Ezra 8 CAMPING AT THE AHAVA CANAL

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INTRODUCTION TO EZRA 8

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.

EXPOSITION OF EZRA  8

List of the Family Heads Returning With Ezra

1 These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:

The Mayflower kept a log book with a passenger list—The Lewis and Clark expedition kept a log book—Ezra had a log book in which he kept the names and records of the returning exiles.  However, only the head of each clan is recorded in his book.

2 of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom;
       of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel;
       of the descendants of David, Hattush

There are 1496 men besides women and children and 40 Levites and 220 temple servants.  Gershom was the 1st. son of Moses and Zipporah.  (Ex 2:22) Ithamar was the 4th. son of Aaron. (Ex 6:23)  David was the son of Jessie.

3 of the descendants of Shecaniah;
       of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men;

Zechariah was a popular name and 30 people had that in the Bible besides the father of John the Baptist.

4 of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; Elihoenai:

This name occurs in no other place in the bible.

5 of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men;

Shechaniah:

This name occurs in (I Ch. 3:21,22; 8:3,5; 10:2; Neh. 3:29; 6:18; 12:3)

6 of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men;

Ebed: A shortened name for Obadiah.

7 of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men;

Athaliah:  An infamous queen bore this name (2 Kings 11).

8 of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men;

Michael:  Ten people had this name in the bible including the archangel and David’s 1st. wife.

9 of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men;

Jehiel:  His name occurs 15 times in 1 and 2 Ch. and Ezra.

10 of the descendants of Bani,  Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men;

Shelomith:  His name occurs 9 times in the bible in Lev; I Ch; 2 Ch. and Ezra.

11 of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men;

Bebai: His name is found only in Ezra and Nehemiah.

12 of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men;

Azgad: His name only occurs in Ezra and Nehemiah.

13 of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men;

Adonikam: His name is in Ezra and Nehemiah.

14 of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.

Bigvai:  These are 2 of his sons and 70 other men that came home from captivity with Ezra.

The Return to Jerusalem

15 I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. 

Ezra encounters the same problem as Zerubbabel.  Only 74 Levites came back with Zerubbabel so the priests are short of assistants.  Ezra delays the caravan till a search could be made for Levites to accompany them.

16 So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning,

These chief men and the learned men are sent on a mission to find Levites.

17 and I sent them to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his kinsmen, the temple servants in Casiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.

Iddo was probably what we call a town manager and they take a strong message from Ezra to help find some Levites.  Casiphia was located on the Tigris River north of Babylon.

18 Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 men;

Ezra believes that it is by divine providence of God that their prayers were answered.  God even supplied them a bonus—a man of understanding and eighteen recruits.

19 and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 men.

Twenty more recruits—Ezra’s men have thirty Levites that will join the caravan to Jerusalem.

20 They also brought 220 of the temple servants—a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.

220 more assistants join the caravan.

21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.

They prayed and fasted for a safe and prosperous journey.

22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”

Ezra was a man of great faith, he believed that God would not let their journey fail.  Ezra had told the king of his trust in the Almighty God so now he was ashamed to ask for an army escort of cavalry.

23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

They again fast and pray for their trip and God listened and supplied.

24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers,

Ezra chose 12 leading priests to be the brinks bank.

25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God.

All of the treasures were counted and listed so that at the end of the journey the inventory list will show that none of the valuables are missing.

26 I weighed out to them 650 talents  of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents,  100 talents  of gold,

This is an enormous amount of silver and gold and it was worth millions of dollars.  Their job was not only to handle all loading and unloading from the pack animals but to make sure that it was guarded 24/7.

27 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.

These polished bowls and fine articles will be wrapped and handled with extreme care as prized possessions.  Thus far we can see that Ezra was an excellent organizer and guide.  He is in charge of the entire caravan.

28 I said to them, “You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers.

Ezra tells the men in charge that they are holy men and are entrusted with holy things.  He impressed upon them that this was more than just a job—they were entrusted with God’s treasure.

29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.”

Ezra further instructs them to guard them carefully and that accountings will he made at the temple in Jerusalem.

30 Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.

So the Priests and Levites are the guards appointed over the precious valuables.

31 On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.

The 12th day of the first month corresponds to our April 8th. of our calendar.

32 So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.

The hand of God by his providence led them safely through dangerous territory.  The long journey of about 900 miles taking 119 days leaves them weary so they rest 3 days before any un-crating or finding a new home.

33 On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui.

On day four which will be August 8th. they unpack, uncrate and weigh all the gold and silver and count everything.  It was a full inventory and everything was accounted for.

34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.

A full scale inventory was made—numbers and weight corresponded with the original inventory.  Everything was accounted for.

35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD.

They have a worship service—more like a thanksgiving service—praising and thanking God for the safe and prosperous journey.

36 They also delivered the king’s orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God.

They took the kings decree of chapter seven and gave a copy to all the governors of the Trans-Euphrates area.  As you may recall this decree will tell all the governors to furnish all of the building materials, food and any and all expenses related to the building of the house of God.

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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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