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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Ezra 2

 

 

Verse 1-2

Introductory Material (Ezra 2:1-2).

The listing reproduced in this chapter is of male Jews ‘in the administrative district/province’ who returned from Babylonia.

Ezra 1:11 to Ezra 2:2

‘All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when they of the captivity were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem, and these are the males (sons) of the province/administrative district, who went up out of the captivity of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, every one to his city, who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.’

Putting these three verses together brings out why Sheshbazzar’s name is not mentioned in Ezra 2:2. Sheshbazzar has already been mentioned in Ezra 1:11. It was he who brought them all up out of the captivity, commencing with the other leaders, and then going on to the full details of the whole. Ezra 1:11 clearly links with Ezra 2:1. Note the repetition of ‘the captivity’; the ‘bringing up’ and the ‘coming up’; and the reference to being ‘brought up from Babylon’, having been ‘carried away to Babylon’. There is a deliberate linking of the two verses.

The list that follows is a list of those who were brought up by Sheshbazzar from Babylon to Jerusalem. It is an open question whether ‘the province’ mentioned is the province from which they came in Babylonia, or the province to which they came in Palestine. The list is a list and numbering of the adult males of those who had returned from exile in Babylon, (to which they had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar), and had taken up residence in their own cities, taking possession of their own land. They would be sharing these cities with those who had not gone into captivity who would mainly be syncretistic in their worship.

‘The administrative district/province’ may refer to the province from which they came, that is, Babylonia, for while both Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are called ‘governor’ it is questionable what they governed. For they appear only to have taken responsibility for the returnees, and not for all the people who lived in Judah, the large proportion of whom were tainted by idol worship. There must have been a good number of such people living there prior to the return.

Ezra 2:2

‘Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.’

The comparable list in Nehemiah 7:7 is ‘Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.’ With the exception of Nahamani, where the names differ it would appear to be due to alternative names. Variations in names were a common feature of life in those days, where names were seen to express what a person was. The names are closer in Hebrew than in English. Thus sryh (Seraiah) compares with ‘zryh (Azariah); r‘lyh (Reeliah) compares with r‘myh (Raamiah), mspr (Mispar) compares with msprth (Mispereth) the ‘th’ being a feminine ending; rhm (Rehum) compares with nhm (Nehum). Such changes might well have been made shortly after returning in order to emphasise a new beginning. Both Seraiah and its replacement Azariah are well attested names and comparison between 1 Chronicles 9:11 and Nehemiah 11:11 demonstrates a similar substitution. It would appear that Seraiah and Azariah were interchangeable. The replacing of ‘n’ by ‘r’ (Nehum/Rehum) is also well attested (compare Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar). Thus suggesting copying errors should be a last resort although they undoubtedly occurred.

Some of the names occur elsewhere, Seraiah in Nehemiah 10:2; Bigvai in Ezra 8:14; Rehum in Nehemiah 3:17; Nehemiah 10:25; Nehemiah 12:3; and Baanah in Nehemiah 10:27, although not necessarily referring to the same people. Nehemiah and Mordecai were well known Jewish names. Thus only Reelaiah, Bilshan and Mispar (or Mesapper) in the list in Ezra are names which are unattested elsewhere.

As suggested above, if we include Sheshbazzar in the Ezra list, (omitted by the writer as having already been mentioned in Ezra 1:11 as ‘bringing up to Jerusalem’ those who were named), the number of leaders comes to twelve. It is possible that he died within months of arrival with the result that Nahamani (see Nehemiah 7:7) replaced him in the list in order to maintain the twelve as representing the twelve tribes of Israel. His early death, after having laid the foundation stone of the Temple (Ezra 5:16), may indeed partly explain why work on the new Temple did not progress. It was he who had directly received the charge to build the Temple.

Zerubbabel certainly at some early stage took over from Sheshbazzar (although not necessarily at that stage officially), for it is he who was responsible for the building of a new altar (Ezra 3:2), which must have been early on, almost certainly during the first year of the return, and who was prominent when the work of building the new Temple recommenced for a short while in the second year of their return (Ezra 3:8). He was later described as ‘governor’ when the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah resulted in the final rebuilding of the Temple, but we do not know when the appointment was made, nor over precisely what he governed. Some therefore see Sheshbazzar as an alternative name for Zerubbabel. But while for a Jew to have two names, a Jewish one and a Babylonian one, was common, for one Jew to have two Babylonian names was not.

Zerubbabel (a grandson of Jehoiachin - 1 Chronicles 3:9) and Jeshua (Joshua the High Priest - Zechariah 3:1) are well known to us as a result of their future prominence (Ezra 3:2; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 5:2; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Haggai 2:4; Haggai 2:21; Haggai 2:23; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:6-10), but the remainder are unidentifiable on the basis of the information we have. Familiar names like Nehemiah, Seraiah and Mordecai simply indicate the popularity of those names in Jewish circles. They do not refer to those known to us by those names. Bigvai would appear to be a Persian name, but Jews in exile undoubtedly took foreign names, and it may simply indicate that for certain purposes, such as trading with Persia, he had found it useful. Apart from Zerubbabel and Jeshua we have no means of knowing their tribal connection as by the time of the earlier destruction of Jerusalem Judah contained families from all twelve tribes. But the fact that this information is not given suggests that it was not seen as important in context.

Ezra 2:2

‘The number of the men of the people of Israel.’

This heading probably covers Ezra 2:3-35, being subsequently followed by further headings, ‘The Priests’ (Ezra 2:36); ‘the Levites’ (verse Ezra 2:40) etc. Note that the number given is ‘the number ofthe menof the people of Israel’, which probably indicates the mature males (those over twenty years of age as in Exodus 30:14). It is probable that the sum total in Ezra 2:64 (of 42,360) also includes women, which would explain why it is so much higher than the sum of the ages given (in Ezra amounting to 29,818). In view of the numbering of female slaves and female singers, and even of domestic animals, the women of the assembly could hardly have been excluded.

‘The men of the people of Israel’ is a proud claim. It is stressing that they saw themselves as the ‘true Israelites’, in contrast with those who were still in the land. It may, however, be that those of the Israelites who were still in the land who could demonstrate their genuine loyalty to YHWH and their true genealogy were incorporated in their number (compare Ezra 6:21).

Ezra 2:3-20

Enrolled By Family Association.

Some submitted their numbers in terms of their family name. Those named were probably heads of families who had lived centuries before, to whom the particular group looked back with respect and awe (compare the descent from Immer (Ezra 2:37) in Nehemiah 11:13), and there are indications elsewhere (e.g. Ezra 3:9 with Ezra 2:40; and in the names in the list of those who sealed the sure covenant of Nehemiah in chapter 10), that there was a tendency for prominent returnees to take the names of their ancestors in order to stress the continuity of the old Israel. Others, mainly Benjamites, were described in terms of their domicile. The list begins with those who were described in terms of family association. Many of these names reoccur in later lists. See, for example, Ezra 8; Nehemiah 10.

Ezra 2:3 ‘The sons of Parosh, two thousand, one hundred and seventy two.’

A further group of this clan/family returned under Ezra (Ezra 8:3). Some of the family were among those who would have foreign wives (Ezra 10:25). One descendant, Pedaiah, helped to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 3:25). One of their number, along with others, "sealed" the covenant of Nehemiah as ‘chiefs of the people’ (Nehemiah 10:1; Nehemiah 10:14)

Ezra 2:4 ‘The sons of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy two.’

A well attested Jewish name meaning "Yah has judged". See 2 Samuel 3:4; 1 Chronicles 3:3; 1 Chronicles 9:8; 1 Chronicles 12:5; 1 Chronicles 27:16; 2 Chronicles 21:2; Ezra 2:57; Nehemiah 7:59; Nehemiah 11:4; Jeremiah 38:1. A further group of this family would return under Ezra (Ezra 8:8).

Ezra 2:5 ‘The sons of Arah, seven hundred and seventy five.’

For the name compare 1 Chronicles 7:39; Nehemiah 6:18. In Nehemiah 7 the number given is six hundred and fifty two. This might suggest that some had returned to their fellow-Jews in Babylon, or that one hundred and twenty three men had died prematurely, possibly through pestilence or violence, requiring an adjustment to be made in the list used in Nehemiah. The exactness of the difference suggest that the submitter in this case calculated the numbers accurately.

Ezra 2:6 ‘The sons of Pahath-moab, of the sons of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand, eight hundred and twelve.’

The sons of Pahath-Moab (‘governor of Moab’) were divided into two families, those of Jeshua and Joab who had possibly been actual sons of Pahath-Moab. Both names were common in Israel/Judah. The ancestor of these returnees had seemingly been governor of Moab when it was under Israel’s jurisdiction. Further members of the clan would return with Ezra (Ezra 8:4), while Hashub, a "son of Pahath-moab," is named among the repairers of both the wall and the "tower of the furnaces" at Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:11). Pahath-Moab is the name of one of the signatories who sealed the "sure covenant" of Nehemiah 9:38 (Nehemiah 10:14), although the signatory may have signed in the name of the clan. Some of the sons of Pahath-Moab would take "foreign wives" (Ezra 10:30)

In Nehemiah 7 the number given is two thousand, eight hundred and eighteen. The increase is explicable in terms of sons coming of age in the period between the two lists, possibly as set off against some who had died. Alternately a few members of the family may have returned in a party which arrived after this first list was made, a party that was mainly made up of members of the family of Azgad.

Ezra 2:7 ‘The sons of Elam, one thousand, two hundred and fifty four.’

The name as such is attested elsewhere in Israel in 1 Chronicles 8:24; 1 Chronicles 26:3; Nehemiah 12:42. Further members of the family returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:7). Others were involved with foreign wives (Ezra 10:26), and one of their number, Shecaniah, was prominent in dealing with the matter (Ezra 10:2). An Elam connected with the family was a sealant of the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:14).

Further on in the list Elam Acher (or ‘the other Elam’) is mentioned (Ezra 2:31), although there it appears to represent a town. Coincidentally the number returning there is also one thousand, two hundred and fifty four, and this is repeated in Nehemiah 7 demonstrating that if it is incorrect the error occurred very early on prior to the lists being used in Ezra and Nehemiah. But such remarkable coincidences have occurred in history so the number may well be correct. However, the Greek versions have a larger number in Ezra 2:31. On the other hand this may simply have been influenced by their not being willing to accept the coincidence. There are a number of possible explanations:

1). That it is simply a remarkable coincidence
2). That the compiler of the list wanted to enter the same clan/family in two places, one under family name and the other under district, indicating that he had done this by using the term ‘the other’. (The numbers were not intended to be added up).
3). That the compiler had asked for lists from both the family of Elam and from the town of Elam, with the submitter achieving this either by numbering the Elamites and halving the total, applying one half to the family and the other half to the town, or by submitting the same total in respect of each.
4). That a copy of the list was made very early on (prior to its use in these records) with the copyist consulting the original list and in one case selecting the wrong total as his eye ran down looking for Elam.

Ezra 2:8 ‘The sons of Zattu, nine hundred and forty five.’

Sons of Zattu were involved in marrying foreign wives (Ezra 10:27) and one was a signatory to Nehemiah’s covenant (Nehemiah 10:14). In Nehemiah 7 the number is eight hundred and forty five. Once again this may be the consequence of some becoming disillusioned and returning to a securer life in Babylon, or the result of deaths by pestilence or violence. The round ‘one hundred’ might suggest that in this case the one who submitted the alteration used ‘a hundred’ in the regular way of signifying a fairly large group, without being exact (compare Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 1:15), this being subtracted from the original total.

Ezra 2:9 ‘The sons of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty.’

This may be the same as the family of Zabbai (qere Zaccai) in Nehemiah 3:20, relating to the repairing of the wall, and the family of Bebai, one of whose sons was named Zabbai, who were involved with foreign wives in Ezra 10:28.

Ezra 2:10 ‘The sons of Bani, six hundred and forty two.’

The name is used of one of David's mighty men, a Gadite (2 Samuel 23:36); of a Levite whose son was appointed for service in the tabernacle in David's time (1 Chronicles 6:46); of a Judahite whose descendant lived in Jerusalem after the captivity (1 Chronicles 9:4); of one of the builders in Nehemiah 3:17 who was named Rehum, the son of Bani; of one who helped the people to understand the Law in Nehemiah 8:7; of a Levite involved in worship in Nehemiah 9:4 ff.; of a Levite who sealed the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:13); of a chief of the people who did the same (Nehemiah 10:14); and of one whose son was an overseer of the Levites at Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:22). It was thus a popular name.

The sons of Bani were involved in taking foreign wives (Ezra 10:29), as were other ‘sons of Bani’ (Ezra 10:34), one of those sons was named Bani and another Binnui (Ezra 10:38). Nehemiah 7 calls them the sons of Binnui and numbers them at six hundred and forty eight. The difference in name is minimal, the one being an alternative of the other. The numbered members of the family had clearly increased by six.

Ezra 2:11 ‘The sons of Bebai, six hundred and twenty three.’

Nehemiah 7 has six hundred and twenty eight, indicating another increased family, this time by five. A further group of the sons of Bebai arrived with Ezra (Ezra 8:11), while one who was named Bebai sealed the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:15). There would later be a town called Bebai (Judith 15:4).

Ezra 2:12 ‘The sons of Azgad, one thousand, two hundred and twenty two.’

The name means "strong is Gad". Nehemiah 7 has two thousand, three hundred and twenty two, an increase of eleven hundred. This suggests that a further party of the sons of Azgad had arrived after this list in Ezra was made, but prior to Nehemiah’s list. Further sons of Azgad arrived with Ezra (Ezra 8:12). Azgad was among the leaders who sealed Nehemiah’s sure covenant (Nehemiah 10:15).

Ezra 2:13 ‘The sons of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty six.’

The name means "my lord has risen up". In Nehemiah 7 there is an increase of one, possibly due to someone coming of age. Further sons of Adonikam arrived with Ezra (Ezra 8:13).

Ezra 2:14 ‘The sons of Bigvai, two thousand, and fifty six.’

Compare Ezra 2:2. Nehemiah 7 has two thousand and sixty seven, an increase of eleven. Once again the increase could be through men coming of age, and/or as a result of some who had come with the later arrival of sons of Azgad. A further seventy two males would arrive later under Ezra (Ezra 8:14). Bigvai was one of those who sealed Nehemiah’s sure covenant.

Ezra 2:15 ‘The sons of Adin, four hundred and fifty four.’

The name means ‘adorned’. Again in Nehemiah 7 there is an increase of one, probably as a result of a coming of age (or a combination of deaths and comings of age). A further group, led by Ebed, the son of Jonathan, arrived with Ezra (Ezra 8:6). Adin also was one of those who sealed the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:16).

Ezra 2:16 ‘The sons of Ater, of Hezekiah, ninety eight.’

‘Of Hezekiah’ distinguishes the sons of Ater here from the sons of Ater who were gatekeepers (Ezra 2:42). We cannot identify the Hezekiah. Ater was a sealant of the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:17).

Ezra 2:17 ‘The sons of Bezai, three hundred and twenty three.’

Ezra Bezai was a sealant of the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:18). In Nehemiah 7 there is an increase of one, presumably through a coming of age, and Bezai, along with Jorah/Hariph, comes after Hashum.

Ezra 2:18 ‘The sons of Jorah, a hundred and twelve.’

In Nehemiah 7 these are given the family name of Hariph. Hariph was a sealant of the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:19). Jorah (‘autumn rain’) was probably Hariph’s (‘harvest time’) alternate name.

Ezra 2:19 ‘The sons of Hashum, two hundred and twenty three.’

Nehemiah 7 gives a number of three hundred and twenty eight, an increase of one hundred and five. Possibly some had arrived with the later arrival of sons of Azgad, or they may have come in their own party. Sons of Hashum were involved with foreign wives (Ezra 10:33).

Ezra 2:20 ‘The sons of Gibbar, ninety five.’

Gibbar means ‘hero’. In Nehemiah 7 the family is called Gibeon. This may have been because of their connection with Gibeon, in which case Nehemiah 7 appears to transfer them to the list of those enrolled by domicile which now commences. But that that is not so is indicated by his continued use of ‘sons of’ in this verse. (He then changes to ‘men of --’).Thus Gibeon would appear to be an alternative name to Gibbar.


Verses 1-70

A List Of Those Who Returned From Babylon To Jerusalem In The Initial Stages (Ezra 2:1-70).

In this chapter we are provided with a list of those who returned from Babylon, taking advantage of Cyrus’ edict. This list must have been recorded early on and deposited in a recognised official place (compare Nehemiah 7:5). Whilst it might be our tendency to take a quick look at the list of names and move on we should not disregard its spiritual lessons. We should recognise that:

1) It indicates that God is interested in individuals. He knew the tribal names of everyone who returned. It is a reminder to us that, if we are truly His, we are all numbered by God, and that our names are written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). He has chosen us individually in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:4) and recorded our names in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 21:27). We are ‘written with the righteous’ (Psalms 69:28; Malachi 3:16).

2) This was a record of those who were most faithful among God’s people, and not one of them was forgotten before God, even down to the lowliest slave. It is the Old Testament equivalent to the roll of honour in Hebrews 11. Out of zeal for God, and a desire for His glory, these people left their comfortable lives in Babylonia for a country that many of them had never seen, in order to rebuild there God’s Temple, and re-establish God’s people. It was not an easy way that they chose. They would face famine and hardship, disease and violence. They would be reduced as a consequence almost to poverty, in spite of their grand houses. But they did it because they felt that God had called them. They knew that it was what He wanted them to do..

3) To the Jews such a list was of deep interest. It stressed the connection of the new Israel with the old, and the preservation of family names and descent. Indeed, it is probable that many took new names, based on the past, connecting them with their history. It was bringing out that God was restoring His people to the land, a people whose antecedents had been clearly demonstrated. These were the very people who had been removed from the land decades before.

It is interesting that Sheshbazzar’s name does not occur in the list of leaders in Ezra 2:2 but this may simply be because, having already been mentioned by the writer as ‘bringing up’ these people to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:11), the writer omits it in Ezra 2:2 because those mentioned are the people ‘brought up’, and this even though Sheshbazzar’s name may well have been in the original list. For along with the eleven prominent men named in Ezra 2:2, he would then have made the number of leaders up to twelve, indicating that the returnees were seen as representing the twelve tribes of Israel. (The comparable list in Nehemiah 7:7 does have twelve names).

Following these names we find listed the names of the families which returned from Babylon around this time. These were all able to demonstrate from their genealogies that they were true Israelites, i.e. could trace themselves back to pre-exilic times. This is in contrast with those who could not do so (Ezra 2:59-60). One importance of this would come out when they sought to claim back family land.

A comparable list can be found in Nehemiah 7:5-73. There are, however, interesting differences and in our view it is difficult to explain them all simply in terms of copying errors, although the possibility of those in some cases must not be discounted. A far better explanation for some, if not all, of the differences is that the two lists represent the list of returnees as prepared on different dates during the first months of arrival, the second one being updated as a result of information submitted from the various clans, because of the arrival of further exiles (e.g. the sons of Azgad). In this updated listing account would be taken of deaths and comings of age, and further arrivals and departures. If Sheshbazzar died in the period between the two lists we have a good explanation as to why his name was replaced in the twelve by Nahamani (Nehemiah 7:7). Indeed, his death and the subsequent appointment of Zerubbabel may have been a major reason for the updating of the list as the position of the new Israel was consolidated. This would suggest that the original list was the one in Ezra, with that in Nehemiah being the updated one. (Compare also how ‘men of --’ and ‘sons of --’ is regularised in the list in Nehemiah in contrast with the list in Ezra). It is probable, however, that the writer in Ezra made slight adjustments when copying the list. One example is the omission of the name of Sheshbazzar in Ezra 2:2 because he had already mentioned him as bringing these people up to Jerusalem. Note how, in order to demonstrate this, we have below carried forward Ezra 1:11 to also open chapter 2.

Such a detailed list should not surprise us. It was normal practise in ancient days for cities to keep a roll of its citizens, a roll which was constantly updated due to both deaths and births, or coming of age. What is more likely then than that the returnees would decide to maintain a comparative list of adult males who were seen as true Israelites, and subsequently update it, although in the summary form shown here? (That at least one such list was made is demonstrated by Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7). In this case the same basic framework would be retained from list to list as it was encompassing those who had returned from Babylon, with the original list being updated, no doubt on the basis of submissions from the different family groups. That being so the cases where comparative numbers differ by a small amount, something which occurs a number of times, could simply indicate that meanwhile some men had died, or some had come of age, or a combination of the two. The larger differences could mainly be explained, either in terms of new arrivals (e.g. in the case of Azgad), or in terms of departures due to dissatisfaction with the situation pertaining, or in terms of pestilence or violence which in some cases gave a high proportion of deaths. Where numbers alter by a round 100 this could simply be due to a group of new arrivals (or departees) being assessed by some submitters as ‘a hundred’, i.e. a fairly large unit, this being used for convenience in some cases (different approaches may have been taken by different submitters), without there being a strict count, or it may have been a convenient approximation (not all groups would have people in them capable of dealing with large numbers). The final total numbers (which are well above the sum of the individual numbers in all sources), would remain sacrosanct and would not be altered. (It should, however, be pointed out that many scholars assume both lists to be the same, with differences mainly accounted for by scribal errors).

The Pattern Of The List.

The list follows a clear pattern:

· Introductory material (Ezra 2:1-2).

· Number of the men of the people of Israel, enrolled by family association (Ezra 2:3-20), and enrolled by place of domicile (Ezra 2:21-35).

· Number of priests (Ezra 2:36-39).

· Number of Levites (Ezra 2:40).

· Number of singers (Ezra 2:41).

· Number of gate-keepers (Ezra 2:42).

· Number of the Nethinim and number of the children of Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2:55-57).

· Number of those whose genealogies could not be proved (Ezra 2:59-60).

· Number of the priests whose genealogies could not be proved (Ezra 2:61-63).

· Sum Totals (Ezra 2:64-67).

· Summary of gifts for the building of the Temple (Ezra 2:68-69).

· Conclusion (Ezra 2:70).

As to when the list was compiled there are indications, such as the listing of some by residence, and the reference to ‘every one to his city’ (Ezra 2:1), that it was certainly after they had arrived in Judah and settled down. Furthermore the Tirshatha (ruler) is already seen as active in Ezra 2:63. It may well, therefore have been a few months after the arrival of the first group, once others had joined them. But the fact that no priest had arisen with Urim and Thummim (Ezra 2:63) might be seen as confirming its early date, in that Jeshua would shortly become such a ‘priest’ (High Priest). We do not, however, know if Urim and Thummim were used after the Exile. We have no evidence of it. But we do know that decisions were made by lots, which was a similar method (Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 11:1), and it is very probable that this was done by the priests. This therefore demonstrated that they had again begun to discover God’s guidance by sacred lot. The list would appear to have been compiled by asking the different groups to submit their numbers. This would explain the different designations and descriptions as each group defined themselves in their own way.


Verses 21-35

Enrolled By Domicile.

We now come to those families who submitted their numbers in terms of domicile. This may simply have been as a consequence of the choice of the particular submitter, or it may have been though custom. Or, indeed, it may have been because it was easier to prove connection with a pre-exilic town than it was to prove family connection. It may be significant that most of the towns are Benjamite towns, whilst the exceptions, Bethlehem and Netophah, are very close to Benjamite territory. It will be noted that in these cases some submitters spoke of ‘the sons of --’ while others spoke of ‘the men of --’. Each was then listed as submitted. Thus these differences are no reason for not seeing the list as a unity. In Nehemiah 7 these descriptions are regularised so that Ezra 2:26-33 (Ezra 2:21-29) are all listed as ‘men of --’, with what follows being ‘sons of --’. This suggests again that the list in Nehemiah comes later than that in Ezra. It is difficult to see why the regularised pattern should have become disorganised, but easy to see why someone should seek to regularise the pattern.

It should, however, be pointed out that in what follows most, but not all, of the towns and cities are identifiable. Some therefore see these verses as a mix of domicile and family connection.

Ezra 2:21

‘The sons of Beth-lehem, one hundred and twenty three.’

Bethlehem (of Judah) was a town nine kilometres (five miles) south of Jerusalem. The name means ‘house of food (bread)’. It was the town in which David was reared, and one of the places in which Samuel offered sacrifices. This is the first mention of an incoming group in terms of its town. In Nehemiah 7 the sons of Bethlehem and the men of Netophah (Ezra 2:22) are listed together as ‘the men of Bethlehem and Netophah’. This suggest that at the time of the second list one submitter submitted the increase in the number of the two groups as a combined figure, necessitating the conjunction of the two in the list. In Nehemiah 7 they number in total one hundred and eighty eight, as against a sum of one hundred and seventy nine here. The increase of nine may be due to comings of age, or to a few more of the clan arriving with the later arriving sons of Azgah.

Ezra 2:22

‘The men of Netophah, fifty six.’

Netophah was seemingly also in Judah and was the birthplace of two of David's heroes, Maharai and Heleb (2 Samuel 23:28-29), and also of Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, one of the captains who came to offer allegiance to Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:23; Jeremiah 40:8). In 1 Chronicles 9:16 "the villages of the Netophathites" are mentioned as the dwellingplaces of certain Levites, whilst in Nehemiah 12:28 they are the dwellingplaces of some of the "sons of the singers." Being placed in the list between Bethlehem and Anathoth it would appear to be in the vicinity of Bethlehem, something confirmed by the uniting of the numbers in Nehemiah 7. The change to ‘the men of --’ was probably the consequence of the description used by the one who submitted the numbers. Others said ‘the sons of --.’

Ezra 2:23

‘The men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty eight.’

Anathoth was a town which lay between Michmash and Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:30), in the territory of Benjamin, being about two and a quarter miles north east of Jerusalem. It was assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:18). It was the native town of Abiathar (1 Kings 2:26), and of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 11:21 ff, etc.), and it was in the vicinity of Anathoth that Jeremiah bought a field in order to demonstrate that land would once more be bought and sold in Judah (Jeremiah 32:7 ff). Two of David's distinguished soldiers, Abiezer (2 Samuel 23:27) and Jehu (1 Chronicles 12:3), also came from Anathoth. As we gather here, it was again occupied by Benjamites after the return from the Exile (compare Nehemiah 11:32, etc.). It is identified with `Anata, a small village of some fifteen houses which contains remains of ancient walls.

Ezra 2:24

‘The sons of Azmaveth, forty two.’

Nehemiah 7 has ‘the men of Beth-azmaveth’, which suggests the name of a town. Azmaveth was the name of one of David's 30 mighty men (2 Samuel 23:31; 1 Chronicles 11:33), and of the father of two warriors who joined David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:3). It was also the name of a descendant of Jonathan, the son of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:36; 1 Chronicles 9:42), and of one who was set over David’s treasures (1 Chronicles 27:25). No town of this name is known, but there may well have been such a town, (in those days people were often named after the town with which they were connected), and this would appear to be confirmed by the wording in Nehemiah 7.

Ezra 2:25

‘The sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty three.’

The only difference between this and the reference to it in Nehemiah 7 is that Nehemiah 7 has ‘the men of --.’ Indeed Nehemiah 7 regularises all the references in regard to cities in Ezra 2:21-29 to ‘the men of --’. These three cities (the first as Kiriath-jearim - the city of the forests) were members of the Gibeonite confederacy (Joshua 9:17), and were in Judah/Benjamin (Joshua 15:60; Joshua 18:14; Joshua 18:25-26; Judges 18:12). Kiriath-jearim was on the border of Judah and Benjamin, and was also known as Kiriath-Baal) (Joshua 18:14-15). In Joshua 15:9-11 it was also known as Baalah). It had clearly been a sanctuary of the Canaanite god Baal. It was in Judah, although if we identify it with Kiriath, it was also seen as in Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). It was in Kiriath-jearim that the ark rested for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:1-2). The prophet Uriah, who was martyred by King Jehoiakim in the days of Jeremiah, was born there (Jeremiah 26:20). The site is as yet unidentified. Chephirah and Beeroth were both in Benjamin (Joshua 18:25-26).

Ezra 2:26

‘The sons of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty one.’

Nehemiah 7 has ‘the men of --’. Ramah (‘the height’) was Ramah of Benjamin, near Bethel, in the area of Gibeon and Beeroth (Joshua 18:25). It was here that the Levite and his concubine planned to rest for the night (Judges 19:13). Deborah the prophetess lived close by (Judges 4:5). Here Baasha of Israel built a fortress, which Asa of Judah demolished (1 Kings 15:17; 1 Kings 15:21-22). It was here that Nebuzaradan gathered the people being taken into exile after the fall of Jerusalem, and from which Jeremiah was released (Jeremiah 40:1). Geba (‘a hill’) was in Benjamin, eleven kilometres (seven miles) north of Jerusalem. Its modern name is Jeba. It was assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:17; 1 Chronicles 6:60), and from its slopes Jonathan, with his armour-bearer, revealed himself to the Philistines in a daring attack (1 Samuel 14:1 ff.). It was fortified by King Asa (1 Kings 15:22) as on the northern border of Judah (2 Kings 23:8). From here came some of ‘the sons of the singers’ who sang at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:29). Both Ramah and Geba are both described as occupied by the sons of Benjamin in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:31; Nehemiah 11:33).

Ezra 2:27

‘The men of Michmas, a hundred and twenty two.’

Michmas was also known as Michmash. It was a town in the territory of Benjamin, and its settlement by Benjamites after the exile is confirmed in Nehemiah 11:31. It was apparently not of sufficient importance in the time of Joshua to secure mention in the list of cities given in Joshua 18:21 ff. Michmash first appears as occupied, along with the Mount of Bethel, by Saul with 2,000 men, at the time when Jonathan, advancing from Gibeah, smote the Philistine garrison in Geba (1 Samuel 13:2). To avenge this injury, the Philistines came up in force and encamped in Michmash (1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Samuel 13:16), from which they sent out ‘spoilers’. Saul and Jonathan with 600 men meanwhile held Geba, which had been taken from the Philistine garrison (1 Samuel 13:16). During the Assyrian advance on Jerusalem in Isaiah 10:28, they ‘laid up their stores at Michmash, crossed the pass, and spent the night at Geba’. Thus the two sites are fairly close to each other. Michmash is represented by the modern Mukhmas, which is about 12 kilometres (7 miles) North of Jerusalem.

Ezra 2:28

‘The men of Beth-el and Ai, two hundred and twenty three.’

The list of Nehemiah 7 shows one hundred less. This reduction in numbers may have been due to an outbreak of pestilence or violence, or it may have been caused by some who were dissatisfied with the situation and returned to Babylon. The ‘hundred’ may not have been an exact number. The submitter may well have simply used ‘a hundred’ as a round number signifying a fairly large number (a thousand, a hundred and a ten were often used to indicate groups of different sizes regardless of actual number, see Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 1:15). This would then be used to alter the number as given in the Ezra list to produce the number in Nehemiah. The settlement of Bethel by the Benjamites is confirmed in Nehemiah 11:31.

Ai was east of Bethel, but close enough for both to be seen from a mid-point (Genesis 12:8). Bethel and Ai were the first two towns that the Israelites encountered when they went up the pass after destroying Jericho. Ai was taken but, while Bethel’s army was defeated, Bethel was probably not captured at that time (Joshua 8). Their sites are disputed although we can assess that Bethel (formerly called Luz) was about 19 kilometres (12 miles) north of Jerusalem. Abraham built an altar and offered sacrifices in its vicinity (Genesis 12:8). It was in its vicinity also that Jacob had his dream of the steps leading up to Heaven. It is named as a border town in the lists of both Joseph (Ephraim) and Benjamin (Joshua 16:1-2; Joshua 18:13), and was possibly initially shared by the two tribes. The Ark rested there for a time in the early days (Judges 20:18), and it was included in Samuel’s circuit as judge (1 Samuel 7:16). After the division into Judah and Northern Israel it became an important shrine in Northern Israel, and was roundly criticised by the prophets for its idolatrous associations (1 Kings 12:29 ff; Amos 7:13). It became part of Judah in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 23:15).

Ezra 2:29

‘The sons of Nebo, fifty two.’

Nehemiah 7 speaks of Nebo as Nebo Acher (or ‘the other Nebo’), and refers to ‘the men of --.’ This difference in name may suggest that what is found in Nehemiah may have been the submission of a different submitter, who used different terms. The town possibly had the longer name of Nebo Acher to distinguish it from Nebo in Reuben (Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38). From its position here it would appear to have been a Benjamite town. It may be represented by Beit Nuba, 19 kilometres (12 miles) northwest of Jerusalem.

Ezra 2:30

‘The sons of Magbish, one hundred and fifty six.’

These are omitted in Nehemiah 7. No town of this name is known, and it may have been a relatively small one. It may be that these sons of Magbish had decided to return to their fellow-clan members in Babylonia, or that the town had been raided and its inhabitants massacred. Alternately it may have been wiped out by a virulent disease. Some relate the name to Magpiash, one of the sealants of the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:20) which, if it is correct, might suggest that some returned again later.

Ezra 2:31

‘The sons of the other Elam (or Elam Acher), one thousand, two hundred and fifty four.’

Compare Ezra 2:7 for an ‘Elam’, and see the note there. That may be why it speaks of ‘the other Elam’. On the other hand Nehemiah 7:33 speaks of ‘the other Nebo’ or ‘Nebo Acher’, so that Elam Acher may, on the same basis, be the name of a town. Certainly from its position here Elam Acher would appear to be the name of a Benjamite town (a Benjamite of the name is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 8:24), even though it is at this point that the writer in Nehemiah 7 reverts back to ‘the son of --’. The references to ‘the sons of Jericho’ and ‘the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono’ appear to confirm that he is still speaking of domicile.

Ezra 2:32

‘The sons of Harim, three hundred and twenty.’

‘Sons of Harim’ are mentioned among those who married foreign wives (Ezra 10:31), and we find an Harim among those who sealed Nehemiah’s covenant (Nehemiah 10:27), although it may be that it was sealed in the family name. In Nehemiah 3:11 Malchijah, son of Harim, is mentioned as one of the wall-builders. These ‘sons of Harim’ may well, however, have been named after their town. Such a town is not mentioned elsewhere, but it may have been a small one.

Ezra 2:33

‘The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty five.’

In Nehemiah 7 this comes after the sons of Jericho, and they number seven hundred and twenty one, no doubt due to deaths. Ono and Lod with their ‘towns’ are said to have been ‘built’ (fortified?) by Shemed, a Benjamite (1 Chronicles 8:12). The towns lay in the Shephelah (lowland hills), perhaps in ge ha-charashim, "the valley of craftsmen", and their habitation by Benjamites after the Exile is mentioned in Nehemiah 11:35. It was in one of the villages in the plain of Ono that Sanballat and his friends vainly tried to inveigle Nehemiah into a conference in order to do him harm (Nehemiah 6:2). Ono is represented by modern Kefr `Ana, which lies to the Northwest of Lydda. In the New Testament Lod appears as Lydda. Here the apostle Peter visited the saints and healed the palsied Arenas, and from here he was summoned by messengers from Joppa on the death of Dorcas (Acts 9:32 ff).

Ezra 2:34

‘The sons of Jericho, three hundred and forty five.’

Jericho was probably named after the god Yarich. It was in the Jordan rift valley in Benjamite territory (Joshua 18:21), at the bottom of the pass that led up to Jerusalem, and was known as ‘the city of the Palm Trees’ (Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15). It was the first ‘city’ captured by Joshua after crossing the Jordan. Elijah had a school of the prophets there (2 Kings 2:5). The men of Jericho, which was by then only a small town, assisted Nehemiah in the building of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:2).

Ezra 2:35

‘The sons of Senaah, three thousand, six hundred and thirty.’

In Nehemiah 7 these number three thousand, nine hundred and thirty. This suggests that a fairly large party of them accompanied the later arrivals of the sons of Azgad, or came in their own caravan, the increase possibly being of three ‘hundreds’ using the non-numerative significance of ‘a hundred’. In Nehemiah 3:3 the name occurs with the definite article, ha-senaah, referring to a wall builder. The people may be identical with the Benjamite clan Hassenuah (1 Chronicles 9:7).

Some cavil at the number on the grounds of its size, but it is not so large as to be impossible, if we compare, for example the sons of Pahath-Moab who number two thousand eight hundred and twelve. Archaeology suggests that the Benjamite towns appear to have suffered less at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and Senaah, probably in the Jordan rift valley (it comes after Jericho), was not in the direct path of his advance. This may help to account for the numbers who had survived and been exiled.


Verses 36-39

Enrolling Of The Priests (Ezra 2:36-39).

The priests were divided up into four courses, as opposed to the twenty four courses pertaining under David (1 Chronicles 24:1-19). But these four courses would eventually in the future be divided up into twenty four under the names of the old courses. The number of priestly families as a whole amount to four thousand, two hundred and eighty nine, roughly a tenth of the total of forty two thousand, three hundred and sixty who returned, and an even larger percentage of the named families. This was to be expected as they had a greater incentive for returning to Jerusalem. There would be a further addition to priestly numbers when some returned along with Ezra (Ezra 8:2 ff).

Ezra 2:36

‘The Priests.’

The Priests are separately designated as a group. These were able to demonstrate their ancestry, and therefore their legitimacy to act in the forthcoming Temple.

Ezra 2:36

‘The sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy three.’

Jedaiah (‘Yah knows’) was the head of the second order of priests in the time of David (1 Chronicles 24:7). On the other hand ‘of the house of Jeshua’ possibly indicates that a different Jedaiah was in mind, one who was descended from Jeshua, the head of the ninth order of priests (1 Chronicles 24:11). Jedaiah was a very popular name among the priests. For example, two Jedaiahs are named as priests who came with Zerubbabel from Babylon (Nehemiah 12:1; Nehemiah 12:6-7), who were chiefs of priests in the days of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, the High Priest under Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:1; Nehemiah 12:7). Furthermore two Jedaiahs as family names are found in the list of priests who were ‘heads of fathers’ houses’ in the days of Joiakim who succeeded Jeshua as High Priest (Nehemiah 12:12; Nehemiah 12:19; Nehemiah 12:21). In this regard we should note that there was a tendency for names to be passed on to grandsons. A Jedaiah is also named as one of the priests who later took up dwelling in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:10; 1 Chronicles 9/10). A Jedaiah (presumably one of those mentioned in Nehemiah 12:6-7) was involved in the symbolic crowning of Jeshua the High Priest as ‘the Branch’ in Zechariah 6:10; Zechariah 6:14.

‘Of the house of Jeshua.’ This would usually indicate that he was a descendant of Jeshua (compare Exodus 2:1; 1 Samuel 25:3; 1 Chronicles 2:55; 2 Chronicles 31:10). Jeshua (‘Yah saves’) was such a popular name that certain identification of this one is impossible to us, although it probably in this context looks back to the Jeshua who headed the ninth order of priests in 1 Chronicles 24:11.

Jeshua was a very popular name. Jeshua was the name of a Levite who lived in Hezekiah’s time (2 Chronicles 31:15). Jeshua the son of Jozadak was the name of the High Priest alongside Zerubbabel (e.g. Ezra 3:2; Zechariah 3; etc), and in this very same list a Jeshua is the son of Pahath-Moab (Ezra 2:6), whilst another is a head of a Levite family (Ezra 2:40). Another Jeshua had, along with others, oversight of workmen restoring the Temple in the early days of the return (Ezra 3:9), whilst still another, a Levite, was among those who helped the people to understand the Law in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:7). It was this latter who, along with others, led worship, and called on the people to worship (Nehemiah 9:4-5), and may have been the father of ‘Jozabad, the son of Jeshua’, whom, along with others, received the silver, gold and vessels for use in the Temple (Ezra 8:33). Jeshua, the son of Azaniah, was one of those who sealed the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:9). Nehemiah 12:10 refers to a Jeshua who came up with Zerubbabel (see Ezra 2:40 above), while a further Jeshua, the son of Kadmiel, is referred to in Nehemiah 12:24 as present at the dedication of the walls in the time of Nehemiah. The famous Jeshua the son of Nun is mentioned in Nehemiah 8:17.

Ezra 2:37

‘The sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty two.’

Immer was the name of the sixteenth order of priests in David’s time (1 Chronicles 24:14). Two ‘sons of Immer’, Hanani and Zebediah married foreign wives (Ezra 10:20). Zadok, the ‘son’ of Immer’, who lived in Jerusalem, helped in the building of the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:29). Also living in Jerusalem was Amashsai, the son of Azazel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, a line (which probably only included prominent ancestors) that evidences the fact that Immer was long dead (Nehemiah 11:13; compare 1 Chronicles 9:12). Jeremiah 20:1 speaks of a ‘Pashhur, the son of Immer’ living before the Babylonian Exile. In Ezra 2:59 we learn of a place in Babylonia which was called Immer, the returnees from which could not prove their genealogy.

Ezra 2:38

‘The sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty seven.’

Pashhur, which means ‘one who splits, one who cleaves’, was a common Jewish name. This is the only name among the four which does not directly tie up with the courses of priests in David’s time. Six ‘sons of Pashhur’ married foreign wives (Ezra 10:22). A Pashhur, or someone who signed in the clan name, also sealed the sure covenant of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 10:3.

We have already seen that a Pashhur who was ‘the son of Immer’ lived before the Babylonian Exile, and treated Jeremiah the prophet very badly (Jeremiah 20:1-3). There was also at that time a Pashhur, the son of Malchijah (Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 38:1; Nehemiah 11:12), and a Gedaliah the son of a different Pashhur (Jeremiah 38:1) who were also antagonistic towards Jeremiah. However, none of these indicate the Pashhur who was the source of the clan name. All that they demonstrate is that Pashhur was a common Jewish name likely to have been borne by a clan chief.

Ezra 2:39

‘The sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen.’

Harim was the name of the third order of priests in the days of David (1 Chronicles 24:8), and this probably indicates their descent from him. In Ezra 10:21 the ‘sons of Harim’ covenant to put away foreign wives, and in Nehemiah 12:15 they are listed among the priests who ‘went up with Zerubbabel’. A priestly Harim seals the covenant of Nehemiah, or someone does it in the family name (Nehemiah 10:27).

We have already had ‘sons of Harim’ referred to in Ezra 2:32, but they were of a non-priestly family, and there Harim was possibly a town. Some of the sons of Harim also married foreign wives (Ezra 10:31), whilst one sealed the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:27).

Malchijah, the son of Harim, was one of the wall-builders in Nehemiah 3:11, but we do not know which of these two families that designation refers to.


Verse 40

Enrolling Of The Levites (Ezra 2:40).

Compared with 4,289 priests who returned, only 74 Levites returned, to which we might add the 128 singers and the 139 gatekeepers, making 341 in all (although it would appear that the writer of the list did not include the singers and gatekeepers as Levites). This ties in with the fact that when Ezra later gathered those who were returning with him he says, ‘I viewed the people and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi’, a situation which he set about remedying (Ezra 8:15). The Levites were clearly not enthusiastic about returning. This is partly explicable by the fact that as the Levites only assisted the priests in worship, it was something not so appealing as being a fully fledged priest (as Ezra 8:15 confirms), and partly by the fact that the priests would have been exiled in large numbers as people of importance, whilst the Levites may well have been seen as ‘the poor of the land’, and thus not exiled in large numbers. The lowly state of the Levites as compared with the priests is brought out in Ezekiel 44:10-31. It is clear from Ezekiel 44 that the Levites bore a large part of the blame for the encouragement of idolatrous worship in pre-Exilic days.

Ezra 2:40

‘The Levites.’

Details are now given of the generality of Levites, who would assist the priests in worship, who were among those who returned. This will then be followed by the more specialist singers and gatekeepers, who may not at this time have described themselves as ‘Levites’, although they were originally. We must be careful, however, not to read too much into silence. The musicians are clearly seen as Levites in Ezra 3:10, a short while later.

Ezra 2:40

The sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, seventy four.’

The two orders of Levites who returned are the sons of Jeshua, (the son of Azaniah - Nehemiah 10:4) and the sons of Kadmiel, who was ‘of the sons of Hodaviah’. Nehemiah 7:43 reads, ‘the sons of Joshua, of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodaviah’. The addition, “of the sons of Hodaviah,” is applicable to Kadmiel, in order to distinguish him from other Levites of a similar name. Kadmiel appears to be a typically Levite name. According to Ezra 3:9 Jeshua and Kadmiel were chiefs of two orders of Levites in the times of Zerubbabel and Joshua, who had oversight of the workmen of the house of God. Both played their part in the ceremony of praising God for the return (Nehemiah 9:4-5), and in sealing the covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:9) and these names reoccur as names of orders of Levites in Nehemiah 12:8. In the MT a ‘Jeshua the son of Kadmiel’ is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:24.

With regard to Hodaviah, there is no mention of the sons of Hodaviah in the lists of Levites in Chronicles. It was, however, the name of one of the heads of the half-tribe of Manasseh on the East of the Jordan (1 Chronicles 5:24), and of a Benjamite, who was the son of Hassenuah (1 Chronicles 9:7). It was also the name of a son of Elioenai, and a descendant of David (1 Chronicles 3:24). Thus it was a regular Jewish name.


Verse 41

Enrolling Of The Singers/Musicians (Ezra 2:41).

The singers were a special order of Levites (seen as such in Ezra 3:10-11; Nehemiah 11:15-17, but seemingly not designated as such here) who according to 1 Chronicles 6:31-32 had been responsible for leading the singing and musical accompaniment in Tabernacle and Temple worship. Asaph is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:39. It would appear that of the singers/musicians, only the sons of Asaph, i.e. members of the musical group of Asaph, returned at this stage. Thus in Ezra 3:10-11 we read that at the laying of foundations of the new Temple ‘they set --- the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals to praise YHWH, after the order of David the King of Israel’ (see 1 Chronicles 15:16-22).

In Nehemiah 11:17 three singers are mentioned, Mattaniah, a ‘son of Asaph’, who was the leading one to give thanksgiving in prayer, Bakbukiah, who was the second, and Abda, a ‘son of Jeduthun’. Many see this as indicating that there were by that stage three orders of singers in view of the fact that in 2 Chronicles 5:12 in the time of Solomon the three orders of musicians were stated to be Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun. This would make Bakbukiah a ‘son of Heman’, although in 1 Chronicles 9:15 his ancestry is ignored, as here. So as with the later twenty fours orders of priests this may well have been an artificial arrangement. In Israel/Judah adoption was a common form of descent (indeed a large proportion of Israel and Judah were only children of Abraham by adoption).

Ezra 2:41

‘The Singers.’

Possibly more accurately we must see them as the musicians, for part of their privilege was to play the cymbals and other instruments (1 Chronicles 15:16).

Ezra 2:41

‘The sons of Asaph, one hundred and twenty eight.’

It would appears that of the three orders in the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:12) only ‘sons of Asaph’ had returned at this stage. It is, of course, always possible that of the musicians only sons of Asaph had been exiled. In Ezra 3:10-11 the lead in singing and playing was taken by Mattaniah, a ‘son of Asaph’. In Nehemiah 11:22-23 we learn of ‘the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the house of God’, and they were seen as so important that ‘the king’ gave commandment concerning them, and they had a settled provision as every day required.


Verse 42

Enrolling Of The Gatekeepers (Ezra 2:42).

The Gatekeepers were another special order of Levites. In 1 Chronicles 9:17 we are informed that in earlier pre-Exilic days the gatekeepers included ‘Shallum and Akkab and Talmon, and Ahiman and their brothers. Shallum was the chief’. These were the ones who dwelt in Jerusalem. Others dwelt in their own towns and could be called on at special times (1 Chronicles 9:25). The gatekeepers were responsible for opening the Temple doors each morning, watching over the chambers and treasuries, having charge of the vessels of service, having responsibility for the furniture, the vessels of the sanctuary, the fine flour and wine and oil, and the frankincense and spices (1 Chronicles 9:26-30).

Ezra 2:42

‘The Sons Of The Porters (Gatekeepers).’

Details are now given of the ‘gatekeepers’ that is those who had overall responsibility for watching over the security of the Temple.

Ezra 2:42

‘The sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, in all one hundred and thirty nine.’

The gatekeepers are listed in six orders, and in the case of three of them (Shallum, Talmon and Akkab) their descent is from the gatekeepers mentioned above who dwelt in Jerusalem. Of the remaining three (Ater, Hatita and Shobai) we know nothing positive. Their descent was no doubt from those who dwelt in the towns outside Jerusalem. As we saw in Ezra 2:16 there were other ‘sons of Ater’, but they were distinguished as being ‘of Hezekiah’. They were non-Levities.


Verses 43-54

The Enrolling Of The Nethinim (Ezra 2:43-54).

The Nethinim (given ones) probably had their origin in the Gibeonites who were forced to become ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for the Tabernacle (Joshua 9:27). Whoever they were they were seen as ‘given to God’. (Compare the same description of the Levites in Numbers 8:16 where the word is ‘nethunim’). They would later be added to by prisoners of war and other slaves, as Ezra 8:29 makes clear when it speaks of them as ‘those whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites’. Others were no doubt ‘given’ later by various kings. The Nethinim are distinguished in the list from ‘Solomon’s servants’ (Ezra 2:55), but included with these in the final total of two (Ezra 2:58), they thus clearly had similar functions. Nevertheless their status was such that they were exempt from taxes (Ezra 7:24), had their own quarters in Jerusalem (3:26; 3:31), and took the oath connected with the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:28-31).

With regard to the Gibeonites, many of them had probably merged into Israel and would no doubt for this purpose at some stage have become of those who were circumcised. They might well therefore have been relieved from the most onerous duties, being replaced by prisoners of war and slaves. But there were certainly others who retained their identity as Gibeonites, and they clearly had an element of freedom (2 Samuel 21:2-9). And this at the time when David introduced the prisoners of war and slaves into the Temple. No doubt the slaves and prisoners of war, being required to work in the Temple, were also circumcised, and that not all of them saw their position as humiliating and undesirable comes out in the fact that so many of them chose to return from Exile as compared with the generality of Levites (Ezra 2:40), although we do not know how far they were free to choose. Further Nethinim would return with Ezra (Ezra 8:29). The Nethinim had their quarters in Ophel (‘eminence’), a district in Jerusalem near the Temple and near the old Water Gate (Nehemiah 3:26; Nehemiah 11:21). The only mention of them outside Ezra/Nehemiah is in 1 Chronicles 9:2.

Ezra 2:43

‘The Nethinim.’

The families of the Nethinim are now listed. There are thirty five of them (in Nehemiah thirty two), and therefore, in view of the small total number (Ezra 2:58), there were a limited number in each family. This ties in with them as not having a long ancestry. The number of non-Israelite names is very illuminating.

As has been stated, whilst having a lowly place among the Temple personnel, these, along with the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, were exempted from taxes (Ezra 7:24), had their own quarters in Jerusalem (3:26, 31), and took the oath connected with the sure covenant of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:28-31).

Ezra 2:43

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

Tabbaoth, possibly the people of Tabbath (Judges 7:22). Meunim (compare 2 Chronicles 26:7) and Nephisim (compare 1 Chronicles 5:19) may well be the names of enemy tribes (note the plural ending) from which these were captured. The sons of Akkub, Hagab and Asnah are omitted in Nehemiah 7, possibly having returned to Babylonia, or possibly having been wiped out by pestilence or violence (they would be few in number). For Shamlai Nehemiah 7:48 has Salmai (such deliberate transpositions were common with names). For Nephisim Nehemiah 7:52 has Nephusheism, an alternative name. All other variations relate only to differences of form.


Verses 55-58

The Enrolling Of The Sons Of Solomon’s Servants (Ezra 2:55-58).

The fact that the total of these was combined with the total of the Nethinim (Ezra 2:58) suggests that they had similar duties. We have no specific knowledge of whether they had different duties, although two of the names (the scribes and the gazelle keepers) may suggest that these had a more practical function. The title ‘servants’ is not necessarily derogatory. Those who were the highest in the land could be called ‘servants of the king’. They are not mentioned outside the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, nevertheless it cannot be doubted that they had been in existence in the pre-Exilic period. We have no mean of knowing how, or whether, their duties differed from those of the Nethinim. They are probably included in the exemption from taxes of Ezra 7:24, and may well, when on duty, have resided in Ophel like the Nethinim.

It is, however, clear that once the Temple was built on its comparatively huge scale (as compared with the Tabernacle), more ‘servants would be required, something which Solomon no doubt ensured either by the use of foreign captives, or by forcing the Canaanites into such service, having duly circumcised them. Gradually the positions, possibly invidious at first, would have come to be seen as honoured ones. Service in the Temple would have been seen as the highest form of service

Ezra 2:55

‘The Sons Of Solomon’s Servants.’

The families of the sons of Solomon’s servants are now listed.

Ezra 2:55

‘The sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda,
2:56 the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel,
2:57 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Ami.’

There are slight, but immaterial, differences in form between these names and those in Nehemiah 7:57-59. Hassophereth (‘the scribes) become Sophereth (dropping the article). Peruda becomes Perida, Jaalah becomes Jaala, Amon becomes Ami. They are probably simply due to variant spellings. The names Hassophereth meaning ‘the scribes’ and Pochereth-hazzebaim meaning ‘the gazelle-keepers’ may indicate something of their special duties.

Ezra 2:58

‘All the Nethinim, and the sons of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred ninety and two.’

A combined total is now given of the Nethinim and the sons of Solomon’s servants. Their ‘families/clans’ were clearly limited in size.


Verse 59-60

The Enrolling Of The Non-Priests Who Could Not Prove Their Descent From Israel (Ezra 2:59-60).

These appear to have been settled in the Babylonian cities described although the names of the cities mentioned are nowhere testified to in Babylonian records. This is not, however, surprising as few small cities and towns are. The fact that they stand out as those who could not prove their descent demonstrates how careful Jewish families were to keep records of descent. The main problem that would result from this would be the proving of their right to land in Israel. As they were presumably circumcised they would have the same rights as proselytes to take part in the worship of YHWH, and to be adopted as Israelites (Exodus 12:48). Indeed the fact that they are listed demonstrates their acceptability to the other immigrants already listed, but it is noteworthy that their names do not occur later in Ezra/Nehemiah. They were not called on to seal the covenant, or to supervise the building of the wall in Jerusalem, and so on.

Ezra 2:59

‘And these were they who went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not show their fathers’ houses, and their seed, whether they were of Israel,’

The Babylonian towns or districts mentioned are not testified to in inscriptions and records, apart from here. Note the two things that they could not do, they could not trace their father’s houses in Israel, and they could not prove that they were descended from Israelites. This would appear to confirm that the previous names have been names of pre-Exilic father’s houses.

It may well be that these particular people were the product of earlier exiles so that they had been in Babylonia for a long time. Thus the only method they had of attempting to demonstrate their Jewishness was by the naming of cities or districts known to have received exiles from Israel/Judah, combined of course with their circumcision and observance of the Sabbath.

Ezra 2:60

‘The sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, six hundred and fifty two.’

The name Delaiah was a good Israelite name. It was the name of a descendant of David in 1 Chronicles 3:24, of the leader of the twenty third order of David’s priests (1 Chronicles 24:18), and of one of the princes who pleaded with Jehoiakim not to destroy the roll containing the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25). It was also the name of the father of the wary Shemaiah in Nehemiah 6:10. But it was, of course, in itself, no proof of Israelite ancestry.

In contrast Tobiah and Nekoda are not found directly as Israelite names. Tobiah (‘Yah is good’) certainly has connections with Yahwism, but as far as we know was borne only by the Ammonite deputy of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria (Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 4:7; Nehemiah 6:1; Nehemiah 6:14; Nehemiah 6:17), who was probably a Yahwist of the debased (idolatrous) kind (Ezra 4:2), for he named his son Jeho-hanan (Nehemiah 6:17). Nekoda is the name of the father’s house of one of the Nethinim (Ezra 2:48), but that may have been a foreign name.


Verses 63-65

The Enrolling Of The Priests Who Could Not Prove Their Ancestry (Ezra 2:63-65).

Far more important was the situation of the priests who could not demonstrate their ancestry, for this excluded them from priestly office, and from reception of priestly benefits such as the tithe, and the parts of offerings and sacrifices particular to the priests. They would also presumably be liable to pay taxes. The exclusion was necessary because for a non-Aaronide to participate in the priesthood would have been seen as a major sacrilege (compare Numbers 16). The risk could not be taken.

Ezra 2:61

‘And of the sons of the priests,’

Those now mentioned are distinguished from the non-Priests mentioned above. These claimed to be sons of the priests.

Ezra 2:61

The sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name.’

The name Hakkoz was a good priestly name being borne by the seventh order of David’s priests (1 Chronicles 24:10). It was also the name of one of Judah’s descendants. But clearly the family could not prove its ancestry. However it may well have done so later, for in Ezra 8:33 we read of ‘Meremoth, the son of Uriah the priest’ who may have been the same as ‘Meremoth, the son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz’ (Nehemiah 3:4; Nehemiah 3:21). On the other hand that may have been a different Hakkoz, or a different Meremoth.

Barzillai was a wealthy Israelite, a Gileadite, who assisted David during the rebellion of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 12:31-31). But he was not an Aaronide. The argument of the sons of Barzillai was that they were Aaronides, but that the Barzillai in question had taken the name of his wife’s family, presumably for inheritance purposes. It is clear that at this time the name change was preventing proof of his ancestry. A second consideration might also have been that having inherited wealth he had disqualified himself as a priest in view of the fact that the priest’s only inheritance was to be YHWH (Numbers 18:20). The name Habaiah is not testified to in the Old Testament.

Ezra 2:62

‘These sought their register among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found, therefore they were deemed polluted and put from the priesthood.’

It would appear that records of ancestry of the priests had been taken to Babylon by the captives, or may even have been memorised and written down once they arrived there and that when these were consulted no trace could be found of the above families. We can compare with this how the ancestry of the kings of Scotland going back many generations were so memorised, and were repeated at the coronation of kings. A similar example was found among the Arabs. Someone who was visiting an Arab encampment described how an Arab got up and related the history of his forebears going back forty generations, and commented that there were others in the assembly who obviously could have done the same, telling who married and who begat whom, and where they lived, and frequently what they had done, and where they wandered. He said it sounded exactly like a chapter of genealogy out of the Bible. In consequence of their failure to prove their ancestry they were considered ‘polluted’ (not proven as Aaronides and therefore unfit to serve) and therefore excluded from the current priesthood. They would, of course, be accepted as Israelites on the same basis as those above. As they were presumably circumcised they would have the same rights as proselytes to take part in the worship of YHWH, and to be adopted as Israelites (Exodus 12:48). It is striking that no number is given in respect of these. Their status was pending.

Ezra 2:63

‘And the governor (Tirshatha) said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.’

The Tirshatha was clearly in control of matters, and it was his decision, not to exclude them for ever, but to exclude them from eating of the priest’s portions until their position could be determined by the use of the Urim and Thummim, utilised by ‘a (High) Priest’. The Urim and Thummim were the sacred lots carried in the High Priest’s breastpouch (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; see also Deuteronomy 33:8-10; Numbers 27:21). These would appear to have given the answers of ‘yes’ or ‘no answer’ (no example is known of a specific ‘no’ being given as an answer). See for example 1 Samuel 14:41; 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 1 Samuel 28:6; and compare their probable use in Joshua 7:16-18; 2 Samuel 2:1. We know of no example of their use after the early monarchy, but that may simply have been because the kings preferred other methods. The Urim and Thummim (beginning with the first and last letters of the alphabet) may have been pieces of wood or stone marked in such a way as to be able to read an answer from them when they were either withdrawn from the pouch, or tossed on sacred ground. Their mention here would, however, appear to indicate that a situation when they would be used might be expected within a reasonable period (certainly the sacred lot is used later - Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 11:1). If this list is a first list, made in the time of Sheshbazzar, as compared with a second list in Nehemiah 7, it would appear that the Tirshatha in question was Sheshbazzar. We can compare the fact that the Tirshatha appears to have been able to decide the use of the Urim and Thummim with the fact that Joshua could do the same through the High Priest (Numbers 27:18-21).

‘The Tirshatha.’ This would appear to be a Persian title meaning ‘governor’. Indeed Sheshbazzar was probably officially appointed as Tirshatha, with ‘governor’ (Ezra 5:14) being an interpretation of it. The term is also used in the Book of Nehemiah of Sheshbazzar (Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1).


Verse 64

The Sum Total Of The Arrivees (Ezra 2:64).

Ezra 2:64

‘The whole assembly together was forty two thousand, three hundred and sixty,’

The sum total of the arrivees who represented Israel comes to 42,360. The male arrivees enumerated above come to 29,818, plus whatever number the defrocked priests came to. That leaves just over 12,000 to be accounted for. But in view of the fact that in the next verse female slaves and female singing women are counted, and in the following verses domestic animals are numbered, it would be quite remarkable if the female members of Israel were ignored. Indeed it would have been a direct insult. Thus we may see them as represented in the remaining 12,000. If it then be argued that 12,000 females hardly suffices when there are 30,000 males we can reply, firstly that many of the males might well have left their families behind, intending to bring them to Judea once they had satisfactorily settled and were confident that they would be able to feed them, and secondly that many of the males who made the decision to come might well have been unmarried. It was the unmarried ones who would be more prepared to take the risks involved in returning. Indeed this lack of females might well have been part of the cause of a number of them marrying foreign wives. But, of course, there would be Israelite women who had remained in the land who would also be available.

Both this list in Ezra and the list in Nehemiah, in spite of its changes, give the same total. But that is probably because the number of arrivees in the initial immigration having been fixed, that was the number that was retained, having become sacrosanct. It is probable that in the second list the women were not specifically counted, but simply allowed to make up the number.


Verse 65

Enumeration Of Their Slaves (Ezra 2:65).

Ezra 2:65

‘Besides their male slaves and their female slaves, of whom there were seven thousand, three hundred and thirty seven, and they had two hundred singing men and singing women.’

These were additional to the assembly of Israel. This very much points then to the fact that these were slaves. Israelite servants would have been counted as part of the assembly. The singing men and women would not be Temple singers, already counted in Ezra 2:41, but singers for the purpose of entertainment in wealthy households and for purposes of mourning (compare 2 Samuel 19:35; Ecclesiastes 2:8; 2 Chronicles 35:25). Thus the total number of slaves was approximately seven thousand, five hundred and thirty seven (the ‘two hundred’ might be a round number, for Nehemiah 7 has 245 singers, although that could be because forty five singers arrived subsequently with the sons of Azgad). These would not be Israelite slaves. Such were forbidden in Israel (Leviticus 25:39-41). The ownership of these slaves points to a certain initial level of wealth in the restored community, although this would soon be depleted by famine and robbery (Ezra 4:4; Ezra 4:23; Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9-12; Haggai 2:16-17).


Verse 66-67

Enumeration Of The Beasts Of Burden (Ezra 2:66-67).

Ezra 2:66-67

‘Their horses were seven hundred and thirty six; their mules, two hundred and forty five; their camels, four hundred and thirty five; their asses, six thousand, seven hundred and twenty.’

These are possibly enumerated as evidence of wealth, or because they were seen as having faithfully served the needs of the community on their journey. The camels and asses especially would have been necessary in order to carry the possessions of the emigrants. The horses and mules would have been for the most important to ride on. It is noteworthy that cattle, sheep and goats are unmentioned. This would tend to support the idea that there was in the statement an indication of their gratitude to God in providing them with means of transportation. It was an indication that God was with His people. He had not allowed them to struggle on without help.

It would not be felt necessary in revising the list to renumber the beasts of burden. They did not form a part of the covenant community. It was sufficient to indicate God’s satisfactory provision.


Verse 68-69

Contributions Towards The Building Of The Temple (Ezra 2:68-69).

The description of these differs considerably from that in Nehemiah 7:70-72, which does not mention the Temple, but gives greater detail concerning the gifts, especially distinguishing those made by the Tirshatha. The reference to the Temple may well have been because the writer here deliberately altered the text of the original list in order to prepare for what is to follow in the next four chapters, the attempts to erect, and the final success in erecting, the Temple of YHWH. The non-mention of the specific contribution of the Tirshatha may well have been true of the original list, and may have been deliberate on the part of the Tirshatha so that mention of his contribution did not take away honour from YHWH. As a humble and godly man he may well not have wanted his contribution to be magnified. Later when he was dead, those who followed him would feel that they should honour his name as the one who had brought them out of the captivity to the land of their fathers. Alternately the writer behind Ezra 2 may have abbreviated (without altering the substance) in order to make the description tally more closely with the parallel descriptions of the giving at the Exodus, and the giving towards the building of the Temple in the time of David.

Ezra 2:68

‘And some of the heads of fathers’ (houses), when they came to the house of YHWH which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to set it up in its place,’

Note the dual emphasis on ‘the house of YHWH’, ‘the house of God’. This is what the next four chapter will be all about, the erection of the house of YHWH. ‘They came to the house of YHWH.’ By this time the Temple mount was seen as so sacred that it could be described as ‘the house of YHWH’, even though His house, as the ‘house of God’ had not yet been erected. Sacrifices and offerings had continued to be made here by dedicated priests even during the Exile. Compare how Jacob could speak of the place where he had his vision and made his offering to God as ‘the house of God’ (Genesis 28:17) even though there was no building there.

‘Some of the heads of the fathers’ (houses) -- offered willingly’ for the purpose of erecting the Temple. The writer possibly amended what was originally written in order to make a deliberate comparison with the freewill giving of the people the Exodus, and the freewill giving to the Temple in the time of David. Thus we can compare how the people of Israel had offered willingly towards the making of the Tabernacle and its furniture (Exodus 25:2; Exodus 35:21-22). This may well have been in mind in this description, for we have already seen in Ezra 1:4 how the writer seeks to portray this arrival of the exiles as a second Exodus. Furthermore also in mind might be the source behind 1 Chronicles 29:6-9; 1 Chronicles 29:29, where gifts were offered willingly for the building of the first Temple. Thus he saw history as repeating itself in the parallel with both the Exodus and the reign of David

Ezra 2:69

‘They gave in accordance with their ability into the treasury of the work, sixty one thousand darics (or drachmas - Hebrew: darkemonim) of gold, and five thousand minas (maneh) of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.’

What was given ‘into the treasury of the work’ (the Temple building fund) was ‘in accordance with their ability’. This is a reminder that God never requires of us more than we are able to give. And the sum total of the giving, in round numbers, was ‘sixty one thousand darics (darkemonim) of gold, and five thousand minas (maneh) of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments’. (Darkemonim is found only here and in the parallel in Nehemiah 7. It may not represent darics. Darics were not introduced until the time of Darius I (521-486 BC). Alternately the writer may have updated the weights). The giving of the priests’ garments was apposite as they would in fact be required immediately at the coming ‘seventh month celebrations, from the first day of the month to the Feast of Tabernacles (Ezra 3:1-6).

Nehemiah 7 details this giving in more depth, providing more precise information. The abbreviation here from what was possibly in the original record (if it was so) may well have been with a view to not spoiling the parallels with Exodus 25:2; Exodus 3:21-22 and the sources behind 1 Chronicles 29:6-9. On the other hand the original record might have given the figures here, with the figures becoming more detailed in the records compiled once the Tirshatha was dead. The figures in Nehemiah amount to forty one thousand drachmas of gold; four thousand seven hundred minas of silver, and ninety seven priests’ garments. Thus the figures in Ezra 2:69 are clearly round numbers. There is, however, a discrepancy with regard to the amount of gold. It is possible, however, that the figure here in Ezra 2 includes the gold contributed by those who had remained in Babylonia (Ezra 1:4). (Alternately it may include the grant made by Cyrus - Ezra 3:7).

Ezra 2:70

‘So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.’

This confirms what was said in Ezra 2:1 that all returned to their own cities. The people are listed in terms of previous designations, the priests, the Levites, some of the people (this my have in mind that the remainder were still in exile, or simply that some did not choose to dwell in cities, or that some could not dwell in their cities because they were already fully occupied (e.g. by the Edomites in the south) or more likely that some could not identify which were their own cities e.g. those who were unsure of their ancestry), the singers and the gatekeepers and the Nethinim (with the son of Solomon’s servants included with the Nethinim, as they were in the totals). All these, apart from those who chose not to do so, or could not identify them, dwelt in their cities. Thus ‘all Israel’, as summed up in the previous descriptions, were in their cities. The return was complete. Israel was once more in place in accordance with God’s allocation after the conquest. The summary is a cry of triumph. Israel has been restored!

Whether this verse was in the original list is impossible to state categorically. It may simply be a summary added by the original writer who utilised the list. With Ezra 2:1 it forms an inclusio. But it also appears, with slight differences, in Nehemiah 7, which might suggest otherwise. However as what follows in the next verse (Ezra 3:1) indicates that the writer of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 were either using a common source, or one was copying the other, and it is doubtful if that verse would have been part of the list, the fact that the contents of Ezra 2:70 is cited in both is not conclusive. If Ezra 1-6 had once been a unit on its own, available to both writers, this would serve to explain the parallels, with Nehemiah preferring to use in the main the list that he himself had discovered in the archives.

The emendation made by some English translations of ‘in Jerusalem’ after ‘some of the people’ (in accordance with 1 Esdras) is unnecessary. It goes without saying that some would take up residence in Jerusalem if they ‘returned to their own cities’, but the emendation was made simply because of a failure to understand the phrase ‘some of the people’, so that it was felt that it needed to be explained.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezra 2:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/ezra-2.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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