Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
A list of those heads of houses who returned with Ezra from Babylon to Jerusalem. Compare the parallel list, 1 Esdr. 8:28-40. - Ezr 8:1 The tithe: "These are the heads of the houses, and (this is) their genealogy, who went up with me." אבתיהם ראשׁי for בּית־אבתיהם ראשׁי, as frequently. והתיחשׂם, "and their genealogy," is added, because in the list following the heads of the different houses are not merely enumerated according to their own names, but the names of the races to which they belonged are also stated.
Priests and descendants of David. Of priests, Gershom of the sons of Phinehas, and Daniel of the sons of Ithamar. Gershom and Daniel are the names of heads of priestly houses, and "sons of Phinehas and sons of Ithamar" designations of races. Phinehas was the son of the high priest Eleazar, the son of Aaron, and Ithamar a younger son of Aaron, Ch1 6:4 and Ch1 6:3. This does not signify that only the two priests Gershom and Daniel went up with Ezra; for in Ezr 8:24 he chose twelve from among the chief of the priests, who went up with him, to have charge of the gifts (Bertheau). The meaning is, that Gershom and Daniel, two heads of priestly houses, went up, and that the house of Gershom belonged to the race of Phinehas, and that of Daniel to the race of Ithamar. A Daniel is named among the priests in Neh 10:7, but whether he is identical with the Daniel in question does not appear. Of the sons (descendants) of David (the king), Hattush, as head of a house. A Hattush, son of Hashabniah, occurs Neh 3:10, and a priest of this name Neh 10:5 and Neh 12:2. Hattush also holds the first place among the sons of Shemaiah enumerated Ch1 3:22, who probably were among the descendants of David. It seems strange that the numbers neither of the priests nor of the sons of David who went up with Ezra should be given, since from v. 3 onwards, in the case of the houses of lay races, the numbers of those who returned to the home of their ancestors is regularly stated.
Twelve lay houses are named both in the present text and in 1 Esdr. 8:30-40. In ten cases the names of the races, which are uniformly introduced with מבּני, are identical in both texts, viz., Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Adin, Elam, Shephatiah, Joab, Bebai, Azgad, Adonikam, and Bigvai. On the other hand, it appears surprising, 1st, that in the first house mentioned, before the name זכריה, besides "of the sons of Parosh," we have also שׁכניה מבּני (Ezr 8:3), while before all the other names we find only "of the sons of" one individual; 2ndly, that in Ezr 8:5, after שׁכניה בּני, instead of a name of the head of a house, only Ben Jahaziel follows; 3rdly, that in Ezr 8:10 also, after שׁלומית וּמבּני, we have merely Ben Josiphiah, the names themselves being apparently omitted in these two last cases. This conjecture is corroborated by a comparison with the lxx and 1 Esdr. 8, which shows, moreover, that it is not the personal name of the head of the house, but the name of the race, which has been lost. For מבני שׁכניה בן יחזיאל, Ezr 8:5, we find in the lxx ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν Ζαθόης Ζεχενίας υἱὸς Ἀζιήλ, and in 1 Esdr. 8:32, ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Ζαθόης Σεχενίας Ἰεζήλου; and for ומבני שׁלומית בן יוספיה, Ezr 8:10, in the lxx καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν Βαανί Σελιμοὺθ υἱὸς Ἰωσεφία, and in 1 Esdr. 8:36, ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Βανίας Σαλιμὼθ Ἰωσαφίου. In Ζαθόης and Βαανί (Βανίας) we recognise זתּוּא and בּני of Ezr 2:8 and Ezr 2:10. Hence the text of Ezr 8:5 needs emendation, and should run שׁכניה זתּוּא מבּני, and that of Ezr 8:10, שׁלומית בני וּמבּני. It is more difficult to decide concerning שׁכניה מבּני of Ezr 8:3, though undoubtedly we have here too a corruption of the text. For, first, there is no other instance in the whole list of the sons of two men being cited before the proper name of the house; and then, too, the absence of the ו copulative before מבּני פ is opposed to the notion that the house of Zechariah was formed by a union of the sons of Shecaniah and Parosh, since in this case the and could not be omitted. It is true that we have in the lxx ἀπὸ υἱῶν Σαχανία καὶ ἀπὸ υἱῶν Φόρος; but in this case the καὶ is certainly derived from the translator, who was thus seeking to make sense of the words. In 1 Esdr. 8 we read Δαττοὺς τοῦ Σεχευίου; and Δαττοὺς corresponding with חטּוּשׁ, the words בני שׁכניה (or בן) are taken into the preceding verse. This treatment of the words Bertheau considers correct, because Hattush in Ch1 3:22 is reckoned among the descendants of Shecaniah. This conjecture is, however, a very doubtful one. For, first, in Ch1 3:22 Hattush is said to be of the sons of Shemaiah, and Shemaiah of the sons of Shecaniah; then we should as little expect any further statement in the case of Hattush as in the cases of Daniel and Gershom; and further, if he had been thus more precisely designated by naming his father, we should undoubtedly read שׁכניה בּן, not שׁ מבּני, and thus the Masoretic text would at any rate be incorrect; and finally, 1 Esdras, where it differs from the lxx, is, generally speaking, no critical authority upon which to base safe conclusions. Under these circumstances, we must give up the hope of restoring the original text, and explaining the words מבני שׁבניה. התיחשׂ עמּו, "and with Zechariah, his genealogy of 150 males," i.e., with him his race, consisting of 150 males, registered in the genealogy of the race. In the case of the names which follow, the number only is given after the briefer expression עמּו.
A review, then, of the twelve races, according to the restoration of the original text in Ezr 8:5 and Ezr 8:10, presents us with names already occurring in the list of the races who came from Babylon with Zerubbabel, Ezr 2:3-15, with the exception of the sons of Joab, Ezr 8:9, who are wanting in Ezra 2, where, on the other hand, several other races are enumerated. Bertheau seeks to identify the sons of Joab, Ezr 8:9, with the sons of Joab who in Ezr 2:6 are reckoned with the sons of Pahath-Moab, and to explain their special enumeration in the present list, by the conjecture that the one house subsequently separated into the two houses of Pahath-Moab and Joab, This is, indeed, possible; but it is quite a probable that only one portion or branch of the sons (descendants) of Joab was combined with the race of the sons of Pahath-Moab, and that the rest of the bne Joab formed a separate house, no family of which returned with Zerubbabel. The occurrence of the other races in both lists is to be explained by the circumstance that portions of them returned with Zerubbabel, and that the rest did not follow till Ezra's departure.
The addition אחרנים, last (comp. Sa2 19:12), is thus explained by J. H. Mich.: respectu eorum qui primum cum Zorobabele sub Cyro in patriam redierunt c. ii. 13. Bertheau, however, considers this explanation untenable, because אחרנים stands in the present series only with the sons of Adonikam, while it is nevertheless certain, that many families belonging also to other races than this had returned with Zerubbabel, in comparison with whom all who returned with Ezra might be called last. This reason, however, is not conclusive; for in Ezr 8:13 the further statement also differs, both in form and matter, from those in the former verses. Here, instead of the name of the head of the house, we read the words "last, and these their names;" whereupon three names are given, and not till then וגו ועמּהם, "and with them sixty males." Here, then, it is not the head of the house who is named, but in his place three heads of families, amounting together to sixty males. Now, as these three families did not form a house, these sixty sons of Adonikam who returned with Ezra are, with regard to the six hundred and sixty-six sons of Adonikam who returned with Zerubbabel, designated the last, or last arrived, and thus comprised with them as one house.
Of the sons of Bigvai also two heads are named, Uthai and Zabbud, and with them seventy males. In 1 Esdr. 8:40, the names Uthai and Zabbud are corrupted into Οὐθὶ ὁ τοῦ Ἰσταλκούρου. The total number of individuals belonging to these twelve races, who returned with Ezra, amounts, according to the Hebrew text, to 1496 males and fifteen heads; according to 1 Esdras, to 1690 males, and the thirteen heads of the twelve races, without reckoning the priests and sons of David, whose numbers are not stated.
Account of the journey. - Ezr 8:15 The assembling of the expedition. When the Israelites who were about to return to Jerusalem had assembled, and were ready for starting, Ezra perceived that there were no Levites among them. He then sent for certain chief men among them, and by means of the influence of Iddo, the chief at the place Casiphia, induced a number of Levites and Nethinim to determine on joining the expedition (Ezr 8:15). He then proclaimed a fast at the place of meeting, for the purpose of supplicating God to grant them a prosperous journey (Ezr 8:21).
The travellers assembled at the river Ahava, where they encamped three days. In Ezr 8:15 the river is designated אל־אהוא הבּא, i.e., either which comes (flows) towards Ahava, or flows into Ahava; in Ezr 8:21 it is more briefly called אהוא נהר, and in Ezr 8:31 אהוא נהר, which may mean the river of Ahava, of the region or district called Ahava, or, after the analogy of פּרת נהר, merely the river of the name of Ahava. It is doubtful which of these meanings is correct, the name Ahava being still unexplained. Comp. the various conjectures in A. G. F. Schirmer, observationes exeg. crit. in libr. Esdrae, Vratisl. 1820, p. 28ff. The connection points to a place or district in the neighbourhood of Babylon; hence Bertheau is inclined to regard Ahava as a tributary or canal of the Euphrates, flowing through a place, perhaps only a field or open space, of the same name, in the immediate neighbourhood of Babylon; while Ewald supposes it may be the river somewhat to the west or south of Euphrates, called by the Greeks Pallacopas, whose situation would suit the context, and whose name might arise from אהוא פלג, the river Ahwa or Aba. The lxx gives the name Εὐί; in 1 Esdr. 8:40 and 61 we find Θερά, evidently a false reading. Josephus says quite generally, εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ Εύφράτου. - When Ezra, during the three days' encampment at this place, directed his attention to the people and the priests (ב הבין, to give heed, Neh 13:7; Dan 9:23, and elsewhere), he found no Levites among those who had assembled. Ezr 8:16 He then sent several chief men to Iddo, the chief man in the place Casiphia, to beg him and his brethren to bring him servants for the house of God. The lxx translates ל אשׁלחה, "I sent to (or for) Eliezer," etc., which would mean to fetch them: "that I might then send them to Iddo." The Vulgate, on the other hand, and many expositors, understand ל as nota accus., like Ch2 17:7, which is simpler. Of the nine men here designated as ראשׁים, the names of Eliezer, Shemaiah, Jarib, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam occur again in Ezr 10:15, Ezr 10:18-31, though we cannot certainly infer the identify of those who bear them. The appellation ראשׁים does not determine whether they belonged to the priesthood or laity. The two remaining are called מבינים, teachers; comp. Neh 8:7, Neh 8:9; Ch1 15:22; Ch1 25:8, and elsewhere. Although this word is, in the passages cited, used of Levites, yet we cannot suppose those here named to have been teaching Levites, because, according to Ezr 8:16, there were as yet no Levites amongst the assemblage; hence, too, they could not be teachers properly so called, but only men of wisdom and understanding. The Chethiv ואוצאה must be read ואוצאה: I sent them to (על, according to later usage, for אל); the Keri is ואצוּה, I despatched, sent them. Both readings suit the sense. The place Casiphia is entirely unknown, but cannot have been far from the river Ahava. Caspia, the region of the Caspian Sea, is out of the question, being far too remote. "I put words in their mouth to speak to Iddo," i.e., I told them exactly what they should say to Iddo; comp. Sa2 14:3, Sa2 14:19. The words אדּו אחיו הנּתוּנים give no intelligible meaning; for אהיו we must, with the Vulgate, 1 Esdras, and others, read ואחיו: to Iddo and his brethren, the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia. This would seem to say that Iddo was one of the Nethinim. Such an inference is not, however, a necessary one; for the expression may also, like "Zadok the (high) priest and his brethren, the (ordinary) priests," Ch1 16:39, be understood to mean that Iddo, the chief man of that place, was a Levite, and that the Nethinim were, as a lower order of temple servants, called brethren of Iddo the Levite. The circumstance that not only Nethinim, but also Levites, were induced by Iddo to join the expedition (Ezr 8:8), requires us thus to understand the words. אל לבית משׁרתים, servants for the house of God, are Levites and Nethinim, the upper and lower orders of the temple ministers. From Ezr 8:17 it appears that both Levites and Nethinim had settled in the place Casiphia, and that Iddo, as the chief man of the place, held an influential position among them. No further inferences, however, concerning their settlement and employment can be drawn from this circumstance.
The delegates sent to Iddo succeeded, through the gracious assistance of God (אל בּיד, see Ezr 7:6), in inducing forty Levites, and two hundred and twenty Nethinim, by means of Iddo's influence, to join their fellow-countrymen in their journey to Jerusalem. They brought to us ... לנוּ and עלינוּ refer to Ezra and his fellow-travellers. שׂכל אישׁ, a man of understanding, seems to be a proper name, being joined to Sherebiah, the name following, by a ו copulative. He was one of the descendants of Mahli, the son, i.e., grandson, of Levi the son of Israel, i.e., Jacob: comp. Exo 6:16, Exo 6:19; Ch1 6:4. Sherebiah occurs again in Ezr 8:24, and Neh 8:7; Neh 9:4, etc., Ezr 10:13; 12:24. The Levite Hashabiah, Ezr 10:19, is also named again, Ezr 8:24, Neh 10:2, and Neh 12:24, while the name of the Levite Jeshaiah, on the contrary, is not again met with in the books of either Ezra or Nehemiah.
With respect to the Nethinim, whom David and the princes (of Israel) had given for the service of the Levites (i.e., made servants of the temple, to perform the lowest offices for the Levites), comp. Jos 9:21 and Ezr 2:43. "They all were distinguished by name," i.e., were men of note; comp. remarks on Ch1 12:31.
The last preparations for the journey. - Ezr 8:21 Then the company of fellow-travellers was thus completed, Ezra proclaimed a fast at the place of meeting at the river Ahava, "that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a prosperous journey for ourselves, our families, and our goods," Fasting, as a means of humbling themselves before God, for the purpose of obtaining an answer to their petitions, was an ancient custom with the Israelites: Jdg 20:26; Sa1 7:6; Joe 1:14; Ch2 20:3. ישׁרה דּרך, a straight way, a way made level by the removal of obstructions, i.e., a prosperous journey; comp. Psa 112:7. טף, a noun collective, properly the little children, more frequently denoted the entire family, a man's wives and children; see remarks on Exo 12:37. רכוּשׁ, possessions in cattle and other goods.
For I was ashamed to request of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against enemies in the way (i.e., to protect us from hostile attacks during our journey); for we had said to the king: The hand of our God is over all them that seek him for good (i.e., for their good), and His power and His wrath against all them that forsake Him. עזּו in connection with אפּו is not His powerful wrath, but His power and might to conquer all enemies, evidencing itself in wrath against the wicked. This confession, which they had uttered before the king, they desired to make good by earnest humble supplication, that God would prove Himself their help and defence against all their enemies. And for this - adds Ezra, looking back on their prosperous journey after it was accomplished - He was entreated of us. Because they had supplicated His assistance by prayer and fasting, God granted them His protection by the way.
Then Ezra delivered the gold, the silver, and the vessels, which he had received as gifts for the temple, to twelve of the chiefs of the priests, and twelve Levites, that they might take charge of them during the journey, and bring them to Jerusalem. "I separated twelve of the chief of the priests," i.e., from the whole company of priests who were journeying with us. The following לשׁרביה does not suit the sense, whether we take the ל as a sign of the dative (lxx) or of the accusative (Vulgate, and several expositors). For Sherebiah and Hashabiah were neither priests nor chiefs of priests, but Levites of the race of Merari (v. 18), and cannot therefore be reckoned among the twelve chiefs of priests. If we take לשׁרביה for a dative, and translate, "I separated twelve of the chiefs of the priests for Sherebiah and Hashabiah," this would place the priests in a servile relation to the Levites, contrary to their true position. For לשׁרביה we must read ושׁרביה, and accept the reading of 1 Esdras, καὶ Ἐσερεβίαν, as correct. Ezra separated twelve chiefs of the priests and twelve Levites, for the purpose of delivering to their custody the gifts of gold, silver, and implements for the temple. Of the chiefs of the priests no names are mentioned; of the Levites, the two names Sherebiah and Hashabiah are given as those of heads of houses, with whom ten other Levites were associated.
To these chief priests and Levites Ezra weighed the silver and the gold and the vessels; שׁקל, to weigh, i.e., to deliver by weight. In the Chethiv אשׁקולה the O sound is maintained, and consequently the Keri is pointed -. On the other hand, in Ezr 8:26 the וּ is dropped, and the form pointed with -, though many MSS, followed by J. H. Michaelis, have ו- here also. אל בּית תּרוּמת is in apposition with the before-named objects: the gold, the silver, and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God, which the king, his councillors ... had offered; comp. Ezr 7:15-16, Ezr 7:19. In ההרימוּ the article represents the relative pronoun; see on Ch1 26:28. הנּמצאים, all Israelites who were found, met with, in Babylon, and were not going with them to Jerusalem; comp. Ch1 29:17; Ch2 5:11. ידם על, like יד על, Ezr 1:8, to their hand, i.e., handed over to their keeping. The gifts amounted to: six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels one hundred in talents, i.e., one hundred talents in value, one hundred talents of gold, and twenty covered basins of gold (comp. Ezr 1:10) one thousand dariks in value, and two brazen vessels of fine golden brilliancy, precious as gold. מצהב is an abstract noun, formed from the participle Hophal of צהב, to glitter like gold, and constructed as a feminine. The word, with its adjective, either depends upon נחשׁט, in the stat. construct., or stands in apposition thereto, and is not, as a participle Hophal, used adjectively and combined with נחשׁט, for then the two adjectives מצהב and טובה would not be in different genders. חמוּדות, like חמוּדות כּלי, Ch2 20:25.
On delivering these treasures, Ezra adds the admonition: Ye are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the gold and the silver are a free-will offering unto the Lord God of your fathers; watch and keep (that which is committed to you). Since they were themselves, as priests and Levites, holy to the Lord, they were also to treat and keep the gifts committed to their charge as holy gifts, until, on their arrival at Jerusalem, they should weigh them (i.e., deliver them by weight) before the priests, the Levites, and the princes of Israel, in the chambers of the house of the Lord. The article to הלּשׁכוה (stat. construct.) is among the incorrectnesses of the later Hebrew.
Then they took the weight of the silver, ... i.e., received the silver, etc., delivered to them by weight.
The start, the journey, and the arrival at Jerusalem. - Ezr 8:31 The start from the river Ahava (comp. Ezr 8:15) did not take place till the twelfth day of the first month; while according to Ezr 7:9, the journey from Babylon was appointed for the first day of the month, and according to Ezr 8:15, the bands of travellers who assembled at the river Ahava encamped there three days. These statements may be reconciled as follows: On the first day the company of travellers began to assemble, and during the three days' encampment at the place of meeting Ezra became aware that no Levites were found among the travellers; upon which he took the measures mentioned, Ezr 8:16, etc., to induce certain Levites and Nethinim to accompany them. When these were afterwards present, Ezra ordained a fast, to supplicate the divine protection for the journey, and committed the sacred gifts to the care of the priests and Levites. Eight days elapsed while these preparations for departure were being made, so that the start from the river Ahava did not take place till the twelfth day. The journey was successfully accomplished, God's gracious protection delivering them from the hands of enemies and marauders; comp. Ezr 8:22.
They arrived at Jerusalem, as stated Ezr 7:9, on the first day of the fifth month, the journey consequently occupying three months and a half. The particulars of the journey are not communicated; and as we do not even know the locality of the place of meeting at the river Ahava, the length of road to be traversed cannot be determined. After their arrival at Jerusalem, they abode, i.e., remained, as Nehemiah subsequently did, quiet and inactive three days, to recover from the fatigues and hardships of the journey, Neh 2:11, before they undertook the arrangement of their affairs. On the fourth day, the gifts they had brought with them were delivered in the house of God (נשׁקל, like אשׁקלה, Ezr 8:16) into the hand of Meremoth and Eleazar the priests, and Jozabad and Noadiah, two Levites, who took charge of them, the chiefs of the priests and Levites being, according to Ezr 8:29, also present. Meremoth Ben Uriah reappears in Neh 3:4, Neh 3:21, and is also intended Neh 12:3. Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and the Levite Noadiah, are not again met with. Jozabad, of the sons of Jeshua (Ezr 2:40), may be the Levite Jozabad mentioned Neh 10:23. Binnui is named among the Levites, Neh 10:10 and Neh 12:8.
"By number, by weight, as to all," i.e., all was delivered by number and weight; and the whole weight was written at that time, i.e., an authentic list was made at the delivery which then took place.
After the delivery of the dedicated gifts, those who had come up out of captivity (with Ezra), the sons of the captivity, offered burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, out of gratitude for the favour shown by God in the gracious restoration of His people Israel. This is implied in the words: "burnt-offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel" (the twelve tribes), and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering, as in Ezr 6:17. Ninety-six (8 x 12) lambs and seventy-seven lambs (77, the intensified seven) were likewise brought as a burnt-offering. "All this was a burnt-offering for the Lord," of which, therefore, nothing could be eaten by the offerers. The sin-offering preceded the burnt-offering, as the necessary basis of an acceptable burnt-offering. The sin-offerings availed as an atonement for the sins of all Israel, and the burnt-offerings typified the surrender of the entire nation to the service of the Lord. Thus the fact that these were offered for all Israel was an actual declaration that they who had now returned were henceforth resolved, together with all Israel, to dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord their God.
Hereupon the royal decrees (the commission, Ezr 7:12-26) were delivered to the satraps of the king, and to the governors on this side the river; and they furthered the people and the house of God, as Artaxerxes had commanded in his edict, Ezr 7:20-24. On אחשׁדּרפּנים and פּחוות, see rem. on Dan 3:2. The satraps were the military chiefs of the province, the פּחוות, the heads of the civil government. נשּׂא, to lift up, to support, like Ezr 1:4.