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.

Ezra 9

[1] Now when these things were done,
·         After the sacrifices, the explaining of the rules of the king, the weighing of the vessels, the 3 day recovery time

the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
·         This is a total abdication of the worship of God, and turning to idols and iolatry. This is not at all what Ezra was expecting.
·         It’s as if we went down to MacAurthurs church in LA, and found Joel Osteen preaching on your best life now.
·         The list is the historic people’s in Judea, that had been a stumbling block previously. They had adopted the same forms of worship as the people, which even included offering their children to Molech.
·         Deut 7:2 was the prohibition against this, and one of the first things Balak did to attack Israel was to send his young women to seduce the young men.
·         If the people don’t repent their won’t be a Jesus.

[2] For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
·         The rulers and elders were chiefly responsible for this compromise.
·         Zerubbabel and Joshua did not leave a lasting legacy. In the face of worldly wealth the leaders cave in
·         The leaders sold out utterly, and had fully embraced the new order. This power hunger should be well familiar to us, although it’s parallel is not to the world, but to the church. What if we were more knowledgeable, more faithful, more dedicated to God than the full time ministers here?
·         Love for the world is enmity against God. They had deserted, having loved this present age

[3] And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.
·         Astonished is even a light word for how Ezra felt.
·         Shaving his hair and beard is the ultimate form of humiliation and sorrow, see 2 Sam 10:4. Rending the garments was also a sign, it’s only prohibited for the priests Lev 10:6
·         Facing down the king? No problem. No Levites go with us? No problem. Bandits? No problem. Severe apostasy in the people who had returned? The strength leaves him. Ezra is so crushed and broken he has no words yet for this tragedy.
·         How hard is it for you when a person who is ahead of you in the faith apostisizes. When that person leads you to Christ and sets your feet upon the right path and then quits. Perhaps Ezra expected too much, having grown up on the legends of Zerubbabel and the faithfulness as seen in the Royal Archives, or perhaps he’s the only person reacting properly.
·         God had sent Ezra to clean up this very problem. It was this very thing that He was concerned for.
·         Ezra is a shadow of Christ, who watched from afar, came to us, took our sins upon himself and led the people in holiness

[4] Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
·         All the people who actually cared for God came to him. Together they felt sorrow for how far Israel had fallen, and how they had once again invited God’s judgment on them.

[5] And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God.
·         The Jewish posture of prayer was hands palm up in supplication, eyes up in adoration. Here his head is bowed and his hands are up with nothing in them.

[6] And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
·         The trespasses are so great that he does not even have the heart to intercede.
·         Contrast this with Moses, who prayed to God on behalf of the sinful people
·         If you stacked up the sins of all the people they would reach up beyond their heads, into the very heavens

[7] Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.
·         This is good, because it’s a confession of where they are, and what has happened to them. It shows at least a little honest interaction with reality. The other people there didn’t even have that going for them

[8] And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
·         A little space was given. They didn’t have the power of autonomy, they were still under the king but they did have some authority to govern their own people
·         Nail in this place is an interesting word choice. It’s a peg in the wall, of domestic use, that you would hang pots or pans on. God has put it in the place of the sanctuary to revive them by, to hang them on. But they don’t want to be in Gods place.
·         The whole point of God putting them there was to revive them, if they reject this, they have rejected survival.

[9] For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
[10] And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,
·         They had forsaken the first and greatest, and the second which is like it, although we will see that part coming later in Nehemiah
·         This continues the thought from before, that they were in bondage to the king, but they had a community again, they had a temple again. The king was favorable to them.
·         Wall was not physical, they mean wall of a vineyard or a hedge of protection. Isaiah 2, 5 has the same wall in mind.

[11] Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
·         If you remember what God said to Abraham, in his vision, your children will go into Egypt into bondage, until the sins of the Amorites are complete, some 400 years later. The people in that time had so filled the land with wickedness that it spit them out. Many years later this very thing happened to Israel, which was the deportation.
·         Notice he says servants the prophets plural, indicating that God had repeatedly warned them about this very thing.
·         The people of the land had filled the land from one end to the other, which is a phrase that means from one rim of the vessel to the other, speaking of a piece of pottery that was full to spilling. 

[12] Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.
·         If the former people were displaced because of wickedness, and God had warned them to not be like those people, then there was no excuse for this.
·         This is not a quote from elsewhere in the OT, it’s a summary of the commandments. See for example Deut 7:1-3

[13] And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;
·         In their exile God was good to them. What they deserved was to be wiped out entirely.

[14] Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
·         If God had already once given grace, and they had fallen from it, then can there be any kind of real reconciliation?
·         The same thought is expressed in Hebrews 6, 10.
·         If the remnant was given grace and a second chance and deliberately turned their back on God, what else do they have except a fearful expectation of judgement?

[15] O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.
·         This is more than anything a plea for God to help, because Ezra has been broken by the power and relentlessness of their sin.

Ezra 10

Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.
·         Now a great multitude come to Ezra, for he had for some time been in the posture of repentance.
·         It’s unclear if this is genuine repentance or Esau repentance, but they are in any case grievously sorrowful

10:2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam,
·         In verse 26 it looks like Jehiel is guilty of taking foreign wives. It could therefore be that his own father left his mother to take a pagan wife and engage in idolatry.
·         This may or may not be the same Elam who brings his family out of Babylon in 2:7.
·         Sechaniah was not guilty of the sin apparently, but he speaks for the people and repents on their behalf.

answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
·         An immediate acknowledgment of the facts, but Shechaniah does not give up hope like Ezra has done.
·         Perhaps it’s the case that Ezra was so broken that he could not speak on behalf of the people, or perhaps he was praying like Moses to lift the burden, and God raised up this man, or perhaps Ezra was waiting, knowing that repentance cannot come from the top down. For myself I favor the second idea, that Ezra was pretty desperate at this point for help.
·         This sin is what was dealt with earlier, and comes last in the book. The last chapter is the solution, and it has the people rising up and declaring that they would serve God again.

10:3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
·         They were to do all things according to the law. They were to live and breathe the law, to teach it to their children. This is an acknowledgement that they were going to get back onto God’s guidelines for them.
·         Here he calls Ezra my lord, paying him due honor.

10:4 Arise; for this matter belongs unto you: we also will be with you: be of good courage, and do it.
·         Get back on your feet soldier. The matter is yours to deal with, the king put you in charge, the task you must see through as the spiritual and rightful leader of our people.
·         The Bible has the failure of the leaders recorded for all to see. Here Ezra needed to be goaded, having reached the end of his strength. Only in Christ do we have a record of the man who stood fast, everyone else has their sins recorded.

10:5 Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they swore.
·         The people covenant with an oath to do what is right. Just as before in the book how the priests, levites, and people are recorded, so here is it in ‘descending’ order.
·         This similarity of three part division is employed by Jesus in telling the parable of the good Samaritan.

10:6 Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.
·         Fasting and weeping still was the appropriate response, but rarely in the Bible do we see a complete abstinence of food and water. Nineveh and Moses are the only other instances.

10:7 And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
·         All the surrounding people will come to Jerusalem to Ezra and have the matter dealt with.

10:8 And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
·         The seriousness of their moral sins are shown in the gravity of the punishment for not fixing them. We may or may not have an idea of how bad this was, but looking at the punishment it’s easier to see the severity of their disobedience.
·         Hell seems to our sinful minds and too extreme and unjust, but that’s because we don’t have an appreciation of how horrid our sins really are. We think of them as being only light or marginal.

10:9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.
·         They are cold, and fearful as they come into the temple area. They know judgment will be rendered against them, and so they are doubly miserable.
·         If you remember back to appearing before your own dad for something you have done wrong you might have an idea of what they are feeling.

10:10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, All of you have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
·         Ezra is back, he’s in command, and he’s going to lead them to overcome their sins.

10:11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
·         This is pretty straightforward, if you worship God you must put away sin. Sin and God cannot co-exist.
·         Command 2 was that you must worship God in the way He has proscribed. That calls for holiness. We are saved from sin, to holiness,

10:12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As you have said, so must we do.
·         The people now repent.

10:13 But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.
·         This is a sensible proclamation, we don’t want to be in the rain for three days and nights and risk getting sick. We need to handle this matter completely, and carefully.
·         They begin by admitting their trespasses as well. This goes along with their fear, which may have been of Ezra taking away their worldly possessions, or of God, taking away their heavenly one.
·         For myself I think this is a kind of ploy to buy time, to get Ezra off their back. This idea is to buy breathing room where they can further think through what happens next.

10:14 Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.
·         Whether it was or not they are here making a confession of truth.
·         They will come back in rounds, taking turns to be dealt with individually until Ezra is satisfied with the arrangements.

10:15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
·         It’s not clear why they opposed. Perhaps because they wanted the matter out right then and there. Their names do not appear in the list of compromisers.

10:16 And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
10:17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
·         This was a long time. It took a very long time to figure out who all had compromised.
·         So the divorce proceeded. There is no reason to think that the women were put away with no support of any kind, nor is it necessary to believe that the children were made to starve. They would be supported, but they would not be loved.
·         Remember, joining the covenant community by serving God was an option, but these women so steadfastly desired to serve their idols that they would rather divorce their husbands. Not all the women did.

10:18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.
·         Ezra beings with the priests, just like he always does.

10:19 And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
10:20 And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.
10:21 And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.
10:22 And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
10:23 Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
10:24 Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.
10:25 Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.
10:26 And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.
10:27 And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.
10:28 Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
10:29 And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.
10:30 And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.
10:31 And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
10:32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
10:33 Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
10:34 Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,
10:35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,
10:36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
10:37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,
10:38 And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,
10:39 And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,
10:40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
10:41 Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah,
10:42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
10:43 Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah.
10:44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
·         So not all the foreign wives had children, only some did. This was a blessing to the community in that not everyone’s lives were compromised and complicated.

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