v1 This is the list of the families and the chief men in the families. They came with me from Babylonia during the rule of King Artaxerxes.
v2 Gershom from the *descendants of Phinehas,
Daniel from the *descendants of Ithamar,
From the *descendants of David, Hattush,
v3 from the *descendants of Shecaniah.
Zechariah from the *descendants of Parosh.
There were 150 men from his family with him.
v4 Eliehoenai, who was the son of Zerahiah, from the *descendants of Pahath-Moab.
There were 200 men with him.
v5 Shecaniah, who was the son of Jahaziel, from the *descendants of Zattu.
There were 300 men with him.
v6 Ebed, who was the son of Jonathan, from the *descendants of Adin.
There were 50 men with him.
v7 Jeshaiah, who was the son of Athaliah, from the *descendants of Elam.
There were 70 men with him.
v8 Zebadiah, who was the son of Michael, from the *descendants of Shephatiah.
There were 80 men with him.
v9 Obadiah, who was the son of Jehiel, from the *descendants of Joab.
There were 218 men with him.
v10 Shelomith, who was the son of Josiphiah, from the *descendants of Bani.
There were 160 men with him.
v11 Zechariah, who was the son of Bebai, from the *descendants of Bebai.
There were 28 men with him.
v12 Johanan, who was the son of Hakkatan, from the *descendants of Azgad.
There were 110 men with him
v13 Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah who were the last of the *descendants of Adonikam.
There were 60 men with them.
v14 Uthai and Zaccur who were the *descendants of Bigvai.
There were 70 men with them.
Verses 1-14 In chapter 7 we read about the journey that Ezra made to Judah with some of the *people of Israel. Ezra had found some of the chief men of Israel to go with him (Ezra 7:28). These chief men brought members of their families with them. And Ezra recorded the names of these men and the number of family members who came with them. Many of them were relatives of the first *Jews to return from the *exile almost 80 years earlier (Ezra 2:3-65). We do not know much about these men and their families, but they were important to God. God knew that they were leaving their homes in Babylonia. In Babylonia, they probably had comfortable lives and perhaps some of them were wealthy. God knew that they were going on a long journey. They were going to live in a place that, probably, they had never seen before. There they would have to work hard to make God’s people, the *Jews, into a proper nation again. They had made this brave decision because they wanted to serve God. So they wanted to live in the new nation that he was establishing.
v15 I gathered them together at the river that flows to Ahava. We stayed there in tents for three days. I checked the people and the priests but I did not find any *Levites there. v16 So I asked the leaders to come to me. The leaders were Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam. I also asked Joiarib and Elnathan to come to me. They were wise men. v17 I sent these men to Iddo who was the leader in the place called Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and to his companions in Casiphia who were *temple servants. I asked Iddo and his companions to send us men to serve in the house of our God.
Verses 15-17 After the group had left Babylonia they stopped to rest by a river. Ezra took the opportunity to check the people who were travelling with him. Then he discovered that there were no *Levites in the group. Ezra would need *Levites to help him when they arrived at Jerusalem. The *Levites had an important job. They helped their relatives the priests in the work at the *temple.
Ezra was trusting God to help him with the task that he would have to do in Jerusalem. And Ezra realised that he had to do something about this problem. So Ezra chose some of the leaders and wise men from the group. He sent them to a place called Casiphia. The families of many people who used to work in the *temple were living there. That is why Ezra sent these men there. They asked the leader of the *Jews in Casiphia to send them some men to join the group of travellers. Ezra wanted more men to serve in the *temple when they arrived in Jerusalem.
Those *Levites would have the opportunity to serve God in a special way. But it would not be easy for them. They had to leave their homes in order to travel to an unfamiliar country. Sometimes today, God may ask us to do similar things. And sometimes we may not even consider ourselves capable to do his work. But when our lives are difficult, we can always trust God. God will provide the skills that we need to do his work.
v18 Because God was helping us, they brought to us Sherebiah and his sons and brothers. There were a total of 18 men. Sherebiah was a capable man who was a *descendant of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. v19 They also brought Hashabiah, Jeshaiah, who was a *descendant of Merari, and Jeshaiah’s brothers and their sons. There were a total of 20 men. v20 They also brought 220 of the men who served in the *temple. David and his officials had established these *temple servants to assist the *Levites. The names of all these men were in the registers.
Verses 18-20 Ezra was right to trust God and, again, God helped him. The *Jews at Casiphia found some good men who were willing to go to Judah. They sent several *Levites to Ezra. They even sent many other men who would help in the work at the *temple.
v21 There, by the river Ahava, I declared that we would not eat food. We would be humble in order to serve our God. Then we would ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. v22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the journey. We had said to the king, ‘Our God looks after everyone who trusts him. But he is very angry with everyone who refuses to trust him.’ v23 So we did not eat food. We asked God for his help in this matter, and he heard our prayer.
Verses 21-23 Before they left their camp by the river the people prayed. Ezra told them not to eat food. Sometimes people do not eat food for a short time in order to be humble.
Ezra knew that it was important to pray to God about the long journey ahead of them. They needed God to protect them. And they needed his protection for the precious things that they were carrying (Ezra 7:15-16; 7:22; 8:25-27). Ezra had not asked the king for soldiers to go with them to protect them. He had told the king about God’s care for the people who love him.
And, again, God helped Ezra. He protected them on the journey although they did not have any soldiers with them. That was how God answered Ezra’s prayer.
(A few years later Nehemiah led another group of *Jews back to Judah. The king did send soldiers with Nehemiah on that journey. Nehemiah believed that God helped him in that way. God made the king give Nehemiah everything that he asked for. See Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 2:18.)
v24 Then I chose 12 of the leaders of the priests, and Sherebiah and Hashabiah and 10 members of their families. v25 I weighed the silver and the gold and the objects. Then I handed them to these men. These things included the gifts that the king, his advisers and his officials had given. And these things also included the gifts from all the *people of Israel who were present there. These gifts were for the house of our God. v26 I weighed and I handed to them 22 tons of silver. I also handed to them silver objects that weighed 3.4 tons and 3.4 tons of gold. v27 There were also 20 gold bowls that weighed 8.5 kilos (19 pounds). And there were 2 shining *bronze objects. These were as precious as gold. v28 And I said to these men, ‘You are holy for the *LORD. These objects are also holy. The gold and the silver are a special gift to the *LORD, the God of our *ancestors. v29 Guard these things with care until you weigh them again in the rooms of the house of the *LORD in Jerusalem. The chief priests and the *Levites and the heads of the families of Israel will watch you do that.’ v30 So the priests and the *Levites took the silver and gold and holy objects that I had weighed. They had to take these things to the house of our God in Jerusalem.
Verses 24-30 The king and his officials had given many precious gifts for the *temple of God in Jerusalem. These things were gold, silver and *bronze objects. People used to polish *bronze well, and they considered it to be precious too. Ezra chose some of the leaders to look after these things on the journey. This was a very important task. Ezra would have chosen men whom he could trust. And these men did what Ezra asked them to do.
Ezra weighed all the objects before they left their camp by the river. Then he could be sure that nobody would steal these precious things.
We must be very careful with the money and other gifts that people give for the work of God. We must find people whom we can trust to look after these things. And we too must be people whom other people can trust. Other people should be able to trust us with anything, not just God’s money.
Ezra wrote this part of the book himself. In the book, he refers to Israel. There was not actually a nation called Israel at the time. But that was God’s name for his special people, the *Jews. And God had promised to Abraham that he would make the *Jews into a great nation (Genesis 22:17-18; 26:1-5).
v31 We left the river Ahava on the 12th day of the first month to go to Jerusalem. Our God looked after us. He protected us from enemies on the way. And he protected us from anyone who might attack us.v32 Then we arrived in Jerusalem and we stayed there for three days. v33 On the 4th day we went to the house of our God. There we weighed the silver and gold and the holy objects. We handed them to Meremoth the priest (the son of Uriah). Eleazar (the son of Phinehas) was with Meremoth. Jozabad (the son of Jeshua) and Noadiah (the son of Binnui) were also there. They were *Levites. v34 We counted and weighed everything. And we recorded the weight of everything at that time.
v35 Then the people who had returned from the *exile burned *sacrifices to the God of Israel. They gave 12 *bulls for all the *Israelites, 96 male sheep and 77 young sheep. Also they gave 12 male goats as a *sacrifice because of *sin. They burned all these animals as a *sacrifice to the *LORD.
v36 The people also delivered the king’s commands to the local royal officials. And the people delivered the king’s commands to the rulers of the district beyond the Euphrates river. These officials and rulers then helped the people and the house of God.
Verses 31-36 God answered the prayer of Ezra and his companions. They travelled for almost 4 more months to get to Jerusalem. There might have been many thieves on the way, but God protected them. God kept them safe until they arrived in Jerusalem with all the precious gifts.
The travellers rested for three days and then they went to the *temple. They brought the precious objects with them and they weighed them at the *temple. Everything was safe. They did not lose anything on the journey nor did anyone steal anything. So they gave *sacrifices to God. They wanted to thank God because he had kept them and the precious objects safe on the long journey. They also wanted to ask God to forgive them for their *sins.
The travellers also delivered the king’s letter (Ezra 7:21-24) to the officials and rulers in the district. Then those officials and rulers obeyed the king’s command. They helped the people and the work at the *temple.
God had helped Ezra and his companions on their journey. The first part of Ezra’s task had been successful. The next part of Ezra’s task was to teach God’s law to the *Israelites.