta).

Verses 15-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:15-20 15Now I assembled them at the river that runs to Ahava, where we camped for three days; and when I observed the people and the priests, I did not find any Levites there. 16So I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, teachers. 17I sent them to Iddo the leading man at the place Casiphia; and I told them what to say to Iddo and his brothers, the temple servants at the place Casiphia, that is, to bring ministers to us for the house of our God. 18According to the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of insight of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, and his sons and brothers, 18 men; 19and Hashabiah and Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his brothers and their sons, 20 men; 20and 220 of the temple servants, whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites, all of them designated by name.

Ezra 8:15 “Ahava” This is apparently the name of a district, a river, or a city in Babylon where Ezra camped and prepared for his journey to Jerusalem. The location has never been found and the meaning of the name is uncertain (BDB 13).

The non-canonical book of I Esdras calls the river “Thares” (cf. I Esd. 8:41,61).

“I did not find any Levites there” There was a good number of priests but they needed more Levites to help them in their temple work. The Levites did the more manual and mundane work of the temple routine. Therefore, they encouraged Ezra to find and recruit more of them.

Ezra 8:16 “Ariel” This name (BDB 72) means “lion” or “lioness” of God (El). It is a cryptic way of referring to Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 29:1, Isaiah 29:2, Isaiah 29:7), but here it appears as a proper name, so too, of a man of Moab (cf. 2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22).

“leading men” This is the Hebrew term for “head” (BDB 910) PLURAL. It is uncertain if they are priests, tribal leaders, or heads of clans (families).

Names like Zechariah were very common and it is uncertain if the same name in Ezra 8:3 refers to the same person as Ezra 8:11 or 16. Probably there are three different persons by this name who returned with Ezra.

NASB, TEV“teachers” NKJV“men of understanding” NRSV“who were wise” NJB“judicious men”

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 106, KB 122, Hiphil PARTICIPLE) means “one with discernment” or “understanding.” It became the title for teachers in later Judaism. In this period the Levites functioned as the teachers, but these two men are not identified as Levites.

Ezra 8:17 “Casiphia” This word (BDB 494) seems to be a place location in Babylon (but unidentified), either of a large Jewish settlement or a well-known Jewish school. Some scholars even think it could possibly be a Jewish sanctuary similar to the one in Egypt mentioned in the Elephantine papyri.

“Iddo and his brothers, the temple servants” Does this verse imply that

1. Iddo was related to the Nethinim (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 203-204)

2. Nethinim refers to non-Jews who were captured foreigners in Israel's past and now had become temple slaves (cf. Ezra 8:20)

3. Nethinim here simply means temple servants (i.e., Levites, cf. Ezra 8:18-19)

Ezra 8:18 “Mahli” He was a descendant of one of the three sons of Levi (Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, cf. Numbers 3:17). Merari's sons were assigned the task of helping to move the tabernacle (cf. Numbers 4:29-33). Mahli was a descendant of Merari (cf. 1 Chronicles 6:47).

Verses 21-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:21-23 21Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. 22For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” 23So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.

Ezra 8:21-23 This is a very personal note which reveals the heart of Ezra. Nehemiah did exactly the opposite (i.e., request troops), but also from a stance of faith (cf. Nehemiah 2:7-9). It must be remembered that Ezra had a religious purpose and Nehemiah had a political purpose. Ezra's faith was expressed in (1) words to Artaxerxes and (2) prayers and fasting to God. Witness and action!

It must be remembered that Ezra will take a large amount of precious metal from the king and other Jews (cf. Ezra 8:25). The amount was staggering, yet he asked for no protection!

Ezra 8:21

NASB, NRSV“a safe journey” NKJV“the right way” TEV“lead us on our journey” NJB“for a successful journey”

The literal Hebrew construct is “a straight way” (BDB 202 plus 449). God's will and teachings are often characterized as a way or path (cf. Psalms 1:1; Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 4:10-19). The early church was first called “the Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22 and possibly Acts 18:25, Acts 18:26). Biblical faith is a lifestyle response to God.

The term “straight” is a crucial theological term often used to describe God's character, but here it is used in its non-theological connotation of a safe or successful trip.

Ezra 8:22 Ezra's words to the king are a good example of a proverbial statement structured in poetic antithetical, parallel lines.

Verses 24-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:24-30 24Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and with them ten of their brothers; 25and I weighed out to them the silver, the gold and the utensils, the offering for the house of our God which the king and his counselors and his princes and all Israel present there had offered. 26Thus I weighed into their hands 650 talents of silver, and silver utensils worth 100 talents, and 100 gold talents, 27and 20 gold bowls worth 1, 000 Daric, and two utensils of fine shiny bronze, precious as gold. 28Then I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, and the utensils are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD God of your fathers. 29Watch and keep them until you weigh them before the leading priests, the Levites and the heads of the fathers' households of Israel at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD.” 30So the priests and the Levites accepted the weighed out silver and gold and the utensils, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God.

Ezra 8:24

NASB, NRSV“set apart” NKJV“separated” TEV, NJB“chose”

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 95, KB 110, “to divide,” Hiphil IMPERFECT) means to make special note of someone or some thing to serve God. It was used of

1. God selecting Israel, Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 16:9

2. Moses selecting the Levites, Numbers 8:14

3. God selecting the tribe of Levi, Deuteronomy 10:8

4. David selecting the sons of Asaph, Herman, and Jeduthun to be temple musicians, 1 Chronicles 25:1

5. Ezra's selection to care for the special offerings for the temple (in this text)

It has the connotation of a divinely-led selection of persons for an assigned task.

“the leading priests” The NASB (1995 Update) translation uses the English word “leader/leading” several times in this chapter.

1. “leading men,” Ezra 8:16 (BDB 106, i.e., “Men of understanding, e.g., Nehemiah 10:28)

2. “the leading man,” Ezra 8:17 (BDB 910, “head” e.g., Ezra 8:29)

3. “leading priests,” Ezra 8:24, Ezra 8:29 (BDB 987, “officials,” “rulers,” e.g., Ezra 7:28; Ezra 8:20, Ezra 8:25; Ezra 10:8, Ezra 10:14)

Also note that Sherebiah seems to be called a priest when Nehemiah 12:24 calls him a Levite. I Esdras 8:54 shows the distinction by adding “and” before his name in Ezra 8:24 (cf. Derek Kidner, Tyndale Commentary Series, “Ezra and Nehemiah,” p. 66 and The Anchor Bible, vol. 14, p. 67).

Ezra 8:26 “talents” See Special Topic: Ancient Near East Weights and Volumes.

Ezra 8:27

NASB“fine shiny bronze” NKJV, NRSV“fine polished bronze” TEV“fine bronze” NJB“fine burnished copper”

This term (BDB 843, KB 1007) occurs only here in the hophal (PARTICIPLE). Its color ranges from yellow to gold.

Ezra 8:28 “You are holy to the LORD” “Holy” is the Hebrew term kadosh (BDB 871, KB 1076, VERB 1072). It has a similar connotation to “set apart” of Ezra 8:24 (i.e., set apart for God's service).


Ezra 8:29 “Watch and keep” These VERBS (BDB 1052, KB 1638 and BDB 1036, KB 1581) are both Qal IMPERATIVES. They have similar meanings and are used for emphasis.

Verses 31-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:31-34 31Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way. 32Thus we came to Jerusalem and remained there three days. 33On the fourth day the silver and the gold and the utensils were weighed out in the house of our God into the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34Everything was numbered and weighed, and all the weight was recorded at that time.

Ezra 8:31 “the hand of our God was over us” See notes at Ezra 7:6, Ezra 7:9, Ezra 7:28; Ezra 8:18, Ezra 8:22. See Special Topic: Hand.

Ezra 8:32 One wonders if these “three days” are related to the three days of fasting and prayer of Ezra 8:15 and 21. Ezra prayed before he left and maybe he also had a time of thanksgiving and prayer when he arrived (cf. Ezra 8:21, Ezra 8:25; Nehemiah 2:11).

Verses 35-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 8:35-36 35 The exiles who had come from the captivity offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: 12 bulls for all Israel, 96 rams, 77 lambs, 12 male goats for a sin offering, all as a burnt offering to the LORD. 36Then they delivered the king's edicts to the king's satraps and to the governors in the provinces beyond the River, and they supported the people and the house of God.

Ezra 8:35

NASB, NJB“the exiles” NKJV“the children” NRSV“the returned exiles” TEV“those who had returned from exile”

The literal phrase is “sons of exile,” which is the use of “son” to denote a characteristic of a group, which is common in Hebrew. This phrase is repeated several times in Ezra (cf. Ezra 4:1; Ezra 6:19, Ezra 6:20; Ezra 8:35; Ezra 10:7, Ezra 10:16).

“twelve bulls, 96 rams, 77 lambs, 12 male goats” Each of these is divisible by 12 except for the lambs. However, in I Esdras 8:56 (which may be the correct list of names and numbers) it has 72 instead of 77, which may be the correct number. The Jews were very fond of the number 12 and although Ezra does not try to assert that all twelve tribes return, the Jews use this number often. See Special Topic: THE NUMBER TWELVE.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Sacrifices in Mesopotamia and Israel and their Significance

Ezra 8:36 This verse shows that the political problems documented in Ezra 6:0 have been overcome.


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 is Ezra's lineage given in such detail?

2. How is Ezra related to Jeshua, High Priest under Zerubbabel?

3. Describe the function of the scribe.

4. List the Persian phrases in this chapter.

5. Define the terms talent, kor and bath from a dictionary of the Bible.

6. List the different servants of the Temple found in Ezra 8:24.

7. How is the list of Ezra 8:0 different from the one in Ezra 2:0?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezra 8". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezra-8.html. 2021.
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