Daily Devotion Text

June 10, 2020

Ezra7- 2020-06-10

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Commentary: 

EZRA 7

7:1–6 […] As with previous lists (cf. Ezra 2), the paramount concern is to establish continuity with the past—extending in this case back to Aaron the chief or first priest of Moses’s time. Irrespective of its provenance, the length of the genealogy requires the narrative to resume by clarifying that it was “this Ezra” (7:6a) who came back from Babylon. Whatever else a “scribe” may be equipped and called upon to do (7:12, 21), the emphasis here in the description of Ezra is on his proficiency in the “Torah of Moses, which YHWH, the God of Israel, had given.” While the text notes that Artaxerxes too is generous (“giving all for which Ezra asked”), it is at pains to clarify that the gift of Persian royal favor and provision derives ultimately from the “hand of YHWH his God which was upon him [i.e., Ezra].”

7:7–10 […] Ezra joins a relatively small group of texts in the Hebrew Bible where the verb “to seek” is governed by the word of God (Isa 34:16). In 1 Chr 28:8, David charges the leaders of Israel to not merely “observe” but also “seek” the commandments of YHWH your God “that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.” The notion that “seeking” then involves more than merely obedience to, but rather deep engagement with, the written word is reinforced by the instructive references found in Ps 119. […] Ezra’s commitment to a searching enquiry of Torah is accompanied by a conviction (Ezra 7:10) regarding his own practical application of it (“to do” it) and then finally to inculcate this same passion and process within the community through education (“to teach” the statutes and ordinances in Israel). […]

7:11–20 […] As conventional as both phrases are for the Persian crown, that the “king of kings” acknowledges the “God of heaven” must have been a significant encouragement for a community of returnees attempting to reconcile the unlimited sovereignty of YHWH with the undeniable precariousness of their position. […]

7:21–24 That the royal check is not entirely blank and that even Persian largesse has its limits is made clear by what appears to be a separate decree addressed now to provincial treasurers. […] 7:23 confirms that like Darius (Ezra 6) and Cyrus before him, Artaxerxes’s desire to support the Jewish cult in Yehud (“let it be done with zeal”) stems from a calculated and pragmatic piety that seeks to cultivate loyalty among the elite of the religious establishment and appease the gods whose “wrath” he fears might otherwise destroy the empire. […]

7:25–26 […] That Ezra is equipped to proceed according to the “wisdom of your God, which is in your hand” suggests an equation of “wisdom” with “the law of your God,” which the letter has already specified is also “in your [i.e., Ezra’s] hand” (7:14). […] That Ezra’s jurisdiction is limited to the Jewish community/ies within the province is suggested by the mention of “all the people . . . who know the laws of your God” (7:25), but the specification of comparable punishments, listed here in descending order of severity, for the violation of this law and “the law of the king” (7:26), is an indication of both the significance of Ezra’s authority and the importance of his role in educating the local communities (7:25: “you shall teach”).

7:27–28 The first words of Ezra himself encountered in the book that bears his name offer a blessing of YHWH of the sort found in the Psalms (e.g., 28:6; 31:21) and indeed elsewhere on the lips of Israel’s past leaders (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:15). Like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr 20:6 (after his own reformation efforts), Ezra also invokes the “God of our fathers” (Ezra 7:27; elsewhere only Deut 26:7) and recognizes the “hand” of God (Ezra 7:28; cf. 7:6, 9) as the stimulus for his strengthened resolve and invitation to others to “go up” (cf. 7:9) with him to Jerusalem. The specific catalyst for Ezra’s blessing is, first, his conviction that the same God who “turned the heart” of Darius to complete the temple in Jerusalem (6:22), also “placed in the heart” of Artaxerxes the impulse to glorify/beautify it. The second stimulus is his belief that the same “loving-kindness” of God that was celebrated at the completion of the altar in the early days of the return (3:11) has persuaded the Persian king to allow Ezra to play his part in the further restoration of worship in Jerusalem. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 21-23.

Bible Text:

Ezra 7:1-10

1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra 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 chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.

7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 7:6-10

  • What do we know of Ezra?
  • What is the relationship between the kind of person Ezra was, as described in this passage, and God’s hand being upon him?

Ezra 7:10

  • What did Ezra set his heart to do?
  • What is the relationship between studying, doing, and teaching the Law of the LORD?
  • How am I doing in my own study of, obedience to, and credibility as a teacher of God’s word?

Prayer 

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