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Ezra 8:1 Now these are the heads of their fathers’ households, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king- Those who truly waited upon Yahweh would renew their strength; they would “mount up as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), the s.w. used throughout Ezra and Nehemiah for the ‘going up’ ["went up with me"] to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:3,5,11; 2:1,59; 7:6,7,28; 8:1; Nehemiah 7:5,6,61; 12:1). The idea of mounting up with wings as eagles also connects with Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim, mounting up from the captives by the rivers of Babylon, and returning to the land. But the reality was as in Neh. 4:10: “And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall”. Examination of the context shows that they had just had plenty of strength; they lost physical stamina because of their spiritual weakness.

Ezra 8:2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush-
We wonder of course why these priests hadn't returned with Zerubbabel. We noted on Ezra 2 that there were so few priests who returned then. It would appear that Ezra had been a good scribe or teacher / proclaimer of the law, and now more priests were willing to return. We also note that the names used here have more reference in them to the name of Yahweh, either as suffix or prefix. It's amazing what one man can do in reviving a community, and Ezra seems to have been an example. But whilst this return of the Aaronic priests may seem commendable, it was a tacit act of disobedience to the commandment that only the Zadokites should serve in the new temple (Ez. 43:19; 45:15). And thereby the possibility of the Kingdom being reestablished as planned was precluded. It seems Ezra had not paid attention to the prophecies of the restoration and was fixated upon obedience to the letter of the old covenant, which was now intended to be obsolete.

Ezra 8:3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah; and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males one hundred and fifty-
According to 1 Chron. 3:22, we should read this as meaning "Hattush the son of Shecaniah". This would make him the great-great-grandson of Zerubbabel.  

Ezra 8:4 Of the sons of Pahathmoab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah; and with him two hundred males-
The family of Pahathmoab also features in those who returned under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:6) and were later noted for their work in rebuilding the walls (Neh. 3:11). And yet the founder of this family apparently had Gentile connections- "the pit of Moab". It is tempting to see a connection with the incident in 1 Chron. 11:22, when one of David's mighty men slew two lionlike men of Moab along with a lion- in a pit. Perhaps this was name arose from a desire to imitate that great act of faith.

Ezra 8:5 Of the sons of Shecaniah, the son of Jahaziel; and with him three hundred males-
LXX "Of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel"; this may be the Zattu of Ezra 2:8.

Ezra 8:6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan; and with him fifty males-
The numbers are embarrassingly small, given the presence of around 1 million Jews in the empire (see on Ezra 1:1); and therefore the uninspired, apocryphal record tends to always exaggerate the numbers. In this case, 50 is exaggerated to 250 in 1 Esdras.

Ezra 8:7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah; and with him seventy males-
Athaliah may be a female name. This unusual mention of a woman in the genealogies could be because she had a particular spiritual influence upon her family.

Ezra 8:8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael; and with him eighty males-
Shephatiah was also a family who had partially returned under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:4). Out of the 1 million or so Jews in Babylon (see on Ezra 1:1), it seems that the interest in the things of the restored Kingdom was confined to only a few families; for instead of as it were fresh blood being converted to the cause by Ezra, those he persuaded to accompany him were largely from families who had already partially returned to the land.

Ezra 8:9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel; and with him two hundred and eighteen males-
This is the Joab of Ezra 2:6, some of whose family members had already returned under Zerubbabel. As noted on :8, those who returned with Ezra were generally not 'fresh blood' but relatives of those already in Judah; their motives may therefore have been mixed, between a desire for family reunification and yet also a wish to serve God in response to His word.

Ezra 8:10 Of the sons of Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah; and with him one hundred and sixty male-
LXX "Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah." Bani appears as the head of a family in Ezra 2:10. See on :8.

Ezra 8:11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah the son of Bebai; and with him twenty-eight males-
Again, this was a family which had already partially emigrated to Judah (Ezra 2:11); see on :8,9.

Ezra 8:12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan; and with him one hundred and ten males-
Again, this was a family which had already partially emigrated to Judah (Ezra 2:12); see on :8,9.

Ezra 8:13 Of the sons of Adonikam, who were the last; and these are their names: Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah; and with them sixty males-
"The last" may refer to how the other family members had returned with Zerubbabel at the 'first' return.

Ezra 8:14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zabbud; and with them seventy males-
The total comes to 1496 males; even if we multiply this several times over to get the total number of Jews who returned with Ezra, the number still isn't that great. The response to the call to flee Babylon and reestablish God's Kingdom in Israel was still pathetically small, considering there were around 1 million Jews in the Babylonian empire (see on Ezra 1:1).

Ezra 8:15 I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there we encamped three days: and I viewed the people and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi-
Ezra 2:42 records a very small number for the families of the gate keepers. The number of ordinary Levites compared to priests is very low in Ezra 2 (4289 priests, and 341 priestly workers and 74 Levites). There were far more Levites than there were priests, but it seems the Levites didn't want to return and do the dirty work; everyone wanted to be religious leaders. Hence Ezra's problem in finding Levites to return (Ezra 8:15). We can note that it was this tension between Levites and priests which resulted in Korah's rebellion (Num. 16:1-10). See on :24.

Ezra 8:16 Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, who were teachers-
The Hebrew confusion of understanding and teaching is brought out by comparing the AV and RV of Ezra 8:16: “Men of understanding” (AV), “which were teachers” (RV). To have true understanding is axiomatically to teach it. We can’t hold it passively within ourselves.

Ezra 8:17 I sent them forth to Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia; and I told them what they should tell Iddo, and his brothers the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring to us ministers for the house of our God-
The LXX implies Ezra was so desperate that he used a financial incentive to get some Levites to respond: "And I forwarded them to the rulers with the money of the place, and I put words in their mouth to speak to their brethren the Athinim with the money of the place". But for all that, only 38 Levite men responded (:18,19).

Ezra 8:18 According to the good hand of our God on us they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brothers, eighteen-
Those who returned did so because of God's hand upon them; even if only 18 Levites and then 20 (:19) responded, this was the result of God's hand working as it were at the very last minute. And yet according to the LXX of :17 (see note there), their motives must have been very mixed; they had not intended to return, and were only persuaded by a last minute offer of money.

Ezra 8:19 and Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brothers and their sons, twenty-
The numbers of Levites are again pathetically small. Far more priests than Levites wanted to return. The idea of doing humble service wasn't attractive; see on :15,24. And so it has always been; to find real 'workers' for the Kingdom has always been difficult. And yet no matter how small the numbers, God works through them.

Ezra 8:20 and of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were mentioned by name-
The Nethinim were grouped beneath the Levites but above "the servants of Solomon" (Ezra 2:43,55). "Nethinim" is literally 'those who are given' and many presume they were originally the Gibeonites, who were 'given' by Joshua to the Levites to do their more menial work (Josh. 9:3-27). Whenever Gentiles were captured in war, some of them would have been devoted to Yahweh in that they were given to His service through joining the Nethinim (Num. 31:28). Thus here in Ezra 8:20 we find  mention of some "whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites".

Ezra 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a straight way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance-
Jer. 31:9 had prophesied of the restoration: “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble”. A straight way back to Zion had been prepared potentially for them to walk in (Is. 40:3). Likewise Is. 63:13 reminded the returnees that when they had been led through the wilderness to Canaan under Moses, they did not stumble [s.w.]. But both Ezra and Nehemiah wanted to have a Babylonian military escort on the journey back; they weren’t sure that they would be given “a straight way” with Yahweh’s protection. Neh. 4:10 records that “Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed [s.w. “stumble”, Jer. 31:9], and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall”. They were easily discouraged by the words of the surrounding world, by the apparent hopelessness of their task; and thus they stumbled. Ezra 8:21 describes how Ezra fasted for them to be given a “straight way”, as Jeremiah had foretold they could have. He saw the need for them to make the effort to fulfill the prophecy. Note how Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim featured “straight” progress; the wheels on earth surely connect with how Israel should have been, moving in a straight way back to the land, in harmony with the Angel-cherubim above them likewise moving in a straight way. But they failed to “keep in step with the Spirit”... They were to walk “each one straight before him” (Is. 57:2 RVmg.), as each of the cherubim went straight ahead (Ez. 1:12). Ps. 107:2,7 RV speak of Israel being gathered out of the nations and being led in a “straight way” to Zion, as they had [potentially] been enabled to do on their departure from Egypt. Yet then they spent 38 years walking a distance coverable in just 11 days- because they did not walk in the “straight way”.

The return of the exiles led by Ezra made the journey by a "right way" from Babylon to Zion (Ezra 8:21). Yet this is the very word used about the "straight" feet of the Cherubim Angels in Ez. 1:7,23. The return from Babylon involved following in the path of the Angels, walking in step with them. The restoration prophecy of Jer. 31:9 spoke of how the returnees would walk "in a straight way" (s.w.) "by the rivers of waters"- and surely Ezra consciously alluded to this when by the river Ahava he fasted for the exiles to return in a "right / straight way". He knew that these prophecies of restoration would not just automatically come true- they had to be fulfilled by much prayer, fasting and stepping out in faith. But so very few perceived that. And the challenge remains for us today- to walk in the way which God's Angels have potentially prepared for us, with prayer and boldness. I feel this is especially true in the matter of latter day witnessing. See on Is. 52:8.

Ezra 8:22 For I was ashamed to ask of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken to the king saying, The hand of our God is on all those who seek Him for good; but His power and His wrath is against all those who forsake Him-
Josephus claims that the treasure annually remitted to Jerusalem from Babylon in Roman times was escorted by an army of 20,000 men. So to travel without any soldiers for defence was a truly brave and faithful undertaking. Indeed, Ezra seems to reason that to accept such human strength would be to "forsake Him". To not trust in God, to hedge our bets, as it were, is portrayed here as forsaking Him.

Ezra was ashamed to ask for help against Judah’s enemies, the implication being that he wanted that human help but was ashamed to ask for it from the King. He had initially believed those words of Isaiah, but found it hard to maintain that level of faith. But they should have had faith in the restoration prophecy’s promise: “Fear not ... I will help you” (Is.  41:10). Yahweh had promised support for them if they returned to the land; He would preserve them on the way. Consider Is. 50:10: “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice [s.w. Ezra 1:1 re the proclamation of Cyrus] of his servant [i.e. Cyrus, Is. 45:1], that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God”. Yet Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to guard them on the journey only because he had earlier told the king that Yahweh would be with them (Ezra 8:22), as if he really did want the support but was ashamed to ask for it. He disallowed Isaiah’s prophesy that the restored Israel would never be ashamed [s.w. Ezra 8:22; 9:6] nor confounded (Is. 45:17; 49:23; 54:4). Nehemiah accepted such support when he came up from Babylon (Neh. 2:9).

Ezra 8:23 So we fasted and begged our God for this: and He was entreated of us-
This is Ezra writing up the incident after having reached Judah safely.

Ezra 8:24 Then I set apart twelve of the chiefs of the priests, even Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them-
LXX "And I assigned of the chiefs of the priests twelve unto Sherebiah". This would place the priests in a subordinate position to the Levites. Perhaps this was intentional, because Ezra had been disturbed at the lack of Levites amongst them, as likewise was the case in Ezra 2. There were many who wanted the glory of priesthood, but very few prepared to do the humble work of service. And he therefore exalts those humble workers. See on :15.

Ezra 8:25 and weighed to them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering for the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his princes, and all Israel there present, had offered-
"There present" is literally "that were found", as if out of the huge Jewish population in Babylon, these were the only ones found present.  Ez. 40:42 speaks of the vessels to be used in the temple [AV “instruments”] with the same word used for the temple vessels which were brought up out of Babylon back to Judah, in fulfilment of several of Isaiah’s ‘Kingdom’ passages (Ezra 1:6-11; 8:25-33 cp. Is. 52:11; 66:20). The restoration of the kingdom could potentially have happened at the time of Ezra. But Ezra didn't take this potential forward, for he neglected the commands in Ezekiel to only use Zadokite priests, and he was obsessed with keeping the law of Moses, the old covenant, rather than accepting the new covenant and the new, non-Mosaic worship system of Ez. 40-48.   

Ezra 8:26 I weighed into their hand six hundred fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels one hundred talents; of gold one hundred talents-
The total value of all this is huge. I don't believe the figures are exaggerated; it is simply so psychologically credible and true to experience that when a majority refuse to respond to God's call as required, they are eager to donate wealth, as if to as it were buy themselves out of their personal responsibilities.

Ezra 8:27 and twenty bowls of gold, of one thousand darics; and two vessels of fine bright brass, precious as gold-
The total value of all this would probably have worked out at something like 130 million British pounds as of 2018. To carry all this in cash without military escort, and to arrive with it all safely after a four month journey through Bedouin and robber infested territory, was an amazing miracle.

Ezra 8:28 I said to them, You are holy to Yahweh, and the vessels are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to Yahweh, the God of your fathers-
Ezra perceived a parallel between the vessels and those who carried them. Paul uses this same idea, describing all believers as a vessel made holy to the Lord (1 Thess. 4:4; 2 Tim. 2:21). Perhaps his allusion recognizes that the situation at the restoration didn't come about as was prophetically possible, and has now been reinterpreted with reference to God's new people and their spiritual work in the spiritual house of God today.

Ezra 8:29 Guard and keep them, until you weigh them before the chiefs of the priests and the Levites, and the princes of the fathers’ households of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the rooms of the house of Yahweh-
"Guard" is Heb. 'keep awake'. To remain awake and keep that committed unto us is very much New Testament language (e.g. 1 Tim. 6:20; Rev. 16:15) for our keeping of that which is committed to our trust until we arrive at Zion, the future Kingdom of God, when there will be the day of judgment, cp. the weighing of the vessels to ensure those carrying them had preserved them. Again, these allusions recognize that the situation at the restoration didn't come about as was prophetically possible, and has now been reinterpreted with reference to God's new people and their spiritual work in the spiritual house of God today.

Ezra 8:30 So the priests and the Levites received the weight of the silver and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God-
We note how the priests and Levites were given equal responsibility in transporting this vast wealth. Ezra had been disturbed at the lack of Levites amongst them, as likewise was the case in Ezra 2. There were many who wanted the glory of priesthood, but very few prepared to do the humble work of service. And he therefore exalts those humble workers. See on :15,24,33.

Ezra 8:31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was on us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the bandit by the way-
This was no small miracle, carrying such a huge amount of wealth in cash with no military escort. See on :32. The text implies there were indeed enemies and bandits by the way, but the hand of God was greater than "the hand of the enemy". This was to encourage them upon settling in Judah that the hand of their enemies would never be greater than God's hand- if they allowed Him to act and humbled themselves beneath that hand.

Ezra 8:32 We came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days-
This was the result of God's "hand" upon them (:31). When Nehemiah speaks of them 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).

Perhaps they remained stationary for three days to praise and thank God; for they had likewise begun their journey with three days of fasting and prayer (:15). So often we forget to thank God with the same intensity with which we asked Him for help. It was this three days of praise which may have inspired Nehemiah to do likewise on arrival in Jerusalem (Neh. 2:11). The Godly examples and prayer patterns of others really should affect us, and our examples likewise influence others.

Ezra 8:33 On the fourth day the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed in the house of our God into the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, the Levite-
Transparency is clearly the order of the day- for I have suggested that there was over 130 million British pounds worth of gold and silver being dealt with. We note that the money was counted by two priests and two Levites. Again we see the Levites paralleled with the priests. This was a particular theme with Ezra; see on :15,24,31.

Ezra 8:34 Everything was counted and weighed: and all the weight was written at that time-
I suggested above that the total value of all this would probably have worked out at something like 130 million British pounds as of 2018. To carry all this in cash without military escort, and to arrive with it all safely after a four month journey through Bedouin and robber infested territory, was an amazing miracle. It would have made the temple storerooms a place of great value.

Ezra 8:35 The children of the captivity, who had come out of exile, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs and twelve male goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering to Yahweh-
The twelve goats implied that Israel and Judah were to be united as one at this time. This was the potential implicit in the restoration prophecies. See on Ezra 6:17. Despite all the great offering of such huge wealth, they offered sin offerings, ever aware that donation of wealth alone cannot reconcile us to God. And Ezra clearly had in mind that the community had not repented as they had been intended to. Many had returned to their land but not to their God. The way these sacrifices match those offered by Zerubbabel's group (Ezra 6:17) may have hinted that they had not devoted themselves to the work as they ought to have done.

Ezra 8:36 They delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps, and to the governors beyond the River: and they furthered the people and God’s house
- This support of the temple and kingdom work by leaders of the Gentiles was a small fulfilment of the restoration prophecies about this. But those prophecies featured the full reestablishment of God's Kingdom, with these leaders themselves becoming proselytes and carrying the Jews back to their land. They were to lift up the people (s.w. "furthered") and bring them back (Is. 49:22). This just didn't happen, because the Jews and Gentiles were not repentant, and Ezra in any case was  seeking to only reestablish the old covenant and had little interest in accepting the new covenant, or obeying the laws of the temple system as given in Ez. 40-48.