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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Ezra 2

 

 

Verses 1-70

Chapter 2:

Back To The Place Of The Name

It is to a sample-page from the books of eternity that we are next introduced. A leaf out of God’s memorial record is spread before us for our inspection. Similar specimen lists are given us in other parts of the book of God. Gen. 49 is one. The two accounts of David’s mighty men, as set forth in 2 Sam. and in 1 Chron., are of the same character. In Neh. 3 (and also in 7, where this 2nd of Ezra is duplicated), God shows how carefully He was taking note of each individual, each family, and the work they accomplished for Him. Rom. 16 is much on the same line, though at first sight only a chapter of apostolic greetings, and in Heb. 11 we have an honor-roll that shall yet be consulted at the judgment-seat of Christ. There is something peculiarly solemn about records such as these. Many, yea, most of the names in them are for us only names, but God has not forgotten one of the persons once called by these names on earth, and “in that day” He will reward according to the work of each. Some too must “suffer loss” for opportunities neglected, or half-hearted service. Nothing of good or ill shall be overlooked by Him who seeth not as man seeth, who looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart. How little did any of these devoted Jews of Ezra’s day think that God would preserve a registry of their names and families for future generations to read, and thus to learn how highly He values all that is done from devotion of heart to Himself and for the glory of His name!

“Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city” (ver. 1). And then follows the long list of forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their servants and two hundred choristers (vers. 64, 65). Even the number of their beasts of burden is recorded, for God takes note of all that may be connected with His people, if only in a temporal way (vers. 66, 67).

As one’s eye runs down the list of Hebrew names, there are many that stand out in a special way, and some have most suggestive comments attached.

In verse 2 we read both of a Nehemiah and a Mordecai: but the first must not be confounded with the writer of the next book, who came up later, after the re-building of the temple, and in accordance with the “commandment to restore and build Jerusalem,” mentioned as the starting point of the seventy heptads of Daniel 9:24. Nor should the record be identified with the aged consin of Queen Esther, who remained in the city of Shushan, and so far as we know, never went up to Jerusalem after being carried away as a child (Esther 2:5, 6).

“The men of Anathoth,” of verse 23, recalls Jeremiah’s purchase of the field of Anathoth, so long before, and the sealed title-deeds awaiting their lawful claimant. It looked, like the height of folly to purchase a field in a doomed district; but faith looked on to the restoration, and now the long-expected day had come when the sealed scroll would prove of real value (Jer. 32).

It is noticeable that so few Levites went up at this time (ver. 40). Only seventy-four! A small company indeed, and what wonder if we look only at the human side of it. They were to have no inheritance save in the Lord. He alone must be their portion. But it took genuine faith to enable these dear servants of God to count upon His abundant resources at a time when neither wealth nor prestige were found among His remnant people. That a time of testing had soon to be faced we may see by consulting Nehemiah 13:10. If God’s people are going on with Him His servants will not be neglected, however little there may seem to be for sight to look upon. And on the other hand, if the people of the Lord do prove forgetful, it is for the servant to realize the more his dependence on God Himself-not on saints, however amiable and benevolent.

There were more of the children of Asaph, the temple singers, than of the Levites in Zerubbabel’s company (ver. 41). Of them one hundred and twenty-eight went up. The spirit of praise supports the soul and easily passes over rough ways.

Some there were who could not show their genealogy. “These were they that went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan and Immer: but they could not show their father’s house and their seed, whether they were of Israel: the children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two” (vers. 59, 60). They formed a large company, but there was an uncertainty about their origin which was perplexing indeed. And, alas, of how many in Christendom to-day is this the case! Characterized by zeal and earnestness often, they are yet quite unable to give a clear, scriptural answer for the hope that is in them. We .need to beware of passing hasty judgment on such people; but, on the other hand, a degree of care and caution is needed, that is often resented, but which godly concern for what is dear to Christ demands.

Even of the priests, of whom more than a thousand went up (vers. 36-39), were there found some who could not fully establish their title to serve in Jehovah’s temple. “Of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: these sought their register among those that were recorded by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood, and the Tirshatha (Governor) said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim” (vers. 61-63). These were not declared positively to be laying false claim to the priestly title; they were simply set to one side because they could not prove it, until an inspired priest should rise up who could speak with authority.

So we may well treat some now, who cannot trace their genealogy, but nevertheless insist on the Christian place as rightfully theirs. We dare not say they are not born of God-and those who do so essay to speak are guilty, of gross presumption; but we cannot own them as such till they can give clear evidence of being indeed of the priestly company and partakers of the divine nature. We can in such case but fall back upon the word, “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” and wait until our Great Priest shall Himself pronounce authoritatively as regards them. Till then, we dare not give them the full Christian place; and if they resent the seeming discourtesy, it but indicates a state of soul that calls for self-judgment and repentance.

The 68th and 69th verses show that God was taking note of what was given with a willing heart “for the house of God to set it up in its place.” And when the journey was ended, and the returned company stood upon the site of the ruined city where the Lord had set His name, the desolation did not lead to despair, but stirred afresh the hearts of “some of the chief of the fathers,” who “gave after their ability” of both silver and gold and garments for the priests. And all this ere even the altar had been set upon its base. It was a gracious work, surely, and evidenced the healthful spiritual state of these aged men, who longed to see the temple rise from its ashes ere being called hence.

It is to be feared that very few Christians are faithful in giving after their ability. The rule laid down in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him,” is one that seldom claims a second thought with many. At the weekly gathering a coin is dropped in the box, often with no previous forethought, and certainly not as a result of a prayerful laying by at home according as God has prospered the giver during the past week. Were this generally acted upon, there would be no dearth of means to carry on the work of the Lord in the home and foreign fields, nor any lack of provision for the poor among the saints. God will never forget that these fathers of old gave according to their ability. Will He forget that many have done nothing of the kind?

Verse 70 closes the chapter with the statement that the priests and Levites, the singers and porters, and the Nethinims2 dwelt in their cities, “and all Israel in their cities.” Who would have expected to read of “all Israel” at such a time as this! Yet God sees in this weak and feeble remnant a company occupying the ground of all Israel, and He refuses to consider the nation other than in its unity.

So to-day, it is not possible to re-gather the whole Church of God in one outward visible unity. But it is possible for a feeble few to meet on the ground of the Church of God, refusing all sectarian names and ways, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The last phrase must never be forgotten. When strife and discord come in the unity of the Spirit is at once violated. It can never be forced. It is a practical thing, maintained alone as believers walk in the Spirit and recognize in each other all that is of God, while each one individually seeks to “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

In no other way can the unity of the Spirit be truly kept. The unity of the body of Christ is in no sense in our keeping. “There is one body”-only one; and no failure on man’s part can alter that. But we are responsible to act on the ground of that one body, in accordance with the Word, “The loaf which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16.) Thus in the very act of breaking bread at the table of the Lord, we set forth our unity as members of the one body. Why should we then recognize any other body-any narrower circle?

In principle, christian fellowship, to be scriptural, must embrace all believers; but just as of old there were those whose register could not be found, so now there are many whom one dare not say are not believers, with whom those who would maintain the truth of God cannot have fellowship, because of their doctrine or manner of life. And under this latter heading must be included the being partakers of other men’s sins, by associating with what is unholy and defiling. It is here that faith is tested; for only godly discernment can enable saints to act consistently without human rules and regulations, owning all fellow-members of Christ’s body, but walking only with those who, following “righteousness, faith, love, peace, call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:19-22).

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezra 2:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/ezra-2.html. 1914.

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Saturday, May 25th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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