Ezra 8 (New Century Version)
Leaders Who Returned with Ezra
1These are the leaders of the family groups and those who were listed with them who came back with me from Babylon during the rule of King Artaxerxes.
One Bible commentator has said, “There was little at Jerusalem to attract a new expedition; for the glamour which had surrounded the first return, with a son of David at its head, had faded in grievous disappointments; and the second series of pilgrims had to carry with them the torch with which to rekindle the flames of devotion.”
2 From the descendants of Phinehas: Gershom.
From the descendants of Ithamar: Daniel.
From the descendants of David: Hattush3 of the descendants of Shecaniah.
From the descendants of Parosh: Zechariah, with one hundred fifty men.
4 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, with two hundred men.
5 From the descendants of Zattu: Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, with three hundred men.
6 From the descendants of Adin: Ebed son of Jonathan, with fifty men.
7 From the descendants of Elam: Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, with seventy men.
8 From the descendants of Shephatiah: Zebadiah son of Michael, with eighty men.
9 From the descendants of Joab: Obadiah son of Jehiel, with two hundred eighteen men.
10 From the descendants of Bani: Shelomith son of Josiphiah, with one hundred sixty men.
11 From the descendants of Bebai: Zechariah son of Bebai, with twenty-eight men.
12 From the descendants of Azgad: Johanan son of Hakkatan, with one hundred ten men.
13 From the descendants of Adonikam, these were the last ones: Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, with sixty men.
14 From the descendants of Bigvai: Uthai and Zaccur, with seventy men.
“The interest of this forbidding list of names and numbers lies in the fact that in every case but one of these groups are joining, at long last, the descendants of the pioneers from Babylon eighty years before.”
Adding the counts of the male members of the group together, there was a total count of at least 1,496 men in the group. Adding an estimated number of women and children (Ezra 8:21), we can surmise that the total number of the party coming with Ezra in the days of King Artaxerxes was something between 6,000 to 7,000 people.
The Return to Jerusalem
15 I called all those people together at the canal that flows toward Ahava, where we camped for three days. I checked all the people and the priests, but I did not find any Levites.
Ezra needed Levites. They were the “worker bees” of the temple. So he plans to recruit some.
16 So I called these leaders: Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And I called Joiarib and Elnathan, who were teachers.17 I sent these men to Iddo, the leader at Casiphia, and told them what to say to Iddo and his relatives, who are the Temple servants in Casiphia. I sent them to bring servants to us for the Temple of our God.18 Our God was helping us, so Iddo’s relatives gave us Sherebiah, a wise man from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, who was the son of Israel. And they brought Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, for a total of eighteen men.19 And they brought to us Hashabiah and Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews. In all there were twenty men.20They also brought two hundred twenty of the Temple servants, a group David and the officers had set up to help the Levites. All of those men were listed by name.
21 There by the Ahava Canal, I announced we would all fast and deny ourselves before our God. We would ask God for a safe trip for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road. We had said to the king, “Our God helps everyone who obeys him, but he is very angry with all who reject him.”
They needed protection because the danger was real. There was a constant threat of robbers and bandits, especially because they were transporting so many valuables. Yet because of their dependence on God, expressed through prayer and fasting, God protected them.
“Thus we see that this good man had more anxiety for the glory of God than for his own personal safety.”
— Adam Clarke
23 So we fasted and prayed to our God about our trip, and he answered our prayers.
24 Then I chose twelve of the priests who were leaders, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their relatives.25 I weighed the offering of silver and gold and the utensils given for the Temple of our God, and I gave them to the twelve priests I had chosen. The king, the people who advised him, his officers, and all the Israelites there with us had given these things for the Temple.26 I weighed out and gave them about fifty thousand pounds of silver, about seventy-five hundred pounds of silver objects, and about seventy-five hundred pounds of gold.27 I gave them twenty gold bowls that weighed about nineteen pounds and two fine pieces of polished bronze that were as valuable as gold.
These are enormous amounts of treasure! And these priests are responsible for all of it on a long journey, facing robbers or bandits . . .
28 Then I said to the priests, “You and these utensils belong to the Lord for his service. The silver and gold are gifts to the Lord, the God of your ancestors.29 Guard these things carefully. In Jerusalem, weigh them in front of the leading priests, Levites, and the leaders of the family groups of Israel in the rooms of the Temple of the Lord.”30 So the priests and Levites accepted the silver, the gold, and the utensils that had been weighed to take them to the Temple of our God in Jerusalem.
31 On the twelfth day of the first month we left the Ahava Canal and started toward Jerusalem. Our God helped us and protected us from enemies and robbers along the way.32 Finally we arrived in Jerusalem where we rested three days.
A four month journey from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
33 On the fourth day we weighed out the silver, the gold, and the utensils in the Temple of our God. We handed them to the priest Meremoth son of Uriah. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, as were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui.34 We checked everything by number and by weight, and the total weight was written down.
“According to Babylonian tradition, almost every transaction, including sales and marriages, had to be recorded in writing. Ezra may have had to send back a signed certification of the delivery of the treasures.”
–Edwin M. Yamauchi
35 Then the captives who returned made burnt offerings to the God of Israel. They sacrificed twelve bulls for all Israel,
This is touching. Although officially only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain, they offer sacrifices for all twelve tribes.
ninety-six male sheep, and seventy-seven lambs. For a sin offering there were twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord.36 They took King Artaxerxes’ orders to the royal officers and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates. Then these men gave help to the people and the Temple of God.
This reminds us of the great purpose of Ezra’s expedition. In the final two chapters we will see Ezra administering strict correction as a reformer; but he did not come primarily as a disciplinarian. He came to give support to the people and the house of God, and only dealt with the problems of sin and compromise as necessary in the course of this greater goal.
HERE is “O, God, Our Help in Ages Past” sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Pieces of Bach’s “St. Anne” fugue open and close the vocal portion.