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officers, by the enmity of the Samaritans, and their own great in
dolence, for which the prophet Haggai reproved them. 16
And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, keptthe dedication of this house 17 of God with joy, And offered at the dedication of this house of
Godan hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs,* this was a small number compared with what Solomon had offered at the dedication of the first temple; but it was suitable to their cir. cumstances, and equally acceptable ; and for a sin offering for
all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the 18 tribes of Israel." And they set the priests in their divisions,
and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which 19 [is] at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses. And the
children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth 20 [day] of the first month. For the priests and the Levites
were purified together, all of them (were) pure, and killed the
passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren 21 the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel,
which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had se
parated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen 32 of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat,t And
kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy : for the LORD had made them joyful ; given them occasion of great joy, and quickened their spirits to rejoice in it, and turned the heart of the king of Assyriall unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
1. EE how wonderfully God overrules the designs of his
church's enemies for its benefit. The Samaritans probably instigated the governor to oppose the Jews and make this inquiry, and this turned out to their advantage ; thus God takes the wise in their own craftiness. Many things, which seem at first threatening and alarming, tend to the furtherance of the gospel and the increase of the church. Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. Judges xiv. 14.
2. Let us bless God for those laws and records to which we owe the security of our public liberty. It does not depend upon the pleasure of our governors, or even of our king ; it is founded on the laws of the realm ; and the record is secured and can easily be appli
Some suppose that the hundred and forty-sixth, hundred and forty-seventh, and hundred and forty-eighth psalms were composed and used on this occasion, as in the Seventy they are called the psalms of Haggai: this is not unlikely, as they are suitable enough to it.
+ There were many proselytes among them, who were cleansed from their pollutions, and become entirely subject to the law of Moses; and were probably influenced to this, by the wonderful appearances of Providence for them, and the remarkable favour of the king of Persia to them.
Darias is called the king of Assyria, because he ruled over these provinces, which for. merly belonged to the king of Assyria. In Nehemiah he is called the king of Babylon for the same reason. Both these kings and their subjects having been their greatest enemies, these titles migbut still be used.
ed to, when our liberties are attacked or threatened. These are mercies which demand gratitude to God. The lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places, and we have a goodly heritage.
3. Let us remember to pray for our king and his family, under whom we enjoy our liberty. Darius knew the Jews were a praying people, and had a great and powerful God, and therefore he desire ed their prayers. This is a duty we owe in honor and gratitude to them ; and to which we are obliged by the laws of christianity. Ier. hort therefore that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority under them; that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.
4. There is reason for the greatest of kings to fear the God of heaven. Their lives and the happiness of them depend on his pleasure. Darius was a wise prince, and this was an instance of his wisdom. It is much to be wished that all kings and governors would follow his example, for their own sakes, and for the sake of their subjects.
5. Let us rejoice in God's goodness to us, though it should not be equal to what our fathers enjoyed. The Jews dedicated the temple with joy, though the building was inferior, their number less, and the sacrifices fewer, than in the first temple. We must not despise the day of small things, but give glory to God for what we see of his power and taste of his goodness, and be careful to im. prove it.
6. When we approach to God in the solemnities of his worship, we should be careful to purify ourselves; our lives from pollution, and our hearts from wickedness ; so these Jews did. Let us also separate ourselves from the pollutions of others, and seek the Lord and serve him in his own appointed way ; then will our service be acceptable, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
7. Let us trace up all the benefits we enjoy by our fellow creatures to the turn God gives to their hearts, v. 22. An important truth, which we need to be frequently reminded of: the hearts of kings are in his hands. When we meet with a favourable reception from others, or good success in our business, or respect and kindness in the world, gratitude to those from whom we receive these favours is a duty ; but let us trace the stream through the several channels to the fountain, to God, the author of every good and perfect gift, whose kingdom ruleth over all, and who does what he pleases in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of this lower world.
We have here some account of Ezra ; the commission of Artaxerxes
to him ; and his reflections upon it. TOW after these things, about eighty years after their first
going up, and about sixty years after the temple was finishe ed, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, that is, Longima,
nus, the grandson of Darius, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of % Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, The son of Shallum, the son of 3 Zadok, the son of Ahitub, The son of Amariah, the son of Aza. 4 riah, the son of Meraioth, The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, 3 the son of Bukki, The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the 6 son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest : This Ezra
went up from Babylon ; and he (was] a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given ; not a tran. scriber, but an expert, skilful teacher of the law: and the king
granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD 7 his God upon him. And, having information that the temple was
built, and the worship regularly performed, there went up with him [some! of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Le.
vites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto 8 Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And
he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which (was] in the 9 seventh year of the king. For upon the first [day] of the first
month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first [day]
of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good 10 hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to
seek the law of the LORD, and to do [itz] and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments; this was taking the right method ; he first sought and studied the law, then practised it, and then taught it to others.
Now this [is] the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, [even) a scribe of the
words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to 12 Israel. Artaxerxes, king of kings, that is, who has other kinga
tributary to him, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God 13 of heaven, perfect (peace,) and at such a time. I make a decree,
that all they of the people of Israel, and [of] his priests and Levites in my realm, which are minded of their own free will to goup to Jerusalem, go with thee; lest any should make a scruple of going,
lest Cyrus' decree should be reversed, I make a decree, and give 14 them leave to go. Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of
his seven counsellors, by whose advice the decree was made, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which [is] in thine hand ; to inquire whether every thing
was conformable to the Mosaic law, both the priests, the worship, 15 and the sacrifices ; And to carry the silver and gold, which the
king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of 16 Israel
, whose habitation (is) in Jerusalem, And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, any way procure to be contributed by any of the king's heathen subjects, with the free will offering of the people and of the priests, who
stayed behind, offering willingly for the house of their God 17 which (is) in Jerusalem : That thou mayest buy speedily with
* From this time Daniel's seventy weeks began, or seven times seventy, or four hundred and ninety years. Let it also be remembered, that this Artaxerxes was Ésther's husband ; which may account in some measure for his great kindness to the Jews.
this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offeringsi
and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the 18 house of your God which [is] in Jerusalem. And whatsoever
shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren the priests, to do
with the rest of the silver and gold, that do after the will of your 19 God ; let it be applied to some sacred use. The vessels also that are
given thee for the service of the house of thy God, [those] de20 liver thou before the God of Jerusalem. And whatsoever more
shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt
have occasion to bestow, bestow [it] out of the king's treasure 21 house. And I, [even] I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree
to all the treasurers which (are] beyond the river, that whatso
ever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, 22 shall require of you, it be done speedily, even Unto an hundred
talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an
hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt 23 without prescribing [how much.*] Whatsoever is commanded
by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven : for why should there be wrath against the
realm of the king and his sons ? for the omission or performance 24 of any part of his worship, through the king's neglect. Also we
certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them. This was a privilege they had not enjoyed before since the captiva ity. It was a wise provision, as it prevented the priests from
eing unreasonably burdened or diverted from their proper business. 25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that [is] in thine
hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that Care] beyond the river, within the firovince of Judea, al such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know
[them) not ; he had commission to restore their ancient method in 26 judging and governing by their own laws. And whosoever will
not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether (it be] unto death, or
to banishment ; or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment. 27
Blessed [be] the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put (such a thing] as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house 28 of the Lord
which (is) in Jerusalem : And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God (was] upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.t
This was a remarkable and wonderful grant in their favour ; but the king prudently limited the quantity of provisions, that no difference might arise between them.
+ The concluding verse shows that Ezra wrote this part of the book. The king's deci ce is in the Chaldee language, but these verses in the Hebrew,
ROM hence we are taught to acknowledge the provi
dence of God in our safe and prosperous journies, v. 9, in directing our way, preserving us from evil, and prospering our undertakings. His favour is to be sought when we are going out, and to be owned when coming in. The circumstances of our journies should be carefully recollected, that God may have the glory of all our mercies.
2. In Ezra we see a good example to christians, and especially to ministers. He sought the law, made it his study ; formed his notions and sentiments from it, and reduced all to practice. He did not waste his days in trifling; especially not in hurtful things. Thus should we study the law of God, practise its precepts ourselves, be conformed to the rule, and then teach others ; ministers, their people, parents, their children, and christian friends, one another, and be careful that they may see their own exhortations illustrated and enforced by a good example. For all this the heart must be prepared, purified, quickened, and encouraged, and the spirit of God sought ; for the preparation of the heart, and the suca cess of all our endeavours, are from the Lord.
3. Learn of this heathen prince, diligently to do what the God of heaven commands ; out of gratitude to him, because it is our duty. and our interest, and lest wrath should be against us, and our chil. dren. Let us do it diligently and with pleasure, for his commands are not grievous, and in keeping them there is great reward.
4. Our favour with others, and success in business, are te be ascribed to the good hand of God. Ezra talked like a wise and good man, like one who had studied and understood the law of his God, when he ascribed the king's encouragement to God's interposition ; and concludes, instead of God save the king, with blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart. It is an honour to be employed for his service and to his glory; and when he gives ability and opportunity, the favour should be gratefully owned. The first rise of good thoughts in our minds, or in the minds of others, comes from him, and is to be ascribed to the Lord our God, who putteth such a thing into our hearts; even to him, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift.
We have in this chapter the names of those who went up with Ezra ;
their preservation in their journey, and arrival at Jerusalem.. 1 'HESE (are] now the chief of their fathers, and (this is]
the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king. Their names are set. 2 down to preserve their memory to future generations. Of the