Friday, April 26, 2013

Ezra 7

[1] Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah,
·         By this a roughly 60 year gap is indicated. Xerxes if you will remember, was the king who married Esther. The book of Esther takes place in this time frame.
·         Ezra is now going to bring the account up to the historical present, that is, his day. He was a leader from the tribe of Levi, descended from Aaron.
·         Artaxerxes reigned from 464 to 423, this was about 458BC.

the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
[2] The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
·         A lot is left out here if we jump back to Zadok, who was appointed as the high priest by Solomon 1 Kings 2:35.

[3] The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,
[4] The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
[5] The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
·         A more complete list is given in 1 Chronicles 6:4 and ends with the captivity. This is likely Ezra giving a personal account of his contemporaries line, since it’s likely he wrote Chronicles.

[6] This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
·         Ezra, like Daniel before him, was a gifted administrator, and a very talented theologian.
·         Ready Scribe indicates his proficiency with the Law of Moses. The English word for scribe indicates a mere copyist, but in those days the person had great training and knowledge so they didn’t ruin the expensive scrolls.
·         It’s likely that Ezra kicked off a popularity with this profession, something akin to the modern lawyer, that would persist at least into the time of Christ. “Woe to you Scribes” is the first part of the iconic rebuke Jesus gave in Matt 23.
·         With society changed since the law of Moses was given it was necessary that wise and thoughtful people explain what the law was after, and how it applied to their current circumstances. Ezra and the Levites who knew the law were essential to having an orderly society.

[7] And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
[8] And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
·         Ezra, along with a lot of other professionals, came to a Jerusalem repopulated.
·         Ezra jumps ahead here, the reader is left wondering on what authority he could bring a whole population with him.

[9] For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
·         So the journey took about four months to walk the roughly 900 miles of the fertile crescent to get to Jerusalem. Ezra leaves late March and arrives late July.
·         The good hand of God indicates that God kept them in sound health, and free from bandit attack
[10] For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
·         A lot contained here, Ezra first sought to know God, then he did what the law instructed, then he taught others.
·         This likely included asking the King for permission to go to Jerusalem and make it more orderly and God fearing because we now have the record of Artaxerxes in agreeing with Ezra

[11] Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
·         Ezra was a Scribe for the Lord, the Scriptures want us to understand that first and foremost.

[12] Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.
·         Standard greetings. Ezra is taking this letter to validate his commission
·         This would be the official commission of his duties

[13] I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
·         This is the command, or offer, that all the Jews be allowed to go back, that none are to restrain them if they so choose.
·         No Levite so chose.

[14] Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellers, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
·         The king had seven eunuchs as councilors that he would refer to.
·         Apparently Ezra pitched this as a mission of inquiry, he would go to Jerusalem, look and assess the state of the region, and if anything was amiss he would teach them to obey God and King, setting up a better court system, and a better priesthood.
·         They had been left to their own devices for quite some time, now there would be reform and it was overdue.

[15] And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellers have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
·         Artaxerxes believes in the God of the Jews so much he offers freely gold and silver in addition to financing Ezra’s trip.
·         Artaxerxes did the opposite of Nebuchadnezzar: he took the most able and talented people and returned them to govern their regions. Then he took the gold and gave it to God as an offering.

[16] And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:
·         Ezra is then authorized to go and get as much from the people as they want to give to support the work.

[17] That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.
·         Again, just like Darius, the king appoints as many animals as was necessary for a sin offering

[18] And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God.
·         If for example they needed clothes, or a wall, or musical instruments, whatever they would need to do the work required

[19] The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
[20] And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house.
·         The house of God here refers to all things related to the temple. Ezra has carte blanche  to see to any temple needs.
·         For awhile in Israel’s history the priests were not supported by the people, and the temple worship had to be quit because of the lack of funds. Here the King is seeing to all aspects of it.

[21] And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,
·         The decree was to permit any further expenses, other than what Ezra took with him

[22] Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
·         About 6,000lbs of silver. This was the upper limit on all that Ezra may appropriate, it’s a very large number.

[23] Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
·         Here the motives for this trip are plainly stated, Artaxerxes is benevolent and gives latitude for all the different Gods and their worshippers. He wants all gods to be favorably disposed to them so he permits their worshippers to pray.
·         This policy of his under the sovereign hand of God was accidentally correct.

[24] Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
·         This was probably a common policy as well, the servants of God would be tax exempted.

[25] And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
·         Now Ezra is handed all the civil power as well to oversee the appointment of loyal and faithful men in higher office

[26] And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
[27] Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
·         Ezra reports his take on the letter: God is good.

[28] And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellers, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
·         Here Ezra gives the summary of the events.

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