The narrative in the Book of Ezra now changes to the first person as Ezra himself comes into the picture. Ezra, a scribe and teacher, from an impressive priestly lineage is called to help teach and train the Jews in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple. He is a role model we all should strive to imitate. Let’s dig in…
Ezra 7 – Ezra Arrives in Jerusalem
Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the high priest. 6 This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. 7 Some of the people of Israel, as well as some of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and Temple servants, traveled up to Jerusalem with him in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.
8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year. 9 He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.
Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra
11 King Artaxerxes had given a copy of the following letter to Ezra, the priest and scribe who studied and taught the commands and decrees of the Lord to Israel:
12 “From Artaxerxes, the king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven. Greetings.
13 “I decree that any of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including the priests and Levites, may volunteer to return to Jerusalem with you. 14 I and my council of seven hereby instruct you to conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem, based on your God’s law, which is in your hand. 15 We also commission you to take with you silver and gold, which we are freely presenting as an offering to the God of Israel who lives in Jerusalem.
16 “Furthermore, you are to take any silver and gold that you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the voluntary offerings of the people and the priests that are presented for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 These donations are to be used specifically for the purchase of bulls, rams, male lambs, and the appropriate grain offerings and liquid offerings, all of which will be offered on the altar of the Temple of your God in Jerusalem. 18 Any silver and gold that is left over may be used in whatever way you and your colleagues feel is the will of your God.
19 “But as for the cups we are entrusting to you for the service of the Temple of your God, deliver them all to the God of Jerusalem. 20 If you need anything else for your God’s Temple or for any similar needs, you may take it from the royal treasury.
21 “I, Artaxerxes the king, hereby send this decree to all the treasurers in the province west of the Euphrates River: ‘You are to give Ezra, the priest and teacher of the law of the God of heaven, whatever he requests of you. 22 You are to give him up to 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of olive oil, and an unlimited supply of salt. 23 Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons? 24 I also decree that no priest, Levite, singer, gatekeeper, Temple servant, or other worker in this Temple of God will be required to pay tribute, customs, or tolls of any kind.’
25 “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it. 26 Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.”
Ezra Praises the Lord
27 Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! 28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.Ezra 7 NLT
Ezra 8 – Ezra’s Journey to Jerusalem
Here is a list of the family leaders and the genealogies of those who came with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: Read the whole list here.
15 I assembled the exiles at the Ahava Canal, and we camped there for three days while I went over the lists of the people and the priests who had arrived. I found that not one Levite had volunteered to come along. 16 So I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders of the people. I also sent for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of discernment. 17 I sent them to Iddo, the leader of the Levites at Casiphia, to ask him and his relatives and the Temple servants to send us ministers for the Temple of God at Jerusalem.
18 Since the gracious hand of our God was on us, they sent us a man named Sherebiah, along with eighteen of his sons and brothers. He was a very astute man and a descendant of Mahli, who was a descendant of Levi son of Israel. 19 They also sent Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and twenty of his sons and brothers, 20 and 220 Temple servants. The Temple servants were assistants to the Levites—a group of Temple workers first instituted by King David and his officials. They were all listed by name.
21 And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” 23 So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
24 I appointed twelve leaders of the priests—Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten other priests— 25 to be in charge of transporting the silver, the gold, the gold bowls, and the other items that the king, his council, his officials, and all the people of Israel had presented for the Temple of God. 26 I weighed the treasure as I gave it to them and found the totals to be as follows:
24 tons of silver,
7,500 pounds of silver articles,
7,500 pounds of gold,
27 20 gold bowls, equal in value to 1,000 gold coins,
2 fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.
28 And I said to these priests, “You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the Lord. This silver and gold is a voluntary offering to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. 29 Guard these treasures well until you present them to the leading priests, the Levites, and the leaders of Israel, who will weigh them at the storerooms of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem.” 30 So the priests and the Levites accepted the task of transporting these treasures of silver and gold to the Temple of our God in Jerusalem.
31 We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19 and started off to Jerusalem. And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way. 32 So we arrived safely in Jerusalem, where we rested for three days.
33 On the fourth day after our arrival, the silver, gold, and other valuables were weighed at the Temple of our God and entrusted to Meremoth son of Uriah the priest and to Eleazar son of Phinehas, along with Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui—both of whom were Levites. 34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the total weight was officially recorded.
35 Then the exiles who had come out of captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel. They presented twelve bulls for all the people of Israel, as well as ninety-six rams and seventy-seven male lambs. They also offered twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was given as a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 The king’s decrees were delivered to his highest officers and the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, who then cooperated by supporting the people and the Temple of God.Ezra 8 NLT
The Importance of Studying God’s Word
57 years later, Ezra is called into service. Notice after the king’s letter, Ezra is telling the story himself. He was a scribe, an expert and a teacher in the Law of Moses, which are the first 5 Books of the Bible (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
His new job was to go to Jerusalem with more exiles to straighten out those who had gone before him. And we’ll see him do that in the last 2 chapters of the book.
In the first paragraph we have Ezra’s priestly heritage that traces all the way back to Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first High Priest. Via the king, God extended His favor to Ezra. The king gave him the freedom to return to Jerusalem. I’m sure, having been born in exile, Ezra dreamed of sometime teaching in the temple in Jerusalem. He was finally given that chance.
Something to keep in mind is that Ezra was in a pagan culture. Likewise, we are in a pagan culture today. People around us worship everything but God these days. They pick and choose what they like from different religions and rarely read the Bible.
Currently, only 10 percent of Americans report daily Bible reading. Before the pandemic, that number was at about 14 percent.Christianity Today
That’s the exact opposite of what we SHOULD be doing. The exact opposite of what God called us to do. How can we make disciples and spread the Good News all over the world if we are not in the Word everyday? We need to be in the WORD, not in the world!
Make it a PRIORITY to STUDY the Word DAILY!
In Restoration – A Study on the Book of Ezra, a Bible Plan in the free YouVersion Bible app (Which, by the way, makes it really easy to read the Bible daily!), the author comments…
Ezra made it a priority to study, obey, and teach the law of God. With God’s guidance, Ezra led the people spiritually. Artaxerxes saw this as an asset because he wanted to ensure peace throughout his empire. Israel would not need to rebel against Artaxerxes when guaranteed the ability to worship the Lord without fear. Ezra’s diligence and obedience opened the door to religious freedom for God’s people. Once again, God used a pagan king to fulfill His purposes for Israel. In turn, God received glory and honor from His people.Thomas Road Baptist Church
Though not all of us are called to be Bible teachers, we are all called to study the Bible, not just read it. Furthermore, that doesn’t include daily devotions. Those are like eating a cookie when you could have a full, balanced and nourishing meal.
The study continues…
The Bible is God’s infallible Word, written for our benefit. It contains everything we need to know about how to live obedient, productive lives. How faithful are you to study and apply God’s Word? The more you study Scripture, the more you’ll understand how to live to please the Lord. Then you will be prepared to lead and teach others. Study. Obey. Teach. How can you implement Ezra’s priorities in your own life?Thomas Road Baptist Church
I was going to add Psalm 119, but being the longest Psalm, with 176 verses, I opted not to. I may do a special series of Psalms in the future. Psalm 119 is a praise song to God’s Word. Here are just a few passages that stand out…
1 Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord.
2 Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
3 They do not compromise with evil,
and they walk only in his paths.
9 How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
10 I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
15 I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
18 Open my eyes to see
the wonderful truths in your instructions.
27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
35 Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
36 Give me an eagerness for your laws
rather than a love for money!
37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
and give me life through your word.
38 Reassure me of your promise,
made to those who fear you.
39 Help me abandon my shameful ways;
for your regulations are good.
40 I long to obey your commandments!
Renew my life with your goodness.
45 I will walk in freedom,
for I have devoted myself to your commandments.
46 I will speak to kings about your laws,
and I will not be ashamed.
49 Remember your promise to me;
it is my only hope.
50 Your promise revives me;
it comforts me in all my troubles.
64 O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth;
teach me your decrees.
65 You have done many good things for me, Lord,
just as you promised.
66 I believe in your commands;
now teach me good judgment and knowledge.
67 I used to wander off until you disciplined me;
but now I closely follow your word.
68 You are good and do only good;
teach me your decrees.
73 You made me; you created me.
Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feetExcerpts of Psalm 119 NLT
and a light for my path.
That last verse reminded of a classic worship song which I embedded at the bottom. An interesting fact on Psalm 119 is the many ways to describe God’s word:
- The Law
- The Way
- Your Precepts
- The Truth
- Your Commandments
- Your Judgments
- Your Word
The whole idea behind this blog and podcast is to make it easy for people who were not raised studying, or ever encouraged to read, the Bible. (Like I wasn’t). Growing up Catholic, I felt deprived of God’s Word once I started attending Bible studies in church.
I don’t know why we even had that huge King James Bible in the house. It just gathered dust.
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a personal Relationship with YOU!