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Ezra 7:1 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- We appear to have a gap of 58 years covered by "after these things". Artaxerxes was the son of Xerxes, the king at the time of Esther. The book of Esther closes with the Jews popular and wealthy. This was surely the real reason why so few wanted to return. Ezra is to be commended for perceiving the need to leave that comfortable society and return to Zion.

Seraiah was High-priest in the days of king Zedekiah and was slain at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18-21). So immediately we see that generations are omitted here, as often in the Biblical genealogies.

Ezra 7:2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub-
There is reason to think that it could have been possible for the Messianic Kingdom to have been established at the time of the restoration, and the temple prophecies would fit perfectly into this context. Thus Ezekiel emphasized that the sons of Zadok were to organize priestly work in the temple (Ez. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11); and it was surely not incidental that Ezra, the leader of the initial restoration, was one of the sons of Zadok (Ezra 7:2). He was in a position to fulfill those prophecies, although the bulk of his brethren seem to have precluded this. See on :27.

Ezra 7:3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth-
15 names are listed between Ezra and Aaron- covering about 1000 years. Clearly many generations were omitted. We note there are 26 names listed between Zerubbabel (a generation or two before Ezra) and Nashon a contemporary of Aaron, in 1 Chron. 2:10-15; 3:1-19). Some details of the omitted generations are found in 1 Chron. 9:10,11; Neh. 11:11. Why was that information not included here? Perhaps because the intention was to focus upon various individuals who were historically known as involved in temple and priestly work, as if to really emphasize how Ezra was qualified for his work through being part of a long line of such workers. Thus Azariah is mentioned in 1 Chron. 6:10 as ‘having executed the priest’s office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem’.

Ezra 7:4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki-
Ezra's genealogy is carefully traced back to Aaron, because there were some who could not prove their genealogy at the time. If indeed the genealogical records were destroyed when the temple was sacked, we wonder how he actually managed to prove such a long genealogy.

Ezra 7:5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest-
Ezra's great grandfather had been High Priest (:1), and he could trace his descent right back to Aaron. He was really well qualified to be the next high priest. The fact he wasn't could imply there was some degree of internal politics going on, or he failed to rise up to the call; and so the prophecies of a Messianic high priest in the restored Kingdom were left unfulfilled.

Ezra 7:6 this Ezra went up from Babylon: and he was a willing scribe in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given-
The Hebrew word for "scribe" doesn't simply mean one who writes down or copies. It carries the idea of publishing, teaching, openly declaring- and is the word used in passages like Is. 43:21 "shew forth My praise". Ezra was an enthusiastic teacher of the law of Moses, and he wanted the returned exiles to be obedient to the old covenant and thereby be blessed. We might note however that Jeremiah and Ezekiel had made clear that the old covenant had been broken with Judah; and they had been offered a new covenant with those who repented, involving the gift of the Spirit and inclusion of any Gentiles who wished to accept it. So Ezra's passion for the old covenant was to some degree zeal not according to knowledge. He was missing the point of the wonderful offer of the new covenant, and not giving due weight to God's statements in the prophets that the old covenant was effectively over. And yet despite this wrong focus upon law and traditional positions, God clearly worked with Ezra.

And the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of Yahweh his God on him- The hand of God operating on human hearts is a great theme of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was the outworking of grace and the gift / work of the Spirit. For the human spirit is primarily where God's Spirit works.

Ezra 7:7 There went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the porters and the Nethinim, to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king-
These are the same six categories who had returned with Zerubbabel initially (Ezra 2:70). But the order is different. Here, the first category is the ordinary people; whereas before it was the priests and Levites who were listed first. This may be read as positive, in that the ordinary people were now responding; or negative, in that the priests were less responsive than they had been.

Ezra 7:8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king-
This was according to Yahweh's "hand" (:6).
When Nehemiah speaks of Judah having been redeemed by Yahweh’s “strong hand” (Neh. 1:10), he is using the language of Is. 40:10, regarding how Yahweh would come to Zion and save Israel from Babylon and restore them to the land “with strong hand”. Nehemiah saw the prophecy could have been fulfilled then. The way Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:5-7), Ezra (Ezra 7:8; 8:32) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2:11; 13:7) are described as ‘coming to Jerusalem’ may hint that they could have fulfilled this coming of Yahweh to Zion; they could have been Messianic figures (Neh. 2:11; 13:7).

Ezra 7:9 For on 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 on him-
The continual reference to the hand of God in Ezra is another way of saying that God was acting through His Spirit. There was (and is) a power higher than that of human endeavour, a hidden hand, which alone makes our way to the Kingdom ultimately prosperous; and our salvation therefore by grace rather than our own device.

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Yahweh, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances-
The compelling hand of God (:9) was in response to Ezra's desire in his heart to do God's law and teach it to others. I discussed on :6 how his zeal for the law of Moses was in fact misplaced, and he ought to have given more attention to the new covenant. But still God worked with him in respect for his misplaced idealism. And his setting of his heart to seek God is clearly wonderfully positive (s.w. 2 Chron. 19:3). His "set" or 'prepared' heart could be seen as a fulfilment of Solomon's prayer in 1 Chron. 29:18, where He asks God to keep the hearts of His people focused upon the temple, keeping it "in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and prepare their heart unto You". Ezra's set or prepared heart (s.w.) was therefore a result of his willingly allowing God to work directly upon his heart. Again we see the direct working of God upon the human heart or spirit, all performed by His Spirit.

Ezra 7:11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even the scribe of the words of the commandments of Yahweh, and of His statutes to Israel-
It could be that Ezra was a "scribe" in the court, but more importantly he was a scribe or proclaimer of the words and commandments of Yahweh, and His statutes- as well as those of the king.

Ezra 7:12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace and so forth-
Ezra 1:2 records Cyrus originally defining Yahweh, Israel's God, as "the God of heaven". This was in allusion to the Persian belief in Ormuzd as the mightiest god, in contradistinction to Ahriman, who was lord of the lower regions. The proclamation of Cyrus was effectively a denial of the Persian view of the gods and Ormuzd, although it seems Cyrus didn't maintain that; but Artaxerxes is more vague, leaving it open to interpretation as to whether the "God of heaven" is Yahweh or Ormuzd.

Ezra 7:13 I make a decree, that all those of the people of Israel, and their priests and the Levites, in my realm, who are minded of their own free will to go to Jerusalem, go with you-
Those who left Babylon did so of their own freewill, and yet providential events stirred up their spirits to do this (Ezra 1:5); and the way was prepared in miraculous ways. The new covenant offered to the exiles a new heart and spirit from God. His Spirit was eager to work upon their spirit, but still there was required their own freewill desire to return both to their land and to their God. Otherwise they would have been reduced to mere puppets in the Divine hand.

Ezra 7:14 Because you are sent of the king and his seven counsellors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your hand-
The book of Esther (Esther 1:14) likewise mentions these seven counsellors. "To inquire" doesn't necessarily mean here 'to find out information'. The idea could be that he was sent there to pray for Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of God. For this is how prayer must be- according to God's word. 


Ezra 7:15 and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered to the God of Israel whose habitation is in Jerusalem-
The king clearly sees "the God of Israel" as the local god of Jerusalem, who as it were lives there. He doesn't use the term Yahweh, as Cyrus did.

Ezra 7:16 and all the silver and gold that you shall find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem-
"That you shall find" doesn't mean he was to just grab whatever silver and gold he could; rather the idea is that he should take with him whatever silver and gold people were willing to give him. This is the king's way of repeating the essence of the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:4,6).

Ezra 7:17 therefore you shall with all diligence buy with this money bulls, rams, lambs, with their meal offerings and their drink offerings, and shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem-
The king appears to have some detailed knowledge of the law of Moses; as an eager scribe or proclaimer, Ezra apparently had shared the details of Yahweh with the king. And he is to be commended for this; for religion is always a difficult subject with powerful employers who have their own religious views.

Ezra 7:18 Whatever shall seem good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do that after the will of your God-
We note the parallel between the will of God, and what Ezra willed or thought good. The king thus accepts that the will of Ezra is that of his God. He perceives congruity between what he preached and what he really stood for himself.

Ezra 7:19 The vessels that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver before the God of Jerusalem-
Although the king appears to have seen Israel's God as merely a local entity, he also seems to recognize He had some real presence there in Jerusalem. The original temple vessels taken away from Jerusalem had been restored there already, but there was apparently the need for many more, which were offered voluntarily (:15; Ezra 8:25-28). Perhaps some had been stolen before they were taken into captivity; or some which had been returned had been stolen. Or again, perhaps Ezra wished to operate worship on a far grander scale than previously.

Ezra 7:20 Whatever more shall be needful for the house of your God, which you shall have occasion to grant, grant it out of the king’s treasure house-
The treasure house was presumably that in Jerusalem, into which the local taxes were paid.

Ezra 7:21 I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers who are beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done with all diligence-
The king seems to have foreseen that the God of Ezra was alive and real enough to give Ezra more commandments which would require material to fulfill them.
The inspired writer of Psalm 45 says that his tongue is like the pen of a scribe or writer (Ps. 45:1). The writer is God. God was using the inspired person’s words as His pen, with which to communicate to men. Ezra likewise was a “scribe of the law of the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:21). The God who is in Heaven wrote through a scribe here on earth. That’s the idea of inspiration.

Ezra 7:22 to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred measures of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much-
The taxes paid to the local treasure house in Jerusalem (:20) would have been paid partly in kind, and wheat, wine and oil were all local products of Judah (2 Kings 18:32). The king had clearly been told about the exact nature of the Jewish sacrifices, including the command to always offer with salt (Lev. 2:13).  

Ezra 7:23 Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done exactly for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?-
It would appear that about this time, the Persians had been driven out of Egypt, and their records describe it in these terms, as "wrath against the realm of the king". But after Ezra returned, Persia recovered Memphis.

Ezra 7:24 Also we inform you, that concerning any of the priests and Levites, the singers, porters, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on them-
The Persians didn't exclude their own priests from taxation, so this was all the more a wonderful kindness. But the lesson from it all is that God was providing absolutely everything for His work to go ahead. And to this day, lack of resources has never been a barrier for the progress of any project which God wills to happen. He will always provide, most generously.

Ezra 7:25 You, Ezra, after the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach him who doesn’t know them-
This was giving a huge amount of power to Ezra. We get the impression that there were Jews still scattered through the whole area west of the Euphrates. They had not returned to the land. Ezra was empowered to preach to them, and also to those who didn't know Yahweh. This was a huge commission; but there is no evidence Ezra fulfilled it.

Let’s remember that the exiles were representative of us. They failed, and so these things in essence are reapplied to ourselves. We in this life are passing through “the time of our exile” (1 Pet. 1:17 RSV). They were commanded to spread the knowledge of Israel’s God to all in the dominion of Babylon (Ezra 7:25 LXX), and thus they would have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies about the spreading of the Gospel to all peoples. Yet we have a similar commission, and God will provide for us likewise, as He did for Ezra. But we have to learn the lesson of the exiles;  for the exiles who returned became so caught up with their own lives that they again failed to be a light to the nations.

Ezra 7:26 Whoever will not do the law of your God, and the law of the king, let judgement be executed on him with all diligence, whether it be to death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment-
The law of God and that of the king are paralleled, just as the decree of the king was effectively the fulfilment of God's decree and commandment.

Ezra 7:27 Blessed be Yahweh, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of Yahweh which is in Jerusalem-
See on :2. Ezra was enabled to “beautify” the temple (Ezra 7:27), the very same word used in Is. 60:7,9,13 about how God would “glorify” [s.w.] His temple with merchandise from throughout the Babylonian empire- all of which was willingly offered by Cyrus and Darius.
Is. 60:7 prophesied that God would “glorify the house of my glory”. But this was in fact a conditional prophecy, capable of fulfilment through the freewill efforts of the returning exiles. For they were empowered by Artaxerxes “to beautify [s.w. “glorify”] the house of the Lord” (Ezra 7:27). All their efforts to glorify / beautify the house, therefore, would have had God’s special and powerful blessing behind them. But was the house ultimately glorified? No- for Israel would not. They got sidetracked by beautifying their own homes, building “cieled houses” for themselves (Hag. 1:4). The word for “cieled” occurs in 1 Kings 6:9; 7:3,7 to describe the roofing of the first temple- which they were to be rebuilding, rather than building their own houses. The glory would have entered the house of God’s glory as it did at the inauguration of the first temple (2 Chron. 7:1-3). Ezekiel prophesied that ultimately the glory would fill the temple as it had done then (Ez. 43:4,5). But God’s prophesy of this in Is. 60:7, that He would glorify His house, meant that He was prepared to work through men to glorify it. The fulfilment of Ezekiel’s vision of the cloud of glory entering the temple again could have been fulfilled if the exiles had done what Artaxerxes empowered them to do- to glorify the house of glory. And so the fulfilment was delayed. The glory of the temple the exiles built was tragically less than the glory of the first temple; and so it would only be in the last day of Messiah’s second coming that the house shall truly be filled with glory (Hag. 2:3,7,9). And the lesson ought to be clear for us, in the various projects and callings of our lives: it becomes crucial for us to discern God’s specific purposes for us, and insofar as we follow His leading, we will feel a blessing and power which is clearly Divine.  

Ezra 7:28 and has extended grace to me before the king, his counsellors and before all the king’s mighty princes. I was strengthened according to the hand of Yahweh my God upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me
- The extension of grace, or 'gift', was in terms of God working directly upon the king's heart (:27- see too Neh. 2:12; 7:5; 1 Kings 10:24). And this too is how God's grace can work today- the insertion of ideas into the human heart, intended to bring us to obedience to Him and the advancement of His glory.