Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
In the seventh year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Ezra goes up to Jerusalem; and with him certain of the priests, Levites, porters, and Nethinim: his character, Ezr 7:1-10. The letter and decree of Artaxerxes in behalf of the Jews, vv. 11-26. Ezra's thanksgiving to God for these mercies, Ezr 7:27, Ezr 7:28.
In the reign of Artaxerxes - This was Artaxerxes Longimanus, the seventh of whose reign chronologers place A.M. 3547, sixty-eight years after Cyrus had sent back Zerubbabel. - Calmet. See the introduction.
Son of Seraiah - Either this could not have been Seraiah the high priest, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar one hundred and twenty-one years before this time, or the term son here must signify only his descendants, or one of his descendants. Were it otherwise, Ezra must now be at least one hundred and twenty-two years of age, supposing him to have been born in the year of his father's death; if, indeed Seraiah the high priest was his father; but this is evidently impossible. In this place there are only sixteen generations reckoned between Ezra and Aaron, but in Ch1 6:3, Ch1 6:4, etc., there are not less than twenty-two. We must therefore supply the deficient generations from the above place, between Amariah son of Meraioth, Ch1 6:7, and Azariah the son of Johanan, Ch1 6:10. There are other discrepancies relative to genealogies in these historical books which it would be useless to investigate. On these differences much has been already said in different parts of this comment.
A ready scribe - סופר מחיר sopher machir does not merely signify a speedy writer or an excellent penman, but one who was eminently skillful in expounding the law. In this sense the word γραμματευς, scribe, is repeatedly used in the New Testament, and we find that both in the Old and New Testament it had the same signification. The Syriac gives the sense of the word by translating sophro chocimo, a wise scribe, or expounder.
He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month - From the following verse we learn that Ezra and his company set off from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and thus we find they were upwards of four months on their journey. They could not travel fast, as they were a great company, composed in part of the aged and infirm, besides multitudes of women and children. They appear also to have taken a circuitous route. See on Ezr 8:24-32 (note).
Ezra had prepared his heart - Here is a fine character of a minister of God: He prepares, הכין hechin, he fixes, purposes, and determines, לבבו lebabo, with his heart - with all his powers and affections, to seek the law of God, and to do it himself, that he may be properly qualified to teach its statutes and judgments to Israel.
Artaxerxes, king of kings - This letter, from the beginning of this verse to the end of Ezr 7:26, is in the Aramitic or Chaldee language.
This title of the king would, in Persian, run thus: Ardsheer shahinshah, or padshah, "Ardsheer, king of kings;" "great or supreme king, or emperor."
Their own free-will - None shall be forced either to go or to stay. He who loves his God will avail himself of this favorable opportunity.
His seven counsellors - It is very likely that the privy counsel of the king consisted of seven persons simply. The names of these seven counsellors or chamberlains may be found in the book of Esther, Est 1:10.
And all the silver and gold - The king and his counsellors had already made a present to the house of the God of Israel; and Ezra is now empowered to receive any contribution which any of the inhabitants of the province of Babylon may think proper to give.
After the will of your God - He gave them the fullest liberty to order every thing according to their own institutions, binding them to no form or mode of worship.
A hundred talents of silver - The talent of silver was 450.
A hundred measures of wheat - A hundred cors; each cor was a little more than seventy-five gallons, one quart, and a pint, wine measure.
A hundred baths of wine - Each bath was seven gallons and five pints.
Why should there be wrath - As he believed he was appointed by the Almighty to do this work, he therefore wished to do it heartily, knowing that if he did not, God would be displeased, and that the kingdom would be cut off from him or his posterity.
It shall not be lawful to impose toll - As these persons had no private revenues, it would have been unreasonable to have laid them under taxation.
Whether it be unto death - These include almost every species of punishment which should be inflicted on culprits in any civilized state.
With this verse the Chaldee part of this chapter ends.
And I was strengthened - In what the king decreed he saw the hand of God; he therefore gave him the praise, and took courage. There is a most amiable spirit of piety in these reflections. Ezra simply states the case; shows what the king had determined, and tells what he said; and then points out the grand agent in the whole business - it was the Lord God of his fathers. Thus God had put it into the king's heart to beautify the house of Jehovah; and, as that house was built for the salvation of the souls of men, he gives God praise for putting it into the king's heart to repair it: he who loves God and man will rejoice in the establishment of the Divine worship, because this is the readiest way to promote the best interests of man.