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EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.
ALTHOUGH these two books have distinct authors, they "writings and commentaries” of Nehemiah, and de. describe consecutive periods of the same general stage scribes him as having “established a library” or colof Jewish history, and in many respects are closely lection of holy documents, including historical and linked. Hence much of the matter introductory to prophetical books and writings of David, thus not their exposition must necessarily be common to the two, obscurely pointing to the threefold conventional order and equally applicable to both.
of our present canonical volume. If we understand the
" letters of kings concerning offerings” to mean the I. The names of Ezra and Nehemiah are combined in decrees of the Persian monarchs that make up a large revelation after a manner of which Moses and Aaron part of our two books, the tradition may be understood furnish the only parallel. The analogy, though not to embrace the whole canon. It wil be seen that perfect, will bear to be followed out to a certain extent. there are traces in Nehemiah of interpolation as late Strictly speaking, Zerubbabel and Joshua were the as the days of Alexander the Great; and the question Moses and Aaron of the new Israel redeemed from of the final ratification of the Hebrew canon is one captivity in Babylon. But these two names fade in the still involved in obscurity. presence of their greater successors, who finished the work they only began. This has been the view of III. The relation of these two to the other his. Jewish tradition; and Christian sentiment agrees with torical books of the canon has been matter of some Jewish tradition. Here, however, the analogy begins controversy. Without any support from subsequent to fail. Judaism has always regarded the priest Ezra Jewish literature, a certain class of critics have inalone as the restorer of the law and the polity, making vented a later editor, who, living in the time of the Nehemiah with his book merely an adjunet; just as the Greek Dominion, constructed the Chronicles, Ezra, and Pentateuch was“ the book of the law of Moses,” Aaron Nehemiah as one series of historical works. Agrecbeing altogether or almost kept out of view. When we ing in this, the hypotheses then differ; and their go to the Scriptures themselves, Ezra and Nehemiah, differences are of such a character as to confirm our the spiritual and the civil rulers of the new constitution, confidence in the traditional view that the three books have an equal dignity, and both are very subordinate are distinct, that their true common editor was Ezra, characters in comparison with those first organs of Divine and that only a very few additions were left for after. revelation. They introduce nothing really original; times. While the end of Chronicles is the beginning they bring no new tables from the Mount; they have no of Ezra, a long and unrecorded period comes between ; Urim and Thummim; and are rather administrators Ezra and Nehemiah give the history of a totally difof a revived law than legislators themselves. A few ferent century of the national life; and they close minor institutions owe their origin to Nehemiah. But the inspired historical records of the ancient nation. neither he nor Ezra was directly the founder of the Malachi alone comes after them ; while Haggai and synagogue and other great additions to the Mosaic Zechariah immediately precede, or rather they delivered economy. The greatness of these two names is, in fact, their predictions in the days which the former part of very much the result of wonderful traditions which Ezra describes. The last historical books of the Old have been most prodigal in their honour, and especially Testament are works of which the authors were to a great in the glorification of Ezra.
extent editors also ; and there is every reason to think
that the chief of these editors was Ezra, who put the II. Ezra and Nehemiah are both, though in different finishing touches on all that preceded his own annals. ways, connected by Jewish tradition with the final It can hardly be maintained that his editorship in. settlement of the Old Testament canon.
Among the cluded the book of Nehemiah, seeing that this contains early Fathers an opinion was current that, when the a long list of names almost entirely coinciding with a originals of Seripture were burned with the Temple, similar list in his predecessor. Ezra, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, restored the Law and the Prophets, adding or authenticating the books IV. The authenticity of these two records cannot which were afterwards written. Another tradition is be reasonably called in question: the only attacks preserved in the Mishna, and has found more favour, proceed from that style of criticism which makes the that Ezra, or Ezra and Nehemiah, instituted the GREAT entire history of the Old Testament a series of inSYNAGOGUE, numbering. 120 associates, and in con- ventions based on but a slight substratum of actual junction with them settled the limits of the canon. In events. There is nothing here but a series of plain many parts of the Talmud such a college is referred to; statements concerning a great historical fact which but neither the canonical nor the apocryphal scriptures cannot be called in question. We observe the same use yield this tradition any real support. The “company of public documents and genealogical lists with which of scribes” of 1 Macc. vii. 12 has been supposed to refer the rest of the Bible makes us familiar. The sources to this body. But 2 Macc. ii. 13 gives the tradition are never referred to as such ; for both writers, from a different form. It alludes to and quotes certain their position, were above the necessity of giving their EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.
authorities. But we may be sure that the history of to the Jewish remnant, and to everything connected with the first return under Zerubbabel had been preserved, their history, an immeasurable importance. We may and only required Ezra's abridgment. The Persian not be able to see the precise bearing on this of many documents quoted were in public archives. There is details in these books and that of Esther; nor is it not an incident recorded, nor a character introduced, necessary to believe that many of them-in a certain which is out of keeping with internal probability or sense the greater part of the minute narrative, with its external independent vouchers. The simplicity of the genealogical and other lists—had any such precise narrative and its utter absence of disguise, when re- bearing. Granted the general necessity for the new cording the humble estate and deep unworthiness of the life of the people, as a witness of the past and the future. rescued people, plead irresistibly for the truth of the the particulars of its new history become on that whole. The very dislocations of the narratives, with account important. To sum up, if we consider the the repetition of lists, are in favour of the trustwor. re-establishment of the people and the revival of the thiness of the narrators. The want of strict agreement worship of Zion as a record of past prophecy fulfilled, between them in names and numbers here and there as a means of keeping up the knowledge of God and simply indicates that the text, especially that of Ezra, the hope of His Kingdom in the present, and as part is not in a perfect state. It must be admitted that of the great preparation for the supreme future of the discrepancies between the two books themselves, finished redemption--these three in one—then scarcely as also between both and the Chronicles, are very any detail in these narratives will be thought to be numerous: no two lists perfectly agree either in order without its meaning. Nothing is more needful as a of names or amount of numbers. But a careful and preparation for the study of our history than the deep dispassionate examination of the differences will lead conviction of this principle. to the conclusion that the text of one or the other or of both has suffered through transcription. Besides VII. It is a narrower view of the same subject what has been said on this subject in former Intro- that sees in these histories the foundation of that ductions, something in the nature of historical vin- Judaism of the interval with which the Gospel dication will be found in the course of the exposition narrative and the Christian Church are so intimately itself.
To understand this we must remember
that with Ezra and Nehemiah and Esther are to V. As these two books give the history of the be connected the final post-exile prophets, Haggai, return from the Captivity, they cannot be understood Zechariah, and Malachi. "The entire cycle, taken as a without some knowledge of the character of that Cap. whole, reveals the tendencies of the Judaism which tivity. In the last words of inspiration before our history grew up after prophetic inspiration had ceased, and commences the prophecies of Jeremiah are put into the finished development of which our Saviour found an historical form : the people were to be servants in so utterly wanting. But in the process we must Babylon until the reign of the kingdom of Persia ; and distinguish between the good and the evil. The good the emptied land was to enjoy her Sabbaths, in sad vindi. elements were many: the ancient Scriptures were cation of ages of Sabbath neglect, “ to fulfil threescore restored to their place in the popular heart; Ezra was and ten years.". But there was mercy in the great visi. the first of an order of scribes entirely devoted to its tation. Though the bondmen were sometimes made to exposition; and the synagogne worship, unknown in howl (Isa. lii. 5), they were also to have peace in the peace the Old Testament, was based on a revival of Sabbath of the place of their captivity for which they prayed devotion throughout the land. And the dispersion (Jer. xxix. 5-7). They rose to wealth in the enjoyment soon began to claim its rights beyond the land itself. of civil rights; they occupied places of high trust in Though Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the Temple and the courts of their oppressors; they maintained their threw walls around Jerusalem-giving no hint themreligious customs as far as they might do so in a strange selves that the kingdom of God was on its way to the land; above all, they kept alive their hope of restoration, Gentiles—the prophets of their new economy were and in token of this carefully preserved the records of less restricted. And when the intermediate "fulness of their genealogies. These important facts have their time" came, Greek Scriptures and a Jewish service in illustration at all points in the books which contain Egypt and other lands paved the way for the Gospel. the history of the Return.
The evil elements were also very many. An internal,
hard, ceremonial religion became, after four centuries, VI. It follows that the events of which Ezra and what the Lord found in Pharisaism; the scepticism Nehemiah are the historians must be studied in the light which Malachi rebuked developed into Sadduceeism; of the purposes of God in regard to His ancient people, and the descendants of the “ perfect scribe " laid more and can be understood only in that light. In other than the foundation of Talmudical Rabbinism. words, they form a chapter in the history of redemption. It must needs be that the “ holy seed”— holy because VIII. Out of this arises another canon, namely, of it Christ was to come according to the flesh-should that this portion of the history of the one CiviTAS be kept undefiled among the nations, that the “ holy DEI which runs through all ages has, like every other, land” should be ready to become the land of Immanuel, its lessons to teach the Christian Church. In regard that the “ holy city” should both welcome and reject to this expositors have run into the usnal opposite Him as its king, and that the "holy place” should extremes. Some have gone so far as to find in Ezra receive the true High Priest, and be closed by His and Nehemiah types of Christ; and their several and voice. Generally speaking, it was necessary, for the combined work has been made to prefigure the relations fulfilment of prophecy, for the maintenance of true of Church and State for ever. It is easy to trace and religion in the world, and for the preparation of the condemn the error here. But we should be on our earthly sphere of the Incarnate Son, that the ancient guard against the notion that the books contain only polity should be renewed and kept up until the “ful. old history that has passed away. Devotion to the kingness of time.” Their relation to the future Saviour of dom of God on the part of His servants, its grace and the world—its present Saviour not yet revealed-gave its dignity and its reward ; opposition to that kingdom, EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.
its low endeavours, its futility, and its condemnation- 521–486. Darius I., son of Hystaspes, king of ihese are lessons taught in every chapter. The everlast
Persia, having slain Gomates (Ezra iv. ing distinction between the saints and the children of this
5—24, v. 5, vi. 1). Haggai and Zechariah world, and the importance of remembering this under
begin their prophecies. all circumstances, is also taught. They who condemn 515. Second Temple completed (Ezra vi. 15). the intolerance of Ezra and Nehemiah, and think the 486—465. Xerxes (Ahasuerus of Esther). rigorous separation of the ancient people from their 465—425. Artaxerxes Longimanus (Ezra vii. 1, Neh. foreign wives a great mistake of these new legislators,
ii. 1). Return of Jews under Ezra. altogether miss the lesson the books were intended to 445. Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem (Neh. ii. 1, v. convey. The providence of God in the world, which
14). is now the government of His Son the Head over all 433. Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem (Neh. xii. 6). things to the Church, has no sublimer illustration than 401-399. Malachi's last predictions. Death of they present. It may be added that the two writers,
Cyrus the Younger (also of Thucydides and who are also the two main actors, are noble examples
Socrates) of the passive and active virtues of religion. Though their writings are not quoted in the New Testament, they X. The two books are the centre of what may be contain a fair proportion of those precious apophthegms called the ESDRAS CYCLE of Biblical literature, the and watchwords of devotion that are the heritage of details of which are complicated, and must be studied God's people in every age.
in special works on the canon. The ancient Jews re
garded the two canonical works as one, and in this IX. It is of great importance to fix in the mind, they were followed by the early Fathers of the Christian before entering on the study of our two historians, a Church. In the catalogues handed down to us they are clear idea of the relation of the events they record to distinguished as I. and II. Ezra or Esdras : so the profane history and secular chronology. On one or Vulgate, Origen, and the Council of Laodicea. In the two points opinions are divided; but the following Alexandrine version, however, first comes our book dates may on the whole be relied on as most pro- of Ezra, with enlargements of various kinds; then, bably satisfying all demands :
secondly, the genuine book itself; Nehemiah is there
III. Esdras ; and to these is added the later apocryphal B.C. 558—529. Cyrus becomes king of the Medes and IV. Esdras, containing certain final accretions to the Persians, on the defeat of Astyages.
Ezra literature. In the Vulgate the two added books, the 541. Belshazzar, vice-king of Babylon (Daniel's enlarged translation and the apocryphal, are III. and vision, chapter vii.).
IV. Ezra. At the close of the fourth century Jerome 538. Babylonian empire subverted, and Medo- calls II. Ezra by the name of Nehemiah; and gradually
Persian empire established by Cyrus. its thoroughly independent character became generally
Darius the Mede made king of Babylon. recognised. For the character of the two apocryphal 536. First year of Cyrus. Return under books—the latter of which has very little connection Zerubbabel (Ezra i.).
with the Biblical Ezra—works on the Apocrypha must 535. Second Temple founded (Ezra iii. 8). be consulted. Suffice it to say here that what may be 529. Opposition of Samaritans (Ezra iv. 6). called-following the Greek style—I. Esdras is subor.
Cambyses (Ahasuerus of Ezra iv. 6). dinately useful in some points of the textual criticism 522. Building of Temple stopped. Gomates or of our book of Ezra, especially where its numbers
pseudo-Smerdis (Artaxerxes of Ezra iv. 7). differ from those of Nehemiah.
1. All that is certainly known concerning Ezra is distinct records: one, of the first return froin the found in his own narrative as continued in Nehemiah. Captivity under Zerubbabel, occupying six chapters; He was a priest, descended, through Seraiah, from and the other, of the second detachment, under Ezra Eleazar the son of Aaron; and also a scribe, devoted to himself, occupying the remaining four. Between the the exposition of the Law of Moses. In the seventh two there is a chasm of fifty-seven years passed over year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, B.C. 458, he went in total silence. The former part, embracing a period from Babylon to Jerusalem at the head of a second of twenty-two years, from the memorable first year company of the children of the Captivity, and with an of Cyrus, B.c. 5:38, is mainly made up of extracts ample commission for the restoration of the Temple and from archives which Ezra has woven into a narrative. the reform of religion. After a rigorous inquisition into Certain portions of this, as of the second part, are the abuses connected with mixed marriages, he is lost written in Chaldee: the documents, namely, are given sight of, re-appearing afterwards in Nehemiah, with in their original, and the writer, equally familiar
with both forms of the Hebrew, does not quite limit of the wall and the conduct of religious service generally. himself to the documents themselves, the Chaldee He then finally disappears from the sacred history. overflowing here and there. Certainly the first Jewish tradition glorified his memory as second only to six chapters may be regarded as Ezra's own com. that of Moses. He is regarded as having been the first pilation, and therefore as his own work. The second president of the “Great Synagogue,” to which is attri. part gives the history of twelve months, being the buted the settlement of the Jewish canon; to have record as it were of the discharge of a commission, instituted the synagogue service; to have been the narrating that in full and then abruptly breaking off. organiser of much authoritative tradition traced down A close examination of the four chapters shows the same from Moses ; to have introduced the present Hebrew hand; the peculiar phrases—such as the “ Lord God of type; and done other service to Jewish literature. Israel” and many others—are similar, with just those Josephus says that he lived to a great age, and was variations in uniformity which might be expected in buried in Jerusalem. Other traditions assign him a one who had several languages at command. But there grave near Samara, after returning to Persia, and dying is one remarkable anomaly, that sometimes the first there aged 120.—There is no character in the Old and sometimes the third person is used-an anomaly, Testament more perfect and complete than that of however, that equally occurs in Daniel. It is to be Ezra. We see him as a servant and as a master, as a explained at the outset by the humility of the writer, student of the law and as its administrator, as supreme who introduces himself and his own character in the in authority and as subordinate, in public and private, third person before he uses the direct style of narrative; uniformly and always the same devout, disinterested, and afterwards by the fact that public and great events patriotic lover of his people and friend of God.
are incorporated in the very style in which they were
from time to time recorded. On the whole there is II. The question of Ezra's authorship is closely con- no reason to distrust the uniform tradition that has nected with an analysis of the book. It contains two ascribed the whole book to Ezra.
B.O. cir. 536.
Jer. 23. 12; & 29.
1 Heb. caused a
voice to pass.
CHAPTER 1.- (1) Now in the first
the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the
is the God, which is in Jerusalem. word of the LORD a by the mouth of
(4) And whosoever remaineth in any Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD a 2 Chron. 32: place where he sojourneth, let the men stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of
of his place ? help him with silver, and Persia, that he made a proclamation
with gold, and with goods, and with throughout all his kingdom, and put it
beasts, beside the freewill offering for also in writing, saying,
the house of God that is in Jerusalem. (2) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia,
(5) Then rose up the chief of the fathers The LORD God of heaven hath given me 2 web, lise him of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, all the kingdoms of the earth; and he
and the Levites, with all them whose hath charged me to build him an house
spirit God had raised, to go up to build at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Who 0 1.30; 41. 28 & 45. the house of the LORD which is in Jeruis there among you of all his people? his
salem. (6) And all they that were about God be with him, and let him go up to
them 3 strengthened their hands with Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build 3 Thaemis, helped vessels of silver, with gold, with goods,
I. THE FIRST RETURN UNDER ZERUBBABEL.
Hebrew version that accompanied it by its equivalent,
“Jehovah.” The latter supposition avoids the diffi(1–4) The decree of Cyrus : marking an epoch of very culty involved in making Cyrus disavow the national great importance, and therefore repeated almost word faith in the presence of his empire. The decree itself for word from the end of Chronicles.
runs much in the style of those found in the majority
of Persian inscriptions, such as “ By the grace of (1) The first year.-Cyrus became king of Persia Ormazd is Darius king;” and the spirit of tolerance in B.c. 559. Twenty years afterwards he took Babylon and piety in it is perfectly in harmony with all ancient from Belshazzar; and this first year of his rule in testimonies to the character of Cyrus. Babylon was his beginning as an agent in Jewish (u) Whosoever remaineth.-As to all the Remaffairs and for the Kingdom of God.
nant in all places. There is a singular correspondence Stirred up. – By a direct influence, probably between this and the beginning of Nehemiah ; but through the instrumentality of Daniel. This prophet there this familiar name for the survivors of the great we may suppose Cyrus to have found in Babylon, and national catastrophe is used of those who had returned to have had his mind directed to the express prediction to Jerusalem, while here it is used for the dispersion in of Isa. xliv. 28, where his name is mentioned. But the all the provinces of the empire (Neh. i. 3). writer, who again and again records the prophetic inter- Where he sojourneth.-Every individual Jew is vention of Haggai and Zechariah (chaps. v. 1, vi. 14), thus significantly supposed to be only an exile. makes no allusion to the part that Daniel the earlier Let the men of his place help him. - The prophet had taken. He refers only to the Divine pre- heathen subjects of Cyrus are required to assist the diction by Jeremiah, which must be fulfilled : “ And it departing sojourner, and expected also to send freewill shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, offerings to the Temple. Note that in all these terms that I will punish the king of Babylon " (Jer. xxv. 12); the spirit and phrase of the Hebrew people are used ; “For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be and that there was more in the decree than is here accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform given, as appears in the sequel. Cyrus was under my good word toward you, in causing you to return to strong influence, both human and Divine. this place” (Jer. xxix. 10).
(5—11) Immediate result of the decree. (2) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia.- In the interpretation of this decree two courses are open. (5) With all them whose spirit God had We may suppose that "the spirit” of Cyrus was so raised.-Namely, all is the more exact rendering. effectually stirred up.” by the Spirit of God, through The same influence that prompted the decree of Cyrus the prophecies of Isaiah, as to send out a written pro- was necessary to overcome the inertness of the capclamation avowing his faith in Jehovah Elohim, and tives :
: many preferred to remain in Babylon.—The thus publicly accepting the prediction : “He hath people were enumerated as tribes, families, and fathers charged me to build.” In this case the parenthesis of houses; the second and third orders of classification verse 3 (He is the God) may be compared with the con- are not here distinguished from each other. fession of his father-in-law, Darius the Mede: “He is (6) Precious things.—The Hebrew equivalent is a the living God” (Dan. vi. 26). Or we may assume rare word, which, when it occurs, is connected only that “ Ormazd” in the original was reproduced in the with the precious metals.