Today: [Ezra Two] Stirred Up to Return and Build. In this chapter we find the census of those who returned to build the temple and restore the city of David. Zerubbabel was in charge leading the people as one descended from the kings of Judah and actually an ancestor of Jesus Himself. It is interesting that the primary families connected with Zerubabbel numbered 12 making Zerubabbel and type of Christ and explaining perhaps why Jesus chose 12 to follow him. There were many and diverse families in the group returning who number was just under 50,000. The truth however was that of the northern and southern tribes the vast majority demonstrated no interest in returning at all for they had built their fortunes in Babylon.
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[Ezr 2:1-70 KJV] 1 Now these [are] the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city; 2 Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two. 4 The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two. 5 The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five. 6 The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua [and] Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve. 7 The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 8 The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five. 9 The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore. 10 The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two. 11 The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three. 12 The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two. 13 The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six. 14 The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six. 15 The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four. 16 The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight. 17 The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three. 18 The children of Jorah, an hundred and twelve. 19 The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three. 20 The children of Gibbar, ninety and five. 21 The children of Bethlehem, an hundred twenty and three. 22 The men of Netophah, fifty and six. 23 The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.
The previous chapter mentions king Cyrus delivering the sacred vessels of the temple to a prince of Judah named Sheshbazzar. This was Zerubbabel’s Persian name. Zerubabbel’s name means “born in Babylon” and he figures largely in the history of the return from captivity. It is to Zerubbabel that the well known verse in Zecheriah 4:6 is addressed:
[Zec 4:6 KJV] 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
The list of the people in this chapter is a census of the families and individuals who returned from Babylon to Judah by the command of king Cyrus. It must be pointed out that they are not returning to establish an independent nation for now Israel is merely a province of greater Persia. Zerubbabel was leading the return as an appointed Persian governor.
Eleven names are mentioned as the primary men and families returning with Zerubabbel. Curiously when Nehemiah reproduces this list he included one more making the total of those connected with Zerubabbel to number 12. This makes Zerubabbel a type of Christ and may indicate just why Jesus chose 12 to follow Him and not some other number. It is also to point out that Zerubabbel is not some random leader. He is a descendent of the line of David and in the lineage of Jesus. Along with Zerubabbel as well we see Jeshua the high priest who figures prominently in the return and is referred to as well in the book of Zecheriah.
24 The children of Azmaveth, forty and two. 25 The children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three. 26 The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one. 27 The men of Michmas, an hundred twenty and two. 28 The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three. 29 The children of Nebo, fifty and two. 30 The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty and six. 31 The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 32 The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty. 33 The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five. 34 The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five. 35 The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty. 36 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three. 37 The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. 38 The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. 39 The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. 40 The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four. 41 The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred twenty and eight. 42 The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, [in] all an hundred thirty and nine. 43 The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 44 The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon, 45 The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub, 46 The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan, 47 The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, 48 The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam,
In this long listing there are some disparities that can be pointed out. The sum of the sons of Arah is different in Nehemiah. This list no doubt was comprised before the arduous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. It is possible that the differences in the numbers is not merely a mistake by the writer but because some who originally determined to return changed their minds and also some died on the way. In comparing Ezra’s listing with Nehemiah’s there are many inconsistencies but when they are closely compared they actually correct one another.
In studying the names and the meaning of the names you can see the influence of Babylonian culture and Persian as well. The names also reflect the heart of the people in certain cases: (Thanks to commentator David Gurzik for the following:)
Parosh means flea.
Shephatiah means Yahweh has judged.
Arah means wild ox.
Zaccai means either pure or is a shortened form of Zechariah.
Bani is a shortened form of Benaiah, meaning Yahweh has built.
Bebai means pupil of the eye.
Azgad means Gad is strong.
Adonikam means my Lord has arisen.
Adin means voluptuous.
Ater means lefty.
Bezai is a shortened form of Bezaleel and means in the shadow of God.
Jorah means autumn rain.
Hashum means broad nose.
Gibbar means strong man.
49 The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, 50 The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim, 51 The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 52 The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 53 The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah, 54 The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha. 55 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda, 56 The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 57 The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami. 58 All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, [were] three hundred ninety and two. 59 And these [were] they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, [and] Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they [were] of Israel: 60 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two. 61 And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: 62 These sought their register [among] those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. 63 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. 64 The whole congregation together [was] forty and two thousand three hundred [and] threescore, 65 Beside their servants and their maids, of whom [there were] seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and [there were] among them two hundred singing men and singing women. 66 Their horses [were] seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; 67 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; [their] asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty. 68 And [some] of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which [is] at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: 69 They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments. 70 So the priests, and the Levites, and [some] of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
The latter part of this list included the list of the Levites, Priestly lines and temple workers that returned. You may remember that David set up originally 24 courses of Levitical service but only 4 are included in the return. This tells us that most of the priests stayed behind in Babylon. Remember now that the priests and the Levites were two different groups. The priests sprang from the line of Aaron and the Levites were the remainder of the line of Levi. The total number of Levites should have far outnumbered the tally of the priests returning to rebuild the temple. In fact the number of priests (which again should have been smaller – springing only from the Aaronic line) this number was much, much greater than that of the Levites. That tells us that the priests were more interested in seeing the temple rebuilt. The vast majority of the Levites – the support system of the Aaronic priesthood had no interest in returning to the ruins of Jerusalem.
There were also two interesting non-Jewish groups who came back to Jerusalem. Therese were the “Nethinim” who were descended from the Gibeonites that deceived Joshua – and the children of the servants of Solomon who would not have descended from Jewish families. Their lines had been preserved in Judah’s long history and it was in their heart though they served at menial tasks to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. This brings to mind the words of Jesus:
[Mat 5:3 KJV] 3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
There were also a number of priestly families who could not prove their genealogy. Zerubbabel was exacting in his adherence to the book of the law. The families who could not prove their genealogies would be excluded from partaking of the holy things or serving in temple responsibilities – although they were allowed to return with those who could validate their priestly status.
It is curious to us as to why the vast majority of the northern tribes and Judah as well had no interest in returning to Judah. For one thing the borders of Judah had been redrawn and only encompassed about 800 square miles of very unproductive desert territory. The cities were in ruins and the temple destroyed. The prospects were grim for the returnees. Also history tells us that the Israelites and those of Judah had fully integrated into the life and culture of Babylon. There is no indication that they were anything but fully accepted and respected in Babylon and in Persia. So they were comfortable. They were prosperous. They were entrenched personally and in their family lines in the new nation which they had been brought captive to. Those who came back were those truly as Cyrus had referred to in his decree – “whose heart the Lord had stirred up to return and rebuild the city and the temple…”
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