PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|The Arrival of Ezra||
The History of Ezra
|Ezra Arrives in Jerusalem||The Mission and Personality of Ezra|
|The Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra||The King's Letter||The Document Which the Emperor Artaxerxes Gave to Ezra||The Order of Artaxerxes|
|7:25-26||Ezra Praises God||Ezra's Journey from Babylonia to Palestine|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:1-7
1Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, there went up Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah,
2son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub,
3son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth,
4son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki,
5son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest. 6This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was upon him. 7Some of the sons of Israel and some of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
7:1 "Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia" The date seems to be 457 b.c. as derived from v. 7 (i.e., "the seventh year"). This means that there was a 57-58 year interval between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of chapter 7. Chapter 6 deals with Darius I, who reigned from 522 to 486 b.c., while chapter 7 deals with Artaxerxes I, who reigned from 464 to 423 b.c.
Modern scholarship has split over the chronological relationship between Ezra, Nehemiah, and Artaxerxes I or II. For a good brief summary and evaluation of the three theories see R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 193-197. The three theories are:
1. Artaxerxes I sent Ezra in the seventh year, 457 or 458 b.c.
2. Nehemiah precedes Ezra, who came to Jerusalem in 398 b.c., which was the seventh year of Artaxerxes II.
3. The letter (vv. 11-26) is from the 37th year of Artaxerxes I or 428 b.c.
This commentary follows theory #1.
▣ "Ezra" Ezra is the great-grandson of Seraiah (high priest who was killed in the fall of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, cf. II Kgs. 25:18-21; Jer. 52:24), who is also the ancestor of Jeshua, the High Priest who returned with Zerubabbel (cf. Chap. 2). Chapters 7-10 describe the personal memoirs of Ezra (cf. Neh. 8, 12). He is not mentioned in the first six chapters.
His name means "help" (BDB 740) and may be a shortened form of Azariah, which means "YHWH has helped" (BDB 741).
▣ "Hilkiah" He was High Priest under King Josiah (cf. II Kgs. 22:4-14) and Seraiah was High Priest at the time of the Exile and was killed by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. II Kgs. 25:18).
7:2-5 This is the ancestry of Ezra in an attempt to prove his lineage as a priest. We know from I Chr. 6:3-15 that several names have been left out (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 601). The length of the list denotes Ezra's importance (especially in later rabbinical Judaism). This clearly shows that the genealogies in the OT cannot be used to arrive at a date for certain events in the Bible (cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 48-50).
7:6 "Ezra went up from Babylon" To the Jews going to Jerusalem was always spoken of as going up. Nehemiah left from the city of Susa; Ezra left from the city of Babylon.
▣ "a scribe skilled in the law of Moses" Ezra is an important figure in rabbinical Judaism (cf. II Esdras 14). He is seen as the compiler and editor of the entire OT, as well as the founder of the great synagogue (i.e., Sanhedrin), which historically begins the period of rabbinical Judaism (all sects except the Pharisees were wiped out in the fall of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus in a.d. 70).
The term "scribe" (BDB 708) referred to someone who could read and write and who had been trained in a particular area. Here it would refer to Hebrew OT literature and its interpretation (cf. 7:11). The scribes later became the rabbis in Jewish history. One would ask them a question and they would apply the teachings of Scripture to that issue (particularly the writings of Moses).
▣ "skilled" This term (BDB 555) means "rapid," which is a metaphor for proficiency or enthusiasm (cf. Ps. 45:1; Isa. 16:5).
▣ "which the Lord God of Israel had given" This VERB (BDB 678, KB733) is Qal PERFECT and seems to refer to the law of Moses, but it is equally true that God's equipping and gifting is also necessary for effective ministry (cf. Dan. 1:17-20).
▣ "because the hand of the Lord his God was upon him" This is a recurrent idiom (cf. 7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31; Neh. 2:8, 18). Ezra's effectiveness was a combination of his yieldedness to God's will (cf. V. 10) and God's call and equipping for ministry.
7:7 There are several groups of people listed.
1. Jews from all the tribes, except Levi (i.e., sons of Israel)
2. Jews from the tribe of Levi
c. Levitical singers (cf. I Chr. 15:16)
d. Levitical gatekeepers (cf. I Chr. 23:5)
e. Levitical temple servants
(1) some are Levites
(2) some are foreigners captured by Israel and turned into temple servants (i.e., Nethinim, cf. 8:20; Josh. 9:23,27; I Chr. 9:2)
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:8-10
8He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. 10For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
7:8 "in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king" This would be July/August of 457 b.c.
7:9 "on the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem" The journey took approximately 4 months and covered about 900 miles.
▣ "the good hand of his God was upon him" Israel used anthropomorphic language to describe their God, though they knew He was spirit (e.g., I Kgs. 8:27) and did not take any physical form (cf. Exod. 20:4). These human metaphors quickly and adequately communicate God's personhood. God's hand was a metaphor for His activity in His creation. It is used both positively of God's presence and blessing as in this verse (cf. Exod. 4:17; 13:3) or for His judgment.
7:10 "Ezra had set his heart" This VERB (BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil PERFECT) means "be resolute," "be firm," "be prepared," " be committed to." Ezra responded to God's call and actively allowed God to equip him. This is the covenant concept (See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT at 6:14).
1. God's initiation and provision
2. human faith response
▣ "to study. . .to practice. . .to teach" This is a chronologically appropriate order for studying (BDB 205), practicing (BDB 793 I), and then teaching (BDB 540) the truths of God. The first two are Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS and the last is a Peel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT. Knowledge brings responsibility (cf. Luke 12:48) to God, to ourselves, and to others!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:11-20
11Now this is the copy of the decree which King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the Lord and His statutes to Israel: 12"Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace. And now 13I have issued a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14Forasmuch as you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God which is in your hand, 15and to bring the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16with all the silver and gold which you find in the whole province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and of the priests, who offered willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem; 17with this money, therefore, you shall diligently buy bulls, rams and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings and offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. 18Whatever seems good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do according to the will of your God. 19Also the utensils which are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem. 20The rest of the needs for the house of your God, for which you may have occasion to provide, provide for it from the royal treasury."
7:11 Notice the different ways to identify Ezra:
1. the priest
2. the scribe
3. the one learned in the words of the commandments of the Lord
▣ "the commandments. . .His statutes" The teachings of God go by several names in the OT. A good example is Ps. 19:7-9.
1. the law of the Lord, v. 7
2. the testimony of the Lord, v. 7
3. the precepts of the Lord, v. 8
4. the commandment of the Lord, v. 8
5. the fear of the Lord, v. 9
6. the judgments of the Lord, v. 9
Also notice the number of descriptive phrases used in the acrostic, Psalm 119!
7:12-26 The section (7:12-26) is written in royal Aramaic, which was the diplomatic lingua-franca of the Persian Empire.
7:12 "king of kings" This is a Semitic superlative regularly describing Mesopotamian kings (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 2:37; Ezek. 26:7), here Artaxerxes I, but the Jews took it and used it of their coming Davidic, anointed king (Messiah, cf. Zech. 14:9; I Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). This same kind of superlative is used of YHWH in Deut. 10:17 and Ps. 136:2 (i.e., "God of gods").
NASB, NKJV"perfect peace"
The TEV has a footnote, "Aramaic has an additional word, the meaning of which is unclear" (p. 419). The Aramaic VERB "complete" (BDB 1086, KB 197) is the Peal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, used as an ADJECTIVE, "peace," which was a way of addressing the king.
7:13 This is the decree that allowed Ezra and other Jews to return (i.e., the third wave). The first group came with Sheshbazzar and the second group with Zerubbabel and Jeshua.
7:14 "his seven counselors" We learn from Xenophon Anabasis 1.6.4-5 that Cyrus had seven close counselors. Apparently this was continued (cf. Esther 1:14). Herodotus 3:84 states that these were seven major families who had unrestricted access to the king.
7:15 - 21 Four sources of revenue are defined: (1) free-will gifts from anybody, v. 16; (2) free-will gifts from Jews, v. 16; (3) objects of gold and silver (not the vessels of the temple), v. 19; and (4) the rest of the needs came from the royal treasury from the Province Beyond the River, vv. 20-24 (cf. 6:8-10).
7:17 "grain offering" This Aramaic term (BDB 1101) is literally "gift," but it is used regularly for "grain offering." The grain offering is described in Lev. 2. A small part was offered on the altar and the priests were able to eat the rest.
▣ "drink offering" The grain offering was to be accompanied by an offering of wine (cf. Exod. 29:40-41; Lev. 23:18; Num. 6:15,17; 15:4-5; 28:5,7; 29:6).
7:18 This verse implies that the Jewish leadership had some discretion on how to spend the money for the temple and its procedures and festivals. It had to be spent for religious purposes, but exactly how was not specified. The Persian king trusted these religious leaders.
7:19 Mentioning of the utensils here is confusing because they were mentioned first in chapter one as being given to Sheshbazzar during the reign of Cyrus (1:8-11). He returned to Jerusalem and laid the foundation of the temple (cf. 5:16). Then they were given to the next "prince" of Judah (also called governor), Zerubbabel (cf. chapters 2-6), who is said to have completed the temple in the reign of Dairus. However, 57 years later in the reign of Artaxerxes I they are mentioned again as if they were not delivered!
Chapters 7-10 focus not on the temple, but on the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:21-24
21"I, even I, King Artaxerxes, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the provinces beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, may require of you, it shall be done diligently, 22even up to 100 talents of silver, 100 kors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt as needed. 23Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven, so that there will not be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons. 24We also inform you that it is not allowed to impose tax, tribute or toll on any of the priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, Nethinim or servants of this house of God."
7:21 "it shall be done diligently" This term "diligently" (BDB 1082) is used often in Ezra.
1. "this work is going on with great care," 5:8
2. "the full cost is to be paid," 6:8
3. "let it be (the decree) carried out with all diligence," 6:12
4. "carried out the decree with all diligence," 6:13
5. "you shall diligently buy bulls," 7:17
6. "it shall be done diligently," 7:21
7. "let the judgment be executed upon him strictly," 7:26
7:22 "talents. . .kors. . .baths" These ancient measurements are very difficult to define precisely. Talents are a weight of metal, kors are a dry volume, and baths are a liquid volume. This describes a large amount of goods.
▣ "as needed" This phrase shows that the governmental provision was ongoing and expandable.
7:23 This verse describes the historical and religious atmosphere of the Persian kingdom. We learn that in the year 457 b.c., Egypt revolted against Persia and this may be a plea for divine help. This phrase is characteristic of Cyrus', Darius', and Artaxerxes' desire for the national gods to be placated and supplicated on their behalf.
7:24 This describes the taxation being lifted or prohibited from the servants of the temple. The price of these cultic provisions would have been very costly for the Province Beyond the River because it contained several of these rebuilt national temples.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:25-26
25"You, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges that they may judge all the people who are in the province beyond the River, even all those who know the laws of your God; and you may teach anyone who is ignorant of them. 26Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed upon him strictly, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of goods or for imprisonment."
7:25 This describes Ezra's appointing (BDB 1101, Pael IMPERATIVE) of the provincial Judicial system under Jewish law. The Persians had overall political power in the satraps but allowed local autonomy in areas of religion and customs.
▣ "the wisdom of your God which is in your hand" The "wisdom of your God" parallels "the law of your God which is in your hand" (v. 14). This strongly implies that Ezra had a complete copy of the writings of Moses (i.e., Torah, Gen. - Deut., cf. 3:2; 6:18; 7:6; Neh. 8:1). See Special Topic at 6:18.
7:26 The various consequences of disobedience are spelled out clearly. Notice there is a scale for differing offenses!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:27-28
27Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to adorn the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, 28and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king's mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the Lord my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
7:27-28 This text reverts to Hebrew and records Ezra's prayer of thanksgiving to God.
7:27 "Blessed" The term (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE is a metaphorical extension from the word "to kneel." It can be used for honoring deity, humans, and objects.
▣ "the God of our fathers" Ezra's prayer expresses the covenant renewal theology reflected in all of the post-exilic historical books.
▣ "who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart" This phrase is theologically parallel to 6:22. God is in control of world events (also the recurrent theme of Daniel).
TEV"to honor in this way"
NJB"to restore beauty"
The Hebrew term (BDB 802, KB 908, Peel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) may be an intentional allusion to the prophecy of Isa. 60:7,9,13.
7:28 "has extended lovingkindness to me" The VERB (BDB 639, Hiphil PERFECT) is anthropomorphic for God's hand.
The NOUN "lovingkingness" is the special covenantal word hesed (BDB 338), which denotes YHWH's faithfulness and loyalty to His promises. See Special Topic: Hesed at Neh. 13:14.
▣ "his counselors. . .mighty princes" Ezra was affirmed before the highest leaders of Persia, which may have included the seven special families who made up the advisory council (cf. 7:14; 8:25).
▣ "I was strengthened" This VERB (BDB 304, KB 302, Hithpael PERFECT) means "to be or grow firm, strong, strengthen." Ezra was empowered by God to perform his task (cf. Dan. 1:17)
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the bible, and the holy spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. Define the term"scribe."
2. To what does "the law of Moses" refer?
3. Why is v. 10 so theologically significant?
4. Why does 7:12-26 revert to Aramaic?
5. Explain the theological significance of vv. 27-28.
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