For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

8:1.  “These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes, the king.”


These were not the first to return from Babylonian captivity: some had returned with Zerubbabel in 537 B.C., see Ezra chapter 2.


Since, as noted already, a discussion of the meanings of all these names would take us beyond the parameters of this commentary, the meaning of each name follows it in italics, for the benefit of those who may wish to pursue that study.


8:2.  “Of the sons of Phinehas mouth of pity; Gershom a stranger there: a stranger desolate: of the sons of Ithamar palm-coast; Daniel my judge is God: of the sons of David beloved; Hattush sin was hasted.”


8:3.  “Of the sons of Shecaniah the dwelling of Jehovah, of the sons of Pharosh a flea; Zechariah remembered of Jehovah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males an hundred and fifty.”


8:4.  “Of the sons of Pahathmoab pit of Moab; Eliehoenai unto Jehovah mine eyes, the son of Zerahiah the rising of Jah, and with him two hundred males.”


8:5.  “Of the sons of Shecaniah the dwelling of Jehovah, the son of Jahaziel God will cause to see, and with him three hundred males.”


8:6.  “Of the sons also of Adin given to pleasure; Ebed servant the son of Jonathan Jehovah is giver, and with him fifty males.


8:7.  “And the sons of Elam their heaps: suckling them: eternal, Jeshaiah save thou, Jehovah the son of Athaliah due season for Jah, and with him seventy males.


8:8.  “And the sons of Shephatiah judged of Jehovah; Zebadiah endowed of Jehovah the son of Michael who is as God?, and with him fourscore males.”


8:9.  “Of the sons of Joab Jehovah is father; Obadiah serving Jehovah the son of Jehiel swept away of God; and with him two hundred and eighteen males.


8:10.  “And the sons of Shelomith peaceableness; the son of Josiphiah Jah will add, and with him an hundred and threescore males.”


8:11.  “And the sons of Bebai my cavities; Zechariah remembered of Jehovah, the son Bebai my cavities, and with him twenty and eight males.”


8:12.  “And the sons of Azgad a mighty troop: strength of Gad; Johanan Jehovah is gracious giver the son of Hakkatan the small, and with him an hundred and ten males.”


8:13.  “And of the last sons of Adonikam lord of rising up: my lord has arisen, whose names are these, Eliphelet god of escape, Jeuel swept away of Gop, and Shemaiah hearkening of Jah: heard of Jehovah, and with them threescore males.”


8:14.  “Of the sons of Bigvai in my bodies, Uthai my helper (by teaching), and Zabbud endowed: remembered, and with them seventy males.”


8:15.  “And I gathered them together to the river (canal) that runneth to Ahava I shall subsist, and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi joined.”


Ahava is believed to have been the name of a canal, rather than a river, in the vicinity of Babylon, but nothing else is known about it, nor does the meaning of the name yield any obvious lesson, except as noted below.  It seems that it was an assembly place where final preparation was made to begin the journey to Canaan.


It isn’t difficult to see in that Jewish remnant leaving Babylon, a typological picture of those who constituted the early Apostolic church, leaving the dead formal religion of Judaism - of which Babylon is the symbol - as it is of all false religion.


In this context the meaning of Ahava I shall subsist is particularly apropos, for as subsistence is associated with the idea of eking out a bare existence, so did those early believers live.


Their living in tents for three days enhances the typological picture, for tents speak of a pilgrim lifestyle; and the three days (number of resurrection) point to the fact that the believer stands on resurrection ground, having been raised up out of spiritual death, to walk in the power of an endless resurrection life obtained through faith in Christ as Savior.


In this same context the absence of the Levites may well speak of the end of the Levitical system, for in the new order every member of the Church, women as well as men, functions as one of a royal kingdom of priests, see 1 Peter 2:9, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood ....”


8:16.  “Then sent I for Eliezer God of help, for Ariel lion of God, for Shemaiah the hearkening of Jah: heard of Jah; heard of Jehovah and for Elnathan God is a giver, and for Jarib he will contend, and for Elnathan God is a giver, and for Nathan a giver, and for Zechariah remembered of Jehovah, and for Meshullam reconciled: recompensed, chief men; also, for Joiarib Jehovah will contend, and for Elnathan God is a giver, men of understanding.”


8:17.  “And I send them with commandment unto Iddo I will praise him, the chief at the place Casiphia longing of Jah: silver of Jah, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren, the Nethinim given ones, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.”


Nothing is known about Casiphia.


8:18.  “And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli my sickness, the son of Levi joined, the son of Israel he shall be prince of God; and Sherebiah parched of Jah: set free in Jah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;”


8:19.  “And Hashabiah regarded of Jehovah, and with him Jeshaiah  save thou, Jah of the sons of Merari my bitterness, his brethren and their sons, twenty;”


8:20.  “Also, of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.”


Relative to the Nethinims, see comments on 7:7.


8:21.  “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river at Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”


Fasting, which was for the OT age only, was the equivalent of the NT denial of the lusts of the flesh, Titus 2:12, a necessary condition for fellowship with God.


“afflict” in the present context means that they humbled themselves, and sought God’s guidance as to the route they should take in order to reach Canaan safely with their children and flocks and herds.


8:22.  “For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way; because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath are against all them that forsake him.”


Having declared his faith in God, Ezra would give no one cause  to question the reality of his faith, or to question the ability of Jehovah to protect His own; and we would do well to emulate him.  Sadly, however, all too often we give others ample cause to question our faith, by employing earthly expedients to accomplish what we should leave in God’s hands.


8:23.  “So we fasted and besought our God for this and he was intreated by us.”


The emphasis upon their fasting continues to underscore the need of refraining from indulging the lusts of the flesh if we would enjoy God’s blessing.


God’s being intreated by them reminds us that He will withhold no good thing from those who obey Him.


8:24.  “Then I separated twelve of the chiefs of the priests,  and ten of their brethren with them,”


Sherebiah means parched of Jah: set free in Jah, the parching speaking of judgment, followed by freedom, and reminding us that God’s chastisement of His own is designed for their blessing, as it is written, “Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised thereby,” Hebrews 12:11.


Ten and twelve are governmental numbers - ten speaking of God as the Governor of all things, the ten commandments, for example, expressing what His government requires; and twelve speaking of those under His government, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church built upon the foundation of the doctrine of the twelve Apostles.  The appointment of these ten and twelve chiefs of the priests therefore, sets them before us as the administrators of God’s government over that company about to begin the journey from Babylon to Canaan.  Since, however, that company represents the Church journeying through this world on her way home to heaven, the appointment of these leaders reminds us that they represent the elders whom the Holy Spirit has set over the local churches.


8:25.  “And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:”


The weighing unto them the silver, emblem of redemption, teaches symbolically that the spiritual equivalent has been entrusted to the Church: we are responsible to preach the Gospel of redemption through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  The gold, emblem of glory, declares that the Church is possessed of a glory which is all too often obscured by the activity of the flesh in the midst of those who comprise that mystical body.


The vessels, used in connection with the presentation of Israel’s worship, may speak of believers, the human vessels whom the Holy Spirit deigns to use in connection with the worship presented by the Church at the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week, that worship being the offering of those who comprise “the house of our God,” i.e., the Church.


Present at the weighing of the treasure were the heathen king Artaxerxes, together with his nobles, and all the Israelites.

Present at each Lord’s supper, though invisible to human eyes, is the Lord Jesus Christ, his angels (as observers), and His redeemed people (as participants): the equivalent of the treasure, being their worship.


8:26.  “I even weighed into their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;”


A talent was about 66 pounds, so that the total weight of silver was approximately 50,000 pounds, and of gold about 6,600 pounds.


Since silver represents redemption; and gold, glory, the ratio between the two may be indicative of the disparity that will exist between the total number of the redeemed and the few of them whose eternal reward will be the equivalent of gold rather than silver.


8:27.  “Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.”


A thousand drams was about twenty pounds so that each bason weighed about one pound of pure gold.


Since copper (brass) is the biblical symbol of judgment, the fact that the two copper vessels were as precious as gold, may be meant to indicate the value of self-judgment, relative to which Paul reminds us that “... if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” 1 Corinthians 11:31.  Self-judgment exempts us from judgment, for implicit in such judgment is confession and repentance resulting in forgiveness and justification in God’s sight.


8:28.  “And I said unto them, ye are holy unto the Lord; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the Lord God of your fathers.”


“Holy” is used here, not in the sense of being sinless, but rather of their being dedicated, consecrated, set apart for God.

As those golden vessels were set apart for God, so are believers similarly consecrated to Him, for His service and His glory; and consciousness of this high calling surely ought to impel holy living on our part.


The fact that the silver and gold were a freewill offering unto the Lord, is the symbolic announcement of truth relative to our own state.  When we by an act of our own freewill accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, we thereby also gave ourselves to Him, so that we are no longer our own but His, as it is written, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.


8:29.  “Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levitws, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord.”


This points symbolically to the judgment seat of Christ where every believer must appear, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Cor 5:10.  The amount of treasure carried by each man corresponds to the measure of spiritual gift given each believer at the moment of conversion


This judgment has nothing to do with determining whether we may enter heaven.  That matter was settled eternally the moment we trusted in Christ as Savior.  This judgment is the Lord’s review of our service, each man’s reward being proportionate to the faithfulness of the service he rendered on earth in the course of his Christian life.


8:30.  “So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God.”


What was entrusted to each man was to be kept safely until the whole company arrived in Jerusalem, their arrival there pointing symbolically to the rapture of the Church; and since Jerusalem means dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, what is also being declared is that our arrival in heaven will be synonymous with everlasting peace.  Peace, however, is something every believer may enjoy here and now even in the midst of earthly tribulation, the Lord Himself having assured not only the Apostles, but every believer, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” John 14:27.


8:31.  “Then we departed from the river (canal) of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.”


For the significance of Ahava, see verse 15.


Ten and twelve are both governmental numbers: ten speaking of God as the Governor of all things, His law being expressed in the ten commandments; and twelve speaking of those under His government, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church founded upon the doctrine of the twelve Apostles.  Their departure on the twelvth day therefore, indicates that it was in obedience to His command; and their destination being Jerusalem, which is synonymous with peace, reminds us that obedience and peace are inseparable.  God’s hand being upon them for good, and His delivering them from the hand of the enemy, are only what might be expected as the concomitants of obedience.


Those who “lay in wait by the way” would be the enemies who were aware of the treasure being carried by the travelers, which reminds us that as we journey home to heaven bearing treasure (eternal life) in earthen vessels (our human bodies), 2 Corinthians 4:7, the enemy, Satan and his minions, also lies in wait by the way seeking to destroy us; but the same God Who delivered the Israelites who journed from Ahava to Canaan, is the same One Who has undertaken to bring us safe home to heaven.


8:32.  “And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.”


We too will be brought safe home to heaven, and will abide there  the equivalent of the three days, i.e., in eternal resurrection peace and glory, three being the biblical number of resurrection.


8:33.  “Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth elevations the son of Uriah my light is Jah the priest; and with him was Eleazar God is helper the son of Phinehas mouth of pity; and with them was Jozabad Jehovah is bestower the son of Jeshua he will save: Jehovah is salvation, and Noadiah convened of Jah: meeting of Jah the son of Binnui built up, Levites joined;”


Four is the biblical number of earth in connection with testing, the weighing of the silver and gold in the house of God on the fourth day being the symbolic portrait of the judgment seat of Christ, at which every believer will stand for the review of his Christian life and service, and the eternal recompense of everything that was done for the Lord’s glory. 


Meremoth, in the meaning of his name, is very clearly a type of the Lord Jesus Christ enthroned in resurrection glory, all judgment having been committed into His hand, see John 5:22, while Uriah is an equally clear type of the Father, as it is written, “God is light,” 1 John 1:5.  Eleazar, Phinehas and Jozabad, in the meanings of their names, point to attributes of the Father; while  Naodiah, Binnui, and the Levites speak of believers as having been gathered, built up, and joined eternally to Christ.


8:34.  “By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.”


The number of pieces and the weight of each piece of the treasure were all carefully recorded, and so will it be at the judgment seat of Christ relative to everything that has been done for His glory.  There will be eternal remembrance of even a cup of cold water given another for His sake.


8:35.  “Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering unto the Lord.”


All who had returned from Babylonian captivity worshiped God by presenting burnt offerings, the bullock being the most costly, and the twelve of them corresponding to the twelve tribes.  As noted already, twelve is the number that speaks symbolically of those under God’s government, and the presentation of these offerings speaks of their happiness to be under His control.


The ram was the sacrifical animal uniquely associated with consecration, the number offered also furnishing instruction, for the factors of ninety-six are twelve and eight, the significance of twelve having been discussed above, and eight being the scriptural number of a new beginning.  The former captives of Babylon worshiped God for His deliverance which gave them a new beginning in their own land, but since that captivity is a figure of the spiritual bondage in which we were once held, it behooves us to express our gratitude in the presentation of obedient lives, as it is written, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Samuel 15:22.


Since seven is the number of completeness or perfection, and the lamb is the symbol of submissive innocence, the seventy and seven sacrificed lambs speak of Israel’s willingness to take their place before God in grateful obedience, their sins being expiated by the  death of the lambs as their substitutes.


The goat is the most common type of the sinner, so that the twelve he goats are the symbolic expression of Israel’s admission of sinfulness, the death of the goats portraying the people’s confession of their own worthiness of death, and their faith to believe that the death of the goats expiated their sin, God being willing to accept the goats as their substitutes.  All of this points to the one perfect sin-atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, though it is very unlikely that the people grasped that truth.


Since the burnt offering speaks of the obedient sacrificial death of Christ as being exclusively for the Father’s glory altogether apart from its sin-atoning efficacy for us, its being said of all the offerings presented that day, that “this was a burnt offering,” declares the truth that the Lord was never more precious to the Father than when He took our sins upon Him, and was Himself made sin.


8:36.  “And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered (aided) the people, and the house of God.”


The “king’s commissions” were his instructions; and their having “furthered” the people means simply that they aided them.

[Ezra 9]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough