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Highlights From the Book of: Ezra | Bible Reading: Ezra

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Highlights From Bible Reading: Ezra | texts explained and practical lessons

HIGHLIGHTS OF EZRA

The rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of true worship there after the Babylonian exile
Covers a period of some 70 years following the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon
Cyrus issues liberation decree, and a remnant of Jewish exiles return to Jerusalem (in 537 B.C.E.) to rebuild the temple (1:1–3:6)
Rebuilding of the temple (3:7–6:22)
Foundation laid in second year of the return from exile
Enemies repeatedly interfere with temple rebuilding and finally succeed in having the work stopped until the prophets Zechariah and Haggai, in the second year of Darius I (520 B.C.E.), encourage the people to resume construction
An official investigation of Persian records in Babylon and Ecbatana reveals that the temple rebuilding was authorized by Cyrus, so Darius I decrees that the work continue without hindrance, stipulating the death penalty for violators
In the sixth year of Darius I (515 B.C.E.), temple construction is completed, after which the building is inaugurated and the Passover observed
Ezra goes to Jerusalem (in 468 B.C.E.) with gifts for the temple and to appoint judges (7:1–8:36)
Permission for the trip granted by Persian monarch Artaxerxes (Longimanus)
Ezra and about 1,500 men, besides 258 Levites and Nethinim from Casiphia, depart from a point of assembly at the river Ahava with gold, silver, and utensils for the temple; they arrive in Jerusalem over three and a half months later
Cleansing of Israel, including the priesthood (9:1–10:44)
Learning of the defilement from marriage to foreign women, Ezra makes public confession in prayer to Jehovah
Shecaniah acknowledges sin and proposes the making of a covenant to put away foreign wives and their offspring
All former exiles are commanded to assemble at Jerusalem; a decision is then made to have princes investigate the individual cases of defilement progressively
Priests, Levites, and the rest of the men follow through in dismissing foreign wives and sons

January 18-24, 2016
Ezra 1-5

(EZRA 1:1)

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that Jehovah’s word spoken by Jeremiah would be fulfilled, Jehovah stirred the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his kingdom, which he also put in writing, saying:”

*** w08 12/15 p. 22 Ancient Cuneiform and the Bible ***
One famous cuneiform inscription found in 1879, the Cyrus Cylinder, records that after taking Babylon in 539 B.C.E., Cyrus applied his policy of returning captives to their homelands. Among those to benefit were the Jews. (Ezra 1:1-4) Many 19th-century scholars had questioned the authenticity of the decree quoted in the Bible. However, cuneiform documents from the Persian period, including the Cyrus Cylinder, provide convincing evidence that the Bible record is accurate.

*** it-1 p. 458 Chronology ***
Another date that can be used as a pivotal point is the year 539 B.C.E., supported by various historical sources as the year for the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. (Secular sources for Cyrus’ reign include Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy, as well as the Babylonian tablets.) During Cyrus’ first year his decree releasing the Jews from exile was given. And, as considered in the article on CYRUS, it is very probable that the decree was made by the winter of 538 B.C.E. or toward the spring of 537 B.C.E. This would permit the Jews time to make necessary preparations, effect the four-month journey to Jerusalem, and still arrive there by the seventh month (Tishri, or about October 1) of 537 B.C.E.—Ezr 1:1-11; 2:64-70; 3:1.

*** it-1 p. 568 Cyrus ***
Cyrus’ Decree for the Return of the Exiles. By his decreeing the end of the Jewish exile, Cyrus fulfilled his commission as Jehovah’s ‘anointed shepherd’ for Israel. (2Ch 36:22, 23; Ezr 1:1-4) The proclamation was made “in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia,” meaning his first year as ruler toward conquered Babylon. The Bible record at Daniel 9:1 refers to “the first year of Darius,” and this may have intervened between the fall of Babylon and “the first year of Cyrus” over Babylon. If it did, this would mean that the writer was perhaps viewing Cyrus’ first year as having begun late in the year 538 B.C.E. However, if Darius’ rule over Babylon were to be viewed as that of a viceroy, so that his reign ran concurrent with that of Cyrus, Babylonian custom would place Cyrus’ first regnal year as running from Nisan of 538 to Nisan of 537 B.C.E.

*** it-1 p. 800 Ezra, Book of ***
Time and Setting. The book of Ezra was written about 460 B.C.E., along with the books of Chronicles. Ezra begins by relating the decree of Cyrus for the restoration of the Jews from Babylon. It was in the first year of Cyrus that this Persian king issued a restoration proclamation. (Ezr 1:1) Judah and Jerusalem had been left desolate of inhabitants, in the autumn of 607 B.C.E., when those left by Nebuchadnezzar moved to Egypt. The 70th year of Jerusalem’s desolation, the last enforced sabbath on the land, would end in the autumn of 537 B.C.E. Cyrus’ decree must have been issued late in 538 B.C.E. or early in 537 for two reasons. The desolation had to last until the 70th year ended, and the released Israelites would not be expected to travel in the winter rainy season, as would have been the case if the decree had been made a few months earlier. Likely it was issued in the early spring of 537 B.C.E. in order to give the Jews a chance to travel during the dry season, arrive in Jerusalem, and set up the altar on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) of the year 537 B.C.E., September 29 according to the Gregorian calendar.—Ezr 3:2-6.

*** it-1 p. 799 Ezra, Book of ***
Most scholars are in agreement that the book of Ezra carries on the history at the point where the Chronicles leave off, as a comparison of 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23 with Ezra 1:1-3 will show. This again points to Ezra as the writer. Jewish tradition likewise assigns the writership to Ezra.

*** w87 9/1 p. 27 pars. 13-14 Trust in Jehovah—Not in “a Conspiracy!” ***
13 On the accession of Cyrus to the throne over Medo-Persia in 537 B.C.E., doubtless the prophet Daniel pointed out to him Jehovah’s prophecy concerning him as found at Isaiah 45. The postexilic book of Ezra opens up with these words:
14 “And in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, that Jehovah’s word from the mouth of Jeremiah [regarding the exile’s being 70 years in length (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10, 14)] might be accomplished, Jehovah roused the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia so that he caused a cry to pass through all his realm, and also in writing, saying:

*** w87 9/1 p. 27 par. 14 Trust in Jehovah—Not in “a Conspiracy!” ***
Ezra 1:1

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
c. 550-529 Cyrus the Great Cyrus Ezra 1:1; 4:5

(EZRA 1:2)

““This is what King Cyrus of Persia says, ‘Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

*** it-1 p. 568 Cyrus ***
Despite this pagan interpretation of events, the Bible shows that, on making his proclamation authorizing the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there, Cyrus acknowledged: “All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (Ezr 1:1, 2) This, of course, does not mean that Cyrus became a Jewish convert but simply that he knew the Biblical facts regarding his victory. In view of the high administrative position in which Daniel was placed, both before and after the fall of Babylon (Da 5:29; 6:1-3, 28), it would be most unusual if Cyrus were not informed of the prophecies that Jehovah’s prophets had recorded and spoken, including Isaiah’s prophecy containing Cyrus’ very name.

*** it-2 p. 158 Kingdom ***
“Kingdom” may refer in a general way to any or all human governments, whether actually headed by a king or not.—Ezr 1:2; Mt 4:8.

*** w87 9/1 p. 27 pars. 13-14 Trust in Jehovah—Not in “a Conspiracy!” ***
13 On the accession of Cyrus to the throne over Medo-Persia in 537 B.C.E., doubtless the prophet Daniel pointed out to him Jehovah’s prophecy concerning him as found at Isaiah 45. The postexilic book of Ezra opens up with these words:
14 “And in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, that Jehovah’s word from the mouth of Jeremiah [regarding the exile’s being 70 years in length (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10, 14)] might be accomplished, Jehovah roused the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia so that he caused a cry to pass through all his realm, and also in writing, saying: ‘This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has said, “All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

*** w87 9/1 p. 27 par. 14 Trust in Jehovah—Not in “a Conspiracy!” ***
—Ezra 1:1-3.

(EZRA 1:3)

“Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—whose house was in Jerusalem.”

*** w88 3/15 p. 27 Part 4—Medo-Persia—The Fourth Great World Power in Bible History ***
The priest, scholar, and scribe Ezra reports that Cyrus decreed that Jehovah’s worshipers could “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3) Ezra 2:64, 65 takes note of almost 50,000 persons who made the journey back to Jerusalem, carrying the temple treasures with them. In 537 B.C.E. the land again began to be inhabited—just 70 years after Jerusalem had fallen.—Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10.
Archaeology has confirmed that such a decree was in harmony with Cyrus’ policy. On a clay cylinder found in the ruins of Babylon, Cyrus says: “I returned to (these) sacred cities . . . the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations.”

*** w86 1/15 p. 8 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
1:3-6—Were the Israelites remaining in Babylon unfaithful?
Not necessarily, although materialism and lack of appreciation may have been factors in some cases. Cyrus’ decree did not require that all return but made it a voluntary matter. Such circumstances as old age, infirmities, or family obligations may have prevented some from making the journey. But they were to give support to those who could return.

(EZRA 1:5)

“Then the heads of the paternal houses of Judah and of Benjamin and the priests and the Levites—everyone whose spirit the true God had stirred—prepared to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah, which was in Jerusalem.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 17 par. 5 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
1:3-6—Were the Israelites who did not volunteer to return to their homeland weak in faith? Some may not have returned to Jerusalem because they were materialistic or lacked appreciation for true worship, but this was not true in every case. First of all, the 1,000-mile [1,600 km] journey to Jerusalem took four or five months. Moreover, settling in a land that had remained desolate for 70 years and doing the rebuilding work there would require much physical stamina. Therefore, unfavorable circumstances, such as physical ailments, advanced age, and family obligations, undoubtedly prevented some from returning.

*** w92 4/15 p. 13 par. 9 Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones” ***
9 Ezra 1:5 speaks of “everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah.” Yes, Jehovah moved all those who returned. He stimulated their spirit, that is, their impelling mental inclination. Even from the heavens, God could do this by using his holy spirit, his active force. Thus, all who rose “to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah” were helped “by [God’s] spirit.”—Zechariah 4:1, 6; Haggai 1:14.

*** it-2 p. 332 Exiles Return From Babylon ***
A remnant that may have numbered 200,000 (including men, women, and children) made the journey, arriving in Judah in 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 1:5–3:1; 4:1)

(EZRA 1:6)

“All those around them supported them by giving them utensils of silver and of gold, goods, livestock, and valuable things, besides all the voluntary offerings.”

*** it-1 p. 1028 Hand ***
‘strengthening the hands’ means empowering or supplying and equipping (Ezr 1:6);

(EZRA 1:7)

“King Cyrus also brought out the utensils of the house of Jehovah that Neb•u•chad•nezʹzar had taken from Jerusalem and had put in the house of his god.”

*** it-1 p. 569 Cyrus ***
Cyrus’ cooperation with the Jews was in notable contrast with their treatment by earlier pagan rulers. He restored the precious temple utensils that Nebuchadnezzar II had carried off to Babylon, gave royal permission for them to import cedar timbers from Lebanon, and authorized the outlay of funds from the king’s house to cover construction expenses. (Ezr 1:7-11; 3:7; 6:3-5) According to the Cyrus Cylinder (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 332), the Persian ruler followed a generally humane and tolerant policy toward the conquered peoples of his domain. The inscription quotes him as saying: “I returned to [certain previously named] sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations.”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 316.

*** it-2 p. 482 Nebuchadnezzar ***
Very Religious. The indications are that Nebuchadnezzar was extremely religious, building and beautifying the temples of numerous Babylonian deities. Particularly was he devoted to the worship of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. To him Nebuchadnezzar gave credit for his military victories. Trophies of war, including the sacred vessels of Jehovah’s temple, appear to have been deposited in the temple of Marduk (Merodach). (Ezr 1:7; 5:14) Says an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar: “For thy glory, O exalted MERODACH a house have I made. . . . May it receive within itself the abundant tribute of the Kings of nations and of all peoples!”—Records of the Past: Assyrian and Egyptian Monuments, London, 1875, Vol. V, p. 135.

(EZRA 1:8)

“King Cyrus of Persia brought them out under the supervision of Mithʹre•dath the treasurer, who made an inventory of them for Shesh•bazʹzar the chieftain of Judah.”

*** it-1 p. 569 Cyrus ***
Cyrus’ cooperation with the Jews was in notable contrast with their treatment by earlier pagan rulers. He restored the precious temple utensils that Nebuchadnezzar II had carried off to Babylon, gave royal permission for them to import cedar timbers from Lebanon, and authorized the outlay of funds from the king’s house to cover construction expenses. (Ezr 1:7-11; 3:7; 6:3-5) According to the Cyrus Cylinder (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 332), the Persian ruler followed a generally humane and tolerant policy toward the conquered peoples of his domain. The inscription quotes him as saying: “I returned to [certain previously named] sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations.”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 316.

*** w86 1/15 p. 8 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
1:8—Who was Sheshbazzar?
Most likely, this was an official Chaldean court name given to Zerubbabel. (Compare Daniel 1:7.) What is attributed to Sheshbazzar is elsewhere credited to Zerubbabel. (Ezra 5:16; Zechariah 4:9) Both are given the title “governor.” (Ezra 5:14; Haggai 2:21) And at Ezra 2:2 and 3:1, 2, Zerubbabel is acknowledged as leading the returning exiles; so, fittingly, the name Sheshbazzar is not mentioned.

(EZRA 2:1)

“And these were the people of the province who came up from the captives of the exile, those whom King Neb•u•chad•nezʹzar of Babylon had exiled to Babylon and who later returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own city,”

*** si p. 86 par. 8 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
A remnant that may have numbered 200,000 faithful servants of Jehovah, including men, women, and children, make the long journey. By the seventh month, according to the Jewish calendar, they are settled in their cities, and then they gather at Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the site of the temple altar and to celebrate the Festival of Booths in the fall of 537 B.C.E. Thus the 70 years’ desolation ends exactly on time!

*** si p. 137 par. 29 Bible Book Number 26—Ezekiel ***
While many scoffed at and ridiculed the prophet, some did believe. These benefited greatly. They were strengthened by the promises of restoration. Unlike other nations taken into captivity, they preserved their national identity, and Jehovah restored a remnant, as he foretold, in 537 B.C.E. (Ezek. 28:25, 26; 39:21-28; Ezra 2:1; 3:1)

*** it-2 pp. 139-140 Jurisdictional District ***
Possibly because of having lived in the jurisdictional district of Babylon, the repatriated Jewish exiles are called “sons of the jurisdictional district.” (Ezr 2:1; Ne 7:6) Or, this designation may allude to their being inhabitants of the Medo-Persian jurisdictional district of Judah.—Ne 1:3.

(EZRA 2:2)

“those who came with Ze•rubʹba•bel, Jeshʹu•a, Ne•he•miʹah, Se•raiʹah, Re•el•aiʹah, Morʹde•cai, Bilʹshan, Misʹpar, Bigʹvai, Reʹhum, and Baʹa•nah. The number of the Israelite men included:”

*** it-1 p. 225 Azariah ***
22. One who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in 537 B.C.E. following exile in Babylon. (Ne 7:6, 7) Called Seraiah at Ezra 2:2.

(EZRA 2:13)

“the sons of Ad•o•niʹkam, 666;”

*** it-1 p. 50 Adonijah ***
3. One of “the heads of the people” whose descendant, if not he himself, joined certain princes and Levites in attesting by seal the confession contract made by the returned Israelites in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. (Ne 9:38; 10:1, 14, 16) He is suggested by some to be the same as Adonikam at Ezra 2:13, whose descendants, numbering 666, returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel in 537 B.C.E. A comparison of the names of those who as representatives of the people sealed the resolution at Nehemiah 10 and of those listed as heads of the returning exiles at Ezra 2 seems to bear this out.

(EZRA 2:16)

“the sons of Aʹter, of Hez•e•kiʹah, 98;”

*** it-1 p. 208 Ater ***
ATER
(Aʹter) [Closed; Impeded].
1. A man of Israel, 98 of whose sons or descendants returned from Babylonian exile with Zerubbabel in 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 2:1, 2, 16; Ne 7:21) They are listed thus: “The sons of Ater, of Hezekiah, ninety-eight,” perhaps indicating that they were offspring of Ater, the descendant of a certain Hezekiah (but probably not the Judean king of that name), or that they were Ater’s descendants through one Hezekiah. It may be a descendant of this Ater who was one of the headmen of the people attesting by seal the “trustworthy arrangement” of Nehemiah’s day.—Ne 9:38; 10:1, 17.

(EZRA 2:20)

“the sons of Gibʹbar, 95;”

*** it-1 p. 929 Gibbar ***
GIBBAR
(Gibʹbar) [Superior; Mighty; Overwhelming].
Possibly the name of a family head, 95 of whose “sons” (descendants) returned with Zerubbabel from Babylonian exile in 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 2:1, 2, 20) However, in the parallel passage of Nehemiah 7:25, Gibeon is listed instead of Gibbar. Hence “the sons of Gibbar [Gibeon], ninety-five,” may have reference to the descendants of the former inhabitants of Gibeon, inasmuch as other place-names appear in Ezra 2:21-34, for example, “the sons of Bethlehem.”

(EZRA 2:43)

“The temple servants: the sons of Ziʹha, the sons of Ha•suʹpha, the sons of Tab•baʹoth,”

*** w06 1/15 p. 18 par. 1 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
2:43—Who were the Nethinim? These were people of non-Israelite origin who served as temple slaves or ministers. Among them were the descendants of the Gibeonites of Joshua’s day and others “whom David and the princes gave to the service of the Levites.”—Ezra 8:20.

*** w92 4/15 pp. 13-17 Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones” ***
Non-Israelites Also Return
8 When the call went out for lovers of Jehovah in Babylon to return to the Promised Land, thousands of non-Israelites responded. In the lists provided by Ezra and Nehemiah, we read of the “Nethinim” (meaning, “Given Ones”) and “the sons of the servants of Solomon,” whose combined number was 392. The accounts mention also more than 7,500 others: ‘men slaves and slave girls,’ as well as non-Levite “male singers and female singers.” (Ezra 2:43-58, 65; Nehemiah 7:46-60, 67) What moved so many non-Israelites to return?
9 Ezra 1:5 speaks of “everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah.” Yes, Jehovah moved all those who returned. He stimulated their spirit, that is, their impelling mental inclination. Even from the heavens, God could do this by using his holy spirit, his active force. Thus, all who rose “to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah” were helped “by [God’s] spirit.”—Zechariah 4:1, 6; Haggai 1:14.
A Modern-Day Parallel
10 Who are foreshadowed by such non-Israelite returnees? Many Christians might reply: ‘The Nethinim correspond to the “other sheep” today.’ True, but not just the Nethinim; for all the non-Israelites who returned represent Christians today who are not of spiritual Israel.
11 The book You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World observed: “The remnant of 42,360 Israelites were not the only ones that left Babylon with governor Zerubbabel . . . There were thousands of non-Israelites . . . Besides the Nethinim there were other non-Israelites, the slaves, the professional male and female singers and the descendants of the servants of King Solomon.” The book explained: “The Nethinim, the slaves, the singers and the sons of the servants of Solomon, all non-Israelites, left the land of captivity and returned with the Israelite remnant . . . So is it right to think that today people of different nationalities who are not spiritual Israelites would associate themselves with the remnant of spiritual Israel and promote the worship of Jehovah God with them? Yes.” Such ones ‘have become modern-day, antitypical Nethinim, singers, and sons of the servants of Solomon.’
12 As in the ancient pattern, God provides his spirit also for these hoping to live forever on earth. True, they are not born again. Each of the 144,000 has the singular experience of being born again as a spiritual son of God and anointed with holy spirit. (John 3:3, 5; Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13, 14) Of course, that anointing is a unique manifestation of God’s spirit in behalf of the little flock. But God’s spirit is also needed to carry out his will. Hence, Jesus said: ‘The Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him.’ (Luke 11:13) Whether the one asking has the heavenly hope or is of the other sheep, Jehovah’s spirit is abundantly available to carry out His will.
13 God’s spirit moved both Israelites and non-Israelites to return to Jerusalem, and it strengthens and helps all of his loyal people today. Whether a Christian’s God-provided hope is life in heaven or life on earth, he must preach the good news, and holy spirit enables him to be faithful in that. Every one of us—whichever our hope—ought to cultivate the fruits of the spirit, which all of us need in full measure.—Galatians 5:22-26.
Given for Special Service
14 Among the thousands of non-Israelites that the spirit moved to return were two small groups that God’s Word singled out—the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon. Who were they? What did they do? And what might this mean today?
15 The Nethinim were a group who had non-Israelite origins and who were privileged to minister with the Levites. Recall the Canaanites from Gibeon who became “gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar.” (Joshua 9:27) Probably some of their descendants were among the Nethinim returning from Babylon, as well as others who had been added as Nethinim during David’s reign and at other times. (Ezra 8:20) What did the Nethinim do? The Levites were given to help the priests, and thereafter the Nethinim were given to help the Levites. Even for circumcised foreigners, this was a privilege.
16 When the group returned from Babylon, it contained few Levites, compared to the priests or Nethinim and “sons of the servants of Solomon.” (Ezra 8:15-20) The Dictionary of the Bible, by Dr. James Hastings, observes: “After a time we find [the Nethinim] so completely established as a sacred official class, that privileges are accorded to them.” The scholarly journal Vetus Testamentum notes: “A change occurred. After the Return from Exile, these [foreigners] were no longer regarded as slaves of the Temple, but as ministrants in it, enjoying a status similar to that of those other bodies, which officiated in the Temple.”—See the box “A Changed Status.”
17 Of course, the Nethinim did not become the equals of the priests and the Levites. The latter groups were Israelites, who were chosen by Jehovah himself and not to be supplanted by non-Israelites. Yet, the Biblical indications are that in the face of a reduced number of Levites, the Nethinim were given more to do in God’s service. They were assigned living quarters close to the temple. In Nehemiah’s day they worked with priests in repairing walls near the temple. (Nehemiah 3:22-26) And the king of Persia decreed that the Nethinim be exempt from taxes, just as the Levites were exempt because of their temple service. (Ezra 7:24) This indicates how closely these “given ones” (Levites and Nethinim) were then linked in spiritual matters and how the Nethinim’s assignments increased in accord with the need, though they never were counted as being Levites. When Ezra later collected exiles to return, no Levites were initially among them. So he intensified efforts to collect some. That resulted in 38 Levites and 220 Nethinim returning to serve as “ministers for the house of our God.”—Ezra 8:15-20.
18 A second group of non-Israelites singled out were the sons of the servants of Solomon. The Bible gives few details about them. Some were “the sons of Sophereth.” Ezra adds a definite article to that name, making it Has•so•pheʹreth, possibly meaning “the scribe.” (Ezra 2:55; Nehemiah 7:57) They thus may have been a staff of scribes or copyists, possibly temple/administrative scribes. Though of foreign extraction, the sons of the servants of Solomon proved their devotion to Jehovah by leaving Babylon and returning to share in restoring His worship.
Giving of Ourselves Today
19 In our time, God has used the anointed remnant mightily in spearheading pure worship and declaring the good news. (Mark 13:10) How these have rejoiced to see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and then millions of other sheep join them in worship! And what delightful cooperation there has been between the remnant and the other sheep!—John 10:16.
20 All the non-Israelites who returned from exile in ancient Babylon parallel the other sheep who now serve with the remnant of spiritual Israel. What, though, of the fact that the Bible singles out the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon? In the pattern the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon were given privileges beyond those of other non-Israelite returnees. This could well foreshadow that God today has extended privileges and added duties to some mature and willing other sheep.
21 The Nethinim’s added privileges were linked directly to spiritual activities. The sons of the servants of Solomon evidently received administrative responsibilities. Similarly today, Jehovah has blessed his people with “gifts in men” to care for their needs. (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12) Included in this provision are many hundreds of mature, experienced brothers who share in ‘shepherding the flocks,’ serving as circuit and district overseers and on Branch Committees at the Watch Tower Society’s 98 branches. (Isaiah 61:5) At the world headquarters of the Society, under the direction of “the faithful steward” and its Governing Body, capable men receive training to help in preparing spiritual food supplies. (Luke 12:42) Other longtime dedicated volunteers have been trained to operate Bethel homes and factories and to oversee programs worldwide in constructing new branch facilities and halls for Christian worship. They have excelled in serving as close helpers of the anointed remnant, who constitute part of the royal priesthood.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:17; 14:40; 1 Peter 2:9.
22 In ancient times, priests and Levites continued to serve among the Jews. (John 1:19) Today, however, the remnant of spiritual Israel on earth must go on decreasing. (Contrast John 3:30.) Finally, after the demise of Babylon the Great, all 144,000 ‘sealed ones’ will be in heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:1-3; 19:1-8) But now the other sheep must go on increasing. The fact that some of them, comparable to the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon, are now being assigned weighty responsibilities under the oversight of the anointed remnant does not cause them to be presumptuous or feel self-important. (Romans 12:3) This gives us confidence that as God’s people “come out of the great tribulation,” there will be experienced men—“princes”—prepared to take the lead among the other sheep.—Revelation 7:14; Isaiah 32:1; compare Acts 6:2-7.
23 All who returned from Babylon were willing to work hard and prove that they had Jehovah’s worship uppermost in mind and heart. It is the same today. Along with the anointed remnant, “strangers . . . actually stand and shepherd the flocks.” (Isaiah 61:5) So no matter what God-provided hope we have, and no matter what privileges may be extended spirit-appointed elders before the day of Jehovah’s vindication at Armageddon, let all of us cultivate a selfless, wholesome, giving spirit. While we can never repay Jehovah for all of his grand benefits, may we be whole-souled in whatever we are doing within his organization. (Psalm 116:12-14; Colossians 3:23) Thus all of us can give of ourselves for true worship, as other sheep serve closely with anointed ones, who are destined to “rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.

(EZRA 2:50)

“the sons of Asʹnah, the sons of Me•uʹnim, the sons of Ne•phuʹsim,”

*** it-2 p. 390 Meunim ***
Judean King Uzziah (829-778 B.C.E.), with Jehovah’s help, successfully warred against the Meunim. (2Ch 26:1, 7) Perhaps at that time some of the Meunim captives were constituted temple slaves, and therefore, their descendants are later listed among the Nethinim returning from Babylonian exile.—Ezr 2:1, 2, 43, 50; Ne 7:52; compare Ps 68:18.

(EZRA 2:55)

“The sons of the servants of Solʹo•mon: the sons of Soʹtai, the sons of So•pheʹreth, the sons of Pe•ruʹda,”

*** w06 1/15 p. 18 par. 2 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
2:55—Who were the sons of the servants of Solomon? These were non-Israelites who were given special privileges in Jehovah’s service. They may have served as scribes or copyists at the temple or in some administrative capacity.

*** w92 4/15 pp. 13-17 Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones” ***
Non-Israelites Also Return
8 When the call went out for lovers of Jehovah in Babylon to return to the Promised Land, thousands of non-Israelites responded. In the lists provided by Ezra and Nehemiah, we read of the “Nethinim” (meaning, “Given Ones”) and “the sons of the servants of Solomon,” whose combined number was 392. The accounts mention also more than 7,500 others: ‘men slaves and slave girls,’ as well as non-Levite “male singers and female singers.” (Ezra 2:43-58, 65; Nehemiah 7:46-60, 67) What moved so many non-Israelites to return?
9 Ezra 1:5 speaks of “everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah.” Yes, Jehovah moved all those who returned. He stimulated their spirit, that is, their impelling mental inclination. Even from the heavens, God could do this by using his holy spirit, his active force. Thus, all who rose “to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah” were helped “by [God’s] spirit.”—Zechariah 4:1, 6; Haggai 1:14.
A Modern-Day Parallel
10 Who are foreshadowed by such non-Israelite returnees? Many Christians might reply: ‘The Nethinim correspond to the “other sheep” today.’ True, but not just the Nethinim; for all the non-Israelites who returned represent Christians today who are not of spiritual Israel.
11 The book You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World observed: “The remnant of 42,360 Israelites were not the only ones that left Babylon with governor Zerubbabel . . . There were thousands of non-Israelites . . . Besides the Nethinim there were other non-Israelites, the slaves, the professional male and female singers and the descendants of the servants of King Solomon.” The book explained: “The Nethinim, the slaves, the singers and the sons of the servants of Solomon, all non-Israelites, left the land of captivity and returned with the Israelite remnant . . . So is it right to think that today people of different nationalities who are not spiritual Israelites would associate themselves with the remnant of spiritual Israel and promote the worship of Jehovah God with them? Yes.” Such ones ‘have become modern-day, antitypical Nethinim, singers, and sons of the servants of Solomon.’
12 As in the ancient pattern, God provides his spirit also for these hoping to live forever on earth. True, they are not born again. Each of the 144,000 has the singular experience of being born again as a spiritual son of God and anointed with holy spirit. (John 3:3, 5; Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13, 14) Of course, that anointing is a unique manifestation of God’s spirit in behalf of the little flock. But God’s spirit is also needed to carry out his will. Hence, Jesus said: ‘The Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him.’ (Luke 11:13) Whether the one asking has the heavenly hope or is of the other sheep, Jehovah’s spirit is abundantly available to carry out His will.
13 God’s spirit moved both Israelites and non-Israelites to return to Jerusalem, and it strengthens and helps all of his loyal people today. Whether a Christian’s God-provided hope is life in heaven or life on earth, he must preach the good news, and holy spirit enables him to be faithful in that. Every one of us—whichever our hope—ought to cultivate the fruits of the spirit, which all of us need in full measure.—Galatians 5:22-26.
Given for Special Service
14 Among the thousands of non-Israelites that the spirit moved to return were two small groups that God’s Word singled out—the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon. Who were they? What did they do? And what might this mean today?
15 The Nethinim were a group who had non-Israelite origins and who were privileged to minister with the Levites. Recall the Canaanites from Gibeon who became “gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar.” (Joshua 9:27) Probably some of their descendants were among the Nethinim returning from Babylon, as well as others who had been added as Nethinim during David’s reign and at other times. (Ezra 8:20) What did the Nethinim do? The Levites were given to help the priests, and thereafter the Nethinim were given to help the Levites. Even for circumcised foreigners, this was a privilege.
16 When the group returned from Babylon, it contained few Levites, compared to the priests or Nethinim and “sons of the servants of Solomon.” (Ezra 8:15-20) The Dictionary of the Bible, by Dr. James Hastings, observes: “After a time we find [the Nethinim] so completely established as a sacred official class, that privileges are accorded to them.” The scholarly journal Vetus Testamentum notes: “A change occurred. After the Return from Exile, these [foreigners] were no longer regarded as slaves of the Temple, but as ministrants in it, enjoying a status similar to that of those other bodies, which officiated in the Temple.”—See the box “A Changed Status.”
17 Of course, the Nethinim did not become the equals of the priests and the Levites. The latter groups were Israelites, who were chosen by Jehovah himself and not to be supplanted by non-Israelites. Yet, the Biblical indications are that in the face of a reduced number of Levites, the Nethinim were given more to do in God’s service. They were assigned living quarters close to the temple. In Nehemiah’s day they worked with priests in repairing walls near the temple. (Nehemiah 3:22-26) And the king of Persia decreed that the Nethinim be exempt from taxes, just as the Levites were exempt because of their temple service. (Ezra 7:24) This indicates how closely these “given ones” (Levites and Nethinim) were then linked in spiritual matters and how the Nethinim’s assignments increased in accord with the need, though they never were counted as being Levites. When Ezra later collected exiles to return, no Levites were initially among them. So he intensified efforts to collect some. That resulted in 38 Levites and 220 Nethinim returning to serve as “ministers for the house of our God.”—Ezra 8:15-20.
18 A second group of non-Israelites singled out were the sons of the servants of Solomon. The Bible gives few details about them. Some were “the sons of Sophereth.” Ezra adds a definite article to that name, making it Has•so•pheʹreth, possibly meaning “the scribe.” (Ezra 2:55; Nehemiah 7:57) They thus may have been a staff of scribes or copyists, possibly temple/administrative scribes. Though of foreign extraction, the sons of the servants of Solomon proved their devotion to Jehovah by leaving Babylon and returning to share in restoring His worship.
Giving of Ourselves Today
19 In our time, God has used the anointed remnant mightily in spearheading pure worship and declaring the good news. (Mark 13:10) How these have rejoiced to see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and then millions of other sheep join them in worship! And what delightful cooperation there has been between the remnant and the other sheep!—John 10:16.
20 All the non-Israelites who returned from exile in ancient Babylon parallel the other sheep who now serve with the remnant of spiritual Israel. What, though, of the fact that the Bible singles out the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon? In the pattern the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon were given privileges beyond those of other non-Israelite returnees. This could well foreshadow that God today has extended privileges and added duties to some mature and willing other sheep.
21 The Nethinim’s added privileges were linked directly to spiritual activities. The sons of the servants of Solomon evidently received administrative responsibilities. Similarly today, Jehovah has blessed his people with “gifts in men” to care for their needs. (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12) Included in this provision are many hundreds of mature, experienced brothers who share in ‘shepherding the flocks,’ serving as circuit and district overseers and on Branch Committees at the Watch Tower Society’s 98 branches. (Isaiah 61:5) At the world headquarters of the Society, under the direction of “the faithful steward” and its Governing Body, capable men receive training to help in preparing spiritual food supplies. (Luke 12:42) Other longtime dedicated volunteers have been trained to operate Bethel homes and factories and to oversee programs worldwide in constructing new branch facilities and halls for Christian worship. They have excelled in serving as close helpers of the anointed remnant, who constitute part of the royal priesthood.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:17; 14:40; 1 Peter 2:9.
22 In ancient times, priests and Levites continued to serve among the Jews. (John 1:19) Today, however, the remnant of spiritual Israel on earth must go on decreasing. (Contrast John 3:30.) Finally, after the demise of Babylon the Great, all 144,000 ‘sealed ones’ will be in heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:1-3; 19:1-8) But now the other sheep must go on increasing. The fact that some of them, comparable to the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon, are now being assigned weighty responsibilities under the oversight of the anointed remnant does not cause them to be presumptuous or feel self-important. (Romans 12:3) This gives us confidence that as God’s people “come out of the great tribulation,” there will be experienced men—“princes”—prepared to take the lead among the other sheep.—Revelation 7:14; Isaiah 32:1; compare Acts 6:2-7.
23 All who returned from Babylon were willing to work hard and prove that they had Jehovah’s worship uppermost in mind and heart. It is the same today. Along with the anointed remnant, “strangers . . . actually stand and shepherd the flocks.” (Isaiah 61:5) So no matter what God-provided hope we have, and no matter what privileges may be extended spirit-appointed elders before the day of Jehovah’s vindication at Armageddon, let all of us cultivate a selfless, wholesome, giving spirit. While we can never repay Jehovah for all of his grand benefits, may we be whole-souled in whatever we are doing within his organization. (Psalm 116:12-14; Colossians 3:23) Thus all of us can give of ourselves for true worship, as other sheep serve closely with anointed ones, who are destined to “rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.

(EZRA 2:58)

“All the temple servants and the sons of the servants of Solʹo•mon were 392.”

*** w92 4/15 pp. 13-17 Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones” ***
Non-Israelites Also Return
8 When the call went out for lovers of Jehovah in Babylon to return to the Promised Land, thousands of non-Israelites responded. In the lists provided by Ezra and Nehemiah, we read of the “Nethinim” (meaning, “Given Ones”) and “the sons of the servants of Solomon,” whose combined number was 392. The accounts mention also more than 7,500 others: ‘men slaves and slave girls,’ as well as non-Levite “male singers and female singers.” (Ezra 2:43-58, 65; Nehemiah 7:46-60, 67) What moved so many non-Israelites to return?
9 Ezra 1:5 speaks of “everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah.” Yes, Jehovah moved all those who returned. He stimulated their spirit, that is, their impelling mental inclination. Even from the heavens, God could do this by using his holy spirit, his active force. Thus, all who rose “to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah” were helped “by [God’s] spirit.”—Zechariah 4:1, 6; Haggai 1:14.
A Modern-Day Parallel
10 Who are foreshadowed by such non-Israelite returnees? Many Christians might reply: ‘The Nethinim correspond to the “other sheep” today.’ True, but not just the Nethinim; for all the non-Israelites who returned represent Christians today who are not of spiritual Israel.
11 The book You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World observed: “The remnant of 42,360 Israelites were not the only ones that left Babylon with governor Zerubbabel . . . There were thousands of non-Israelites . . . Besides the Nethinim there were other non-Israelites, the slaves, the professional male and female singers and the descendants of the servants of King Solomon.” The book explained: “The Nethinim, the slaves, the singers and the sons of the servants of Solomon, all non-Israelites, left the land of captivity and returned with the Israelite remnant . . . So is it right to think that today people of different nationalities who are not spiritual Israelites would associate themselves with the remnant of spiritual Israel and promote the worship of Jehovah God with them? Yes.” Such ones ‘have become modern-day, antitypical Nethinim, singers, and sons of the servants of Solomon.’
12 As in the ancient pattern, God provides his spirit also for these hoping to live forever on earth. True, they are not born again. Each of the 144,000 has the singular experience of being born again as a spiritual son of God and anointed with holy spirit. (John 3:3, 5; Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13, 14) Of course, that anointing is a unique manifestation of God’s spirit in behalf of the little flock. But God’s spirit is also needed to carry out his will. Hence, Jesus said: ‘The Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him.’ (Luke 11:13) Whether the one asking has the heavenly hope or is of the other sheep, Jehovah’s spirit is abundantly available to carry out His will.
13 God’s spirit moved both Israelites and non-Israelites to return to Jerusalem, and it strengthens and helps all of his loyal people today. Whether a Christian’s God-provided hope is life in heaven or life on earth, he must preach the good news, and holy spirit enables him to be faithful in that. Every one of us—whichever our hope—ought to cultivate the fruits of the spirit, which all of us need in full measure.—Galatians 5:22-26.
Given for Special Service
14 Among the thousands of non-Israelites that the spirit moved to return were two small groups that God’s Word singled out—the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon. Who were they? What did they do? And what might this mean today?
15 The Nethinim were a group who had non-Israelite origins and who were privileged to minister with the Levites. Recall the Canaanites from Gibeon who became “gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar.” (Joshua 9:27) Probably some of their descendants were among the Nethinim returning from Babylon, as well as others who had been added as Nethinim during David’s reign and at other times. (Ezra 8:20) What did the Nethinim do? The Levites were given to help the priests, and thereafter the Nethinim were given to help the Levites. Even for circumcised foreigners, this was a privilege.
16 When the group returned from Babylon, it contained few Levites, compared to the priests or Nethinim and “sons of the servants of Solomon.” (Ezra 8:15-20) The Dictionary of the Bible, by Dr. James Hastings, observes: “After a time we find [the Nethinim] so completely established as a sacred official class, that privileges are accorded to them.” The scholarly journal Vetus Testamentum notes: “A change occurred. After the Return from Exile, these [foreigners] were no longer regarded as slaves of the Temple, but as ministrants in it, enjoying a status similar to that of those other bodies, which officiated in the Temple.”—See the box “A Changed Status.”
17 Of course, the Nethinim did not become the equals of the priests and the Levites. The latter groups were Israelites, who were chosen by Jehovah himself and not to be supplanted by non-Israelites. Yet, the Biblical indications are that in the face of a reduced number of Levites, the Nethinim were given more to do in God’s service. They were assigned living quarters close to the temple. In Nehemiah’s day they worked with priests in repairing walls near the temple. (Nehemiah 3:22-26) And the king of Persia decreed that the Nethinim be exempt from taxes, just as the Levites were exempt because of their temple service. (Ezra 7:24) This indicates how closely these “given ones” (Levites and Nethinim) were then linked in spiritual matters and how the Nethinim’s assignments increased in accord with the need, though they never were counted as being Levites. When Ezra later collected exiles to return, no Levites were initially among them. So he intensified efforts to collect some. That resulted in 38 Levites and 220 Nethinim returning to serve as “ministers for the house of our God.”—Ezra 8:15-20.
18 A second group of non-Israelites singled out were the sons of the servants of Solomon. The Bible gives few details about them. Some were “the sons of Sophereth.” Ezra adds a definite article to that name, making it Has•so•pheʹreth, possibly meaning “the scribe.” (Ezra 2:55; Nehemiah 7:57) They thus may have been a staff of scribes or copyists, possibly temple/administrative scribes. Though of foreign extraction, the sons of the servants of Solomon proved their devotion to Jehovah by leaving Babylon and returning to share in restoring His worship.
Giving of Ourselves Today
19 In our time, God has used the anointed remnant mightily in spearheading pure worship and declaring the good news. (Mark 13:10) How these have rejoiced to see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and then millions of other sheep join them in worship! And what delightful cooperation there has been between the remnant and the other sheep!—John 10:16.
20 All the non-Israelites who returned from exile in ancient Babylon parallel the other sheep who now serve with the remnant of spiritual Israel. What, though, of the fact that the Bible singles out the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon? In the pattern the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon were given privileges beyond those of other non-Israelite returnees. This could well foreshadow that God today has extended privileges and added duties to some mature and willing other sheep.
21 The Nethinim’s added privileges were linked directly to spiritual activities. The sons of the servants of Solomon evidently received administrative responsibilities. Similarly today, Jehovah has blessed his people with “gifts in men” to care for their needs. (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12) Included in this provision are many hundreds of mature, experienced brothers who share in ‘shepherding the flocks,’ serving as circuit and district overseers and on Branch Committees at the Watch Tower Society’s 98 branches. (Isaiah 61:5) At the world headquarters of the Society, under the direction of “the faithful steward” and its Governing Body, capable men receive training to help in preparing spiritual food supplies. (Luke 12:42) Other longtime dedicated volunteers have been trained to operate Bethel homes and factories and to oversee programs worldwide in constructing new branch facilities and halls for Christian worship. They have excelled in serving as close helpers of the anointed remnant, who constitute part of the royal priesthood.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:17; 14:40; 1 Peter 2:9.
22 In ancient times, priests and Levites continued to serve among the Jews. (John 1:19) Today, however, the remnant of spiritual Israel on earth must go on decreasing. (Contrast John 3:30.) Finally, after the demise of Babylon the Great, all 144,000 ‘sealed ones’ will be in heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:1-3; 19:1-8) But now the other sheep must go on increasing. The fact that some of them, comparable to the Nethinim and the sons of the servants of Solomon, are now being assigned weighty responsibilities under the oversight of the anointed remnant does not cause them to be presumptuous or feel self-important. (Romans 12:3) This gives us confidence that as God’s people “come out of the great tribulation,” there will be experienced men—“princes”—prepared to take the lead among the other sheep.—Revelation 7:14; Isaiah 32:1; compare Acts 6:2-7.
23 All who returned from Babylon were willing to work hard and prove that they had Jehovah’s worship uppermost in mind and heart. It is the same today. Along with the anointed remnant, “strangers . . . actually stand and shepherd the flocks.” (Isaiah 61:5) So no matter what God-provided hope we have, and no matter what privileges may be extended spirit-appointed elders before the day of Jehovah’s vindication at Armageddon, let all of us cultivate a selfless, wholesome, giving spirit. While we can never repay Jehovah for all of his grand benefits, may we be whole-souled in whatever we are doing within his organization. (Psalm 116:12-14; Colossians 3:23) Thus all of us can give of ourselves for true worship, as other sheep serve closely with anointed ones, who are destined to “rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.

(EZRA 2:63)

“The governor told them that they could not eat from the most holy things until there was a priest who could consult the Uʹrim and Thumʹmim.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 18 par. 3 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
2:61-63—Were the Urim and the Thummim, which were used when an answer was needed from Jehovah, available to the returning exiles? The claimants to priestly descent who failed to establish their genealogy could have given legitimacy to their claim by using the Urim and the Thummim. Ezra mentions this only as a possibility. The Scriptures contain no record of the use of the Urim and the Thummim then or thereafter. Jewish tradition has it that the Urim and the Thummim disappeared with the destruction of the temple in 607 B.C.E.

*** it-2 p. 1144 Urim and Thummim ***
Use Ceased in 607 B.C.E. According to Jewish tradition, use of the Urim and the Thummim ceased when Jerusalem was desolated and her temple destroyed in 607 B.C.E. by the Babylonian armies under King Nebuchadnezzar. (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 48b) This view is supported by what we read regarding these objects in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. There, certain men who were claimants to priestly descent, but who could not find their names in the public register, were told that they could not eat from the most holy things provided for the priesthood until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim. But there is no record of their use at that time, and thereafter the Bible makes no further reference to these sacred objects.—Ezr 2:61-63; Ne 7:63-65.

*** w86 1/15 p. 8 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
2:61-63—What were the Urim and the Thummim?
They are thought to have been sacred lots used when a question needed an answer from Jehovah. According to Jewish tradition, they disappeared when the temple was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. This is supported by the fact that claimants to priestly descent were barred from the priesthood and the eating of most holy things “until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim.” But there is no record of their use then or thereafter.

(EZRA 2:64)

“The total number of the entire congregation was 42,360,”

*** it-2 p. 44 Jerusalem ***
In “the first year” (evidently as ruler over Babylon) of Cyrus the Persian (538 B.C.E.) the royal decree went forth freeing the exiled Jews to “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel.” (Ezr 1:1-4) The people who made the long trip to Jerusalem, carrying temple treasures with them, included 42,360 males, besides slaves and professional singers. They arrived in time to celebrate the Festival of Booths in Tishri (September-October) 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 2:64, 65; 3:1-4)

*** it-2 p. 489 Nehemiah, Book of ***
Both the book of Ezra (2:1-67) and the book of Nehemiah (7:6-69) list the number of men from various families or houses who returned from Babylonian exile with Zerubbabel. The accounts harmonize in giving 42,360 as the total number of males among the returned exiles, apart from slaves and singers. (Ezr 2:64; Ne 7:66) However, there are differences in the numbers given for each family or house, and the individual figures in both listings yield a total of far less than 42,360. Many scholars would attribute these variations to scribal errors. While this aspect cannot be completely ignored, there are other possible explanations for the differences.
It may be that Ezra and Nehemiah based their listings on different sources. For example, Ezra could have used a document listing those who enrolled to return to their homeland, whereas Nehemiah might have copied from a record listing those who actually did return. Since there were priests who were unable to establish their genealogy (Ezr 2:61-63; Ne 7:63-65), it is not unreasonable to conclude that many of the other Israelites faced the same problem. Consequently, the 42,360 men could be the combined total of the number from each family plus many others who were unable to establish their ancestry. Later, however, some may have been able to establish their correct genealogy. This could explain how a fluctuation in numbers might still give the same total.

(EZRA 2:66)

“Their horses were 736, their mules 245,”

*** it-1 p. 1145 Horse ***
Horses are mentioned among the beasts of burden that would be used to transport God’s scattered people to Jerusalem. (Isa 66:20) It is therefore notable that in the first fulfillment of the restoration prophecies, the returning Jews brought back 736 horses.—Ezr 2:1, 66; Ne 7:68.

(EZRA 2:67)

“their camels 435, their donkeys 6,720.”

*** it-1 p. 396 Camel ***
Camels are also mentioned among the beasts of burden bringing the brothers of God’s servants to Jerusalem out of all the nations “as a gift to Jehovah.” (Isa 60:6; 66:20) It is of interest that, in the first fulfillment of Isaiah’s restoration prophecy, there were 435 camels among the livestock of the Jews returning from Babylon in 537 B.C.E.—Ezr 2:67; Ne 7:69.

(EZRA 2:69)

“According to their means, they gave to the project treasury 61,000 gold drachmas, 5,000 silver miʹnas, and 100 robes for the priests.”

*** it-1 p. 648 Drachma ***
The Greek silver drachma is not to be confused with the gold “drachma” (dar•kemohnʹ) of the Hebrew Scriptures, a coin generally equated with the Persian daric (8.4 g; 0.27 oz t; $94.50 according to modern values).—Ezr 2:69; Ne 7:70-72.

(EZRA 2:70)

“And the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants settled in their cities, and all the rest of Israel settled in their cities.”

*** it-1 p. 1231 Israel ***
Israel After the Babylonian Exile. During the next 390 years following the death of Solomon and the breaking up of the united kingdom and on down to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., the term “Israel” usually applied only to the ten tribes under the rule of the northern kingdom. (2Ki 17:21-23) But with the return of a remnant of all 12 tribes from exile, and continuing on down to the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the term “Israel” once again embraced the whole of Jacob’s descendants living at that time. Again the people of all 12 tribes were called “all Israel.”—Ezr 2:70; 6:17; 10:5; Ne 12:47; Ac 2:22, 36.

(EZRA 3:1)

“When the seventh month arrived and the Israelites were in their cities, they gathered together with one accord in Jerusalem.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 19 par. 2 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
3:1-6. In the seventh month of 537 B.C.E. (Tishri, corresponding to September/October), the faithful returnees offered their first sacrifice. The Babylonians had entered Jerusalem in the fifth month (Ab, corresponding to July/August) of 607 B.C.E., and two months later the city’s desolation was complete. (2 Kings 25:8-17, 22-26) As foretold, Jerusalem’s 70-year desolation ended right on time. (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10) Anything Jehovah’s Word foretells always comes true.

*** si p. 150 par. 15 Bible Book Number 30—Amos ***
True to Jehovah’s word through Amos, the captives of Israel returned in 537 B.C.E. to build and inhabit their desolated cities and plant their vineyards and gardens.—Amos 9:14; Ezra 3:1.

*** it-1 p. 458 Chronology ***
Another date that can be used as a pivotal point is the year 539 B.C.E., supported by various historical sources as the year for the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. (Secular sources for Cyrus’ reign include Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy, as well as the Babylonian tablets.) During Cyrus’ first year his decree releasing the Jews from exile was given. And, as considered in the article on CYRUS, it is very probable that the decree was made by the winter of 538 B.C.E. or toward the spring of 537 B.C.E. This would permit the Jews time to make necessary preparations, effect the four-month journey to Jerusalem, and still arrive there by the seventh month (Tishri, or about October 1) of 537 B.C.E.—Ezr 1:1-11; 2:64-70; 3:1.

*** it-1 p. 463 Chronology ***
However, “some of the lowly people of the land” were allowed to remain, and these did so until the assassination of Gedaliah, Nebuchadnezzar’s appointee, whereupon they fled into Egypt, finally leaving Judah completely desolate. (2Ki 25:9-12, 22-26) This was in the seventh month, Ethanim (or Tishri, corresponding to parts of September and October). Hence the count of the 70 years of desolation must have begun about October 1, 607 B.C.E., ending in 537 B.C.E. By the seventh month of this latter year the first repatriated Jews arrived back in Judah, 70 years from the start of the full desolation of the land.—2Ch 36:21-23; Ezr 3:1.

*** it-1 pp. 568-569 Cyrus ***
In view of the Bible record, Cyrus’ decree freeing the Jews to return to Jerusalem likely was made late in the year 538 or early in 537 B.C.E. This would allow time for the Jewish exiles to prepare to move out of Babylon and make the long trek to Judah and Jerusalem (a trip that could take about four months according to Ezr 7:9) and yet be settled “in their cities” in Judah by “the seventh month” (Tishri) of the year 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 3:1, 6) This marked the end of the prophesied 70 years of Judah’s desolation that began in the same month, Tishri, of 607 B.C.E.—2Ki 25:22-26; 2Ch 36:20, 21.

(EZRA 3:6)

“From the first day of the seventh month they started to offer up burnt sacrifices to Jehovah, though the foundation of Jehovah’s temple had not yet been laid.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 19 par. 2 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
3:1-6. In the seventh month of 537 B.C.E. (Tishri, corresponding to September/October), the faithful returnees offered their first sacrifice. The Babylonians had entered Jerusalem in the fifth month (Ab, corresponding to July/August) of 607 B.C.E., and two months later the city’s desolation was complete. (2 Kings 25:8-17, 22-26) As foretold, Jerusalem’s 70-year desolation ended right on time. (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10) Anything Jehovah’s Word foretells always comes true.

*** it-1 p. 800 Ezra, Book of ***
The 70th year of Jerusalem’s desolation, the last enforced sabbath on the land, would end in the autumn of 537 B.C.E. Cyrus’ decree must have been issued late in 538 B.C.E. or early in 537 for two reasons. The desolation had to last until the 70th year ended, and the released Israelites would not be expected to travel in the winter rainy season, as would have been the case if the decree had been made a few months earlier. Likely it was issued in the early spring of 537 B.C.E. in order to give the Jews a chance to travel during the dry season, arrive in Jerusalem, and set up the altar on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) of the year 537 B.C.E., September 29 according to the Gregorian calendar.—Ezr 3:2-6.

(EZRA 3:7)

“They gave money to the stonecutters and the craftsmen, and food and drink and oil to the Si•doʹni•ans and the Tyrʹi•ans for bringing cedar timbers by sea from Lebʹa•non to Jopʹpa, according to the authorization granted them by King Cyrus of Persia.”

(EZRA 3:12)

“Many of the priests, the Levites, and the heads of the paternal houses—the old men who had seen the former house—wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, while many others shouted joyfully at the top of their voice.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 18 par. 4 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
3:12—Why did “the old men that had seen the former house” of Jehovah weep? These men could remember how magnificent the temple built by Solomon was. The groundwork of the new temple that was before them was “as nothing in [their] eyes” in comparison. (Haggai 2:2, 3) Would their efforts bring back the glory of the former temple? They must have felt disheartened, and therefore they wept.

*** w86 1/15 p. 8 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
3:12—Why did these men weep?
These very old men could recall how gorgeous the divinely designed temple of Solomon had looked. What lay before their eyes now—a mere groundwork—was as nothing in comparison. Likely they were disheartened, doubting that their efforts would bring back the former glory.—Haggai 2:2, 3.

(EZRA 4:2)

“they immediately approached Ze•rubʹba•bel and the heads of the paternal houses and said to them: “Let us build along with you; for like you, we worship your God and we have been sacrificing to him since the days of King Eʹsar-hadʹdon of As•syrʹi•a, who brought us here.””

*** it-1 p. 62 Ahaz ***
With regard to the “sixty-five years” at Isaiah 7:8, which Isaiah prophesied would be the period within which Ephraim would be “shattered to pieces,” the Commentary on the Whole Bible (by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown) states: “One deportation of Israel happened within one or two years from this time [the time of Isaiah’s prophecy], under Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15. 29). Another in the reign of Hoshea, under Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17. 1-6), was about twenty years after. But the final one which utterly ‘broke’ up Israel so as to be ‘not a people,’ accompanied by a colonization of Samaria with foreigners, was under Esar-haddon, who carried away Manasseh, king of Judah, also, in the twenty-second year of his reign, sixty-five years from the utterance of this prophecy (cf. Ezra 4.2, 3, 10, with 2 Kings 17.24; 2 Chronicles 33.11).”

*** it-1 p. 758 Esar-haddon ***
The “Sixty-Five Years.” At the time of the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem some of the non-Israelite inhabitants of the land referred to their having been brought to Samaria by “Esar-haddon the king of Assyria.” (Ezr 4:2) That the Assyrian transplantation of people to and from Samaria continued until his reign is viewed by some as a clue to the understanding of the period of “sixty-five years” mentioned at Isaiah 7:8 with regard to the desolation of Ephraim (with its capital at Samaria). The interval extending from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (who initiated the deportation of people from the northern kingdom of Israel shortly after Isaiah’s prophecy) to that of Esar-haddon would allow for such a 65-year period until the complete ‘shattering to pieces’ of Ephraim “so as not to be a people.”

(EZRA 4:3)

“However, Ze•rubʹba•bel and Jeshʹu•a and the rest of the heads of the paternal houses of Israel said to them: “You have no share with us in building a house to our God, for we alone will build it to Jehovah the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.””

*** w06 1/15 p. 19 par. 3 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
4:1-3. The faithful remnant rejected an offer that would have meant forming a religious alliance with false worshippers. (Exodus 20:5; 34:12) Jehovah’s worshippers today similarly take no part in any interfaith movements.

*** w86 1/15 p. 8 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
4:1-3—Why was the offer of help rejected?
These non-Jews, brought in by the king of Assyria to repopulate the land, were not true worshipers of God. (2 Kings 17:33, 41) Accepting their help would have meant compromising true worship, and Jehovah had specifically warned his people against any such interfaith movements. (Exodus 20:5; 34:12) Moreover, the account calls these non-Jews “adversaries.”

(EZRA 4:4)

“Then the people of the land were continually discouraging the people of Judah and disheartening them from building.”

*** si p. 166 par. 4 Bible Book Number 37—Haggai ***
4 As the record shows, no sooner had the foundation of the temple been laid (in 536 B.C.E.) than “the people of the land were continually weakening the hands of the people of Judah and disheartening them from building, and hiring counselors against them to frustrate their counsel.” (Ezra 4:4, 5) Finally, in 522 B.C.E., these non-Jewish opposers succeeded in having an official ban placed on the work.

(EZRA 4:5)

“They hired advisers against them to frustrate their plans all the days of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Da•riʹus of Persia.”

*** it-1 p. 515 Counsel, Counselor ***
Men known for their wisdom were valued highly as royal counselors or advisers. (See 2Sa 16:23.) Because of their position, they were on occasion offered bribes so that they would use their influence in a corrupt way. When the enemies of the Jews hired counselors, they may have done so by bribing Persians who served in that capacity.—Ezr 4:5.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
521-486 Darius I Darius Ezra 4:5, 24;
6:1-15

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
c. 550-529 Cyrus the Great Cyrus Ezra 1:1; 4:5

(EZRA 4:6)

“At the beginning of the reign of A•has•u•eʹrus, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.”

*** it-1 p. 61 Ahasuerus ***
2. The Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6, in the beginning of whose reign an accusation was written against the Jews by their enemies, may have been Cambyses, the successor of Cyrus the conqueror of Babylon and liberator of the Jews. Cambyses reigned from 529 to 522 B.C.E.

*** it-2 p. 613 Persia, Persians ***
From Cyrus’ Death to Darius’ Death. The reign of Cyrus the Great ended in 530 B.C.E. when he died while on a warring campaign. His son Cambyses succeeded him to the throne and was successful in conquering Egypt. Though not referred to by the name Cambyses in the Bible, he is evidently the “Ahasuerus” to whom the opposers of the temple work sent false accusations against the Jews, as stated at Ezra 4:6.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
529-522 Cambyses II Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6

(EZRA 4:7)

“And in the days of King Ar•ta•xerxʹes of Persia, Bishʹlam, Mithʹre•dath, Tabʹe•el, and the rest of his colleagues wrote to Ar•ta•xerxʹes the king; they translated the letter into Ar•a•maʹic, writing it with Ar•a•maʹic characters.”

*** si p. 86 par. 9 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
The neighboring peoples, adversaries, offer to help with the construction, saying they are seeking the same God, but the Jewish remnant flatly refuse any alliance with them. The adversaries continually try to weaken and dishearten the Jews and to frustrate their work, from the reign of Cyrus down to that of Darius. Finally, in the days of “Artaxerxes” (Bardiya or possibly a Magian known as Gaumata, 522 B.C.E.), they have the work forcibly stopped by royal command. This ban continues “until the second year of the reign of Darius the king of Persia” (520 B.C.E.), which is over 15 years after the laying of the foundation.—4:4-7, 24.

*** it-1 p. 181 Artaxerxes ***
ARTAXERXES
(Ar•ta•xerxʹes).
A name or title applied in the Bible to two Persian kings.
1. The Persian ruler who caused the building of Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem to be stopped. (Ezr 4:7-24) Between the reigns of Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (537 B.C.E.), and of Darius the Great, who in 520 B.C.E. removed the ban imposed on the temple construction, possibly three kings ruled: Cambyses II, his brother Bardiya (or possibly a Magian known as Gaumata who is said to have pretended to be Bardiya and ruled for seven months), and Nidintu-Bel (who was defeated and killed by Darius after just two months). Cambyses is evidently represented by the “Ahasuerus” mentioned at Ezra 4:6 to whom the first protest was made by the opposers of the temple reconstruction. Therefore, beginning with Ezra 4:7, the ruler referred to as “Artaxerxes” is either Bardiya or Gaumata, whose rule lasted but seven months (522 B.C.E.).

*** it-2 p. 611 Persia, Persians ***
The Persian language is classed within the Indo-European family and gives evidence of being related to the Indian Sanskrit. At some time in their history the Persians began to make use of the cuneiform style of writing, with, however, a greatly reduced number of signs when compared with the hundreds of signs used in Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform writing. Whereas during the rule of the Persian Empire some inscriptions are found in Old Persian with translations in Akkadian and in a language generally denominated “Elamite” or “Susian,” official documents used in the administration of the imperial territories were recorded primarily in Aramaic as an international language.—Ezr 4:7.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
Gaumata (Smerdis) Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7-23

(EZRA 4:10)

“and the rest of the nations that the great and honorable Asʹe•nap•par took into exile and settled in the cities of Sa•marʹi•a, and the rest in the region Beyond the River, and now”

*** w88 2/15 p. 28 Part 2—Cruel Assyria—The Second Great World Power ***
Ashurbanipal, son of Esar-haddon, is thought to be “the great and honorable Asenappar” mentioned at Ezra 4:10. He expanded the Assyrian empire to its greatest extent.

*** it-1 p. 62 Ahaz ***
With regard to the “sixty-five years” at Isaiah 7:8, which Isaiah prophesied would be the period within which Ephraim would be “shattered to pieces,” the Commentary on the Whole Bible (by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown) states: “One deportation of Israel happened within one or two years from this time [the time of Isaiah’s prophecy], under Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15. 29). Another in the reign of Hoshea, under Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17. 1-6), was about twenty years after. But the final one which utterly ‘broke’ up Israel so as to be ‘not a people,’ accompanied by a colonization of Samaria with foreigners, was under Esar-haddon, who carried away Manasseh, king of Judah, also, in the twenty-second year of his reign, sixty-five years from the utterance of this prophecy (cf. Ezra 4.2, 3, 10, with 2 Kings 17.24; 2 Chronicles 33.11).”

*** it-1 p. 188 Asenappar ***
ASENAPPAR
(Asʹe•nap•par).
This name appears in a portion of the book of Ezra (4:10) recorded in Aramaic and is evidently a clipped rendering of the name of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and, like the Persian, which has no letter l, substitutes an r for the final l. The inhabitants of Susa (capital of Elam) were transplanted to Samaria by Asenappar. (Compare 2Ki 17:24-28.) History shows Ashurbanipal to be the only Assyrian king in position to carry out such action as regards the inhabitants of Elam.

*** it-1 p. 205 Assyria ***
Ashurbanipal. Prior to Esar-haddon’s death he had appointed his son Ashurbanipal as crown prince of Assyria and another son, Shamash-shum-u-kin, as crown prince of Babylonia. Shamash-shum-u-kin later rebelled against his brother, and Ashurbanipal overcame the rebellion and sacked the city of Babylon.
Ashurbanipal brought about the greatest expansion of the empire. He put down an uprising in Egypt and sacked the city of Thebes (No-amon). The boundaries of the Assyrian Empire now embraced the regions of Elam, part of Media up into Ararat, as far W as Cilicia in Asia Minor, through Syria and Israel (but not Jerusalem), and down into Egypt, Arabia, and Babylonia. Apparently he is “the great and honorable Asenappar” referred to at Ezra 4:10.—See ASENAPPAR.

(EZRA 4:13)

“Now let it be known to the king that if this city should be rebuilt and its walls finished, they will not give tax, tribute, or toll, and it will result in a loss to the treasuries of the kings.”

*** it-2 p. 1070 Taxation ***
During the Persian period, the Jews (with the exception of the priests and others serving at the sanctuary, who were exempted by Artaxerxes Longimanus) had to pay tax (Aramaic, mid•dahʹ or min•dahʹ), tribute (belohʹ), and toll (halakhʹ). (Ezr 4:13, 20; 7:24) Mid•dahʹ is thought to designate personal tax on individuals; belohʹ, a tax on consumer items, excise; and halakhʹ, toll paid by travelers at road stations or river fords. The mid•dahʹ (translated “tribute” in AS, KJ, NW at Ne 5:4) must have been quite high, for many of the Jews had to borrow money to pay it. Besides having to care for the taxes levied by the Persians, the Jews normally also had to pay for the support of the governor.—Ne 5:14, 15.

(EZRA 4:20)

“There were powerful kings over Jerusalem who ruled the whole region Beyond the River, and tax, tribute, and toll were paid to them.”

*** it-2 p. 1070 Taxation ***
During the Persian period, the Jews (with the exception of the priests and others serving at the sanctuary, who were exempted by Artaxerxes Longimanus) had to pay tax (Aramaic, mid•dahʹ or min•dahʹ), tribute (belohʹ), and toll (halakhʹ). (Ezr 4:13, 20; 7:24) Mid•dahʹ is thought to designate personal tax on individuals; belohʹ, a tax on consumer items, excise; and halakhʹ, toll paid by travelers at road stations or river fords. The mid•dahʹ (translated “tribute” in AS, KJ, NW at Ne 5:4) must have been quite high, for many of the Jews had to borrow money to pay it. Besides having to care for the taxes levied by the Persians, the Jews normally also had to pay for the support of the governor.—Ne 5:14, 15.

(EZRA 4:23)

“Now after the copy of the official document of King Ar•ta•xerxʹes had been read before Reʹhum and Shimʹshai the scribe and their colleagues, they quickly went to Jerusalem to the Jews and used force to stop them.”

*** it-2 p. 613 Persia, Persians ***
Whatever the case, the reign of Cambyses ended in 522 B.C.E., and the rule that followed lasted seven months, ending also in 522 B.C.E. with the assassination of the usurper (either Bardiya or Gaumata the pseudo Smerdis). Yet during this brief rule apparently a second charge against the Jews was directed to the Persian throne, the king then being designated in the Bible as “Artaxerxes” (perhaps a throne name or title), and this time the accusations were successful in producing a royal ban against further construction on the temple. (Ezr 4:7-23) The temple work then lay idle “until the second year of the reign of Darius the king of Persia.”—Ezr 4:24.

(EZRA 4:24)

“It was then that the work on the house of God, which was in Jerusalem, came to a halt; and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Da•riʹus of Persia.”

*** si p. 166 pars. 3-4 Bible Book Number 37—Haggai ***
In 537 B.C.E., Cyrus had issued the decree permitting the Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild the house of Jehovah. But it was now 520 B.C.E., and the temple was far from being completed. All these years the Jews had let enemy opposition along with their own apathy and materialism prevent them from realizing the very purpose of their return.—Ezra 1:1-4; 3:10-13; 4:1-24; Hag. 1:4.
4 As the record shows, no sooner had the foundation of the temple been laid (in 536 B.C.E.) than “the people of the land were continually weakening the hands of the people of Judah and disheartening them from building, and hiring counselors against them to frustrate their counsel.” (Ezra 4:4, 5) Finally, in 522 B.C.E., these non-Jewish opposers succeeded in having an official ban placed on the work. It was in the second year of the reign of the Persian king Darius Hystaspis, that is, in 520 B.C.E., that Haggai began to prophesy, and this encouraged the Jews to resume their temple building. At that, a letter was sent to Darius by the neighboring governors asking for a ruling on the matter; Darius revived the decree of Cyrus and supported the Jews against their enemies.

*** si p. 167 pars. 8-9 Bible Book Number 37—Haggai ***
8 The first message (1:1-15). This is directed to Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua, but in the hearing of the people. The people have been saying, “The time has not come, the time of the house of Jehovah, for it to be built.” Jehovah through Haggai asks a searching question: “Is it the time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house is waste?” (1:2, 4) They have sown much in a material way, but it has benefited them little in the way of food, drink, and clothing. “Set your heart upon your ways,” admonishes Jehovah. (1:7) It is high time to bring in lumber and build the house, that Jehovah may be glorified. The Jews are taking good care of their own houses, but Jehovah’s house lies waste. Therefore, Jehovah has withheld the dew of heaven and the increase of the field and his blessing from upon man and his toil.
9 Ah, they get the point! Haggai has not prophesied in vain. Rulers and people begin “to listen to the voice of Jehovah their God.” Fear of Jehovah replaces fear of man. Jehovah’s assurance through his messenger Haggai is: “I am with you people.” (1:12, 13) It is Jehovah himself who rouses up the spirit of the governor, the spirit of the high priest, and the spirit of the remnant of His people. They get to work, just 23 days after the start of Haggai’s prophesying and despite the official ban of the Persian government.

*** it-1 p. 583 Darius ***
It is particularly with regard to the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem that Darius Hystaspis figures in the Bible record. The temple foundation was laid in 536 B.C.E., but rebuilding work came under ban in 522 B.C.E. and “continued stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius” (520 B.C.E.). (Ezr 4:4, 5, 24) During this year the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stirred up the Jews to renew the construction, and the work got under way again. (Ezr 5:1, 2; Hag 1:1, 14, 15; Zec 1:1)

*** it-2 p. 613 Persia, Persians ***
The temple work then lay idle “until the second year of the reign of Darius the king of Persia.”—Ezr 4:24.
Darius I (called Darius Hystaspis or Darius the Great) evidently engineered or instigated the slaying of the one occupying the Persian throne and gained the throne for himself. During his rule the temple work at Jerusalem was renewed with royal approval, and the temple was completed during his sixth year of rule (early in 515 B.C.E.). (Ezr 6:1-15) Darius’ reign was one of imperial expansion. He extended Persian dominion as far E as India and as far W as Thrace and Macedonia.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
521-486 Darius I Darius Ezra 4:5, 24;
6:1-15

(EZRA 5:2)

“It was then that Ze•rubʹba•bel the son of She•alʹti•el and Jeshʹu•a the son of Je•hozʹa•dak started to rebuild the house of God, which was in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them and supported them.”

*** it-2 p. 594 Pedaiah ***
Because of some unrecorded circumstance, Zerubbabel is also called the son of Pedaiah’s brother Shealtiel. Shealtiel may have adopted Zerubbabel if Pedaiah died when the boy was young; or, if Shealtiel died before fathering a son, Pedaiah may have performed brother-in-law marriage, fathering Zerubbabel in the name of his brother Shealtiel.—Ezr 5:2; Mt 1:12.

*** it-2 p. 911 Shealtiel ***
As to Zerubbabel’s father: Pedaiah is once so identified (1Ch 3:19), but Pedaiah’s brother Shealtiel (1Ch 3:17, 18) is so termed in all other instances. (Ezr 3:2, 8; 5:2; Ne 12:1; Hag 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 23; Mt 1:12; Lu 3:27) If Pedaiah died when his son Zerubbabel was a boy, Pedaiah’s oldest brother Shealtiel might have raised Zerubbabel as his own son. Or, if Shealtiel died childless and Pedaiah performed levirate marriage on his behalf, the son of Pedaiah by Shealtiel’s wife would have been the legal heir of Shealtiel.

(EZRA 5:5)

“But God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report could be sent to Da•riʹus and an official document could be sent back concerning this.”

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
5:5—Why did the opposers not stop the building work?
Jehovah’s watchcare was upon his faithful servants. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Strengthened by God’s spirit, the elders refused to be intimidated. They referred to the long-forgotten decree of Cyrus. Since Persian law was unalterable, the adversaries feared opposing a royal decree. (Daniel 6:8, 15) Jehovah’s direction was evident, and the work continued.

*** w86 2/1 p. 29 Jehovah’s Eye “Proved to Be Upon the Older Men” ***
Jehovah’s Eye “Proved to Be Upon the Older Men”
ELDERS today often must make decisions that seem beyond the scope of their knowledge and experience. However, consider a situation that faced some Jewish elders in the days of Ezra.
Following the return of the Jewish remnant from Babylon, a 16-year-long period of inactivity set in. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah managed to shake the Jews out of their apathy, and the work of rebuilding Jehovah’s temple was resumed. Soon, though, this work was challenged by Persian officials. “Who put an order through to you to build this house?” asked the opposers.—Ezra 5:1-3.
The reply to this inquiry was critical. If the elders allowed themselves to be intimidated, the temple restoration would abruptly come to a halt. If the elders antagonized these officials, an immediate ban on the work could be imposed. So the elders (doubtless led by Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua) phrased a tactful but effective reply. They reminded the officials of the long-forgotten decree of Cyrus that had granted the Jews royal permission to go forward with this work. Knowing the Persian policy of never altering stated law, these officials shrewdly chose to avoid opposing a royal decree. The work was thus allowed to continue until King Darius later gave his official go-ahead!—Ezra 5:11-17; 6:6-12.
Was this astounding result due to human wisdom? On the contrary, Ezra’s account says that “the eye of their God proved to be upon the older men of the Jews.” (Ezra 5:5) Clearly, Jehovah directed both their reply and the favorable response from the Persian king. Christian elders today can likewise look to Jehovah for guidance and direction when facing difficult decisions or dealing with opposers.

(EZRA 5:6)

“Here is a copy of the letter that Tatʹte•nai the governor of the region Beyond the River and Sheʹthar-bozʹe•nai and his colleagues, the lesser governors of the region Beyond the River, sent to King Da•riʹus;”

*** w93 6/15 p. 32 Can You Trust the Bible? ***
Can You Trust the Bible?
IF YOU picked up a Bible, would you expect to find a coin? What about this ancient silver coin?
Many think of the Bible as an old book offering quaint stories and admirable morals. Yet, they do not believe that Bible accounts are accurate history, so they deny that it is the Word of God. There is, though, ample evidence of the Bible’s accuracy. This coin (enlarged view) is a good example. What does the writing say?
The coin was made in Tarsus, a city in the southeastern part of what is now Turkey. The coin was produced during the rule of the Persian governor Mazaeus in the fourth century B.C.E. It identifies him as governor of the province “Beyond the River,” that is, the Euphrates River.
But why is that phrase interesting? Because you will find the same designation in your Bible. Ezra 5:6–6:13 sets out correspondence between the Persian king Darius and a governor named Tattenai. At issue was the Jews’ rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem. Ezra was a skilled copyist of God’s Law, and you would expect him to be precise, accurate in what he wrote. You will see at Ezra 5:6 and 6:13 that he termed Tattenai “the governor beyond the River.”
Ezra penned that about 460 B.C.E., some 100 years before this coin was minted. Oh, some people might feel that the designation for an ancient official is a minor detail. But if you can rely on the Bible writers in even such small details, should that not increase your confidence in what else they wrote?
In the first two articles in this issue, you will find additional reasons for such confidence.
[Picture Credit Line on page 32]
Collection of Israel Dept. of Antiquities Exhibited & photographed Israel Museum

(EZRA 5:12)

“However, because our fathers angered the God of the heavens, he gave them into the hand of King Neb•u•chad•nezʹzar of Babylon, the Chal•deʹan, who demolished this house and took the people into exile to Babylon.”

*** it-1 pp. 583-584 Darius ***
The Jewish declaration that contrasted the actions of the Chaldean Nebuchadnezzar, as the destroyer of the temple, with the Persian Cyrus, as the one authorizing its reconstruction, should have had an appropriate and felicitous effect on Darius since, in the first years of his reign, he had to overcome two revolts by rebels each taking the name Nebuchadnezzar (called Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV by historians), claiming to be sons of Nabonidus, and endeavoring to make Babylon independent of the Persian Empire.

(EZRA 5:13)

“Nevertheless, in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus issued an order to rebuild this house of God.”

*** it-1 pp. 583-584 Darius ***
The Jewish declaration that contrasted the actions of the Chaldean Nebuchadnezzar, as the destroyer of the temple, with the Persian Cyrus, as the one authorizing its reconstruction, should have had an appropriate and felicitous effect on Darius since, in the first years of his reign, he had to overcome two revolts by rebels each taking the name Nebuchadnezzar (called Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV by historians), claiming to be sons of Nabonidus, and endeavoring to make Babylon independent of the Persian Empire.

(EZRA 5:14)

“Moreover, King Cyrus took out of the temple of Babylon the gold and silver vessels of the house of God that Neb•u•chad•nezʹzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought to the temple of Babylon. They were given to a man named Shesh•bazʹzar, whom Cyrus made governor.”

*** it-2 p. 482 Nebuchadnezzar ***
Very Religious. The indications are that Nebuchadnezzar was extremely religious, building and beautifying the temples of numerous Babylonian deities. Particularly was he devoted to the worship of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. To him Nebuchadnezzar gave credit for his military victories. Trophies of war, including the sacred vessels of Jehovah’s temple, appear to have been deposited in the temple of Marduk (Merodach). (Ezr 1:7; 5:14) Says an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar: “For thy glory, O exalted MERODACH a house have I made. . . . May it receive within itself the abundant tribute of the Kings of nations and of all peoples!”—Records of the Past: Assyrian and Egyptian Monuments, London, 1875, Vol. V, p. 135.

January 25-31, 2016
Ezra 6-10

(EZRA 6:1)

“It was then that King Da•riʹus issued an order, and they made an investigation in the archives where the treasures were deposited in Babylon.”

*** it-1 p. 1154 House ***
(16) a building for housing official records of state (Ezr 6:1).

*** it-2 p. 613 Persia, Persians ***
Darius I (called Darius Hystaspis or Darius the Great) evidently engineered or instigated the slaying of the one occupying the Persian throne and gained the throne for himself. During his rule the temple work at Jerusalem was renewed with royal approval, and the temple was completed during his sixth year of rule (early in 515 B.C.E.). (Ezr 6:1-15) Darius’ reign was one of imperial expansion. He extended Persian dominion as far E as India and as far W as Thrace and Macedonia.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
521-486 Darius I Darius Ezra 4:5, 24;
6:1-15

(EZRA 6:2)

“And a scroll was found in the citadel at Ec•batʹa•na, in the province of Meʹdi•a, and the following memorandum was written on it:”

*** it-1 p. 569 Cyrus ***
Aside from the royal proclamation quoted in Ezra 1:1-4, the Biblical record speaks of another document by Cyrus, a “memorandum,” which was filed away in the house of the records at Ecbatana in Media and was discovered there during the reign of Darius the Persian. (Ezr 5:13-17; 6:1-5) Concerning this second document, Professor G. Ernest Wright says, “[it] is explicitly entitled a dikrona, an official Aramaic term for a memorandum which recorded an oral decision of the king or other official and which initiated administrative action. It was never intended for publication but solely for the eye of the proper official, following which it was filed away in government archives.”—Biblical Archaeology, p. 203.

*** it-1 p. 674 Ecbatana ***
ECBATANA
(Ec•batʹa•na).
The capital city of ancient Media, from about 700 B.C.E. Persian King Cyrus II took it from Median King Astyages, after which the Medes and Persians joined forces under Cyrus. Ecbatana is Scripturally identified as a place that was in the jurisdictional district of Media in the days of Persian King Darius I (Hystaspis).—Ezr 6:1, 2.
“Ecbatana” is the English rendering of this city’s name at Ezra 6:2. This form of the name corresponds to the reading of the Latin Vulgate and is also found in the Greek text of the Apocryphal writings that came to be included in the Septuagint. The Masoretic text and the Syriac Peshitta, however, give the name as “Achmetha.” Early Greek writers seem to have applied the name Ecbatana to several places. However, there is general agreement among scholars today that the Ecbatana captured by Cyrus (and thus that mentioned at Ezr 6:2) is the modern city of Hamadan, an important commercial center of Iran situated at the foot of Mount Alwand approximately 290 km (180 mi) WSW of Tehran. Just as ancient Ecbatana was a significant city along the chief route leading from Mesopotamia to points farther E, so modern Hamadan is traversed by various roads, such as that running from Baghdad to Tehran.

(EZRA 6:3)

““In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the house of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the house be rebuilt as the place where they are to offer sacrifices, and its foundations are to be set in place; its height is to be 60 cubits, its width 60 cubits,”

*** g 2/11 pp. 16-17 A Book You Can Trust—Part 4 ***
In fact, Cyrus ordered that funds for temple reconstruction “be given from the king’s house,” says Ezra 6:3, 4. This amazing statement harmonizes with secular history. “It was a consistent policy of Persian kings to help restore sanctuaries in their empire,” says the book Persia and the Bible.

*** it-1 p. 569 Cyrus ***
Cyrus’ cooperation with the Jews was in notable contrast with their treatment by earlier pagan rulers. He restored the precious temple utensils that Nebuchadnezzar II had carried off to Babylon, gave royal permission for them to import cedar timbers from Lebanon, and authorized the outlay of funds from the king’s house to cover construction expenses. (Ezr 1:7-11; 3:7; 6:3-5) According to the Cyrus Cylinder (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 332), the Persian ruler followed a generally humane and tolerant policy toward the conquered peoples of his domain. The inscription quotes him as saying: “I returned to [certain previously named] sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations.”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 316.

*** it-2 pp. 612-613 Persia, Persians ***
Religion and Law. The Persian rulers, while as capable of cruelty as the Semitic kings of Assyria and Babylonia, initially at least seem to have endeavored to manifest a degree of fairness and legality in their dealings with the conquered peoples. Their religion apparently contained some concept of ethics. Following their chief god Ahura Mazda, a principal deity was Mithra, who became known not only as a god of war but also as the god of contracts, the one whose eyes and ears were ever alert to spy out any violator of an agreement. (See GODS AND GODDESSES.) Greek historian Herodotus (I, 136, 138) wrote of the Persians: “They educate their boys from five to twenty years old, and teach them three things only, riding and archery and truthtelling. . . . They hold lying to be foulest of all.” While the history of the Persian rulers shows them to be not above duplicity and intrigue, yet a basic adherence to some tribal creed of ‘keeping one’s word’ may be reflected in their insistence on the inviolability of “the law of the Medes and the Persians.” (Da 6:8, 15; Es 1:19; 8:8) Thus, when Cyrus’ decree was found some 18 years after its date of issuance, King Darius recognized the legality of the Jews’ position as regards the building of the temple and gave orders that full cooperation be extended to them.—Ezr 6:1-12.

(EZRA 6:4)

“with three layers of large stones rolled into place and one layer of timbers; and let the expense be paid from the king’s house.”

*** g 2/11 pp. 16-17 A Book You Can Trust—Part 4 ***
In fact, Cyrus ordered that funds for temple reconstruction “be given from the king’s house,” says Ezra 6:3, 4. This amazing statement harmonizes with secular history. “It was a consistent policy of Persian kings to help restore sanctuaries in their empire,” says the book Persia and the Bible.

(EZRA 6:5)

“Also, let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God that Neb•u•chad•nezʹzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon be returned, so that they may be put in their place in the temple in Jerusalem and be deposited in the house of God.’”

*** it-1 p. 569 Cyrus ***
Cyrus’ cooperation with the Jews was in notable contrast with their treatment by earlier pagan rulers. He restored the precious temple utensils that Nebuchadnezzar II had carried off to Babylon, gave royal permission for them to import cedar timbers from Lebanon, and authorized the outlay of funds from the king’s house to cover construction expenses. (Ezr 1:7-11; 3:7; 6:3-5) According to the Cyrus Cylinder (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 332), the Persian ruler followed a generally humane and tolerant policy toward the conquered peoples of his domain. The inscription quotes him as saying: “I returned to [certain previously named] sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations.”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 316.

(EZRA 6:13)

“Then Tatʹte•nai the governor of the region Beyond the River, Sheʹthar-bozʹe•nai, and their colleagues promptly carried out everything that King Da•riʹus had ordered.”

*** w93 6/15 p. 32 Can You Trust the Bible? ***
Can You Trust the Bible?
IF YOU picked up a Bible, would you expect to find a coin? What about this ancient silver coin?
Many think of the Bible as an old book offering quaint stories and admirable morals. Yet, they do not believe that Bible accounts are accurate history, so they deny that it is the Word of God. There is, though, ample evidence of the Bible’s accuracy. This coin (enlarged view) is a good example. What does the writing say?
The coin was made in Tarsus, a city in the southeastern part of what is now Turkey. The coin was produced during the rule of the Persian governor Mazaeus in the fourth century B.C.E. It identifies him as governor of the province “Beyond the River,” that is, the Euphrates River.
But why is that phrase interesting? Because you will find the same designation in your Bible. Ezra 5:6–6:13 sets out correspondence between the Persian king Darius and a governor named Tattenai. At issue was the Jews’ rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem. Ezra was a skilled copyist of God’s Law, and you would expect him to be precise, accurate in what he wrote. You will see at Ezra 5:6 and 6:13 that he termed Tattenai “the governor beyond the River.”
Ezra penned that about 460 B.C.E., some 100 years before this coin was minted. Oh, some people might feel that the designation for an ancient official is a minor detail. But if you can rely on the Bible writers in even such small details, should that not increase your confidence in what else they wrote?
In the first two articles in this issue, you will find additional reasons for such confidence.
[Picture Credit Line on page 32]
Collection of Israel Dept. of Antiquities Exhibited & photographed Israel Museum

(EZRA 6:14)

“And the elders of the Jews continued building and making progress, urged on by the prophesying of Hagʹgai the prophet and Zech•a•riʹah the grandson of Idʹdo; they finished building it by the order of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Da•riʹus and King Ar•ta•xerxʹes of Persia.”

*** it-1 p. 182 Artaxerxes ***
Artaxerxes Longimanus extended permission to Ezra the priest and also to Nehemiah to make trips to Jerusalem. (Ezr 7:1-7; Ne 2:1, 7, 8) Ancient historians credit him with a generally benign and generous personality. This coincides with his actions during the seventh year of his reign (468 B.C.E.), when Longimanus granted Ezra “all his request” in a decree that provided for silver, gold, and vessels for temple use, as well as provisions of wheat, wine, oil, and salt. (Ezr 7:6, 12-23; 8:25-27) This generous contribution may explain why Artaxerxes is included along with Cyrus and Darius at Ezra 6:14 as one of those whose orders contributed to the ‘building and finishing’ of the temple, although the actual construction had been completed 47 years previously, in 515 B.C.E.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
474-423 Artaxerxes I Artaxerxes Ezra 6:14;
(Longimanus) 7:1-26;
Nehemiah 2:1-18

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
521-486 Darius I Darius Ezra 4:5, 24;
6:1-15

(EZRA 6:15)

“They completed the house by the third day of the month of Aʹdar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Da•riʹus.”

*** si p. 86 par. 10 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
With continued encouragement from Jehovah’s prophets, the builders complete the temple in less than five years. This is in the month Adar of the sixth year of Darius, or near the spring of 515 B.C.E., and the entire construction has taken just about 20 years. (6:14, 15)

*** it-1 p. 463 Chronology ***
From 537 B.C.E. to conversion of Cornelius. In the second year of the return from exile (536 B.C.E.), the foundation of the temple was relaid in Jerusalem, but the rebuilt temple was not completed until the sixth year of the reign of Darius I (Persian). (Ezr 3:8-10; 6:14, 15) Since Darius did not establish himself in Babylon until defeating the rebel Nebuchadnezzar III in December of 522 and shortly afterward capturing and killing him in Babylon, the year 522 B.C.E. may be viewed as the accession year of King Darius I. His first regnal year, then, began in the spring of 521 B.C.E. (Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.–A.D. 75, p. 30) Darius’ sixth year therefore began April 12, 516 B.C.E., and continued until the end of March of 515 B.C.E. On this basis, Zerubbabel’s rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple was completed on March 6 of 515 B.C.E.

*** it-1 p. 584 Darius ***
With this official cooperation and with continued prophetic encouragement (Zec 7:1; 8:1-9, 20-23), the temple work went on to successful completion “by the third day of the lunar month Adar, that is, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius” (Ezr 6:13-15; by March 6 of 515 B.C.E.).

(EZRA 6:18)

“And they appointed the priests in their groups and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to what is written in the book of Moses.”

*** si p. 13 par. 2 Bible Book Number 1—Genesis ***
Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch (an Anglicized Greek word meaning “five rolls” or “fivefold volume”). Evidently this was originally one book called the Torah (Law) or “the book of the law of Moses” but was later divided into the five rolls for easier handling.—Josh. 23:6; Ezra 6:18.

(EZRA 6:21)

“Then the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate of it, along with everyone who had joined them and had separated himself from the uncleanness of the nations of the land to worship Jehovah the God of Israel.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 19 par. 6 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
6:21. Witnessing the progress of Jehovah’s work moved Samaritans who then lived in the Jewish homeland and returnees who had succumbed to pagan influences to make needed changes in their lives. Should we not enthusiastically participate in our God-assigned work, including the Kingdom-proclamation work?

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
6:21—Who separated “from the uncleanness of the nations”?
They may have been proselytes who returned with the Jews, Samaritans then inhabiting the land, or even Jewish returnees who had been corrupted by pagan influences. (Compare Ezra 9:1.) The progress of Jehovah’s pure worship in Jerusalem apparently moved them to make needed changes in their lives.

(EZRA 6:22)

“They also joyfully held the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days, for Jehovah caused them to rejoice and he had made the heart of the king of As•syrʹi•a favorable toward them, so that he supported them in the work of the house of the true God, the God of Israel.”

*** it-1 p. 205 Assyria ***
The title “king of Assyria” was applied to the Persian king (Darius Hystaspis) who dominated the land of Assyria in the time of the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem (completed in 515 B.C.E.).—Ezr 6:22.

(EZRA 7:1)

“After these things, during the reign of King Ar•ta•xerxʹes of Persia, Ezʹra returned. He was the son of Se•raiʹah, son of Az•a•riʹah, son of Hil•kiʹah,”

*** w06 1/15 p. 19 par. 9 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
7:1, 7, 11—Do all these verses refer to the Artaxerxes who brought a halt to the building work? No. Artaxerxes is a name or title applied to two Persian kings. One was either Bardiya or Gaumata, who ordered the temple work stopped in 522 B.C.E. The Artaxerxes of the time when Ezra came to Jerusalem is Artaxerxes Longimanus.

*** si p. 86 par. 11 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
11 Ezra returns to Jerusalem (7:1–8:36). Almost 50 years elapse, bringing us down to 468 B.C.E., the seventh year of the Persian king Artaxerxes (known as Longimanus because his right hand was longer than his left). The king grants the skilled copyist Ezra “all his request” with respect to a journey to Jerusalem to render much-needed aid there. (7:6)

*** it-1 p. 910 Genealogy ***
One example of such an abridgment is found in Ezra’s own genealogy. (Ezr 7:1-5) He records his descent from Aaron the high priest, but in a parallel listing at 1 Chronicles 6:3-14, several names appear in verses 7 to 10 that are dropped at Ezra 7:3. Likely Ezra did this to avoid unnecessary repetition and to shorten the long list of names. Still, the list was perfectly adequate to prove his priestly descent. Ezra says that he is “the son” of Seraiah, meaning that he was his descendant, for he must have been Seraiah’s great-grandson, or possibly his great-great-grandson. Seraiah was high priest and was killed by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the exile to Babylon (607 B.C.E.), his son Jehozadak being taken into exile. (2Ki 25:18-21; 1Ch 6:14, 15) Joshua (Jeshua) the high priest, who returned 70 years later with Zerubbabel, was Seraiah’s grandson. (Ezr 5:2; Hag 1:1) Ezra traveled to Jerusalem 69 years after that, which circumstance would make it impossible for Ezra to be Seraiah’s actual son and Jehozadak’s brother.
Another thing that we learn from comparing genealogies here is that Ezra, though descended from Aaron through Seraiah, was evidently not from that line of Seraiah in which the office of high priest was hereditary, namely, from Jehozadak. The high-priestly line from Seraiah ran through Joshua (Jeshua), Joiakim, and Eliashib, the latter being high priest during the governorship of Nehemiah. Ezra, then, achieved his objective with his abridged genealogy, supplying just sufficient names to prove his position in the lineage of Aaron.—Ne 3:1; 12:10.

*** it-2 p. 896 Seraiah ***
6. The chief priest when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. Though Seraiah was slain at Nebuchadnezzar’s order, his son Jehozadak was spared and taken captive to Babylon. (2Ki 25:18-21; Jer 52:24-27) Through Seraiah’s son Jehozadak, the high-priestly line from Aaron continued; Jehozadak’s son Jeshua held this office at the time of the Jews’ release and return. (1Ch 6:14, 15; Ezr 3:2) Seraiah is also called the father of Ezra, but in view of the 139 years between Seraiah’s death and Ezra’s return, there were probably at least two unnamed generations in between them, a type of omission common in Biblical genealogies.—Ezr 7:1.

*** w86 1/15 p. 7 “Bible Highlights” to Provide Greater Insight ***
474-423 Artaxerxes I Artaxerxes Ezra 6:14;
(Longimanus) 7:1-26;
Nehemiah 2:1-18

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
7:1, 7, 11—Who was this Artaxerxes?
This was the Persian king Artaxerxes I (Longimanus). In his 20th year, he granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and gates. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Ancient historians credit this Artaxerxes with a generally benign and generous disposition. Because of his large donation, he was included at Ezra 6:14 as one whose orders contributed to the finishing of the temple, although its construction was completed some 47 years earlier. He differs from the Artaxerxes who halted the rebuilding work. (Ezra 4:7-23) That one was Gaumata, who ruled but eight months in 522 B.C.E. “Artaxerxes” apparently was a throne name or title.

(EZRA 7:3)

“son of Am•a•riʹah, son of Az•a•riʹah, son of Me•raʹioth,”

*** it-1 p. 910 Genealogy ***
He records his descent from Aaron the high priest, but in a parallel listing at 1 Chronicles 6:3-14, several names appear in verses 7 to 10 that are dropped at Ezra 7:3. Likely Ezra did this to avoid unnecessary repetition and to shorten the long list of names. Still, the list was perfectly adequate to prove his priestly descent.

(EZRA 7:6)

“This Ezʹra came up from Babylon. He was a copyist who was well-versed in the Law of Moses, which Jehovah the God of Israel had given. The king granted everything he requested, for the hand of Jehovah his God was upon him.”

*** it-1 p. 182 Artaxerxes ***
Artaxerxes Longimanus extended permission to Ezra the priest and also to Nehemiah to make trips to Jerusalem. (Ezr 7:1-7; Ne 2:1, 7, 8) Ancient historians credit him with a generally benign and generous personality. This coincides with his actions during the seventh year of his reign (468 B.C.E.), when Longimanus granted Ezra “all his request” in a decree that provided for silver, gold, and vessels for temple use, as well as provisions of wheat, wine, oil, and salt. (Ezr 7:6, 12-23; 8:25-27) This generous contribution may explain why Artaxerxes is included along with Cyrus and Darius at Ezra 6:14 as one of those whose orders contributed to the ‘building and finishing’ of the temple, although the actual construction had been completed 47 years previously, in 515 B.C.E.

*** it-1 p. 417 Captivity ***
As the local synagogue arrangement developed among the Jews, the need for copies of the Scriptures in the communities of Jewish exiles all over Media, Persia, and Babylonia intensified. Ezra was known as “a skilled copyist in the law of Moses,” indicating that copies of Jehovah’s Law had been brought from Judah, reproductions of which were made. (Ezr 7:6) Without doubt these precious scrolls of past generations included the book of Psalms, with the probability that Psalm 137, and perhaps also Psalm 126, were composed during or shortly after the captivity. The six so-called Hallel Psalms (113 to 118) were sung at the great Passover feasts following the return of the remnant from Babylon.

(EZRA 7:7)

“Some of the Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants, went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Ar•ta•xerxʹes.”

*** it-2 p. 332 Exiles Return From Babylon ***
Not all the exiles returned at that time, however. In 468 B.C.E., another group of returnees accompanied the priest Ezra, who brought to Jerusalem gifts for the temple. (Ezr 7:1–8:32)

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
7:1, 7, 11—Who was this Artaxerxes?
This was the Persian king Artaxerxes I (Longimanus). In his 20th year, he granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and gates. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Ancient historians credit this Artaxerxes with a generally benign and generous disposition. Because of his large donation, he was included at Ezra 6:14 as one whose orders contributed to the finishing of the temple, although its construction was completed some 47 years earlier. He differs from the Artaxerxes who halted the rebuilding work. (Ezra 4:7-23) That one was Gaumata, who ruled but eight months in 522 B.C.E. “Artaxerxes” apparently was a throne name or title.

(EZRA 7:9)

“On the first day of the first month, he began the journey from Babylon, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the good hand of his God was upon him.”

*** nwt p. 1692 Glossary ***
Ab. After the Babylonian exile, the name of the 5th month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the 11th month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-July to mid-August. It is not mentioned by name in the Bible; it is simply referred to as “the fifth month.” (Nu 33:38; Ezr 7:9)—See App. B15.

*** nwt p. 1796 B15 Hebrew Calendar ***
AB July—August

Heat reaches maximum
Summer fruits

(EZRA 7:10)

“Ezʹra had prepared his heart to consult the Law of Jehovah and to practice it, and to teach its regulations and judgments in Israel.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 3 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
7:10. As a diligent student and effective teacher of God’s Word, Ezra set an example for us. He prayerfully prepared his heart to consult the Law of Jehovah. As he consulted it, Ezra gave his utmost attention to what Jehovah was saying. Ezra applied what he learned and exerted himself in teaching others.

*** w02 7/1 pp. 20-22 Is Your Teaching Effective? ***
Is Your Teaching Effective?
PARENTS, elders, proclaimers of the good news—all are required to be teachers. Parents teach their children, elders teach members of the Christian congregation, and preachers of the good news teach newly interested ones. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Timothy 4:13, 16) What can you do to make your teaching more effective? For one thing, you can imitate the example and method of capable teachers mentioned in God’s Word. Ezra was such a teacher.
Learning From Ezra’s Example
Ezra was an Aaronic priest who lived some 2,500 years ago in Babylon. In the year 468 B.C.E., he went to Jerusalem in order to advance pure worship among the Jews living there. (Ezra 7:1, 6, 12, 13) This task required him to teach the people God’s Law. What did Ezra do to ensure that his teaching was effective? He took several necessary steps. Note these steps as recorded at Ezra 7:10:
“Ezra himself had [1] prepared his heart [2] to consult the law of Jehovah and [3] to do it and [4] to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” Let us briefly look at each of these steps and see what we can learn from them.
“Ezra Himself Had Prepared His Heart”
Just as the farmer first prepares the soil by using a plow before sowing seed, Ezra prayerfully prepared his heart to receive the word of God. (Ezra 10:1) In other words, he ‘inclined his heart’ to Jehovah’s teaching.—Proverbs 2:2.
Similarly, the Bible states that King Jehoshaphat “prepared [his] heart to search for the true God.” (2 Chronicles 19:3) In contrast, a generation of Israel “who had not prepared their heart” is described as “stubborn and rebellious.” (Psalm 78:8) Jehovah sees “the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) Yes, “he will teach the meek ones his way.” (Psalm 25:9) How important it is, therefore, that teachers today follow Ezra’s example by first prayerfully bringing their heart into the proper condition!
“To Consult the Law of Jehovah”
To be a capable teacher, Ezra consulted God’s Word. If you were to consult a doctor, would you not listen attentively and make sure that you understood all that he was saying or prescribing? No doubt you would, for your health is at stake. How much more, therefore, should we give profound attention to the things Jehovah is telling us, or prescribing, through his Word, the Bible, and through “the faithful and discreet slave.” After all, his counsel concerns our very life! (Matthew 4:4; 24:45-47) Of course, a doctor can be wrong, but “the law of Jehovah is perfect.” (Psalm 19:7) We will never be in need of a second opinion.
The Bible books of Chronicles (which Ezra originally wrote as one volume) show that Ezra was indeed a thorough student. To write those books, he referred to numerous sources. The Jews, who had recently arrived from Babylon, were in need of a summary of their nation’s history. They had insufficient knowledge of the observances of their religion, the service in the temple, and the tasks of the Levites. Genealogical records were of vital importance for them. Ezra paid special attention to those matters. Until the coming of the Messiah, the Jews were to remain as a nation with its own land, a temple, a priesthood, and a governor. Thanks to the information Ezra had gathered, unity and true worship could be preserved.
How do your study habits compare with those of Ezra? Studying the Bible diligently will aid you in teaching the Bible effectively.
“Consult the Law of Jehovah” as a Family
Consulting the law of Jehovah is not restricted to personal study. Family study is an excellent opportunity to do this as well.
Jan and Julia, a couple in the Netherlands, have read out loud to their two sons from the very day the children were born. Today, Ivo is 15 years old, and Edo is 14. Once a week, they still have their family study. Jan explains: “Our main objective is not that we cover a lot of material during the study but that the boys grasp what is discussed.” He adds: “The boys do a lot of research. They check unfamiliar words and Bible personalities—when they lived, who they were, what their occupation was, and so forth. Ever since they learned to read, they have consulted such books as Insight on the Scriptures, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. This makes the family study much more enjoyable. The boys are always waiting and ready to go.” As a fringe benefit, both boys now also are at the head of their classes in linguistic abilities.
John and Tini, another couple in the Netherlands, studied with their son, Esli (now 24 years old and pioneering in another congregation), and their daughter, Linda (now 20 years old and married to a fine young brother). However, instead of studying a certain publication by means of the usual question-and-answer method, they tailored the family study to the age and needs of the children. What method did they use?
John explains that his son and daughter chose an interesting subject from “Questions From Readers” (from The Watchtower) and “The Bible’s Viewpoint” (from Awake!). Later, they presented what they had prepared, which always resulted in interesting family discussions. In this way the young ones gained experience in doing research and in discussing the results of their study. Do you “consult the law of Jehovah” with your children? This not only will enhance your personal teaching ability but will also help your children to become more effective teachers.
“To Do It”
Ezra applied what he learned. For instance, while still in Babylon, he may have lived a settled life. Nevertheless, when he realized that he could help his people abroad, he exchanged the comforts of Babylon for the distant city of Jerusalem, with all its inconveniences, problems, and perils. Clearly, not only had Ezra been gathering Bible knowledge but he was ready to act on what he had learned.—1 Timothy 3:13.
Later, while living in Jerusalem, Ezra again showed that he applied what he had learned and was teaching. This became evident when he heard of the marriages of Israelite men to heathen women. The Bible record tells us that he ‘ripped apart his garment and his sleeveless coat and pulled out some of the hair of his head and of his beard and kept sitting stunned until the evening.’ He even felt ‘ashamed and embarrassed to raise up his face’ to Jehovah.—Ezra 9:1-6.
How his study of God’s Law had affected him! Ezra had a clear view of the terrible consequences of the people’s disobedience. The number of the repatriated Jews was small. If they entered into mixed marriages, they might eventually merge with the surrounding pagan nations, and pure worship could easily vanish from the face of the earth!
Happily, Ezra’s example of devoted fear and zeal moved the Israelites to correct their ways. They got rid of their foreign wives. Within three months all was set straight. Ezra’s personal loyalty to God’s Law did much to make his teaching effective.
The same is true today. One Christian father said: “Children do not do as you say; they do as you do!” The same principle applies within the Christian congregation. Elders who set a fine example may expect that the congregation will respond to their teachings.
“To Teach in Israel Regulation and Justice”
There is yet another reason why Ezra’s teaching was effective. He did not teach his own ideas, but he taught “regulation and justice.” That is, the regulations, or laws, of Jehovah. This was his priestly responsibility. (Malachi 2:7) He also taught justice, and he provided an example of what he taught by sticking to what is right in a fair and impartial way, according to a standard. When those having authority show justice, stability is built and permanent results are produced. (Proverbs 29:4) Similarly, Christian elders, parents, and Kingdom proclaimers who are well-acquainted with God’s Word will build up spiritual stability when they teach Jehovah’s regulations and justice in the congregation, in their families, and to interested ones.
Do you not agree that your teaching may become more effective when you imitate to the full the example of faithful Ezra? Therefore, ‘prepare your heart, consult the law of Jehovah, do it, and teach Jehovah’s regulation and justice.’—Ezra 7:10.
[Footnote]
A listing of 20 sources can be found in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pages 444-5, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Box/Picture on page 22]
WHAT MADE EZRA’S TEACHING EFFECTIVE?
1. He brought his heart into a proper condition
2. He consulted the Law of Jehovah
3. He set a good example in applying what he learned
4. He applied himself to teaching the Scriptural view

*** w01 10/15 pp. 20-21 Acquire a Heart Agreeable to Jehovah ***
‘Prepare Your Heart to Consult God’s Word’
11 The figurative heart can be likened to soil in which the seed of the truth can be planted. (Matthew 13:18-23) Literal soil is usually cultivated to ensure the healthy growth of the crop. Similarly, the heart should be prepared, or made ready, so that it is more receptive to the Word of God. Ezra the priest “prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it.” (Ezra 7:10) How may we prepare our heart?
12 An excellent preparation of the heart when we consult God’s Word is heartfelt prayer. Christian meetings of true worshipers open and close with prayer. How appropriate that we begin each period of personal Bible study with a sincere prayer and then maintain a prayerful attitude during our study!
13 The figurative heart must be prepared to set aside preconceived opinions. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were unwilling to do this. (Matthew 13:15) On the other hand, Jesus’ mother, Mary, drew conclusions “in her heart” based on truths that she had heard. (Luke 2:19, 51) She became a faithful disciple of Jesus. Lydia of Thyatira listened to Paul, “and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention.” She too became a believer. (Acts 16:14, 15) May we never rigidly hold to personal ideas or cherished doctrinal views. Rather, let us be willing to “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.”—Romans 3:4.
14 Preparing the heart to listen at Christian meetings is particularly important. Distractions may turn our attention away from what is being said. The spoken words can exert little influence on us if we are preoccupied with things that happened during the day or are concerned about what is awaiting us tomorrow. We need to be firmly resolved to listen and learn if we are to benefit from what is being said. What benefits we can receive if we are determined to understand the scriptures being expounded and the meaning that is being put into them!—Nehemiah 8:5-8, 12.
15 Just as adding the proper supplements may enhance the physical soil, so our cultivating humility, hunger for spirituality, trust, godly fear, and love for God can enrich our figurative heart. Humility softens the heart, helping us to become more teachable. Jehovah said to Judean King Josiah: “For the reason that your heart was soft so that you humbled yourself because of Jehovah at your hearing what I have spoken . . . and began weeping before me, I, even I, have heard.” (2 Kings 22:19) Josiah’s heart was humble and receptive. Humility enabled Jesus’ “unlettered and ordinary” disciples to grasp and apply spiritual truths that escaped “wise and intellectual” men. (Acts 4:13; Luke 10:21) May we “humble ourselves before our God” as we try to acquire a heart agreeable to Jehovah.—Ezra 8:21.
16 Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) While we are endowed with a capacity for spirituality, pressures from this wicked world or such traits as laziness may dull our consciousness of our need. (Matthew 4:4) We must develop a wholesome appetite for spiritual food. Even if we at first do not find pleasure in Bible reading and personal study, with persistence we will find that knowledge will ‘become pleasant to our very soul,’ so that we eagerly look forward to study periods.—Proverbs 2:10, 11.
17 “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding,” admonished King Solomon. (Proverbs 3:5) A heart that is trusting in Jehovah knows that whatever He asks or directs through his Word is always right. (Isaiah 48:17) Jehovah is certainly worthy of our complete trust. He is able to carry out all that he has purposed. (Isaiah 40:26, 29) Why, his very name literally means “He Causes to Become,” which builds confidence in his ability to fulfill what he has promised! He is “righteous in all his ways and loyal in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) Of course, to cultivate trust in him, we need to “taste and see that Jehovah is good” by applying what we learn from the Bible in our personal life and by reflecting upon the good that this produces.—Psalm 34:8.
18 Pointing to yet another quality that makes our heart receptive to divine guidance, Solomon stated: “Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” (Proverbs 3:7) Jehovah said concerning ancient Israel: “If only they would develop this heart of theirs to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!” (Deuteronomy 5:29) Yes, those who fear God obey him. Jehovah has the ability “to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him” and to inflict punishment upon those who disobey him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) May reverential fear of displeasing God govern all our actions, thoughts, and emotions.
‘Love Jehovah With Your Whole Heart’
19 More than all other qualities, love truly makes our heart responsive to Jehovah’s direction. A heart filled with love for God makes a person eager to learn what pleases God and what displeases him. (1 John 5:3) Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) May we deepen our love for God by making it a habit to reflect on his goodness, by regularly speaking to him as to an intimate friend, and by eagerly talking about him to others.

*** w00 3/1 p. 29 Searching for Jehovah With a Prepared Heart ***
Searching for Jehovah With a Prepared Heart
ISRAELITE priest Ezra was an outstanding researcher, scholar, copyist, and teacher of the Law. For Christians today he is also a fine example of whole-souled service. How so? In that he maintained his godly devotion even while living in Babylon, a city filled with false gods and demon worship.
Ezra’s godly devotion did not just happen. He worked at it. Indeed, he tells us that he “had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it.”—Ezra 7:10.
Like Ezra, Jehovah’s people today want to do all that Jehovah asks of them while living in a world that is hostile to true worship. So let us examine ways in which we too can prepare our heart, the inner person—including our thoughts, attitudes, desires, and motivations—to “consult the law of Jehovah and to do it.”
Preparing Our Heart
“To prepare” means “to make ready beforehand for some purpose: put into condition for a particular use, application, or disposition.” Of course, if you have come to an accurate knowledge of God’s Word and have dedicated your life to Jehovah, then your heart has certainly proved to be in a prepared state and can be compared to “the fine soil” that Jesus spoke about in his parable of the sower.—Matthew 13:18-23.
Nevertheless, our heart needs constant attention and refinement. Why? For two reasons. First, because harmful tendencies, like weeds in a garden, can readily take root, especially during these “last days” when “the air” of Satan’s system is more than ever filled with hurtful seeds of fleshly thinking. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Ephesians 2:2) The second reason concerns the soil itself. Left untended, soil may soon dry out, harden, and become unfruitful. Or too many people may carelessly walk over the garden and tread down the soil into a hard mass. The figurative soil of our heart is similar. It may become infertile if neglected or trodden down by people who have no interest in our spiritual well-being.
How important it is, then, for all of us to apply the Bible’s admonition: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Proverbs 4:23.

*** w00 10/1 pp. 14-15 par. 8 Study—Rewarding and Enjoyable ***
Like Ezra, we need to prepare our hearts for the reading and study of God’s Word. Of him it is written: “Ezra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it and to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” (Ezra 7:10) Note the triple purpose of Ezra’s preparing his heart: to study, to make personal application, and to teach. We should follow his example.

*** it-1 p. 796 Ezra ***
Ezra had genuine zeal for pure worship and “prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it and to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” (Ezr 7:1-6, 10) In addition to writing the book bearing his name, Ezra apparently wrote the two books of Chronicles, and Jewish tradition credits him with beginning the compiling and cataloging of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Moreover, Ezra was an outstanding researcher, citing about 20 sources of information in the two books of Chronicles. Since many of the Jews were scattered far and wide in Ezra’s day, it necessitated the making of many copies of the Hebrew Scriptures, and likely Ezra pioneered this work.

(EZRA 7:11)

“This is a copy of the letter that King Ar•ta•xerxʹes gave to Ezʹra the priest and copyist, an expert in the study of the commandments of Jehovah and of his regulations to Israel:”

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7:1, 7, 11—Who was this Artaxerxes?
This was the Persian king Artaxerxes I (Longimanus). In his 20th year, he granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and gates. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Ancient historians credit this Artaxerxes with a generally benign and generous disposition. Because of his large donation, he was included at Ezra 6:14 as one whose orders contributed to the finishing of the temple, although its construction was completed some 47 years earlier. He differs from the Artaxerxes who halted the rebuilding work. (Ezra 4:7-23) That one was Gaumata, who ruled but eight months in 522 B.C.E. “Artaxerxes” apparently was a throne name or title.

(EZRA 7:13)

“I have issued an order that everyone in my realm of the people of Israel and their priests and Levites who is willing to go with you to Jerusalem should go.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 4 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
7:13. Jehovah wants willing servants.

(EZRA 7:14)

“For you are sent by the king and his seven advisers to investigate whether the Law of your God, which is with you, is being applied in Judah and Jerusalem,”

*** it-1 p. 48 Admatha ***
ADMATHA
(Ad•maʹtha) [from Persian, meaning “Unconquered”].
One of the seven princes in the kingdom of Persia and Media who had access to King Ahasuerus. These princes concurred in the judgment against Queen Vashti, and apparently such a committee of seven regularly served the Persian kings as counselors.—Es 1:14; Ezr 7:14.

(EZRA 7:21)

““I, King Ar•ta•xerxʹes, have issued an order to all the treasurers in the region Beyond the River, that everything that Ezʹra the priest, the copyist of the Law of the God of the heavens, requests of you is to be done promptly,”

*** si p. 76 par. 5 Bible Book Number 13—1 Chronicles ***
The Persian world-ruler recognized the wisdom of God in Ezra and commissioned him with wide civil powers in the jurisdictional district of Judah. (Ezra 7:12-26) Thus equipped with divine and imperial authority, Ezra could compile his account from the best available documents.

(EZRA 7:24)

“And you are further advised that it is not permitted to impose any tax, tribute, or toll on any of the priests and Levites, musicians, doorkeepers, temple servants, and workers of this house of God.”

*** it-2 p. 1070 Taxation ***
During the Persian period, the Jews (with the exception of the priests and others serving at the sanctuary, who were exempted by Artaxerxes Longimanus) had to pay tax (Aramaic, mid•dahʹ or min•dahʹ), tribute (belohʹ), and toll (halakhʹ). (Ezr 4:13, 20; 7:24) Mid•dahʹ is thought to designate personal tax on individuals; belohʹ, a tax on consumer items, excise; and halakhʹ, toll paid by travelers at road stations or river fords. The mid•dahʹ (translated “tribute” in AS, KJ, NW at Ne 5:4) must have been quite high, for many of the Jews had to borrow money to pay it. Besides having to care for the taxes levied by the Persians, the Jews normally also had to pay for the support of the governor.—Ne 5:14, 15.

(EZRA 7:28)

“And he has shown me loyal love before the king and his advisers and all the mighty princes of the king. So I took courage because the hand of Jehovah my God was upon me, and I gathered out of Israel leading men to go up with me.”

*** it-1 p. 797 Ezra ***
So to return to Jerusalem meant loss of position, disruption of ties, the denial of a more or less comfortable way of life, and the building of a new life in a distant land under circumstances that were trying, difficult, and possibly dangerous, not to mention a long and hazardous journey, since many hostile Arab tribes and other enemies might be encountered. It called for zeal for true worship, faith in Jehovah, and courage to make the move. Only some 1,500 men and their families were found willing and able to go, perhaps 6,000 or so in all. Ezra had a difficult task as their leader. But Ezra’s past course of life had prepared him, and he strengthened himself according to Jehovah’s hand upon him.—Ezr 7:10, 28; 8:1-14.

(EZRA 8:15)

“I assembled them at the river that comes to A•haʹva, and we camped there for three days. But when I examined the people and the priests, I did not find any of the Levites there.”

*** it-1 p. 61 Ahava ***
AHAVA
(A•haʹva).
The name given to a river or canal, as well as a place nearby, located in Babylonia, NW of Babylon, where Ezra gathered together certain Jews and held a fast before undertaking the trek to Jerusalem. (Ezr 8:15, 21, 31) It evidently was a journey of about eight or nine days from Babylon. (Compare Ezr 7:9; 8:15, 31.) Herodotus (I, 179) speaks of a little river named Is, which flows into the Euphrates, and states that the city of Is on this river is about eight days’ journey from Babylon. Is has been identified with the modern Hit, and some suggest this as the probable location of Ahava.

(EZRA 8:25)

“Then I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the utensils, the contribution that the king and his advisers and his princes and all the Israelites who were present there had made to the house of our God.”

*** it-2 p. 44 Jerusalem ***
The treasures brought by them were evidently worth more than $43,000,000.—Ezr 8:25-27.

(EZRA 8:26)

“Thus I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, 100 silver utensils worth 2 talents, 100 talents of gold,”

*** si p. 87 par. 12 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
Thus, they are able to bring their treasures (worth more than $43,000,000 at modern values) safely to the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem.—8:26, 27, and footnotes.

*** it-1 p. 798 Ezra ***
After entreating God, he called in 12 from among the chiefs of the priests, carefully weighed out to them the contribution, which, according to modern-day values, was evidently worth more than $43,000,000, and entrusted it to them.—Ezr 8:21-30.

*** it-2 p. 44 Jerusalem ***
The treasures brought by them were evidently worth more than $43,000,000.—Ezr 8:25-27.

(EZRA 8:27)

“20 small gold bowls worth 1,000 darics, and 2 utensils of fine copper, gleaming red, as desirable as gold.”

*** nwt p. 1696 Glossary ***
Daric. A Persian gold coin weighing 8.4 g (0.27 oz t). (1Ch 29:7)—See App. B14.

*** nwt p. 1794 B14-B Currency and Weight ***
Daric (Persian, gold)
8.4 g / 0.27 oz t
Ezra 8:27

*** si p. 87 par. 12 Bible Book Number 15—Ezra ***
Thus, they are able to bring their treasures (worth more than $43,000,000 at modern values) safely to the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem.—8:26, 27, and footnotes.

*** it-1 p. 580 Daric ***
At 1 Chronicles 29:7 one of the figures for temple contributions during David’s reign is stated in terms of darics, although the Persian daric was unknown in David’s time. Evidently the writer of Chronicles converted the original figure into terms then current and familiar to his readers.—Ezr 8:27.

*** it-1 p. 798 Ezra ***
After entreating God, he called in 12 from among the chiefs of the priests, carefully weighed out to them the contribution, which, according to modern-day values, was evidently worth more than $43,000,000, and entrusted it to them.—Ezr 8:21-30.

*** it-2 p. 44 Jerusalem ***
The treasures brought by them were evidently worth more than $43,000,000.—Ezr 8:25-27.

(EZRA 9:1)

“And as soon as these things had been done, the princes approached me and said: “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands and their detestable practices, those of the Caʹnaan•ites, the Hitʹtites, the Perʹiz•zites, the Jebʹu•sites, the Amʹmon•ites, the Moʹab•ites, the Egyptians, and the Amʹor•ites.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 1 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
9:1, 2—How serious a threat was intermarriage with the people of the land? The restored nation was to be the guardian of Jehovah’s worship until the coming of the Messiah. Intermarriage with other inhabitants was a real threat to true worship. Because some had formed marriage alliances with the idol-worshipping people, the entire nation might eventually be assimilated into the pagan nations. Pure worship could have vanished from the face of the earth. To whom, then, would the Messiah come? No wonder Ezra was stunned at seeing what had taken place!

*** it-1 p. 95 Ammonites ***
Intermarriage With Israelites. Following the return of the Jews from exile (537 B.C.E.), an Ammonite named Tobiah took a leading part in endeavoring to obstruct the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. (Ne 4:3, 7, 8) Yet later he had the audacity to make use of a dining hall within the temple precincts, until Nehemiah indignantly threw his furniture out. (Ne 13:4-8; see TOBIAH No. 2.) Many of the returned Jewish exiles also had taken wives of Ammonite and other foreign extraction and were severely rebuked for this, resulting in a general dismissal of such wives.—Ezr 9:1, 2; 10:10-19, 44; Ne 13:23-27.
After Tobiah’s ejection from the temple grounds, God’s law at Deuteronomy 23:3-6 prohibiting the entry of Ammonites and Moabites into the congregation of Israel was read and applied. (Ne 13:1-3) This restriction, imposed some 1,000 years earlier because of the Ammonite and Moabite refusal to succor the Israelites when they were approaching the Promised Land, is generally understood to mean that these people could not enter into full legal membership in the nation of Israel with all the concomitant rights and privileges that such membership would signify. It does not mean, of necessity, that Ammonite and Moabite individuals could not associate themselves with or reside among the Israelites and thereby benefit from the divine blessings upon God’s people, and this is evident from the inclusion of Zelek, mentioned earlier, among David’s chief warriors, as well as from the record concerning Ruth the Moabitess.—Ru 1:4, 16-18.
As to this latter case, Ruth’s marriage to Boaz shows that females of these nations, upon turning to the worship of the true God, could be acceptable for marriage by Jewish males. Because the terms “Ammonite” and “Moabite” in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 23:3-6 are in the masculine gender, the Jewish Mishnah (Yevamot 8:3) argues that only male Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from Israel. Nevertheless, Ezra’s insistence that the Jewish men send away their foreign wives and Nehemiah’s similar attitude, previously mentioned, indicate that the admission of Ammonite and Moabite females into association with Israel was dependent upon their acceptance of true worship.

(EZRA 9:2)

“They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Now they, the holy offspring, have become mingled with the peoples of the lands. The princes and the deputy rulers have been the foremost offenders in this unfaithfulness.””

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 1 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
9:1, 2—How serious a threat was intermarriage with the people of the land? The restored nation was to be the guardian of Jehovah’s worship until the coming of the Messiah. Intermarriage with other inhabitants was a real threat to true worship. Because some had formed marriage alliances with the idol-worshipping people, the entire nation might eventually be assimilated into the pagan nations. Pure worship could have vanished from the face of the earth. To whom, then, would the Messiah come? No wonder Ezra was stunned at seeing what had taken place!

*** it-1 p. 95 Ammonites ***
Intermarriage With Israelites. Following the return of the Jews from exile (537 B.C.E.), an Ammonite named Tobiah took a leading part in endeavoring to obstruct the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. (Ne 4:3, 7, 8) Yet later he had the audacity to make use of a dining hall within the temple precincts, until Nehemiah indignantly threw his furniture out. (Ne 13:4-8; see TOBIAH No. 2.) Many of the returned Jewish exiles also had taken wives of Ammonite and other foreign extraction and were severely rebuked for this, resulting in a general dismissal of such wives.—Ezr 9:1, 2; 10:10-19, 44; Ne 13:23-27.
After Tobiah’s ejection from the temple grounds, God’s law at Deuteronomy 23:3-6 prohibiting the entry of Ammonites and Moabites into the congregation of Israel was read and applied. (Ne 13:1-3) This restriction, imposed some 1,000 years earlier because of the Ammonite and Moabite refusal to succor the Israelites when they were approaching the Promised Land, is generally understood to mean that these people could not enter into full legal membership in the nation of Israel with all the concomitant rights and privileges that such membership would signify. It does not mean, of necessity, that Ammonite and Moabite individuals could not associate themselves with or reside among the Israelites and thereby benefit from the divine blessings upon God’s people, and this is evident from the inclusion of Zelek, mentioned earlier, among David’s chief warriors, as well as from the record concerning Ruth the Moabitess.—Ru 1:4, 16-18.
As to this latter case, Ruth’s marriage to Boaz shows that females of these nations, upon turning to the worship of the true God, could be acceptable for marriage by Jewish males. Because the terms “Ammonite” and “Moabite” in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 23:3-6 are in the masculine gender, the Jewish Mishnah (Yevamot 8:3) argues that only male Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from Israel. Nevertheless, Ezra’s insistence that the Jewish men send away their foreign wives and Nehemiah’s similar attitude, previously mentioned, indicate that the admission of Ammonite and Moabite females into association with Israel was dependent upon their acceptance of true worship.

*** it-1 p. 615 Deputy ***
“Deputy rulers” (Heb., segha•nimʹ, always used in the plural) occurs 17 times in the Bible, as, for example, at Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 2:16; Isaiah 41:25; Jeremiah 51:23; and Ezekiel 23:6. It meant subordinate rulers or petty officials, as distinguished from nobles, princes, and governors. Some translators render it “deputies.”—Mo, Ro.

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
9:2—Why was such intermarriage a sin?
It posed a threat to the restoration of true worship. (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4) These were unbelieving, idol-worshiping women. Intermarriage with them could eventually have resulted in assimilation into the surrounding pagan nations, and pure worship might have vanished from the earth.

(EZRA 10:3)

“Now let us make a covenant with our God to send away all the wives and those born from them, in harmony with the direction of Jehovah and of those who have reverence for the commandment of our God. Let us act according to the Law.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 2 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
10:3, 44—Why were the children put away along with the wives? If the children had stayed behind, the likelihood that the dismissed wives would return on account of them would have increased. Moreover, little children generally require the care of their mother.

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
10:3, 44—Why were the children dismissed as well?
Young children usually need their mothers. Moreover, through the influence of the children, the dismissed wives may have returned in time. Pure worship of Jehovah had to take precedence.

(EZRA 10:8)

“and according to the decision of the princes and the elders, anyone who did not come within three days’ time would have all his goods confiscated, and he would be banished from the congregation of the exiled people.”

*** it-1 p. 247 Ban ***
BAN
This word is used in certain modern translations (JB, NE, NW) to render the Hebrew cheʹrem, also rendered in the New World Translation as “thing devoted to destruction.” The Hebrew word refers to that which is irrevocably and irredeemably devoted to God and thus separated out for sacred use, but is most frequently used with reference to things thus separated for complete destruction. It can apply to an individual person. (Ex 22:20; JB here reads: “Anyone who sacrifices to other gods shall come under the ban [“be devoted to destruction,” NW]”; Le 27:29) Or it may apply to his possessions (Ezr 10:8); to an animal, to a field, or to any article so devoted to sacred use (Le 27:21, 28); or to an entire city and all things therein.—De 13:15-17; Jos 6:17.

(EZRA 10:10)

“Then Ezʹra the priest rose and said to them: “You have acted unfaithfully by marrying foreign women, and so you have added to the guilt of Israel.”

*** it-1 p. 95 Ammonites ***
Intermarriage With Israelites. Following the return of the Jews from exile (537 B.C.E.), an Ammonite named Tobiah took a leading part in endeavoring to obstruct the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. (Ne 4:3, 7, 8) Yet later he had the audacity to make use of a dining hall within the temple precincts, until Nehemiah indignantly threw his furniture out. (Ne 13:4-8; see TOBIAH No. 2.) Many of the returned Jewish exiles also had taken wives of Ammonite and other foreign extraction and were severely rebuked for this, resulting in a general dismissal of such wives.—Ezr 9:1, 2; 10:10-19, 44; Ne 13:23-27.
After Tobiah’s ejection from the temple grounds, God’s law at Deuteronomy 23:3-6 prohibiting the entry of Ammonites and Moabites into the congregation of Israel was read and applied. (Ne 13:1-3) This restriction, imposed some 1,000 years earlier because of the Ammonite and Moabite refusal to succor the Israelites when they were approaching the Promised Land, is generally understood to mean that these people could not enter into full legal membership in the nation of Israel with all the concomitant rights and privileges that such membership would signify. It does not mean, of necessity, that Ammonite and Moabite individuals could not associate themselves with or reside among the Israelites and thereby benefit from the divine blessings upon God’s people, and this is evident from the inclusion of Zelek, mentioned earlier, among David’s chief warriors, as well as from the record concerning Ruth the Moabitess.—Ru 1:4, 16-18.
As to this latter case, Ruth’s marriage to Boaz shows that females of these nations, upon turning to the worship of the true God, could be acceptable for marriage by Jewish males. Because the terms “Ammonite” and “Moabite” in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 23:3-6 are in the masculine gender, the Jewish Mishnah (Yevamot 8:3) argues that only male Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from Israel. Nevertheless, Ezra’s insistence that the Jewish men send away their foreign wives and Nehemiah’s similar attitude, previously mentioned, indicate that the admission of Ammonite and Moabite females into association with Israel was dependent upon their acceptance of true worship.

(EZRA 10:15)

“However, Jonʹa•than the son of Asʹa•hel and Jah•zeiʹah the son of Tikʹvah objected to this, and the Levites Me•shulʹlam and Shabʹbe•thai supported them.”

*** it-1 p. 1249 Jahzeiah ***
JAHZEIAH
(Jah•zeiʹah) [May Jah Behold; Jah Has Beheld].
One who perhaps opposed Ezra’s proposal that the sons of Israel send away their foreign wives and the children born to them; son of Tikvah. (Ezr 10:3, 10, 11, 15) However, it has been suggested that this opposition of Jahzeiah and Jonathan was not against Ezra’s suggestion but against the procedure adopted for carrying it out. According to the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, Jahzeiah and the others assisted rather than opposed Ezra. Hence, an alternate rendering of Ezra 10:15 says that Jonathan and Jahzeiah “were the ones that acted representatively in this behalf.”—NW ftn; see also KJ; AS, ftn; Dy; Kx.

*** it-2 p. 904 Shabbethai ***
SHABBETHAI
(Shabʹbe•thai) [[Born on the] Sabbath].
A postexilic Levite. The text at Ezra 10:15 reads: “However, Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah themselves stood up against this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levites were the ones that helped them.” This verse may be read to mean that Shabbethai helped those who opposed Ezra’s proposal that those who had taken foreign wives dismiss them. Or it could mean that he joined in opposing the procedure recommended by the congregation for resolving the matter. Another possible rendering would indicate that he helped those who acted representatively in dealing with the situation on behalf of the people. This latter view would perhaps find support if the Shabbethai mentioned here is the same person who is named at Nehemiah 8:5-7; 11:1, 2, 15, 16 as assisting Ezra at the public reading of the Law and who lived in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.

(EZRA 10:44)

“All of these had taken foreign wives, and they sent their wives away, along with their sons.”

*** w06 1/15 p. 20 par. 2 Highlights From the Book of Ezra ***
10:3, 44—Why were the children put away along with the wives? If the children had stayed behind, the likelihood that the dismissed wives would return on account of them would have increased. Moreover, little children generally require the care of their mother.

*** w86 1/15 p. 9 Jehovah Fulfills His Promises! ***
10:3, 44—Why were the children dismissed as well?
Young children usually need their mothers. Moreover, through the influence of the children, the dismissed wives may have returned in time. Pure worship of Jehovah had to take precedence.

Highlights From the Book: Ezra

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