Ezra 10 – “Ezra’s Reformation”

200236712-001Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Ezra gathers the people in Jerusalem. He castigates them about their foreign wives, and they agree to change their ways. The chapter ends with a long list of people who abandoned their foreign wives.

II. Photo
Ezra gathers the entire nation in Jerusalem: “… All the people sat in the square of the House of God, trembling on account of the event and because of the rains.” (v. 9)

III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel of the family of Elam spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God by bringing into our homes foreign women from the peoples of the land; but there is still hope for Israel despite this. Now then, let us make a covenant with our God to expel all these women and those who have been born to them, in accordance with the bidding of the LORD and of all who are concerned over the commandment of our God, and let the Teaching be obeyed.
vv. 7-8: Then a proclamation was issued in Judah and Jerusalem that all who had returned from the exile should assemble in Jerusalem, and that anyone who did not come in three days would, by decision of the officers and elders, have his property confiscated and himself excluded from the congregation of the returning exiles.

IV. Outline
1-4. A penitent leader confesses his sins
5-8. Ezra commands the entire nation to assemble in Jerusalem
9-11. Ezra castigates the people
12-17. The people confess their guilt and vow to desist from their foreign wives
18-44. A list of those who abandoned their foreign wives

V. Comment
Like the chapter before it, chapter 10 deals with the issue of marrying foreign wives. Besides for pointing out that only the men are castigated (but the women are also scorned in Neh. 13:25), Collins writes: “The problem of intermarriage is based on two passages in Deuteronomy. Chapter 7 orders the Israelites to destroy utterly the seven nations who inhabited the land before them: Hittites, Girgashites, Ammonites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivvites, and Jebusites. It adds: ‘Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods.’ In this case idolatry seems to be the issue, and the prohibition applies equally whether the amrriage iw with foreign men or foreign women. Deuteronomy 23:3-8 declares categorically: ‘No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.’ But the passage continues in 23:7-8: ‘You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land. The children of the third generation that are born to them may be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.’ It is apparent that Ezra’s prohibition of intermarriage is broader than either of these, because it includes the Egyptians. The point, then, is not just strict observance of the law, but bespeaks a more extreme fear of contact with outsiders. Moreover, Ezra provides a new rationale for the prohibition. The danger is not just that those who worship other gods might lead the Israelites into idolatry, but that the ‘holy seed’ would be defiled by the union itself. This is quite a novel idea in the Hebrew Bible, and presupposes a greater gulf between Jew and Gentile than anything we have seen hitherto. This idea is rooted in the self-identity of the exilic community as a pure and holy remnant, and its determination to keep that character pristine.” (435)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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Ezra 9 – “Ezra’s Prayer Concerning Intermarriage”

holding-hands1Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Ezra is informed about the prevalence of Jewish intermarriage. He laments the current state of affairs, confesses the people’s sins to God, and begs Him for mercy.

II. Photo
Ezra is informed about the amorous relationships of certain Jews and Gentiles: “They have taken [foreign] daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy seed has become intermingled with the peoples of the land…” (v. 2)

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-2:  When this was over, the officers approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the land whose abhorrent practices are like those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. They have taken their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy seed has become intermingled with the peoples of the land; and it is the officers and prefects who have taken the lead in this trespass.”
vv. 10-12: Now, what can we say in the face of this, O our God, for we have forsaken Your commandments, which You gave us through Your servants the prophets when You said, ‘The land that you are about to possess is a land unclean through the uncleanness of the peoples of the land, through their abhorrent practices with which they, in their impurity, have filled it from one end to the other. Now then, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or let their daughters marry your sons; do nothing for their well-being or advantage, then you will be strong and enjoy the bounty of the land and bequeath it to your children forever.’

IV. Outline
1-2. Ezra is told about Jewish intermarriage
3-15. Ezra confesses the sin to God and begs for mercy

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Photo taken from http://nimis540.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/holding-hands1.jpg

Ezra 8 – “Ezra Arrives in Jerusalem”

resizeHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Ezra lists the families that travel with him to Jerusalem. The people arrive safely, deliver the king’s orders, and offer sacrifices at the Temple.

II. Photo
Ezra describes his journey: “We set out for Jerusalem from the Ahava River on the twelfth of the first month. We enjoyed the care of our God, who saved us from enemy ambush on the journey.” (v. 31)

III. Important Verses
v. 1: These are the chiefs of the clans and the register of the genealogy of those who came up with me from Babylon in the reign of King Artaxerxes:
vv. 21-23: I proclaimed a fast there by the Ahava River to afflict ourselves before our God to beseech Him for a smooth journey for us and for our children and for all our possessions; for I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us against any enemy on the way, since we had told the king, “The benevolent care of our God is for all who seek Him, while His fierce anger is against all who forsake Him.” So we fasted and besought our God for this, and He responded to our plea.
vv. 31-32: We set out for Jerusalem from the Ahava River on the twelfth of the first month. We enjoyed the care of our God, who saved us from enemy ambush on the journey. We arrived in Jerusalem and stayed there three days.
vv. 35-36: The returning exiles who arrived from captivity made burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs and twelve he-goats as a purification offering, all this a burnt offering to the LORD. They handed the royal orders to the king’s satraps and the governors of the province of Beyond the River who gave support to the people and the House of God.

IV. Outline
1-14. The group that traveled with Ezra is enumerated
15-20. Ezra sends for a group of Levites to join
21-23. Ezra relies on God, and not the king, for protection
24-30. The valuables are assigned to guardians
31-32. The journey is successful
33-34. The valuables are weighed, and no larceny was committed
35. The returnees offer sacrifices
36. The returnees establish their control

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
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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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Ezra 6 – “The Temple is Rebuilt”

3ramsHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
King Darius enthusiastically supports the Temple’s construction. The Temple is completed, and the Jews celebrate joyously. They then observe the holiday of Passover by bringing offerings.

II. Photo
The offerings are described: “And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams…” (v. 17)

III. Important Verses
vv. 9-10: They are to be given daily, without fail, whatever they need of young bulls, rams, or lambs as burnt offerings for the God of Heaven, and wheat, salt, wine, and oil, at the order of the priests in Jerusalem, so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of Heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.
v. 11-12: I also issue an order that whoever alters this decree shall have a beam removed from his house, and he shall be impaled on it and his house confiscated. And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.
vv. 14-16: So the elders of the Jews progressed in the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia. The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.
v. 22: They joyfully celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days, for the LORD had given them cause for joy by inclining the heart of the Assyrian king toward them so as to give them support in the work of the House of God, the God of Israel.

IV. Outline
1-12. Darius supports the Temple’s construction wholeheartedly
13-15. The Temple is completed in the sixth year of King Darius
16-17. The Temple is dedicated with great joy and abundant sacrifices
18. Priests and Levites are appointed
19-22. Passover is celebrated with great joy

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
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Ezra 5 – “Political Negotiations”

cutstone_sanfranciscoHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The prophets Haggai and Zecharia speak to the returnees, and the Temple’s construction begins. When the governor questions the Jews about the legality of the operation, they tell him to speak to King Darius.

II. Photo
The governor describes the building process: “Be it known to the king, that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being rebuilt of hewn stone…” (v. 8 )

III. Important Verses
v. 2: Thereupon Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak began rebuilding the House of God in Jerusalem, with the full support of the prophets of God.
vv. 7-8: They sent a message to him and this is what was written in it: “To King Darius, greetings, and so forth. Be it known to the king, that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being rebuilt of hewn stone, and wood is being laid in the walls. The work is being done with dispatch and is going well.
vv. 11-13: This is what they answered us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth; we are rebuilding the house that was originally built many years ago; a great king of Israel built it and completed it. But because our fathers angered the God of Heaven, He handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who demolished this house and exiled the people to Babylon. But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus issued an order to rebuild this House of God.

IV. Outline
1-2. The Jews begin to rebuild the Temple
3-17. The governor tells King Darius their plans

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Photo taken from http://www.dukeconcrete.com/2006images/cutstone_sanfrancisco.jpg

Ezra 4 – “Local Opposition”

bribe1Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
An unidentified group of locals offer their help in building the Temple. The returnees reject their invitation, and the affronted party convince King Artaxerxes to suspend the construction of Jerusalem’s walls.

II. Photo
A group of locals plan to sabotage the construction: “They bribed ministers in order to thwart their plans all the years of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.” (v. 5)

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-5: When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the chiefs of the clans and said to them, “Let us build with you, since we too worship your God, having offered sacrifices to Him since the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.” Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the chiefs of the clans of Israel answered them, “It is not for you and us to build a House to our God, but we alone will build it to the LORD God of Israel, in accord with the charge that the king, King Cyrus of Persia, laid upon us.”
vv. 12-15: be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have reached Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are completing the walls and repairing the foundation. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, they will not pay tribute, poll-tax, or land-tax, and in the end it will harm the kingdom. Now since we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not right that we should see the king dishonored, we have written to advise the king [of this] so that you may search the records of your fathers and find in the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and states. Sedition has been rife in it from early times; on that account this city was destroyed.

IV. Outline
1-5. The immigrant leaders reject the offer of the “adversaries of Judah” to help build the Temple
6-16. The adversaries encourage King Artaxerxes to halt the building of Jerusalem’s wall
17-22. The king issues an order to halt the construction
23-24. The adversaries suspend the construction

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Photo taken from http://www.orpn.org/bribe1.jpg