Ezra 7 A NATIONAL PASSION FOR THE WORD

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INTRODUCTION TO EZRA 7

Dramatic change is about to occur—the crowd is electrified—Ezra is weeping—confessing their national sins and begging for forgiveness.  The fire of revival can be felt from priest to peasant.  They had never heard such a passionate preacher.  He loses no time in getting to the point.  He opens the old book and the sweet flow of the love of God and his word flows like a river.  There was a passion for God and a hunger for getting right with the Lord.  May God stir our hearts today for a national response to have the fervor and emotion that would transport us into a spiritual ecstasy and rapture like that of the Protestant Reformation.  May God lift us out of our apathy, indifference and coldness.  Pray for God to awake us.

 EXPOSITION TO EZRA  7

Ezra Comes to Jerusalem

1 After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,

2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,

3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,

4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,

5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest-

Sixty years elapsed between chapter 6 and 7.  During that time period the story of Ester unfolded.  The genealogy of Ezra is given tracing his roots back to Aaron.

6 this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.

This is the second trip that he makes from Babylon.  It was a long journey of approximately 900 miles and would take 119 days to make.  In addition to being a priest he was a scribe.  He knew more than one language and could translate and copy the law or any document.  In addition to his education the hand of God was upon him.

7 Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.

We place the date at BC 458.  On this journey he is accompanied by a new group of settlers and among them is Priests, Levites, singers, porters and nethinims.  He began his journey on April 8th. BC458 and arrives in Jerusalem August 4th. BC458  this trip took 119 days.  From Babylon to Jerusalem is 500 miles across the desert but the route that they travelled NW along the Euphrates river and then South from Syria to Jerusalem.

8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king.

Ezra left Babylon on the 8th of April and Arrived in Jerusalem the 4th. of August.  The seventh year of the king would make it BC 458.

9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.

This long and dangerous journey was successful because the “good hand of his God was upon him.”

10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

 Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
       who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
       or stand in the way of sinners
       or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
       and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
       which yields its fruit in season
       and whose leaf does not wither.
       Whatever he does prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
       They are like chaff
       that the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
       nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
       but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

  Ezra had prepared his heart—A person may be well educated and seminary trained but if his heart is not prepared he will be of no profit to the kingdom.  In addition to heart preparation he was seeking the law of God and teaching its statutes and judgments.  Some pulpit ministers are trained in the fundamentals of political science, sports physiology physical fitness and theories of various kinds.  Would to God we had a few Ezra’s with prepared hearts to teach the statutes and judgments of God.

King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra

11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:

The king gave Ezra a letter of recommendation to carry with him so he could pass through all the provinces without any delays.  There would be many border crossings and this official letter with the king’s signature would act as an official passport.  No army or border guards dared to lay a hand on Ezra and his group.  Without such a letter it is doubtful that they could have passed through the various God hating Jew despising countries.

12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
       To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
       Greetings.

The letter states that Artaxerxes is “king of kings” because he ruled over all the other kings and they took orders from him.  This letter calls Ezra a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven.

13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go.

The king has 7 cabinet advisors and they compose this decree for the king.  He states that the Jews are leaving Persia of their own freewill and that they have not been forced to leave.

14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand.

Ezra was to send back a report of his findings.  He was to see if they were worshiping according to the Law of Moses.  Ezra had a full copy of the law with him.

15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem,

The King and his cabinet make an offering to God at Jerusalem.

16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem.

The house of God is abounding with silver and gold from home and abroad, from Israelis to heathen.

17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

The monies were to be spent on sacrifices.

18 You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God.

The king gave Ezra liberty not only to spend money on sacrifices but to buy anything else that he desired.

19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God.

These vessels are in addition to the vessels that were delivered upon the first expedition.  It is noteworthy to add that the vessels are provided by the king.

20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.

The king’s treasure house was located in Persepolis and Ezra was given the right to requisition any needed supplies from the royal treasury.  The king has given Ezra a blank check.

21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you-

In addition to accessing the Royal treasury king Artaxerxes gives Ezra the right to access the treasury of provincial governments.

22 up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors  of wheat, a hundred baths  of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit.

Artaxerxes places a limit on the amount as follows:  Four tons of silver, 625 bushels of wheat and 600 gallons of wine, 600 gallons of oil and salt without limit.  However, these limits apply only to the provinces and not to the royal treasury.

23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and of his sons?

The kings orders are to be expedited immediately or as we say ASAP.  The fear of God was in the heart of the king.

24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

No taxes!  As they passed through the provinces they could not levy any duties, poll tax, road tax, import taxes or any other type of tax on the exiles.  Furthermore they could not be detained or held at border crossings.

25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them.

Ezra is granted the authority to set up a judicial system that would extend from the Euphrates to the Nile, however this judicial system would only be imposed on Jews.  This judicial system was also instructed to teach the laws of God to those who knew them not.

26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.

These new judges were to provide swift judgment which would include the death penalty or banishment or losing title to personal property or real property or sent to prison.

27 Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way

The king is set on reestablishing moral, spiritual and religious reforms.

28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

God had strengthened the hand of Ezra so we may say that Ezra was in full control.  The king and his staff and mighty princes and the hand of God upon Ezra led him to the selection and appointment of great men to lead the nation.  Pray that God may send us an Ezra.

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Ezra 1 GOD STIRS THE HEART OF CYRUS

Cyrus allows the exiles to return—this kingdom stretched all the way from India to Ethiopia. The first year of his reign was BC 538. The Lord fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah and stirred the heart of Cyrus to issue a public notice and it was posted in all 127 provinces. The notice begins by saying that God was behind the project and that he was acting in his behalf. He empties the museum and crates up the entire artifact and lets Ezra take it back to its rightful owner. Then God stirred the hearts of priests, Levites, and tribal leaders to pack for moving. Cyrus was a “hands on king” and orders his treasurer to turn over to Sheshbazzar (the new governor appointed by the king) all 5400 items. Keep reading for more details as I explore this book verse by verse chapter by chapter.

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Ezra 2 RETURNING TO THEIR HOMELAND.

This chapter will list the family names of the exiles who returned from Babylon. Remember that they were slaves in Babylon and after the war were taken to Persia and now are allowed to return to the land of their ancestors.
Three families had lost their genealogical records so until they had God’s approval was not allowed to officiate in priestly duties. A total of 49,897 people, including servants and singers return to their homeland of Israel. You are now invited to join with me in a verse by verse exposition.

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Ezra 3 DREAMS THAT FUELED THEIR PASSION.

It was the dreams that fueled the passion of the exiles.  This book shows us that God will supply the desire as he moves in our heart.  This chapter begins with building an altar according to the instruction in the Law of Moses.  It was built on the old site and sacrifices were offered.  They also observed the festival of tabernacles.  All of this occurred before the foundation of the temple was laid.  They hired masons and carpenters from Tyre to help in preparing and transporting materials for the temple.  The work force had supervisors which were under the direction of Jeshua the General Foreman.  They dug the footers and laid the foundation stones and upon completion of the foundation a religious gathering occurred and a band played music—singers sang—it was a joyous occasion—and shouting could be heard in a far distance.

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Ezra 4 SHUTTING THE TEMPLE BUILDING PROJECT DOWN.

As the exiles rebuild they were approached by their enemies who volunteered to help them with their project. But Zerubbabel and the leaders told them that they had neither part nor lot in the matter. These same people did everything possible to stop the work. First they tried to frighten them and then tried bribery. This went on during the administration of Cyrus and Darius. Later after Cyrus is dead and Xerxes came to the throne the enemies tried to get the new king to shut the project down. We are told that the letter was in Aramaic language and the king responded by shutting the job down. The work had stopped and would not resume for the next sixteen years.

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Ezra 5 A DECREE TO STOP BUILDING THE TEMPLE

This chapter introduces us to Haggai and Zechariah two of the prophets of that era.  Zerubbabel the Governor of Judea re-starts the building project which had been stopped years earlier.  However, Tattenai (a regional Governor of Trans-Euphrates in the Persian empire {there was 20 such Governors which had control over the 127 provinces of the empire} also called Satraps.)  This regional Governor and his staff pay a visit to Jerusalem and did not like what they saw.  Their regional report was sent to Darius with a request to look up the original decree and issue a ruling to block all efforts to rebuild the temple.  A full examination of the letter is reserved for the commentary.

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Ezra 6 . DISCOVERING THE ORIGINAL DECREE.

At Ecbatana in the fortress a copy of the original decree was found in the archives. All the specs were in the original decree including height and width. It was to be built on the original site and the royal treasury of Persia was to pay all expenses and the museum pieces were to be returned. So, Darius sent the following official letter to Tattenai: Stay away—Do not disturb—keep your mouth shut—allow the work to proceed. You must pay all construction costs from taxes collected in your province, supply all sacrifices plus wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil fro daily needs. Any violations of my decree will result in beatings, and confiscation of property. Darius issued the decree and it must be obeyed with all diligence. This commentary will illuminate the text and move you to be an Ezra to someone.

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Ezra 7 A NATIONAL PASSION FOR THE WORD

Dramatic change is about to occur—the crowd is electrified—Ezra is weeping—confessing their national sins and begging for forgiveness. The fire of revival can be felt from priest to peasant. They had never heard such a passionate preacher. He loses no time in getting to the point. He opens the old book and the sweet flow of the love of God and his word flows like a river. There was a passion for God and a hunger for getting right with the Lord. May God stir our hearts today for a national response to have the fervor and emotion that would transport us into a spiritual ecstasy and rapture like that of the Protestant Reformation. May God lift us out of our apathy, indifference and coldness. Pray for God to awake us.

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Ezra 8 CAMPING AT THE AHAVA CANAL

They are on their 900 mile journey to the homeland of their fathers when the roster was looked at and Ezra saw that no Levites were among them. Ezra realized that the worship would be hamstrung without these men. So, they remained camping at Ahava Canal for 3 days while Ezra sent some of his staff to Iddo in Casiphia to help find some Levites. They prayed and fasted for a safe journey which would take a little more than 3 months. God heard their prayer. Twelve leaders from among the priests were in charge of the safe arrival of silver and gold etc. They were to guard it with their life. On the 8th. of April BC 458 they broke camp and started the long journey from the Ahava Canal, upon arrival they rested 3 days and on the 4th. day deposited the valuables in the temple and entrusted it with those in charge. The exiles sacrificed burnt offerings and a copy of the king’s decrees was delivered to Governors in Trans-Euphrates, upon reading the decree these Governors then cooperated by supplying the aforementioned materials. The commentary section will provide additional information.

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Ezra’s 9 EZRA LAYS THE SCRIPTURES ON THEM

Some of the Israelites had intermarried with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. So the holy race was being polluted with the detestable practices of the heathen and to make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders. Ezra flies into a rage, he is appalled, enraged, incensed, furious and irate. Ezra realized that these priests and leaders are not fit to associate with the common folk. He lays the scripture on them and then sat down appalled till the evening sacrifice. At 3 O’clock he stood up, his clothes were torn and he lifted his hands in prayer and said he was ashamed, he said that their sins were piled higher than their heads that their guilt had reached to heaven. Ezra recounts God’s grace in their history and claims that they have polluted the land. He claims that they are an escaped remnant and that none of them could face God in such a condition. He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess. The answer to Ezra’s prayer will come in the next chapter.

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Ezra 10 BOILING WITH INDIGNATION.

Ezra prayed, wept, confessed and was in an ecstasy of rage.  He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess.  Boiling with indignation he threw himself on the ground and a group came and wept with him.  Shecaniah suggested the following plan:  Make a covenant with God and then divorce the heathen women.  He encourages Ezra to take courage and that all is not lost.  So Ezra stood up and made them swear with a solemn oath that they would keep the law of God.  A proclamation was issued for all exiles to come to Jerusalem.  Three days later on the 19th. Of December sitting or standing in a soaking rain they confessed their sins and promised to separate themselves from the pagan women.  However, this required some time for the judicial system to hear the cases and issue judgment.  The plan was followed and beginning on December 29th. Court was in session and concluded by March 27th. Priests were named—gatekeepers were named—everyone guilty had his name published.  Without an Ezra the nation would have repeated their sinful excesses.  Pray that God will send us an Ezra!

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