("the helper," as Nehemiah means "the comforter".)
1. A "ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:11-12); "a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and of His statutes to Israel"; "a scribe of the law of the God of heaven"; "priest"; a worthy descendant of Hilkiah the priest under Josiah, who "found the book of the law in the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 34:14-15); son or descendant of Seraiah (not the high priest. Seraiah, Ezra 7:1). See Ezra 7-10; also Nehemiah 8; Nehemiah 12:26. Resided in Babylon under Artaxerxes Longimanus. His qualification for his work was "he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." By the king's leave, in the seventh year of his reign, he took to Jerusalem 1,754 persons, including Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, porters, and Nethinim (Ezra 7:7; Ezra 8).
The journey occupied four months. They brought free will offerings, gold, silver, and vessels, from the king and his counselors, as well as from the Jews abroad. Artaxerxes empowered him also to draw upon the royal treasurers beyond the river for further supplies if necessary; also the decree added. "thou Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not." He committed for safety the charge of the gold and silver to 12 priests and 12 Levites (Ezra 8:24 translated "I separated 12 of the chief priests in addition to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them": compare Ezra 8:18-19). These delivered them up "to the chief of the priests, Levites. and fathers at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord."
His Guard was God, sought and found at the river Ahava, by fasting and prayer, that He might give "a right way for us, and for our little ones. and for all our substance" (Ezra 8:21). So jealous was he for the honor of God that he declares, "I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers ... to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken unto the king, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him, but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him." At the same time he uses all worldly prudence and firmness, while faith in God was his main stay. His great aim, as Malachi, his and Nehemiah's helper, expresses it, was "Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." In six months after his arrival he effected the purification of the holy nation from foreign admixture by causing 17 priests, 10 Levites, and 86 of other tribes, to put away alien wives.
The largeness of the number proves the wide extent of the evil, and the depth of spiritual earnestness which prompted such a severe sacrifice. Ezra's book closes abruptly here, as probably the odium connected with this self denying ordinance made him judge it expedient to withdraw to Babylon for the present. The relapse of the Jews into their former disorders, such as Nehemiah describes, could not have occurred had Ezra been there continually. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra "the priest, the scribe," 13 years later reappears in charge of the spiritual interests of the people, as Nehemiah, the tirshatha or governor, of their political interests, the two acting in harmonious cooperation (Nehemiah 12:26). He probably did not return with Nehemiah, but a little later, to Jerusalem; for he is not mentioned until after the completion of the wall. Ezra read and interpreted Moses' law to the people during the eight days of the feast of tabernacles, prayed, and assisted at the dedication of the wall.
As Ezra is not mentioned after Nehemiah's departure for Babylon in Artaxerxes' 32nd year, and the Jews relapsed into irregularity during Nehemiah's absence (Nehemiah 13), it is likely Ezra died or returned to Babylon shortly after Nehemiah's departure. Benjamin of Tudela says that Ezra died at Nehar-Samorah on the lower Tigris on the Persian frontier, when going from Jerusalem to Artaxerxes, and that his sepulchre was there. The institution of the great synagogue is attributed to him, and he certainly left the pattern of synagogue worship, with its "pulpit" and reading and expounding the law.
He and Malachi probably settled the inspired canon of Scripture, comprising the three, "the law, the prophets, and the hagiographa"; the division of verses, the vowel pointings, and the keri or margin readings, and the Chaldee characters instead of the old Hebrew or Samaritan, are also attributed to him. He probably compiled Chronicles. frontCHRONICLES.) Psalm 119, of which the theme throughout is the law or word of God, as the palladium of Israel's national and individual salvation, is in its present form probably the production of Ezra, "the priest, and ready scribe in the law of Moses." The features of the psalm suit the Jews' position on their return from Babylon. Israel is the speaker throughout whom the psalmist represents, and whose calling it was to testify for the word of truth before the pagan world powers (compare Psalm 119:23-46).
2. Nehemiah 12:2. One of the priests who returned with Zerubbabel.
3. A man of Judah (1 Chronicles 4:17).
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