Genealogy of Those Who Returned with Ezra
8 These are the heads of their fathers' houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
Ezra Sends for Levites
I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
Fasting and Prayer for Protection
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Priests to Guard Offerings
Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. And I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers' houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the LORD.” So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.
Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.
At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. They also delivered the king's commissions to the king's satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.
Ezra 8 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Ezra and the people traveled over 900 miles on foot. Seriously, just consider that statement alone! This journey took them through many types of climate and terrain all of which were at points dangerous and difficult. It would have taken them over 4 months.
Throughout their journey, they prayed. They prayed for God’s protection. They prayed for God’s favor. They prayed for the mission set before them.
As the details read in this chapter, at one point the progress of simply arriving in Jerusalem was halted. Ezra stopped in order to recruit Levites who would be instrumental in the spiritual aspect of their services once there. They were different than priests for they were the ones who carried out various aspects and duties of their worship.
Within his large group of people traveling, he found not one. God had called these men to special service within His Temple, but few were willing to volunteer when their services were needed. There’s potential that these Levites had become too comfortable in their lives in Babylon. There’s also a possibility they simply did not want to come under the authority of the priests.
Whatever the case, Ezra knew that in order to accomplish what was set before him he needed Levites. For some leaders this is where the frustration kicks in and honestly, just stepping back and giving up could happen. Not so with Ezra. He sent a team back to recruit what was needed. This initial failure of their response didn’t sway him as he kept appealing to them for help.
Here’s the point – prayer is of utmost importance in any venture or undertaking we may be on. But humble leadership and manpower is needed as well. People need to step to the plate in order to serve within any Body.
The absolute truth is each of us have been given gifts, equipped to serve Jesus to advance His Kingdom. We have all been given abilities in order to contribute to Kingdom work. Don’t wait to be asked to serve, volunteer. Help the ministry within the Body you attend go forward. Look for opportunities to be an important player in the mission.
Don’t hinder God’s work by holding back your gifts and abilities. God needs you. Your church needs you. And yes, the very people you’ve been called to need you. Step up to the plate.
Ezra 8 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Consider, as Hank has written, that this trek consisted of over 900 miles on foot. But also consider that there would have been 1754 men that Ezra had to lead, and with women and children, that number was probably more like 7000 people!
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” 23 So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.Ezra 8:21-23 NASB
Ezra put more concern on the glory of God being proclaimed than he did with his own personal safety. This is such an impactful thought for me today. Traveling over 900 miles on foot was no easy task. It would have been assumed that at some point the group would have been confronted by thieves who robbed for survival. Messengers of that day traveled with caravans to increase their safety and protection.
Ezra could have easily requested for the king’s troops to escort him on this long journey, however, it would have compromised his claim to the king about the power and sovereignty of his Lord. The king would have naturally thought, “If you confidently serve this all-powerful God, then why would you need my soldiers?”
So, what did Ezra do? He led the people into intense fasting and prayer for God’s protection. Take note, the protection was attached to a huge leap of faith. It was not a request based on comfort or laziness. It was a request that God’s name would be made famous among the king and his royal court. This is what Ezra literally put his life on the line for. His concern was with God’s glory and in order to accomplish this, he intentionally placed himself in a situation where he was in great trouble if God didn’t show up.
Of course, we read that God DID show up. I wonder, today, what this looks like for us? What does this look like for you? Are we consistent with what we say and how we live? This comes down to a Holy Spirit issue. I don’t think this application can be universally applied to all scenarios we encounter, but it is worth considering that maybe we are selling God short because we love to control things?
Ezra gave up control and sought God intensely so that His name would become famous. Seek the Spirit in this matter. Pray and ask for conviction and guidance on how you personally are trying to control a situation where God’s glory might be compromised. Pray for increased faith and trust with these situations.