Ezra 7 – “Ezra is Appointed Governor of Judea”

silver_coins_jarHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
King Artaxerxes appoints Ezra as the governor of Judea. Ezra is ordered to collect taxes, offer sacrifices, institute the law, and appoint judges over the people.

II. Photo

King Artaxerxes gives Ezra the power to tax: “I, King Artaxerxes, for my part, hereby issue an order to all the treasurers in the province of Beyond the River that whatever request Ezra the priest, scholar in the law of the God of Heaven, makes of you is to be fulfilled with dispatch up to the sum of one hundred talents of silver…” (vv. 21-22)
III. Important Verses
vv. 1-6: After these events, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah son of Azariah son of Hilkiahson of Shallum son of Zadok son of Ahitubson of Amariah son of Azariah son of Meraiothson of Zerahiah son of Uzzi son of Bukkison of Abishua son of Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the chief priest — that Ezra came up from Babylon, a scribe expert in the Teaching of Moses which the LORD God of Israel had given, whose request the king had granted in its entirety, thanks to the benevolence of the LORD toward him.
v. 10: For Ezra had dedicated himself to study the Teaching of the LORD so as to observe it, and to teach laws and rules to Israel.

IV. Outline
1-6. Ezra’s lineage
7-10. Ezra’s pilgrimage, piety, and education
11-26. King Artaxerxes appoints Ezra in charge of the Temple and all of Judea
27-28. Ezra praises God

V. Comment
Chapter 7 introduces Ezra as the newly appointed governor of Judea. Collins contextualizes Ezra’s position in history: “In Ezra 7:1 the narrative jumps back to the reign of Artaxerxes. Ezra, we are told, went up from Babylon to Jerusalem in the seventh year of that king. The date is ambiguous. There were three Persian kings named Artaxerxes: Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.E.), Artaxerxes II (405/404-359/358), and Artaxerxes III (359/358-338). Most scholars assume that the reference in Ezra is to Artaxerxes I. The mission of Nehemiah can be dated with confidence to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I (445), and the biblical record places Ezra before Nehemiah. Nonetheless, there are problems with this dating, and a significant minority of scholars believes that Nehemiah came first, and that Ezra was commissioned by Artaxerxes II in 398. If Ezra came first, then Nehemiah came a mere thirteen years later… Yet [Nehemiah] encountered many of the same problems that had occupied Ezra, notably the problem of intermarriage with the neighboring peoples. We should have to assume, then, that Ezra’s reforms were short-lived, and, moreover, that he had failed to ensure the security of Jerusalem by restoring the city walls. As we shall see, however, it is likely that his reforms were short-lived… The evidence is not conclusive, but the biblical order of Ezra and Nehemiah remains the more probable.” (431-432)

Collins proceeds to paint Ezra’s role of “teacher of the law” as a conventional one: “Ezra is introduced as ‘a scribe skilled in the law of Moses’ (Ezra 7:6). He was also a priest, descending from Zadok and Aaron (7:1-6). He is sent to Jerusalem by the Persian king ‘to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of you God, which is in your hand,’ and also to convey an offering of silver and gold to the temple of [the Lord]. This mission makes good sense in light of general Persian policy. The Persian king Darius I spoke often in his inscriptions of his laws and his ‘ordinance of good relations.’ He was widely revered as a legislator in antiquity, The Persians, however, did not impose uniform laws on all their subjects. Rather, their policy was to support local priests and cults, and thereby win their loyalty and that of the local populations. The Persian kings had a strong interest in codifying the laws of the various subject peoples in their empire. People might live by their own laws, but it should be clear what those laws were. We know that Darius I appointed a commission of priests and scribes to codify the laws of Egypt. The Persian authorities took a similar interest in Jewish laws… An example of Persian interest in the regulation of Jewish cult has survived in the form of the so-called Passover Papyrus, from 419 B.C.E., which is part of an archive of Amaraic papyri relating to a Jewish community at Elephantine in southern Egypt. This papyrus gives instructions for the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, conveyed to the satrap, by authority of Darius II.” (432) For the “Passover Letter,” see Porten’s translation in Context of Scripture 3.46.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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