In Ezra 7.1-6 we learn about the genealogy of Ezra going back to Aaron. He has a right to the priesthood through Zadok. Ezra 7.6-10 describes his return to Jerusalem, along with many others. This was his second trip because he went with Zerubbabel earlier (Neh 12.1). We also learn something very interesting. He was a “scribe skilled in the law (Torah) of Moses” and that is because he studied it (2 Tim 2.15). The king granted him all that he requested because the hand of God was upon him.
Some of the sons of Israel (ten tribes) and some priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and Temple servants went up also. This alludes to the sad fact that only a few will come out of Babylon, and only a few will come out of Babylon spiritually, too. It took four months (the number of testing) for this group to get to Jerusalem. Ezra had set his heart to study the Torah and to practice it as it applied, and to teach it to the people, leading them in its statutes and ordinances.
As we have said before, Ezra is seen as a “second Moses” (Exo 18.13-16) who came in the “spirit of Moses” to teach the people. Just as Israel sunk into idolatry in Egypt, in the same way Israel sunk into idolatry and it casued them to be exiled to Babylon. So, the people needed a teacher, a “second Moses”, to teach them the ways of God again. Here is a concept to remember for today. Anyone can tell you what a verse says, but not everyone can tell you what a verse means. But Ezra could because he studied the Torah and was skilled in it.
In Ezra 7.11-26 we have the letter from Artaxerxes to Ezra in support of what he was doing. The king commissions helpers, a copy of the Torah and gifts for the Temple to go with Ezra. He also provides money for the korbanot and the promotion of Temple worship. In Ezra 7.23 we have the motive of the king. Like other kings, he wanted to pacify the gods of other people and the gods of the territory they have conquered. In Ezra 7.24-26 it tells us that Ezra is given legal authority to enforce the Torah. He exempted the priests and the temple workers from taxes and Ezra was to appoint magistrates and judges who know the Torah to judge the people. Ezra will also teach those who don’t. The king gave Ezra much authority and he gave him the authority to punish those who will not be Torah observant.
Ezra 7.27-28 shows how Ezra gave thanks to Yehovah for providing the support he needed. He moved the heart of Darius and Artaxerxes (Prov 21.1) to perform his will. This encouraged Ezra because it was clear that Yehovah was behind it all, not so much the kings. The hand of God was upon him and that is what encouraged him to proceed.
Ezra 8.1-14 gives us an accounting of who came with Ezra to Jerusalem. These will not be the first ones to return, but this is the “second aliyah” or return. This list is a list of families by males, so it does not include the women and the children, and he recounts the events in Ezra 7.1-10. In total, it is estimated that about 8000 people came with Ezra. That also means that the majority of the people stayed in Babylon. This is just like today and it parallels the last 70 plus years. Just like back then, more Jews live in Babylon (USA) than in the land. But before the birth-pains, there will be many Jews who will “come out of Babylon” and escape before her coming destruction, and return to the land (Jer 50.8,16, 51.6-9, 45, 50; Mic 4.10; Rev 18.4).
In Ezra 8.15-20 we learn that Ezra gathered the people at the river that led to Ahava (I will live) and he finds out that there were no Levites. Now, a Levite is different than a priest. They were a larger group of people in the tribe of Levi when compared to the priests, who had to descend from Aaron. A priest is a Levite, but not all Levites are priests because they came only from Aaron. It seems that the Levites were happy right where they were and didn’t want to be pioneers. Maybe they didn’t want to be under the authority of the priests in a Temple.
So, Ezra had a problem that needed to be addressed. He chose nine leaders and two men of understanding to make the appeal as persuasive as possible. He told Iddo what to say, the leading man of the people by permission of the king. God blessed the recruitment effort and a man of insight named Sherebiah (Yah sent heat) brought his sons and brothers, totaling 18 men, and 220 Temple servants (Nethanim). The Lord leads these men to set things in order for the Temple services. Remember, the Nethanim means “given ones” and they are the servants who helped the Levites. They did the menial work such as wood cutting and carrying water. This function probably goes back to the time of Moses. He was to select certain people to be give to the Levites to help with the Mishkan (Num 31.30). In Josh 9.26-27 the Gibeonites were saved from destruction by their deception of Joshua, and when this was discovered, they were made wood cutters and water carriers for the assembly (kahal) and to provide for the needs of the altar and other duties. We see them mentioned after the exile in Ezra 7.24; Neh 3.26, 10.28-29, 11.21).
Ezra 8.21-32 gives us a great lesson on what to do when you don’t know what to do. Ezra and the people are preparing for the journey and Ezra proclaims a fast at the river Ahava. It is very probable they met by a river because it was a good place for prayer (Ezek 1.1; Acts 16.13). They wanted to ask Yehovah for a safe journey for everyone who was going, and that their possessions would be safe. The journey had a lot of danger attached to it because of robbers and warring factions from time to time. This would not have been a good time to be stuck in the middle of a war.
They were also taking gold, silver, wheat, oil, salt and utensils for the service of God, and that made them a ripe target for robbers and looters. So, here is another problem. Ezra was reluctant to request troops and from the king to escort them safely to the land because he had boasted in the power of God and that God’s hand was on them. His anger was on all those who forsake him. So, they fasted and sought God concerning all this, and Yehovah heard their prayer. Fasting is a means of cleansing the mind of the earthly thoughts and desires in order to connect to the Lord at a higher spiritual level. So they separated themselves to hear from the Lord and didn’t stop until they knew what to do.
They had a lot of people and valuables to take to Jerusalem and had to have a plan from Yehovah on how to do it. Once he knew what to do, he set apart twelve of the leading priests and these would help in the administration of these duties, and we see that Yeshua also set twelve talmidim (students) apart to help him with the administration of duties. Ezra was acting as the “Gabbai Tzedekah” or “keeper of the treasury” here. He weighed out to them the silver and gold, the utensils and the offerings for the Temple which the king, his counselors, his princes and all Israel had offered. He then disperses the the valuables among the twelve evenly. He then said to them that they had a kedusha on them to the Lord. They were to watch the goods until they could be weighed again before the Levites and heads of the households of Israel at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the temple.
So all the priests and Levites accepted the gold, silver and utensils to bring to Jerusalem. This speaks well of the character of these men. They journeyed from the river Ahava on Nisan 12 to go to Jerusalem and everything was accounted for, and there is no evidence that they kept the Passover. God’s hand was upon them and he delivered everyone and everything from the hand of the enemy, ambushes and robbers along the way, and they came to Jerusalem four months later, during the month of Av (Ezra 7.9), and they remained there for three days and everything was accounted for (8.32-34).
Spiritually, this relates to us in this way. When we believe, we have kedusha on us also. We are entrusted with certain gifts. We have gold (symbolizes deity), we have silver (the metal of redemption) and other believers (the utensils). We watch over the gift and talents entrusted to us by Yehovah and we will have a full accounting when we reach the New Jerusalem after our resurrection (three is the number of resurrection-Ezra 8.32). The good news is God will also deliver us from the hand of our enemies, ambushes and robbers along the way.
Ezra 8.33-36 tells us that on the fourth day (number of testing) the gold and silver and utensils were weighed out in the Temple, and then it was numbered and recorded. So it will be when we stand before Yeshua at the Judgment Seat in the Temple in heaven (2 Cor 5.10). Sacrificial korbanot are made by the exiles who came back, and they offered twelve bulls as burnt offerings (Korban Olah) for all Israel to show their total dedication to Yehovah. They also gave ninety-six rams, eight for each tribe, which speaks of a new beginning of consecration. In addition, they also gave seventy-seven lambs which speaks of perfect submission and twelve male goats as a sin offering showing Israel’s admission to their sins.
Then they delivered the kings edicts to the king’s satraps (provincial governors)and to the governors beyond the River, and they supported the people and the Temple. Starting in our conclusion, Ezra will begin to administer correction and reform among the Jewish people who came back to the land.