The Word Made Fresh
1Here is a list of the family leaders and others who came with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:
2From the family of Phinehas, Gershom. From Ithamar, Daniel. From David, Hattush. 3From Shecaniah, Parosh and Zechariah plus one hundred fifty other men. 4From Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah and two hundred men. 5From Zattu, Shechaniah son of Jahaziel plus three hundred other men. 6From Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan and fifty men. 7From Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah plus seventy men. 8From Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael plus eighty other men. 9From Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel plus two hundred eighteen men. 10From Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah and the one hundred sixty men he brought with him. 11From Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai plus twenty-eight other men. 12From Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan and one hundred ten other men. 13From Adonikam there were some who came later – Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah plus sixty other men. 14And from the family of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur plus seventy men.
15I summoned them to meet me beside the river that flows to Ahava. We camped there three days as I reviewed the people and the priests. I discovered there were no descendants of Levi present. 16So, I sent for these leaders – Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam. I also summoned Joiarib and Elnathan who were wise men, 17and sent them to a man named Iddo, the leader at Casiphia. I told them to say to him and his colleagues who were temple servants at Casiphia to send us priests for the house of our God. 18The gracious hand of the LORD was with us and they brought us Sherebiah, a good man, descended from Mahli son of Levi son of Israel, along with eighteen of his sons and relatives. 19They also brought us Hashabiah and Jeshaiah, descendants of Merari, plus twenty of their kinsmen 20and two hundred twenty temple servants, listed by name, whom David and his officers had set apart to serve the Levites.
21Then I ordered a time of self-denial there at the river Ahava, fasting before God to seek a safe journey for ourselves, our families and all our belongings. 22I was embarrassed to ask the king for military escort to protect us on our journey because we had told the king that our God is good to all who seek God’s favor and is against all who turn away. 23So, we fasted and called on our God for this, and God heard our request.
24Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, plus ten others with them. 25I weighed out for them the silver and gold bowls and vessels the king and his counselors had offered for the house of our God along with fellow Israelites. 26I weighed and placed in their hands twenty-five tons of silver and a hundred silver bowls, plus three and three fourths’ tons of gold, 27twenty gold containers worth nineteen pounds, and two vessels of fine polished bronze as rare as gold. 28I told them, “You and these containers are sacred to the LORD, the God of your ancestors. 29Guard them and keep them safe until you turn them over in the temple to the chief priests and Levites and family heads of Israel at Jerusalem.” 30They took the silver and gold and the vessels given them and brought them to God’s temple in Jerusalem.
31We left our camp on the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month and traveled to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was upon us to deliver us from being ambushed by our enemies on the way. 32We arrived at Jerusalem and camped there for three days. 33On the fourth day we went to the house of our God and weighed out the silver and gold and vessels and placed them in the hands of the priest Meremoth son of Uriah and Eleazar son of Phinehas, and the Levites who were with them – Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34The total was weighed and recorded.
35At that time, all those who had returned from captivity offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for the twelve tribes, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and a dozen male goats as a sin offering. All this was burned as an offering to the LORD. 36They also handed over the king’s commissions to the satraps and governors of the province beyond the River, and they gave their support to the people of God and the temple of God.
1-14: A list is given of those who return with Ezra. Phinehas and Ithamar, in verse 2, are the sons of Aaron, so the list emphasizes that these are qualified priests, direct descendants of Aaron.
15-20: Ahava is an unidentifiable location (in verses 24 and 31 it is called a river), but obviously not too far removed from Babylon. There Ezra gathers the people who are returning with him and discovers that although there are priests there are no Levites. The priests are themselves descendants of Levi, but the Levites are the ones who manage the temple affairs while the priests carry out the worship. He sends messengers to Casiphia to recruit Levites. Casiphia is also unidentifiable, but we speculate that it is a settlement of the Jews of the exile where a worshiping community is established. Iddo is the name of the leader of the Levites who live there. Several hundred Levites and temple servants are recruited and join Ezra at Ahava.
21-23: Ezra has told the king that his God will protect them, and he therefore does not want to ask for a military escort. He calls for a time of prayer and fasting to ask God to protect them on the journey.
24-30: Ezra appoints 12 of the priests to serve as caretakers of the offerings they are taking for the temple in Jerusalem.
31-34: Ezra and his group arrive in Jerusalem without incident. Once they have secured themselves, they take the offerings to the temple. The temple has by now been completed, at least enough to be used for worship. Jeshua the priest has apparently been succeeded by his son Jozabad.
35-36: The returnees offer sin offerings and burnt offerings at the temple. Then they visit the political leaders of the province to deliver the king’s letter. The officials provide the support Artaxerxes’ letter demands of them.
The book is called Ezra, and now that we have finally met him, we will see why, because he is the one who carries out the necessary reforms to draw the people back into the worship of the LORD.