Today: [Ezra Chapter Seven] Ezra Arrives in Jerusalem. In this 7th chapter of Ezra we actually meet Ezra. Up to this point the history of the returned exiles took place before Ezra left Babylon. Ezra’s departure from Babylon was under another Persian king by the name of Artaxerxes. This king issues a decree for another band of returnees to be given opportunity to repatriate to Jerusalem. Artaxerxes makes resources available for the maintenance of the temple and the sacrifices given there in the hopes that there “be not wrath” upon Persian from the “God of heaven”. In addition Ezra is given authority to establish the legal system in Judah and also to exempt the Levites from taxation and tribute. The significance of Ezra’s life and administration cannot be underestimated when you realize that he is the architect of the synagogue system itself which also deeply influences Christian culture and how church is conducted as well. We all owe a debt to Artaxerxes and Ezra and are influenced by them much more than we realize.
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[Ezr 7:1-28 KJV] 1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, 2 The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3 The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4 The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5 The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest: 6 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: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. 7 And there went up [some] of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which [was] in the seventh year of the king. 9 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 hand of his God upon him. 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do [it], and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
It is interesting to note that the timing of Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem coincides with the writing of the book of Malachi. Malachi is a sharp reproof of lukewarmness and hypocrisy coming at a time that Ezra is authorized to punished offenders of Moses’ law to the point of death. The temple is now restored and some 60 years has passed between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7. The Artaxerxes who rules in Persian now is the successor to the Xerxes who married Esther the neice of Mordecai which no doubt accounts for this king’s advocacy of Judah, Jerusalem, the temple and the Levites. There is strong possibility that this Artaxerxes is actually the son of Xerxes and Esther thus supplying an epilogue to the story of Esther and the king. Ezra was a Levite and in fact a direct descendent of Aaron and of the last high priest before the captivity who was executed by the Babylonians.
Ezra is mentioned as a “skilled scribe” and very erudite in the study of Moses’ law. Many do not realize the deep influence Ezra had on the Judaism of Jesus’ day and in fact on Christianity of today. Christian religious culture mirrors the synagogue system of the era of the early church. Ezra was the originator and architect of the synagogue system of worship. The establishing of the synagogue system was the primary work and mission of Ezra upon his arrival in Jerusalem. What Paul was to the early church and the development of Christianity – so Ezra is to the Judaism that unfortunately and ultimately crucified Jesus. Ezra was a lover of the law and deeply committed to it’s implementation and truth. In successive generations that piety and veneration that existed in Ezra because corrupted into religious idolatry and resulted in the Jews rejecting Jesus rather than relinquish their religious system – originally established by Ezra.
11 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 Israel. 12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect [peace], and at such a time. 13 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 freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee. 14 Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which [is] in thine hand; 15 And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation [is] in Jerusalem, 16 And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which [is] in Jerusalem: 17 That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which [is] in Jerusalem. 18 And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God. 19 The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, [those] deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem. 20 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 house.
Ezra arrives in Jerusalem which was greatly repopulated by the first arrival of returnees many years before. He comes with the full grant and financial support of the king of Persia. Travelling with Ezra were “some” of the people of God from Babylon reflecting that many if not most of the Jews in Babylon chose not to return from captivity choosing to continue on in their generations in the boundaries and borders of ancient Persia. Many of these would be ancestors of whatever Jewish community remains in modern day Iran.
Verse 10 tells us that Ezra came to 1.) seek the law; to 2.) do the law, and 3.) to teach the law. The character of this pursuit is reflected in the writings of Paul (Rom. 2:23) and James (James 1:22) emphasizing that we be DOERS of the word and not just HEARERS. In 1 John 1:1-3 John stressed that the doctrine of the apostles was based upon what they had “seen and heard”. To teach mere theology is more akin to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who loved the sound of their voices more than the living Lord Jesus that stood before them. It is important that we speak from our experience of the word of God and it’s truth in our lives. It is likewise important to follow the faith of those who are demonstrating and walking in the demonstration of the spirit and of power not just the dead letter.
The letter that Artaxerxes wrote to Ezra shows that he not only went to Jerusalem but was actually sent to Jerusalem. The word apostle means to be a “sent one” so as such Ezra was a prototype of the apostles that were to come into the earth by the calling and sending of Jesus. As the king and his “seven counselors” sent Ezra so Jesus sent his 12 with the Holy Spirit inclusive in His title as the “seven spirit’s of God” to do the work of building the church. This bears out the fact that other ministers have their individual gifting but the apostle can do a universal work moving in all of the ascension gift offices as necessary.
Ezra’s journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took 4 months to complete. He travelled with much wealth, gold and silver for the work of God in the city. Likewise the apostles worked in the city with the gold and silver of the people laid at their feet for the financing of the work that was to be done by the direction of the Holy Spirit. The king told Ezra to “be careful to buy” with the money the bulls, rams, goats and sacrificial animals for the maintenance and continuation of the temple sacrifice in behalf of the kingdom of Persia that “wrath” would not fall upon Artaxerxes empire.
21 And I, [even] I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which [are] beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily, 22 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 without prescribing [how much]. 23 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? 24 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. 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 [are] beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know [them] not. 26 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 of the LORD which [is] in Jerusalem: 28 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.
In the commands of Artaxerxes to Ezra there is a mandate that the Levites not be taxed or levied tribute. Darius – a predecessor to Artaxerxes had a similar policy of extending special status to priests and temple workers. Artexerxes also gave Ezra broad civil authority throughout Judah to implement Moses’ law and set up courts for the punishment of those who might offend – even to the point of death. Artaxerxes also instructed Ezra to “teach” those who “do not know” – thus revealing the Persian origins of the synagogue system that Ezra ultimately raises up. As later passages reveal we will see that Ezra is more comfortable as a scribe and teacher than he is as an administrator.
Finally Ezra expresses thanks to God for the kindness of the king. He realizes what tremendous favor has come upon the descendants of David to be allowed to return and given such sweeping authority and resources to re-establish the kingdom. Ezra understands that this level of success and authority is not simply due to the king’s good graces but because of the hand of God upon the enterprise as the city of Jerusalem arises from the ruins of it’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar and once again is beautified by a restored temple.
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