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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
In the seventh year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Ezra goes up to Jerusalem; and with him certain of the priests, Levites, porters, and Nethinim: his character, Ezra 7:1-10. The letter and decree of Artaxerxes in behalf of the Jews, vv. 11-26. Ezra's thanksgiving to God for these mercies, Ezra 7:27, Ezra 7:28.
1Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
In the reign of Artaxerxes - This was Artaxerxes Longimanus, the seventh of whose reign chronologers place A.M. 3547, sixty-eight years after Cyrus had sent back Zerubbabel. - Calmet. See the introduction.
Son of Seraiah - Either this could not have been Seraiah the high priest, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar one hundred and twenty-one years before this time, or the term son here must signify only his descendants, or one of his descendants. Were it otherwise, Ezra must now be at least one hundred and twenty-two years of age, supposing him to have been born in the year of his father's death; if, indeed Seraiah the high priest was his father; but this is evidently impossible. In this place there are only sixteen generations reckoned between Ezra and Aaron, but in 1 Chronicles 6:3, 1 Chronicles 6:4, etc., there are not less than twenty-two. We must therefore supply the deficient generations from the above place, between Amariah son of Meraioth, 1 Chronicles 6:7, and Azariah the son of Johanan, 1 Chronicles 6:10. There are other discrepancies relative to genealogies in these historical books which it would be useless to investigate. On these differences much has been already said in different parts of this comment.
2The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
3The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,
4The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
5The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
6This 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.
A ready scribe - סופר מחיר sopher machir does not merely signify a speedy writer or an excellent penman, but one who was eminently skillful in expounding the law. In this sense the word γραμματευς, scribe, is repeatedly used in the New Testament, and we find that both in the Old and New Testament it had the same signification. The Syriac gives the sense of the word by translating sophro chocimo, a wise scribe, or expounder.
7And 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.
8And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month - From the following verse we learn that Ezra and his company set off from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and thus we find they were upwards of four months on their journey. They could not travel fast, as they were a great company, composed in part of the aged and infirm, besides multitudes of women and children. They appear also to have taken a circuitous route. See on Ezra 8:24-32 (note).
9For 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.
10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Ezra had prepared his heart - Here is a fine character of a minister of God: He prepares, הכין hechin, he fixes, purposes, and determines, לבבו lebabo, with his heart - with all his powers and affections, to seek the law of God, and to do it himself, that he may be properly qualified to teach its statutes and judgments to Israel.
11Now 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.
12Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.
Artaxerxes, king of kings - This letter, from the beginning of this verse to the end of Ezra 7:26, is in the Aramitic or Chaldee language.
This title of the king would, in Persian, run thus: Ardsheer shahinshah, or padshah, "Ardsheer, king of kings;" "great or supreme king, or emperor."
13I 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.
Their own free-will - None shall be forced either to go or to stay. He who loves his God will avail himself of this favorable opportunity.
14Forasmuch 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;
His seven counsellors - It is very likely that the privy counsel of the king consisted of seven persons simply. The names of these seven counsellors or chamberlains may be found in the book of Esther, Esther 1:10.
15And 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,
16And 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:
And all the silver and gold - The king and his counsellors had already made a present to the house of the God of Israel; and Ezra is now empowered to receive any contribution which any of the inhabitants of the province of Babylon may think proper to give.
17That 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.
18And 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.
After the will of your God - He gave them the fullest liberty to order every thing according to their own institutions, binding them to no form or mode of worship.
19The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
20And 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.
21And 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,
22Unto 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.
A hundred talents of silver - The talent of silver was 450.
A hundred measures of wheat - A hundred cors; each cor was a little more than seventy-five gallons, one quart, and a pint, wine measure.
A hundred baths of wine - Each bath was seven gallons and five pints.
23Whatsoever 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?
Why should there be wrath - As he believed he was appointed by the Almighty to do this work, he therefore wished to do it heartily, knowing that if he did not, God would be displeased, and that the kingdom would be cut off from him or his posterity.
24Also 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.
It shall not be lawful to impose toll - As these persons had no private revenues, it would have been unreasonable to have laid them under taxation.
25And 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.
26And 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.
Whether it be unto death - These include almost every species of punishment which should be inflicted on culprits in any civilized state.
With this verse the Chaldee part of this chapter ends.
27Blessed 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:
28And 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.
And I was strengthened - In what the king decreed he saw the hand of God; he therefore gave him the praise, and took courage. There is a most amiable spirit of piety in these reflections. Ezra simply states the case; shows what the king had determined, and tells what he said; and then points out the grand agent in the whole business - it was the Lord God of his fathers. Thus God had put it into the king's heart to beautify the house of Jehovah; and, as that house was built for the salvation of the souls of men, he gives God praise for putting it into the king's heart to repair it: he who loves God and man will rejoice in the establishment of the Divine worship, because this is the readiest way to promote the best interests of man.