2 Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, 2 in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah):
The list of the men of the people of Israel:
3 the descendants of Parosh 2,172 4 of Shephatiah 372 5 of Arah 775 6 of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812 7 of Elam 1,254 8 of Zattu 945 9 of Zakkai 760 10 of Bani 642 11 of Bebai 623 12 of Azgad 1,222 13 of Adonikam 666 14 of Bigvai 2,056 15 of Adin 454 16 of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98 17 of Bezai 323 18 of Jorah 112 19 of Hashum 223 20 of Gibbar 95
21 the men of Bethlehem 123 22 of Netophah 56 23 of Anathoth 128 24 of Azmaveth 42 25 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 26 of Ramah and Geba 621 27 of Mikmash 122 28 of Bethel and Ai 223 29 of Nebo 52 30 of Magbish 156 31 of the other Elam 1,254 32 of Harim 320 33 of Lod, Hadid and Ono 725 34 of Jericho 345 35 of Senaah 3,630
36 The priests:
the descendants of Jedaiah (through the family of Jeshua) 973 37 of Immer 1,052 38 of Pashhur 1,247 39 of Harim 1,017
40 The Levites:
the descendants of Jeshua and Kadmiel (of the line of Hodaviah) 74
41 The musicians:
the descendants of Asaph 128
42 The gatekeepers of the temple:
the descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai 139
43 The temple servants:
the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, 44 Keros, Siaha, Padon, 45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, 46 Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan, 47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, 48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, 49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai, 50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim, 51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, 52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, 53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah, 54 Neziah and Hatipha
55 The descendants of the servants of Solomon:
the descendants of Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda, 56 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel, 57 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Ami
58 The temple servants and the descendants of the servants of Solomon 392
59 The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel:
60 The descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda 652
61 And from among the priests:
The descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name).
62 These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.
64 The whole company numbered 42,360, 65 besides their 7,337 male and female slaves; and they also had 200 male and female singers.66 They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.
68 When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments.
70 The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.
(Ezra 2:1-70 NIV)
From our previous passage, we saw the Lord stirring in the hearts of men to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (1:5). Today’s text is a list of people that returned in the first wave to begin the Temple rebuilding process.
So why the long lists of names and headcounts? Why didn’t the Lord just tell Ezra to say that a bunch of folks returned and began the work?
It’s important to remember that this was not homesteading a new land – this was repatriating and restoring rightful ownership of the land that God had given His people after seventy years of exile. Family records, proof of ownership, and other considerations were crucial to the restoration process.
As we mentioned yesterday, Zerubbabel was the leader of the group going back to Jerusalem and Judah. Zerubbabel’s name means “born in Babel” – he was going back to a place he had never been before but was in his legacy to return. It’s also important to know that Zerubbabel was in the line of King David, an heir to the throne and in the line of Messiah, preserved by God’s hand to be one of the forefathers of Jesus (Matthew 1:12-13).
Believe it or not, there is an order to the list of people called out:
- by family heritage / relationship (2:2b-20)
- by location / village name (2:21-35)
- by God-ordained vocation:
- Priests (2:36-39)
- Levites, Singers, and Gatekeepers (2:40-42)
- Temple servants (2:43-54)
- Servants of Solomon (2:55-58)
This process was not without its drama or questions. Verses 59 – 63 identify several families that could not prove their ancestry. Does this automatically mean that they were lying? No, not at all. Remember that everyone in Babylon was an exile, and many were brought forcibly. They may not have had family records with them, or the records could have been destroyed along the way.
Thankfully, the Lord had long ago set up a process to determine the truth and be the ultimate Judge of sticky, “unsolvable” situations like this. The Lord set up the use of the Urim and Thummim, a divine process to determine the truth and God’s will in a matter (1 Samuel 14:41). This was both a device and a process of elimination, like asking a question, flipping a coin, and trusting God with the results.
Verses 64 – 67 list the total headcounts of those who returned to Jerusalem and the promised land. If you add up the totals from the lists above and compare that total to the number that Ezra counted, it seems that the numbers are way off. Scholars provide some insight into this seeming dilemma; the historical method of counting people was to count only the males aged 12 and above in the family counts but include both men and women aged 12 and above in the total counts. This will be important later in our study of Ezra’s book.
Upon their return to Jerusalem, a number of families give funds to begin the work of rebuilding the Temple (vv. 68-69), and the resettlement process begins (v. 70).
We see God’s hand among His people and over the return and rebuilding process. Everything was done in an orderly fashion, with accountability and integrity built into the process. Ezra’s position as a scribe gave him access to official government records and well as religious records to preserve for us the details of God’s providential leading and direction as He kept His promise to restore His people to the land He provided.
May we sense God’s leading and direction as we go about our day, knowing the He goes before us in ways that we cannot understand or imagine.