The numbers that returned. (1-35) The numbers of the priests and Levites. (36-63) The offerings for the temple. (64-70)
Verses 1-35 An account was kept of the families that came up out of captivity. See how sin lowers a nation, which righteousness would exalt!
Verses 36-63 Those who undervalue their relation to the Lord in times of reproach, persecution, or distress, will have no benefit from it when it becomes honourable or profitable. Those who have no evidence that they are, by the new birth, spiritual priests unto God, through Jesus Christ, have no right to the comforts and privileges of Christians.
Verses 64-70 Let none complain of the needful expenses of their religion. Seek first the kingdom of God, his favour and his glory, then will all other things be added unto them. Their offerings were nothing, compared with the offerings of the princes in David's time; yet, being according to their ability, were as acceptable to God. The Lord will carry us through all undertakings entered on according to his will, with an aim to his glory, and dependence on his assistance. Those who, at the call of the gospel, renounce sin and return to the Lord, shall be guarded and guided through all perils of the way, and arrive safely at the mansions provided in the holy city of God.
Ezra 2:1-70 . NUMBER OF THE PEOPLE THAT TURNED.
1. children of the province--that is, Judea ( Ezra 5:8 ), so called as being now reduced from an illustrious, independent, and powerful kingdom to an obscure, servile, tributary province of the Persian empire. This name is applied by the sacred historian to intimate that the Jewish exiles, though now released from captivity and allowed to return into their own land, were still the subjects of Cyrus, inhabiting a province dependent upon Persia.
came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city--either the city that had been occupied by his ancestors, or, as most parts of Judea were then either desolate or possessed by others, the city that was rebuilt and allotted to him now.
2. Which came with Zerubbabel--He was the chief or leader of the first band of returning exiles. The names of other influential persons who were associated in the conducting of the caravans are also mentioned, being extracted probably from the Persian archives, in which the register was preserved: conspicuous in the number are Jeshua, the high priest, and Nehemiah.
3. The children--This word, as used throughout this catalogue, means "posterity" or "descendants."
5. children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five--The number is stated in Nehemiah 7:10 to have been only six hundred fifty-two. It is probable that all mentioned as belonging to this family repaired to the general place of rendezvous, or had enrolled their names at first as intending to go; but in the interval of preparation, some died, others were prevented by sickness or insurmountable obstacles, so that ultimately no more than six hundred fifty-two came to Jerusalem.
23. The men of Anathoth--It is pleasant to see so many of this Jewish town returning. It was a city of the Levites; but the people spurned Jeremiah's warning and called forth against themselves one of his severest predictions ( Jeremiah 32:27-35 ). This prophecy was fulfilled in the Assyrian conquest. Anathoth was laid waste and continued a heap of ruins. But the people, having been brought during the captivity to a better state of mind, returned, and their city was rebuilt.
36-39. The priests--Each of their families was ranged under its prince or head, like those of the other tribes. It will be remembered that the whole body was divided into twenty-four courses, one of which, in rotation, discharged the sacerdotal duties every week, and each division was called after the name of its first prince or chief. It appears from this passage that only four of the courses of the priests returned from the Babylonish captivity; but these four courses were afterwards, as the families increased, divided into twenty-four, which were distinguished by the names of the original courses appointed by David [ 1 Chronicles 23:6-13 ]. Hence we find the course of Abijah or Abia ( 1 Chronicles 24:10 ) subsisting at the commencement of the Christian era ( Luke 1:5 ).
55. The children of Solomon's servants--either the strangers that monarch enlisted in the building of the temple, or those who lived in his palace, which was deemed a high honor.
61, 62. the children of Barzillai--He preferred that name to that of his own family, deeming it a greater distinction to be connected with so noble a family, than to be of the house of Levi. But by this worldly ambition he forfeited the dignity and advantages of the priesthood.
63. Tirshatha--a title borne by the Persian governors of Judea (see also Nehemiah 7:65-70 , 8:9 , 10:1 ). It is derived from the Persian torsh ("severe"), and is equivalent to "your severity," "your awfulness."
64. The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore--This gross amount is twelve thousand more than the particular numbers given in the catalogue, when added together, come to. Reckoning up the smaller numbers, we shall find that they amount to 29,818 in this chapter, and to 31,089 in the parallel chapter of Nehemiah [see Nehemiah 7:66-69 ]. Ezra also mentions four hundred ninety-four persons omitted by Nehemiah, and Nehemiah mentions 1765 not noticed by Ezra. If, therefore, Ezra's surplus be added to the sum in Nehemiah, and Nehemiah's surplus to the number in Ezra, they will both become 31,583. Subtracting this from 42,360, there will be a deficiency of 10,777. These are omitted because they did not belong to Judah and Benjamin, or to the priests, but to the other tribes. The servants and singers, male and female, are reckoned separately ( Ezra 2:65 ), so that putting all these items together, the number of all who went with Zerubbabel amounted to fifty thousand, with eight thousand beasts of burden [ALTING, quoted in DAVIDSON'S Hermeneutics].
68. some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord offered freely for the house of God, &c.--The sight of a place hallowed by the most endearing and sacred associations, but now lying in desolation and ruins, made the wellsprings of their piety and patriotism gush out afresh. Before taking any active measures for providing accommodation to themselves and their families, the chief among them raised a large sum by voluntary contributions towards the restoration of the temple.
69. drams of gold--rather, "darics," a Persian coin
priests' garments--(compare Nehemiah 7:70 ). This--in the circumstances--was a very appropriate gift. In general, it may be remarked that presents of garments, or of any other usable commodities, however singular it may seem to us, is in harmony with the established notions and customs of the East.