Thus far in the book of Ezra, we have seen the return of the Jews to the land and the rebuilding of their Temple. This was no easy task as they faced opposition and for a time were forced to leave off the work. But finally under the prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were able to return and complete the work. The Temple was completed. The Jews were once again worshiping the Lord in His Temple.

The phrase "after these things" in Ezra 7:1 moves us forward in time to the year 458 B.C. This was almost 60 years after the events of the previous chapter. The Temple had long since been rebuilt. The sacrifices had long since been underway. All of the events in the book of Esther had taken place.

First Return under Zerubbabel

Events of the book of Esther

Second Return under Ezra

Third Return under Nehemiah

Ezra 1-6

Book of Esther

Ezra 7-10

Book of Nehemiah

537-516 B.C.

473 B.C.

458-457 B.C.

537 B.C.

Because of this, chapter seven might seem to be anticlimactic - a bit like the cavalry that arrives only after the battle has been completed. After all, the work has been completed. The opposition has been overcome. The sacrifices have been re-instituted. What more is there to do? But I want to suggest that, rather than being anticlimactic, Ezra’s ministry marks a new page in the spiritual life of Israel.

There is a principle here. It is the principle of generational spirituality. It means that each generation is responsible for developing its own spiritual relationship with the Lord. I can not rest upon the spirituality of my parents. And my children cannot rest on my spirituality. To be effective, the faith of our fathers must become my faith as well.

This does not mean that we can therefore neglect the spiritual upbringing of our children. Far from it! It means that we must bring our children up, not only to worship the God which we worship, but to do so in a way that is fresh and exciting and real and relevant to them. I may experience a generation gap, but such a gap dare not enter into the spiritual lives of my children.


Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, there went up Ezra 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. (Ezra 7:1-5).

In a day when many of the priests had been disqualified because they could not trace their family line directly back to Aaron, there was one man who was an exception to the rule. His name is Ezra.

His heritage not only goes back to Aaron, it also goes through Zadok, the man who Solomon appointed to be the new high priest after the previous high priest had supported the rebellion of Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7-8; 2:35). We learn in Ezekiel 44:15-16 that the descendants of Zadok remained faithful to their charge when the rest of the nation was turning away to idolatry. They had a heritage of faithful service to the Lord.

Are you leaving a godly heritage for your children? My parents did that for me. There were several means by which they did it.

As we were raising our daughter, we also had some similar family traditions. There were regular Bible Studies in our home. There was the memorization of Scriptures. And there was the regular teaching of the doctrines of the faith.

Now that I am a grandparent, I have come to find a renewed consciousness about such a family heritage. It involves a commitment that you and your family and all of your descendants shall follow the Lord. Joshua did that. He stood before all of the tribes of Israel and he urged them to follow his example as he said, "As for me and my house, we shall follow the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).

Both of these aspects, a generational spirituality as well as a family heritage of spirituality must be held in tension. They are both important.

Generational Spirituality (Each generation must haves its own personal relationship with the Lord)


Family Heritage of Spirituality (We are called to lead our families in a heritage of following the Lord)



This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him. (Ezra 7:6).

We have already seen that Ezra was from a long line of priests; men who had served in the Temple and who had offered sacrifices unto the Lord. Here we see that Ezra himself also had another role in the spiritual life of the people. He was a scribe. The Hebrew word for "scribe" is the Hebrew word (sapher). It comes from the root word describing a "book." Indeed, the Israelites in a later period referred to themselves as yam sapher, the "people of the book."

This was a day in which many people were not able to read or to write. This would change dramatically in the New Testament era, but that was still 400 years away. The only way for such a people to have God’s Word would be for someone to read it to them. Ezra was such a man. He was able to serve not only as a priest, but also as a teacher of the Scriptures.

Ezra evidently made a request of the Persian government. We are not told of the circumstances of that request, but we can deduce what was requested since the king granted him all he requested. We need only to look at what Ezra accomplished to see what it was he requested.

James stated this principle that "you have not because you ask not" (James 4:2). What is it that you want in life? You need to go to the Lord and ask Him for it. But be warned, the next verse tells us that when you ask, you must not ask for the wrong thing. We tend to ask for things that will advance our own agenda. The Lord wants us to ask for things that will advance His kingdom. "Seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

Ezra asked for those things which would bring honor and glory to the Lord. And he received that for which he asked.

The reason that Ezra’s request was granted was because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him. We shall read this same comment as a continuing refrain throughout the next two chapters (Ezra 7:9; 7:28; 8:18; 8:22; 8:31).



Some of the sons of Israel and some of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. (Ezra 7:7).

Ezra’s return involved primarily a return of priests and Levites and others who had a heritage of serving within the Temple. We shall see in the next chapter that when this group was first assembled, they were notably lacking in several key areas. Ezra had to issue a second call before certain of the Levites responded and joined the company.



He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.

For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. (Ezra 7:8-9).

The original Jewish calendar had started with Nissan being the first month. This continues to be the Jewish religious calendar to this day. But during the period of the kings, the Israelites had adopted a civil calendar in which the first month was reckoned in the fall. Commentators have wondered whether this is the religious or civil reckoning in this passage. I suggest that the context shows it to be the religious method - that was used in Ezra 6:19 just a few verses earlier.

Ezra’s Departure from Babylon

Ezra’s Arrival in Jerusalem

The first of the first month

The first of the fifth month

April 8, 458 B.C.

August 4, 458 B.C.

A journey of 120 days

The distance from Babylon to Jerusalem is about 500 miles as the crow flies. But Ezra was not leading crows. Caravans generally did not go in a straight line through the Arabian Desert. Instead they mad a long detour following the Euphrates River to the ancient city of Haran before turning southward to come along the Levant. Using this route, the distance is almost doubled.



For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. (Ezra 7:10).

This was the secret of Ezra’s success. He had set his heart to study and to know and to live the Scriptures and to teach them to others. This is the language of commitment. His approach to the Law of the Lord was not a casual interest. It was not an occasional Bible reading whenever he might find the time. The Hebrew text says that he ESTABLISHED his heart for this task. Notice the progression of this motivation:

1. To Study.

I like the rendering of the old King James Version when it says, "Study to show yourself approved unto God as a workman" (2 Timothy 215). The New American Standard correctly translates this: "Be diligent to present yourself approved as a workman." There is to be a level of diligence in our study of the Scripture. We do not merely casually read the Word of God. We study it. We delve into it. We search for its truths.

2. To Practice.

I can remember hearing a quip: "The Law have I hidden in my notebook that I might not sin against Thee." The Bible does not say this. The Psalmist said, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11).

Knowledge is not the end of our study of the Scriptures. We do not study so that we might know; we study so that we might LIVE differently.

Jesus once told a story of two builders. The first man built his house upon a foundation of rock. When the storms came, the house stood secure on its foundation. The second man built his house of a foundation of shifting sands. When the storms came, the ground shifted and his house and all that were in it were swept away.

What does the parable represent? We tend to think of it as the difference between having your life based upon doctrine versus having your life based upon something else. You listen to doctrine and you are on the rock; you listen to the world and you are on shifting sand.

But Jesus gave it quite another meaning. He said that it is the difference between the man who hears the teachings of the Lord AND ACTS upon them versus the man who hears but does not conform his life to those teachings (Matthew 7:24-27).

3. To Teach.

It is only after one has mastered the first two aspects of Scripture that one can come to the third. To be an effective teacher of the Bible, you must first have studied the Scriptures and then you must have practiced the Scriptures. If the truths of the Scriptures are not evident in your life, then you have no business trying to teach them to others.



We have seen a number of official documents presented for us thus far in the book of Ezra. The story of the rebuilding of the Temple has been effectively told in these documents.




Ezra 1:2-4


Permission granted for Jews to return to the land and rebuild their Temple

Ezra 4:11-16

Rehum & Shimsha

Report to the King against the Jews

Ezra 4:17

Artaxerxes (Cambyses)

Order to halt construction of the Temple

Ezra 5:7-17


Report to the King that the Jews had resumed construction

Ezra 6:1-12


A summary of Cyrus’ original edict and a new order that the work on the Temple is to be resumed

Ezra 7:12-26


A decree granting Ezra authority to lead a second return to the Land to establish the teaching of the Law among the people of God

As this decree begins, the text changes languages. We continue to utilize the Hebrew alphabet, but the language is now Aramaic, the common language throughout Mesopotamia and the Levant during this period.

1. A Second Decree to Return.

"Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace. And now 13 I have issued a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. (Ezra 7:12-13).

This decree is set forth in a form of parallelism known as a chiasm. It begins and ends with the establishment of Ezra’s mission.

Mission: Inquiry concerning the "Law of your God, which is in your hand" (7:14).

Gifts for the temple from Babylon (7:15-16).

Vessels and funding for the temple service to be provided from the royal treasury (7:19-20).

Gifts for the temple from the province (7:21-24).

Mission: Teach knowledge of "the wisdom of your God which is in your hand" (7:25)

There had already been an initial return of Jews to the Land. That had taken place 80 years earlier. Now an edict is provided to permit a second return from among the ancestors who did not elect to return with the first group. The specific mention of the priests and Levites indicates that this second return is for the purpose of reviving and reforming the Temple worship.

Notice that these returnees are not made up only of the tribes of Levi and Judah. They are said to include any of the people of Israel. There is a lot of talk today about the "lost tribes of Israel." But the truth is that there were was a representative remnant of all of the tribes to be found in the land in a later age.

2. Finances for the Trip.

14 "Forasmuch as you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God which is in your hand, 15 and to bring the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold which you find in the whole province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and of the priests, who offered willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem; 17 with this money, therefore, you shall diligently buy bulls, rams and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings and offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.

18 "Whatever seems good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do according to the will of your God.

19 "Also the utensils which are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem.

20 "The rest of the needs for the house of your God, for which you may have occasion to provide, provide for it from the royal treasury.

21 "I, even I, King Artaxerxes, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the provinces beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, may require of you, it shall be done diligently, 22 even up to 100 talents of silver, 100 kors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt as needed. (Ezra 7:14-22).

Ezra is given a blank check payable to the royal treasury. To be sure, it does have a financial cap, but it is so extensive that it will be unlikely that Ezra will reach it.





Kikkar "circle"

60 minas (each mina made up of 60 shekels); A talent weighed about 75 pounds


"Donkey load"

6˝ bushels


Liquid measure

About 6 gallons

The amount of wheat involved was relatively small. This would be used in the grain offerings. Of much greater extent was the silver and the oil.

3. The Command of God.

"Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven, so that there will not be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons. (Ezra 7:23).

The motivation of the king’s edict is presented as being one of enlightened self-interest. As Israel obeyed the commands of the Lord, so it was reasoned that the Lord would not only bring blessings upon Israel, but also upon the foreign king who had allowed those commands to be carried out.

It is interesting to note that a revolt had taken place in Egypt two years earlier in which the Persian authority had been overthrown. This revolt was fomented through the influence of Athens. The same year in which Artaxerxes penned this decree, he entered Egypt with an army and began the process of putting down the revolt, a process which would be completed in 455 B.C..

4. A Tax-Exempt Status.

"We also inform you that it is not allowed to impose tax, tribute or toll on any of the priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, Nethinim or servants of this house of God. (Ezra 7:24).

The Temple and those who ministered therein were given a complete tax-exempt status.

5. An Authoritative Appointment.

"You, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges that they may judge all the people who are in the province beyond the River, even all those who know the laws of your God; and you may teach anyone who is ignorant of them.

"Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed upon him strictly, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of goods or for imprisonment." (Ezra 7:25-26).

Ezra is given a remarkable amount of authority by the king. He is hereby authorized to appoint magistrates and judges as a means of re-establishing the Law of God. In a later age, the Jews would have only limited authority while capital punishment would remain in the hands of their Roman overlords. But the Persian king granted Ezra and his government full powers of life and death.



Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, 28 and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king's mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. (Ezra 7:27-28).

At this point, the language of the text returns from Aramaic to Hebrew as Ezra lapses into a doxology of praise to the Lord. He gives full credit to the Lord for the king’s edict, recognizing that He is the one who digs the channels in which the will of the king flows (Proverbs 21:1).



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