Ezra 7

EZRA CHAPTER 7

Ezra Returns to Teach God’s Law (7:1 – 10:44)

God Brings Ezra to Jerusalem (7:1 – 8:36)

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The narrative now skips to a time 57 years later…when Ezra the scribe is commissioned by King Artaxerxes to establish the Torah of Moses in the Jerusalem community. This section recounts Ezra’s commission, his journey, and his companions.”

Ezra’s Arrival

      • After all these things had happened, Ezra came up from Babylon, during the reign of Persia’s King Artaxerxes. Ezra was Seraiah’s son, Seraiah was Azariah’s son, Azariah was Hilkiah’s son, Hilkiah was Shallum’s son, Shallum was Zadok’s son, Zadok was Ahitub’s son, Ahitub was Amariah’s son, Amariah was Azariah’s son, Azariah was Meraioth’s son, Meraioth was Zerahiah’s son, Zerahiah was Uzzi’s son, Uzzi was Bukki’s son, Bukki was Abishua’s son, Abishua was Phinehas’ son, Phinehas was Eleazar’s son, Eleazar was the son of Aaron, who was the chief priest. This Ezra is the one who came up from Babylon. He was a scribe who was skilled in the Law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel had given. The king granted him everything he asked for because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him. In the 7th year of King Artaxerxes, Ezra brought some of the Israelites up to Jerusalem, including priests, Levites musicians, gatekeepers, and temple servants. He entered Jerusalem in the 5th month of the king’s 7th year. He had determined to make the ascent from Babylon to Jerusalem on the 1st day of the 1st month, and arrived in Jerusalem on the 1st day of the 5th month because the gracious hand of his God was on him. Now Ezra had devoted his heart to the study and observance of the Law of Yahweh, and to teaching its statues and ordinances in Israel.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The text now skips ahead to 458 BC, when Ezra the scribe and a new wave of immigrants come to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes king of Persia (Artaxerxes I), 57 years after the temple dedication. Ezra is charged to establish the Mosaic law in the province of Yehud (Judah), appoint magistrates to administer that law, and provide for the further adornment of the temple…”

      • ESV Study Bible, “Ezra is introduced first as a priest, his lineage going back to Aaron the chief priest (v. 5), the brother of Moses (cf Ex 4:14, 28:1-2)…Ezra is also a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses. No doubt God raised up a scribe with expert knowledge of the law because, after 70 years of exile, the people badly needed instruction in how to live according to the Law of Moses. Ezra has apparently asked the king permission and resources to go to Jerualem…Artaxerxes is supportive, again at the prompting of God, who gives favor to Ezra…He comes with a new wave of migrants, priests, laity, and Levites, including singers and gatekeepers…The return of the exiles did not happen all at once. The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem had taken nearly four months. It was about 900 miles. This was a slow pace, probably because the caravan included children and elderly people. (And 8:31 indicates that there was an 11-day delay before departure.) Ezra’s mission was to teach God’s statutes and rules, i.e., the extensive laws of God given to Moses in addition to the Ten Commandments (see Deut 4:1; 5:1), under the general rubric of the Law (Hb torah) of the Lord. These are contained throughout Exodus to Deuteronomy, especially in Exodus 20-23, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy 12-26. Readers are told nothing of how this mission came to be in Ezra’s heart. The terms study, do, and teach (indeed, the whole account of Ezra 7-10) present Ezra as the ideal priest in Israel, whose task is to lead God’s people in worship and holiness of life (Deut 33:10): his ministry stems from a faithful life (cf Mal 2:1-9; 1 Tim 4:6-16).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Ezra highlights his standing by listing his own genealogy through Zadok, priest under Solomon (1 Kgs 2:35), all the way back to Aaron the high priest, Moses’ brother. This list is clearly abbreviated: It has only sixteen generations from Aaron to eighty years after the Exile, while 1 Chr 6:3-15 has twenty-three generations from Aaron to the Exile. Ezra has been recording events that occurred before his time, but now he begins to record his own history. In biblical genealogies, the Hebrew word translated son often means descendant. Seraiah was high priest under Zedekiah; he was executed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC (2 Kgs 25:18-21). Ezra came from Babylon, where there was still a substantial and prosperous Jewish community. The Hebrew term translated scribe is sometimes translated as ‘secretary.’ It describes an educated and reliable individual who transcribed and interpreted official documents. Accordingly, many scholars think that Ezra functioned like a ‘Secretary of State for Jewish Affairs’ in the Persian government. Here, however, the emphasis is on his scribal role of studying and teaching from the five books of Moses. Ezra and his entourage had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, but did not actuall leave until April 19, 458 BC (8:31). In those intervening eleven days, he organized the group and assembled it at the Ahava Canal, searched for more Levites, and proclaimed a fast…”

        • Guzik points out, “Some 60 largely uneventful years passed between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7. The ruler of Persia at the end of that period was Artaxerxes, who is also known to history as Artaxerxes Longimanus, the successor to Xerxes, the king who married Esther. the events of the Book of Esther took place between Ezra 6 and 7.”

Artaxerxes Outlines Ezra’s Responsibilities

      • This is the text of the letter King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest and scribe, an expert in matters concerning Yahweh’s commandments and statutes for Israel:

          • ESV Study Bible notes, “The king’s decree is in the form of a letter addressed to Ezra, which could be used to enforce the king’s command.”

        • NET Bible adds, “Ezra 7:12-26 is written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew.” (The verse beginning below)

        • Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Greetings. I have now issued a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. I and my 7 counselors are sending you to conduct an inquiry of Jerusalem and Judah according to the Law of your God, which is in your possession. You are also to bring the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have willingly given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, along with all the silver and gold that you may collect throughout all the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings given by the people and the priests for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. With this money you are to buy as many bulls, rams, and lambs as needed, along with their grain and drink offerings, and offer them on the altar at the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. You may do whatever seems appropriate to you and your colleagues with the rest of the silver and the gold, in accordance with the will of your God. Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the vessels given to you for the service of the house our your God. And whatever else is required for the house of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may supply it from the king’s treasury.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The text of the letter is in Aramaic, lending credence to its authenticity. This is the fourth royal decree in Ezra, after Cyrus II’s (1:1-4), Artaxerxes I’s (4:17-22, out of chronological order), and Darius I’s (6:1-12). The same Artaxerxes who halted construction in 4:17-22 now has a change of heart. Though Ezra’s genealogy implies he is a priest, this is the only specific statement of this fact. In Elephantine Aramaic there are two words for ‘priest’- kumra‘ is an ordinary pagan priest, but the true priest of God is a kahana’ (Hb kohen). Here in Ezra the term kohen is used. King of kings is a title used by Persian kings in all of their lengthier inscriptions.” On the phrase, “scribe of the Law of the God of heaven,” the same source notes, “An explanation of this Aramaic title was offered by H.H. Schaeder, who concluded on the basis of similar titles that this designates an officer of the Persian court tasked with affairs related to the ‘law of the god of heaven’ (that is, matters pertaining to Judaism)…” The same source continues, “In Est 1:14 these seven counselors are called ‘seven princes.’ Though there are no inscriptions referring to this group, Herodotus (History 3.84) speaks of seven great families that had privileges beyond other families. Elamite texts uncovered at Persepolis describe the Persian system of credit involving ‘travel rations’ used for the sort of purchases approved here by Artaxerxes.”

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The commission to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God no doubt reflects Ezra’s own priority, and perhaps his belief that the law is not being properly kept. Artaxerxes turns to the needs of the temple, perhaps showing his own perception of Ezra’s task, in accordance with Cyrus’s original decree in 538 BC (see 1:3). The king and his counselors give money for the temple and permit Ezra to gather further resources in the whole province of Babylonia, perhaps from non-Jews as well as Jews. The provision specifies the temple worship but also leaves extensive discretion to Ezra in his expenditure. Artaxerxes adds these [the vessels for the service of the house of your God] to the temple treasures originally returned by Cyrus, apparently as his own gift, and, finally, allows Ezra to take whatever he needs from the king’s treasury…i.e., from public funds.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds the following on the seven counselors, “The Greek historian Xenophon knew of this counsel (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.6.4-5), and Esth 1:14 lists the names of the seven princes of Xerxes, Artaxerxes’ father.” The same source continues, “The word translated law in this verse is the Aramaic word dath rather than the Hebrew torah (7:10), suggesting that a Persian wrote this letter (7:11-26). God’s temple was located there [in Jerusalem]. Artaxerxes probably thought that he was helping rebuild the house of Jerusalem’s local deity (cp 1 Kgs 8:27; Ps 24:1).” On the reference to “the god of heaven,” the same source continues, “This is the title by which Jews had referred to the Lord (5:11-12) and that Cyrus had used (1:2). The Persian king probably believed, like others in the ancient Near East, that each country’s god or gods controlled their territory. Artaxerxes did not want to risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and undermine the peace of his empire by failing to provide for the God of Jerusalem (7:19) the worship that he required.”

        • I, King Artaxerxes, hereby issue a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest and scribe of the Law of the God of heaven asks of you must be provided promptly: up to 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of oil, and unlimited salt. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven must be done diligently for the house of the God of heaven. Why should wrath fall on the realm of the king and his sons? Furthermore, be advised that you have no authority to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “It was typical Persian practice not to impose taxes on the priestly class. One inscription attributed to Darius I reprimands an official in western Turkey for exacting, ‘tribute from the sacred cultivators of Apollo’ (Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, 156).”

        • ESV Study Bible remarks, “In making these provisions (v. 22), the king may actually intend to ward off the wrath of God against the king and his sons, i.e., his own kingdom, present and future (see also 6:10).”

      • And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint judges and court officials to arbitrate cases on behalf of all the people in the province Beyond the River who know your God’s laws. And you are to teach the law to any who do not know. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “It was not uncommon for Persia to grant her officials wide leeway in establishing both legal and religious order in the empire. A parallel to this commission held by Ezra can be found in the commissioning of Udjahorresnet, an Egyptian priest, by Darius I.”

        • On the subsequent verses, NET Bible reminds us, “At this point the language of the book reverts from Aramaic (7:12-26) back to Hebrew.”

Ezra Praises Yahweh

      • Blessed be Yahweh, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to glorify the house of Yahweh that is in Jerusalem, and who has extended steadfast love to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officials. Because the hand of Yahweh my God was on me, I took courage and gathered Israelite leaders to go up with me.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The author uses the same terms as Isa 60:7…indicating that he sees this event as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.”

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