Book of Ezra Chapter Two Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Ezra Chapter 2 is full of names—people and places not fully recognized except by those who made this journey from Babylon to the area of Jerusalem. There is a need, somewhere deep inside us all, to be KNOWN in a positive way by SOMEONE! There is loneliness at first in looking at the names because we sense our own isolation. These were flesh and blood human beings—who were they? What did they think and feel? Yet as you read, remember that if your faith is in the Lord, then your heart is His and your name is written in eternity—you will never be forgotten or misunderstood. You are on a journey to the promised land. In a profound way we are already there, and if you sometimes feel forgotten, then remember the Lord's words in Isaiah 49:15-16—"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands."
The names begin in Verses 1-2, listing first the people's leaders, also seen in Nehemiah 7:7—"Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. 2 These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah." Zerubbabel was their chief prince, their governor, and Jeshua was their high priest. If you are a person of faith in the Lord, He who faithfully governs you is also your trustworthy High Priest. Zerubbabel is the "Sheshbazzar" of Ezra 1:8 & 11. A second name, the same man.
Verse 2 concludes, "The number of the men of the people of Israel:" which is followed by a listing of individual families that returned to the land after the decree of King Cyrus. Verses 3-19—"the sons of Parosh, 2,172; 4 the sons of Shephatiah, 372; 5 the sons of Arah, 775; 6 the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812; 7 the sons of Elam, 1,254; 8 the sons of Zattu, 945; 9 the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2,056; 15 the sons of Adin, 454; 16 the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98; 17 the sons of Bezai, 323; 18 the sons of Jorah, 112; 19 the sons of Hashum, 223." In heaven, you are known for who you really are. Others here on earth are thrown off by what you seem to be, and even you aren't sure about your identity, since to some extent you even fool yourself. But each of us is known by our associations, and to say, "I am an American," or "I am Asian," or "African" or "European," will give others a glimpse of you, but it is God who KNOWS. David called out in Psalm 139:1-2, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up, You understand my thought afar off." He is the One who KNOWS who you really are.
Verses 20-35 provide a listing of those who returned to the land according to PLACES, to ancestral homes—20 "the sons of Gibbar, 95; 21 the men of Bethlehem, 123; 22 the men of Netophah, 56; 23 the men of Anathoth, 128; 24 the sons of Azmaveth, 42; 25 the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743; 26 the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621; 27 the men of Michmas, 22; 28 the men of Bethel and Ai, 223; 29 the sons of Nebo, 52; 30 the sons of Magbish, 156; 31 the sons of the other Elam, 1,254; 32 the sons of Harim, 320; 33 the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725; 34 the men of Jericho, 345; 35 the sons of Senaah, 3,630." Notice, as it is in all of Scripture, that this is an eye-witness account, recorded by Ezra the Levitical priest as led by the Holy Spirit. Just as God did with Moses, David, Malachi, Matthew, John and all the other Biblical authors, He took these people just as they were, from their perspective and His, with natural and spiritual gifts just like the rest of us, and presented their words like witnesses in a court of law. Returning to the land for Israel was a miracle and God recorded their journey so we would see that God's miracles exist for us and for all time. Their future lot was to be based on their family names and places of origin, and our future place is determined by our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
You might wonder as the next verses unfold: What was the difference between a Levite and a priest in ancient Israel? The answer is simply that all of the priests of Israel were descended from Jacob's son, Levi, and therefore all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. The others assisted the priests but were not priests themselves. Their duties included preparing the grain offerings and caring for the tabernacle courts and chambers (Numbers 1:48-54). During and after the time of Moses, they dismantled and reassembled the tabernacle in the wilderness and approached the sacred furniture when it was covered. Such service was required for all men of Levi between ages 25 and 50, after a ceremony involving the shaving of their bodies, sacrifice, and the laying on of hands. They lived as did the priests through tithes for their service.
Those who could still be identified by lineage as priests after the 70-year captivity of Israel are seen in Verses 36-39: "The priests: the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 973; 37 the sons of Immer, 1,052; 38 the sons of Pashhur, 1,247; 39 the sons of Harim, 1,017." It is amazing that any records remained intact after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, but God caused these records to survive, not unlike your life which is recorded in eternity.
The lineage of other officers of the now-destroyed temple were known, and many were willing to return to the land, as seen in Verses 40-54, including Levites, temple singers, gatekeepers and other servants: 40 "The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, in all 139. 43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 44 the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, 45 the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, 46 the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, 47 the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, 48 the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, 49 the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, 50 the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephisim, 51 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 52 the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 53 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 54 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha." It's interesting to note the different classes of people who served the Lord under the Old Covenant, the Law. And now compare it to the reality offered us through faith in Christ Jesus: "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people" (1 Peter 2:9). In Christ, God Almighty has invited you into His tabernacle, to enter the curtain, and He encourages you to freely touch that which is holy. Through God's grace, attached to us individually through our faith in the Lord, all inherit the precious promises of God.
Some of "Solomon's servants" would return to Judah and are seen in Verses 55-58: "The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda, 56 the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 57 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Ami. 58 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392." Their ancestors were from various Caananite tribes and were taken by King Solomon for the purpose of forced labor, as recorded in 1 Kings 9:20-21.
Not everybody could identify their ancestry or place of origin, but were conditionally accepted for the return to the land as in Verses 59-63: "Now these are those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan and Immer, but they were not able to give evidence of their fathers’ households and their descendants, whether they were of Israel: 60 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 652. 61 Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name. 62 These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood. 63 The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim." Ezra's numbers add up to less than the individual figures of Nehemiah 7, but both accounts agree that the actual total was "42,360" as in Ezra 2:64—"The whole assembly numbered 42,360," an accounting that continues in Verses 65-67: "besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and they had 200 singing men and women. 66 Their horses were 736; their mules, 245; 67 their camels, 435; their donkeys, 6,720." This was a large, noisy procession. Some of them were assured of homes and lands on their arrival, but others were to be determined by the decision the priests would make after using the "Urim and Thummim" of Verse 63. Those words meant "lights and perfections," and was a method of decision-making based on utilizing stones from the high priest's breastplate as directed by the Lord.
In the concluding verses, we find that the journey was completed uneventfully, protected by soldiers of the Persian Empire and most important for all of our endeavors, protected by God Himself. Verses 68-70: "Some of the heads of fathers’ households, when they arrived at the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 gold drachmas and 5,000 silver minas and 100 priestly garments. 70 Now the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants lived in their cities, and all Israel in their cities." Some gave willingly to the work of the Lord as we all should and the return to the land was essentially complete—they were home.
Lord, our true home is in eternity with You. A place is prepared for each one who trusts in You and I do not want to be left out. I confess my sins and place my trust in You, Lord. I am Yours—forever. In Jesus Name. Amen.