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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 2

 

 

Verses 1-67

Ezra 2:1-67. A List of the Exiles who Returned under Zerubbabel.—See the Greek Ezra (1 Esdras) 1 Esdras 5:7-45 and Nehemiah 7:6-73 a, where this list also occurs, though with some variations.

Ezra 2:1-2 a. province: Heb. medinah, equivalent to the Persian satrapy. It refers here to the tract of country, with Jerusalem as its centre (cf. Ezra 5:8, Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 11:3), over which Zerubbabel was governor, "the province of Judah."—Zerubbabel: "seed of Babel"; according to 1 Chronicles 3:16-19 the grandson of Jehoiakim; he was thus of royal blood, but though chosen as leader of the returned exiles the idea of re-establishing the monarchy does not find expression.—Jeshua: = Joshua (cf. Haggai 1:1, Zechariah 3:1, etc.), grandson of Seraiah the high priest (2 Kings 25:18), and son of Jehozadak (1 Chronicles 3:2; 1 Chronicles 6:14). In this list he is not yet spoken of as high priest.—Nehemiah: not, of course, the Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls of the city nearly a century later.

Ezra 2:2 b - Ezra 2:35. The list of the men of Israel who returned; it includes the names of clans and cities as well as personal names, though it is not possible to determine in every case whether a name is that of a city or an individual.

Ezra 2:36-39. The families of the priests; these coincide with the corresponding lists given in Neh. and the Greek Ezra.

Ezra 2:38. Pashhur: cf. Jeremiah 20:1 ff., where it is told how Pashhur, the son of Immer the priest "smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks."

Ezra 2:39. Harim: in Ezra 2:32 this name occurs among those of the men of Israel, i.e. the laymen; it means "consecrated," and would thus be more appropriate for a priest.

Ezra 2:40-42. The families of the Levites; these include the Levites proper, the singers, and the porters. For the Levites, cf. Nehemiah 10:9, 1 Chronicles 24:20-31; for the singers 1 Chronicles 25:1-7; 1 Chronicles 25:9-31; and for the porters (better door-keepers"), 1 Chronicles 26:1-19. The very small number of the Levites is surprising; cf. Ezra 8:15 ff., where the number, although small, is much greater than here; it is probable that the list given here is fragmentary. It is also noteworthy that the priests and Levites are reckoned as distinct classes; by the end of the pre-exilic period all Levites were priests although they might be differentiated (see Ezekiel 48:11 ff.); but now a Levite was not necessarily a priest. A partial explanation, at any rate, of this is to be found in Nehemiah 13:10, according to which the Levites gave up their calling because there was nothing for them to live on; but the tendency for them to enter a purely secular life must have arisen during the Exile.

Ezra 2:43-54. The Nethinim; the name means "given," i.e. to the sanctuary. They constituted an inferior grade of Temple slaves; they were originally captives of war (cf. Joshua 9:23, Numbers 31:28; Numbers 31:30) and therefore not Yahweh worshippers (cf. Ezekiel 44:7 ff.); their foreign origin is clear from the names Meunim, Nephisim; but they were reckoned as belonging to the Israelite community (see Nehemiah 10:29) because of their having been circumcised, so that on their return from the Exile they were no more regarded as slaves, but as free men who received their share from the Temple revenues. It is probable that ultimately the Nethinim were absorbed by the Levites.

Ezra 2:50. Meunim:=Minæans (cf. Hommel, The Ancient Hebrew Tradition, pp. 271-274).—Nephisim: cf. 1 Chronicles 13:1; 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.

Ezra 2:55-58. Solomon's servants; these formed a subdivision of the Nethinim, as is implied by one number being given for both classes; cf. Nehemiah 10:28, and see also Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 11:3.

Ezra 2:59-63. Israelites and priests who were unable to trace their descent; as these were on this account not regarded as genuine members of the community they do not figure in the lists in Ezra 10:25-43, Nehemiah 10:1-27.

Ezra 2:62. were they . . . priesthood: cf. Nehemiah 7:64.

Ezra 2:63. the Tirshatha: = "him that is feared" (Lagarde, Symmicia, i. p. 60); a representative of the king of Persia; cf. Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70; Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1; it is equivalent to the Bab. "Pekhah" (Nehemiah 12:26).—the most holy things: i.e. those things which only a priest might touch (cf. Numbers 18:9-11).—till there . . . Thummim: i.e. until there appeared one who understood the ritual (cf. 1 Maccabees 4:46).—Urim and Thummim: (pp. 100f.) Heb. forms of the Ass. words Urtu and Tamitu, Decisions" and Oracles," the "Tablets of Destiny," often mentioned in the Babylonian story of the Creation; to possess these meant the attainment of supremacy among the gods. Babylonian priests gave oracles by means of the power accorded to them by Ea and his son Marduk; to the latter belonged the "Tablets of Destiny" (see Muss-Arnolt, in the American Journal of Semitic Languages, July 1900).

Ezra 2:64-67. A summary of what has preceded; the total of the returned exiles, 42,360, is the same as that given in Nehemiah 7:66 and in the Greek Ezra 5:41, but the numbers, when reckoned up, give a different total.

Ezra 2:65. singing men and singing women: cf. Nehemiah 7:67; either ( α) professional singers employed to sing at feasts and banquets (cf. 2 Samuel 19:35, Ecclesiastes 2:7 f.), this is, however, improbable in this case in view of Nehemiah 5:2-5, from which it would appear that the people were scarcely able to procure the bare necessaries of life; moreover, luxurious ideas such as possessing singers of this kind would scarcely have been in the minds of the returning exiles. Or (b) Temple singers; it is true, singers of this kind have already been mentioned in Ezra 2:41, but the section before us is a summary, and a repetition is the less surprising when it is remembered that the Chronicler's main interest is centred in the Temple cultus. That there were women-singers in the Temple is evident from the references given above (1 Chronicles 15:20*).

Ezra 2:67. their camels four hundred thirty and five: this number seems excessive for those who were so poor as the returned exiles; either the text is faulty or the Chronicler has exaggerated.


Verses 68-70

Ezra 2:68-70. The Free-will Offerings of the Heads of Families, and the Settlement of the Exiles (cf. Nehemiah 7:70-72).—The gifts are, of course, for the Temple and its worship.

Ezra 2:68. when they came to the house of Yahweh: these words would imply that the Temple was already in existence; if not a gloss they are an oversight of the Chronicler, especially in view of the words which follow, "to set it up in its place."

Ezra 2:69. This is obviously an exaggeration; all that we learn of the returned exiles shows them to have been poor.

Ezra 2:70. priests' garments: these were made of linen (Leviticus 16:4), and had embroidered work (Exodus 28:4; Exodus 39:27).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezra 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ezra-2.html. 1919.

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