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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 2

LIST OF THE EXILES WHO RETURNED WITH ZERUBBABEL, Ezra 2:1-70.

Of this catalogue we have a duplicate in Nehemiah 7:6-73, and both lists were probably taken from the same source a register of those families and classes who first returned from exile, made at the time of their return, and long preserved as a most interesting document. To any Jew, whose ancestors were among the families named in this catalogue, the document would be of incalculable value. “Their land and their cities,” says Patrick, “had been laid so desolate, and had been so long neglected, and were infested also by such bad neighbours, that it was a great piece of generosity in these men to return thither; and their names are recorded, to the eternal honour of them and of their posterity, they being the first planters of this country after it had been laid waste.”

Verse 1

1. Children of the province By the province the district of Judah is meant, which had Jerusalem for its capital. The children or sons of this province, like “sons of Greece,” “sons of Italy,” were those to whom that province was the fatherland. Some of them had probably been born in exile, but doubtless a large proportion of them had been children or youths when their fathers were led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. Some were “ancient men that had seen the first house,” (Ezra 3:12;) so that this list was largely composed of the same individuals whom Nebuchadnezzar… had carried away unto Babylon. Every one unto his city With most of those in this list it was probably easy to ascertain their native city, and as far as possible the returning exiles would naturally seek their ancestral homes again. Such as “could not show their father’s house,” (Ezra 2:59,) were probably assigned to special districts or towns.

Verse 2

2. Zerubbabel: Jeshua These were the two chief fathers and guides of the people who returned. Both seem to have been born in Babylon, and the name Zerubbabel has this signification, from זרוע , Zerua, sown, that is, begotten, and בבל , Babel, Babylon. Zerubbabel is called by our author the son of Shealtiel, (Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5:2;) so also in Nehemiah 12:1; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Matthew 1:12; and Luke 3:27; but according to 1 Chronicles 3:19 he was the son of Pedaiah and nephew of Shealtiel, or Salathiel. How to explain this difference is doubtful. There seems to be no corruption or confusion in the text of Chronicles. Perhaps Shealtiel died childless, and Pedaiah married his widow, and, according to levirate custom, his children were reckoned to his brother. Genesis 38:8: Deuteronomy 25:5-6. At any rate he succeeded Shealtiel in the genealogy as the head of the house of David during the exile, and he was popularly called the son of Shealtiel, and no one disputed his title or authority. Jeshua was the son of Jozadak, the high priest, (Ezra 3:2; Haggai 1:1;) who was carried off among the exiles. 1 Chronicles 6:15. He is associated with Zerubbabel, as if they were the leading spirits and main promoters of the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 5:2. In two of the symbolical prophecies of Zechariah, (Ezra 3:1-10; Ezra 7:11-15,) Jeshua stands as head and representative of the Jewish people. The regal and priestly offices, as represented by these two men, are called in Zechariah 4:14 “the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Though Zerubbabel was a descendant of David, and Jeshua of Aaron, neither the monarchy nor the priesthood was fully restored after the exile. From that time the heart of all Israel began to yearn after Messiah, who should satisfy the noblest ideal of both king and priest.

Nehemiah Not the distinguished individual whose history is given in the Book of Nehemiah. Nearly all the individuals whose names occur in this list are otherwise unknown.

This verse contains the names of the chief leaders and elders of the returning exiles. The differences of form between some of the names in this list and that of Nehemiah vii are shown in the margin. Nehemiah’s list contains one name not found in this, namely, Nahamani. Nehemiah 7:7. This, with the rest, makes twelve persons who appear as the heads of the new community, and in this number there was, perhaps, a reference to the twelve tribes. The returned exiles thus cultivated the feeling that they somehow represented all the people of Israel, the “remnant” of all the ancient tribes. Comp. Ezra 6:17.

The rest of the list proper, which embraces Ezra 2:8-63, may be divided into five parts: 1) The men of the people of Israel, 3-35; 2) The priests, 36-39; 3) The Levites, 40-42; 4) The Nethinim and the children of Solomon’s servants, 43-58; 5) Persons unable to show lawful genealogy, 59-63. The following table will show at a glance the differences, especially of numbers, between Ezra and Nehemiah:

Ezra. Nehemiah Children of Parosh 2,172 2,172 “ Shephatiah 372 372 “ Arah 775 652 “ Pahath-moab of the children of Jeshua and Joab 2,812 2,818 “ Elam 1,254 1,254 “ Zattu 945 845 “ Zaccai 760 760 “ Bani, (Nehemiah, Binnui) 642 648 “ Bebai 623 628 “ Azgad 1,222 2,322 “ Adonikam 666 667 “ Bigvai 2,056 2,067 “ Adin 454 655 “ Ater of Hezekiah 98 98 “ Bezai 323 324 “ Jorah (Nehemiah, Hariph) 112 112 “ Hashum 223 328 “ Gibbar (Nehemiah, Gibeon) 95 95 “ Beth-lehem 123 (Nehemiah men of Beth-lehem and Netophah) 188 Men of Netophah 56 “ Anathoth 128 128 Children of Azmaveth, (Nehemiah, Beth-Azmaveth) 42 42 “ Kirjath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth 743 743 “ Ramah and Gaba 621 621 Men of Michmas 122 122 “ Beth-el and Ai 223 123 Children of Nebo, (Nehemiah, men of the other Nebo.) 52 52 “ Magbish, (Nehemiah, no corresponding name) 156 “ the other Elam 1,254 1,254 “ Harim 320 320 “ Lod, Hadid, and Ono 725 721 “ Jericho 345 345 “ Senaah 3,630 3,930 “ Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua 973 973 “ Immer 1,052 1,052

“ Pashur 1,247 1,247 “ Harim 1,017 1,017 “ Jeshua and Kadmiel of… Hodaviah, (Nehemiah, Hodevah.) 74 74 “ Asaph (singers) 128 148 “ the porters 139 138 Nethinims and children of Solomon’s servants 392 392 Children of unregistered ancestors 652 642 Sum of the numbers in each list 2,9818 3,1089 Whole congregation 42,360 42,360 Man servants and maid servants 7,337 7,387 Singing men and women 200 245 Horses 736 736 Mules 245 245 Camels 435 435 Asses 6,720 6,720 In the above tables we observe that the numbers in Ezra’s list amount to 29,818, and in Nehemiah’s to 31,089, and yet according to both lists the entire congregation numbers 42,360. Ezra 2:64 comp. with Nehemiah 7:66. The probability is, that neither list is meant to be a perfect enumeration of all the families that returned from exile, but only of such families of Judah and Benjamin as could show an authentic genealogy of their father’s house, while the 42,360 includes many persons and families belonging to other tribes who in their exile had lost all certain record of their genealogy, but were, nevertheless, true descendants of some of the ancient tribes. Here is evidence that with the exile the different tribe distinctions, especially in the northern kingdom, became lost, and that multitudes of real Israelites, both among those who returned from exile and those who did not return, thenceforth lost all record of their tribal lineage.

It is also noticeable that Ezra’s list mentions 494 persons not recognised in Nehemiah’s list, and Nehemiah’s list mentions 1,765 not recognised in Ezra’s; but if we add the surplus of Ezra to the sum of Nehemiah, (494+31,089=31,583,) we have the same result as by adding Nehemiah’s surplus to the sum of Ezra’s numbers, (1,765+29,818=31,583.) Hence it may be plausibly supposed that 31,583 was the sum of all that could show their father’s house; that the two lists before us were drawn up independently of each other; and that both are defective, though one supplies the defects of the other. “In some cases,” says Wordsworth, “the author of the list in Ezra seems to have had fuller returns of the families to which the people belonged; in other cases, the returns in Nehemiah are more complete. This was natural, but the coincidences show that the one list confirms the other. It is not surprising that the members of the constituencies of the several families do not always tally in the two lists. By means of levirate marriages, or adoptions, the same persons might indifferently belong to two different father’s houses; and if women are reckoned, they might be ranged under the house of their father on one list, and of their husband on another.”

In several instances we have the names of places instead of men; as children of Gibeon, and Beth-lehem, (Ezra 2:20-21.) and men of Netophah, Anathoth, Beth-el, etc. The reason of this is not apparent, but the meaning is, that the place named was either the ancestral home of the children or men whose numbers are given, or else it was the place to which they were assigned on their return from exile.

Verse 7

7. Children of Elam Whether Elam is here the name of a place or person is uncertain. As no place of this name is ever mentioned in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and another Elam is mentioned in Ezra 2:31, the probability is, that in each place Elam is the name of a person.

Verse 41

41. Singers See notes on 1 Chronicles 15:16-22.

Verse 42

42. Porters Doorkeepers of the temple. See on 1 Chronicles 9:18.

Verse 43

43. The Nethinim The given ones, that is, given to the Levites as hereditary temple servants, to perform for them the menial work of the sanctuary See on 1 Chronicles 9:2.

Verse 55

55. Children of Solomon’s servants Descendants of those Canaanitish slaves upon whom “Solomon levied a tribute of bond service unto this day,” (1 Kings 9:20-21,) and who probably became incorporated in Israel as proselytes. They were so closely associated with the Nethinim in their nationality and their work that they are here reckoned among them, and classed and numbered with them. Compare Ezra 2:58 and Nehemiah 11:3.

Verse 59

59. Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan, Immer These are the names of cities or districts in Chaldea, but they have not been identified with modern sites. Some take the last three to be names of persons.

Verse 61

61. The children of Barzillai So called, as is immediately explained, because their ancestor, a priest, had married a daughter of the distinguished Gileadite, who showed great kindness to David. 2Sa 17:27 ; 2 Samuel 19:32-39; 1 Kings 2:7.

Their name The name of the daughters. Hence the confusion in their genealogy.

Verse 62

62. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy Literally, these sought their register the enrolled. According to Bertheau, the enrolled was the title of their register. The English version, however, gives the sense with sufficient clearness.

As polluted, put from the priesthood For, according to the law, no stranger might approach the altar to minister. Numbers 3:10; Numbers 16:40. All priests must be sons of Aaron.

Verse 63

63. The Tirshatha A Persian title of the governor of a district, and, according to Gesenius: equivalent to Your Severity, or Dread Sovereign. Nehemiah is called Tirshatha, (Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1,) and this title is sometimes interchanged with פחה , governor. Comp. especially Nehemiah 12:26. In our text the title Tirshatha is to be understood of Zerubbabel, not, as some have supposed, of Nehemiah.

Not eat of the most holy things For strangers could no more lawfully eat of the hallowed things, such as the remnant of the meat offering, (Leviticus 2:3,) than they could minister at the altar. Compare marginal references.

A priest with Urim By whom the uncertain genealogy might be settled, and the divine will in the matter be determined. In the former times such matters had been settled by inquiring through those Urim and Thummim on the ephod of the high priest. See 1 Samuel 30:7-8, and notes on Exodus 28:30, and Joshua 1:1. From this verse it appears that these sacred media of learning the divine counsel had been lost during the captivity, and we have no reliable record that they were ever replaced.

Verses 65-68

65-68. Servants… horses… camels To some of these the returning Jews were helped by their wealthy friends and neighbours who remained in Babylon, (Ezra 1:4; Ezra 1:6;) but probably not a few of the wealthy themselves returned with all their possessions to Judah; and of their substance that they had acquired in the land of exile, they offered freely for the house of God. These wealthy ones were doubtless those who followed the advice of the prophet Jeremiah, and built houses and planted gardens, and made the most of their opportunities to improve and prosper while in exile. Jeremiah 29:5-6; Jeremiah 29:28.

In his place Rather, upon its foundation; and these were to be lain on the site of the previous temple. On the site of the Solomonic temple, see note at the beginning of 1 Kings 6:0.

Verse 69

69. Threescore and one thousand Literally, Six myriads and one thousand.

Drams of gold Rather, gold darics. These were a coin current in the Persian empire from the time of Cyrus onward, probably till the spread of the Macedonian power over the East. Gold darics have been discovered bearing on one side the figure of a king, with a bow in one hand and a lance or javelin in the other, and on the other side a figure of uncertain meaning. The coin weighs 128 grains, and is valued at $5.52. The whole amount of gold, then, contributed by these wealthy fathers was $336,720 a gift worthy of the occasion.

Five thousand pounds of silver The Hebrew word here rendered pounds is מנים , manim, that is, mina. The silver mina or maneh is valued at $32, so that the whole amount of silver here named would be $160,000. Nehemiah’s numbers are different. Nehemiah 7:70-72. He says the Tirshatha gave 1,000 gold darics, 50 basins, 530 priests’ garments. Some of the chief fathers gave 20,000 darics, and 2,200 silver mina; and the rest of the people gave 20,000 darics, 2,000 mina, and 67 priests garments; so that the gross sum in Nehemiah is 41,000 darics, 4,200 mina, 597 priests’ garments, and 50 basins. Bertheau thinks Nehemiah’s text is the more accurate and complete; but here again, as in the lists above, one table may supplement the other, so that neither is in itself complete.

Verse 70

70. In their cities The cities assigned them as their future homes. With many these cities were ancestral homes.

All Israel The entire community of returned exiles who now represented the Israelitish nation.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezra 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ezra-2.html. 1874-1909.