Ezra 7-10

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

March 12, 2003

Introduction

Under the ministry of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the leaders of the people have pushed the work of the Temple and the Temple was completed on March 12, 515 BC (nice day, huh?)

We are now going to skip ahead some 58 years to the time of Ezra.  This is the man who wrote this book.  We also believe he is the one who authored 1&2 Chronicles.

Ezra 7

:1-10 Ezra goes to Jerusalem

:1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,

Ezra‘Ezra’ – “help”

Seraiah[email protected] – “Jehovah is ruler”. The father of Ezra.

He was the high priest when Jerusalem was wiped out in 586 BC. He was also put to death by Nebuchadnezzar.

(2 Ki 25:18-21 KJV) And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door: {19} And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city: {20} And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah: {21} And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.

Ezra is of the priestly line. He is qualified to be high priest.

:5 The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:

The point of this is to show that Ezra was a descendant of Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first high priest. This is not the complete list of ancestors, just enough to make clear who Ezra is.

If you wanted to be a priest, you had to be able to trace your genealogy back to Aaron.

If you read the historical account of Korah’s rebellion and what followed (Numbers 16-18), God made it very clear that all priests must be descendants of Aaron. God told Aaron:

(Num 18:7 KJV) Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the veil; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.

The Jews today are planning on following this command as well. They have even isolated a certain genetic fingerprint that can show whether or not an individual is a descendant of Aaron. The Jewish name “Cohen” means “priest”, the priests are called the “Kohanim”.

I see this as one of the many flaws in Mormon theology. It seems that Joseph Smith wasn’t too keen on all the details of the Scriptures. In his fictitious story in the book of Mormon, he tells of a group of people who are from the tribe of Joseph. These people supposedly end up traveling to America. One of the things that one of the main characters does is to make some of his sons to be “priests” (2Nephi 5:26). Yet in doing this, this character was violating the Law of Moses.

The Mormon church claims that on May 15, 1829, John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The Mormons today believe that they have a revived form of the Aaronic priesthood. The problem with all this is, you can’t be a priest is you’re not a descendant of Aaron.

:6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses

readymahiyr – quick, prompt, skilled, ready

scribecaphar – to count, recount, relate; enumerator, muster-officer, secretary; learned man, scribe

The scribes were experts in the Scriptures. It’s possible that they got their start as those who made the copies of the Scriptures.

:6 according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

This phrase “the hand of the LORD” is something that is used a couple of times in this period of history.

(Ezra 7:9 KJV)  For 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.

(Ezra 8:18 KJV) And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;

(Ezra 8:22 KJV) For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.

(Neh 2:8 KJV) And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Lesson

No such thing as luck.

Ezra and Nehemiah use this phrase because they saw God working in the situations around their lives.
(Phil 2:12-13 KJV)  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. {13} For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
(Rom 8:28 KJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

:7 in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.

7th year of Artaxerxes – That would be 457 BC. The Temple was complete in 515 BC (Ezra 6:15), 58 years earlier.

Persian Kings

Kings

Chapters in Ezra

Other OT Books

Cyrus (559-530)

Cambyses (530-522)

Smerdis (522)

Darius (521-486)

Chapters 1-6

Haggai (520)

Zechariah (520-518)

Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) (486-465)

4:6

Esther (465)

Artaxerxes I (464-424)

4:7-23; chs. 7-10

Malachi (450-400)

Darius II (423-404)

 

Nehemiah (445-425)

:8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.

It took them four months to get to Jerusalem. The journey covered 900 miles.

:9 according to the good hand of his God upon him.

goodtowb – good, pleasant, agreeable

handyad – hand

:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

had preparedkuwn – (Hiphil) to establish, set up, accomplish, do, make firm; to fix, make ready, prepare, provide, provide for, furnish; to direct toward (moral sense); to arrange, order

heartlebab – inner man, mind, will, heart, soul, understanding

to seekdarash – to resort to, seek, seek with care, enquire, require

to do itasah – to do, fashion, accomplish, make

to teachlamad – (Piel) to teach

Lesson

A Recipe for success?

(Ezra 7:9-10 NLT) He had left Babylon on April 8 and came to Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. {10} This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel.
I’d say we ought to pay attention to the way Ezra lived his life.

:11-26 Artaxerxes’ Letter

:11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest

What happened to Artaxerxes? How come he’s sympathetic?

In 4:7-23 we have an account of how some of the Jews’ enemies had written to Artaxerxes and had accused the Jews of being a stubborn and rebellious people. After search was made through the royal archives, it was found that the Jews had a history of being independent. As a result, Artaxerxes commanded that the work of rebuilding the city had to stop.

Now in the 7th year of Artaxerxes, something has happened to change his mind as he sends Ezra with gifts to Jerusalem.

In his 20th year, he will also send Nehemiah to help the work of the rebuilding of the walls.

Some have suggested that Artaxerxes’ change of heart may be due to the fact that he’s suffered some big defeats at the hands of the Greeks.  Perhaps he’s looking to get all the “gods” rooting for him.

 

:14 of his seven counsellors

Apparently this was some sort of governmental group in the Persian Empire. Ahasuerus also had the same group:

(Est 1:14 KJV) And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)

:22 Unto 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.

Artaxerxes gives a limit to how much he’ll help.

an hundred talents of silver = 120,000 oz (3.75 tons, or 3.4 metric tons).

an hundred measures of wheat = 600 bushels (22 kl).

an hundred baths of oil – no, this is not with Oil of Olay. One bath was equivalent to six gallons, this would be 600 gallons of oil.

:24 …it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.

Those in the ministry of the Temple would be tax-exempt.

:25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates

Ezra was in charge of appointing the government.

:26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him

Artaxerxes gives Ezra and those he appoints authority to enforce the both the Law of Moses and the Law of the Persians.

:27-28 Ezra’s thankfulness

Ezra 8

:1-20 Ezra’s group

:1-14 These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.

The total of men mentioned in verses 2-14 is 1,499.

The men are mentioned by families rather than individually.

:15 I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava…found there none of the sons of Levi.

AhavaAhava– “I shall subsist”. See map

When Zerubbabel came to Jerusalem with the first group, there also was a much higher number of priests than Levites.

:17 And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia

Casiphia – not sure where this is. Some think there was a colony of Temple servants living there, that’s why Ezra sends a message to them.

:18 Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;

He would become a leader among the priests in the time of Nehemiah.

:20 two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.

NethinimsNathiyn Nethinims; temple slaves assigned to the Levites and priests for service in the sanctuary

Temple servants, descendants of the Gibeonites (Josh. 9).

:21-23 A fast for protection

:22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.

The road to Jerusalem would be filled with many dangers.  There would be many thieves on the road.  They would be carrying huge amounts of valuables.

Lesson

Recklessness or faith?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
We might think that Ezra should have just done what was safe and asked for a military escort.
It’s not wrong to have a military escort:

When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem 14 years later, he would ask for a military escort:

(Neh 2:9 KJV)  Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

But it seems that Ezra has been witnessing to the king about how Great God was.
Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t put ourselves in situations like that a little more often.
Illustration

In his book Miracles in Black, Dr. John C. Wengatz tells of an African convert who was left at a new mission station to carry on the Lord’s work with a cannibal tribe.  It was the dry season when Joao Mbaxi took over, but soon the tropical rains would be coming.  Month after month went by, however, without a cloud appearing in the sky. Then came the time for the normal dry period.  By now everyone was suffering, and many were on the brink of starvation.  In all the years they had worshiped their ancient gods, the rains had never failed them, and so Joao was told that he must leave the country and take “the white man’s God” with him.  The courageous Christian refused to go.  Then, flushed with anger, the chief sullenly warned, “If your God is as good as you say and so powerful that He rules the sky, why doesn’t He send us the needed showers?  If it doesn’t rain by sunrise tomorrow, we will drink your blood and eat your flesh!”

Recalling the Biblical account of Elijah, Joao went to his hut and prayed for divine help with the same urgency as that of the ancient prophet.  Meanwhile the members of the tribe waited for the dawn when the Christian leader would become the victim of their horrible feast. Just before daylight, thunder was heard in the distance, lightning flashed across the sky, and abundant rain refreshed the entire region! As a result, the believer was able to continue his work for Christ.

:23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

Lesson

Prayer and fasting

They were SERIOUS about this.
We might think that fasting is a way of twisting God’s arm into listening to us.
It’s really a way of making us more open to the things of the Lord.  As we are denying our flesh, we are learning to depend on the Spirit.  We find ourselves in a better place to be used by the Lord.

:24-30 The Treasure is assigned

:25 And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels

These men will be entrusted with protecting the treasure.

:26 I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;

silver – 780,000 oz (24.4 tons, or 22 metric tons)

silver vessels and of gold – the equivalent of 120,000 oz (3.75 tons, or 3.4 metric tons).

:27 Also twenty basins of gold, of a thousand drams

Equivalent value of 297 oz (18.6 lb, or 8.4 kg) of gold.

:30 So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God.

Rather than put all the treasure in one wagon, they split the treasure up.  Perhaps if they were to be raided, they might not lose it all at once.

:31-32 The trip to Jerusalem

:33-36 The Treasure is accounted for

:35 twelve bullocks for all Israel

twelve … for all Israel – It doesn’t appear that Ezra and his group think there are any “lost” tribes.

Ezra 9

:1-4 Mixed marriages

:1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands …

Ezra will have been in Jerusalem for 4 ˝ months when this problem is brought to him (10:9; 8:31).

Lesson

Mixed marriages

This was not an issue of interracial marriage.  The Canaanites were a Semitic people like the Jews.
It has to do with what “god” you follow.
God had warned the people:
(Deu 7:3-4 KJV)  Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. {4} For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

This is one of the not-so-obvious reasons why the people had been in captivity.  They had gone after other gods, and some of it started by the intermarrying with people that worshipped other gods.

Christians have a similar rule:
(2 Cor 6:14 KJV)  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

:2 …yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

The rulers had been at the head of committing this sin.

:3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Lesson

Grief over sin

It wasn’t Ezra’s sin. Yet he was grieved.
He wasn’t the one who had sinned, yet notice how he’ll use the pronouns “I” as if he had sinned.
I think this shows that Ezra loves these people.
The Bible says that love …

(1 Cor 13:6 KJV)  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

What do you do when people are caught in sin?
Do you laugh?  Do you get mad?
I think the Lord would rather that we grieve.

:4 every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel

These were the people that were serious about following the Lord.

:5-15 Ezra’s prayer – confession of sin

:7 …for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity…

Lesson

The importance of remembering the consequences

They remember very well what trouble their ancestors’ sins had gotten them into.
People who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

:8 to give us a nail in his holy place

a nail in his holy place –

(Ezra 9:8 NLT)  He has given us security in this holy place

:9 …to give us a reviving

to give us a revivingmichyah – preservation of life, sustenance; reviving

:13 God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve

punished us less than our iniquities deserve – This is God’s mercy.

(Psa 103:10 KJV)  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

If God really dealt with us as we deserve, we’d all be dead and in hell long ago.

Lesson

God is merciful

I think that this shows that a sense of reality, when we realize that we deserve a lot more than we ever get.

Ezra 10

:1-8 A meeting is called

:3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives

Lesson

Unbelievers and divorce

Is this precedence for divorcing to an unbeliever?
No.
We need to be careful before marriage not to be unequally yoked.
(2 Cor 6:14 KJV)  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
But after marriage, you need to stay together as much as you have control over.
(1 Cor 7:10-16 KJV)  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: {11} But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. {12} But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. {13} And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. {14} For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. {15} But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. {16} For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

:8 And that whosoever would not come within three days…all his substance should be forfeited

Show up or else.

Lesson

Deal quickly with sin

A measure of telling whether a person is sincere in their repentance is how quickly they will act on it.
(2 Cor 7:11 KJV)  For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
carefulnessspoude – haste, with haste; earnestness, diligence
I think that as Christians we need to be careful how we look at this passage.
For us, the lesson is not about being quick to divorce.  For us, the lesson is being quick to deal with our sin.

:9-17 The people agree to separate

:9 the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.

It is Dec. 8, 457 BC.

The people are trembling for two reasons:  Their fear of God.  The cold rain.

They didn’t cancel the meeting due to rain.

:11 separate yourselves from the people of the land

Lesson

Different from the world.

Perhaps we too have allowed too much junk from the world into our lives.
Perhaps we too need to separate ourselves from the stuff that pollutes us.
There was a study that came out this week concerning violence in Television.  They have tracked a group of three hundred people for twenty years.  The study started when the people were children.  The kids that watched violent TV programs had a HUGE increase in the living a violent lifestyle and criminal acts.

:12 As thou hast said, so must we do.

They agree to do it.

:13 But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two

A lot of people had done this.  This is going to take time to fix.

:14 let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times

They decide to set up a system of processing this so the people can go home and get out of the rain.

:15 …were employed about this matter…

employedamad – to stand, remain, endure, take one’s stand

We think this means that these were the only four guys who opposed  the idea.

:17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.

They started the investigations on the “tenth month” (vs. 16) and were finished by the “first month”.  It took three months to straighten things out.

:18-44 List of the guilty

:18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives…

Lesson

Spiritual leaders lead

The first ones to straighten things out are the priests. 
They’re also the first ones listed.
These four were sons of the high priest Jeshua.
Cleansing starts in the church.
We may get mad at the things going on in the world, but we ought to pay attention to our own selves first.
We need to take the “mote” out of our own eye first.
(Mat 7:1-5 KJV)  Judge not, that ye be not judged. {2} For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. {3} And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? {4} Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? {5} Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

:19 And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives

This meant they took a special pledge.

:44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.

The names of 113 individuals are listed in these verses (17 priests, 10 Levites, and 86 others).

How would you like to have had your name recorded in the Scripture for all time as one of the people who had blown it?

The presence of children in some families made the separations more difficult but did not stop the divorces.

Lesson

Don’t be half-hearted

For the moment the nation was purified, though the same sin returned 12 years later (Neh. 10:30), and again 30 years later (Neh. 13:23).

Map