1 - 35 Register of the Returned
1 Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. 2 These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum [and] Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 the sons of Parosh, 2,172; 4 the sons of Shephatiah, 372; 5 the sons of Arah, 775; 6 the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua [and] Joab, 2,812; 7 the sons of Elam, 1,254; 8 the sons of Zattu, 945; 9 the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2 These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum [and] Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 the sons of Parosh, 2,172; 4 the sons of Shephatiah, 372; 5 the sons of Arah, 775; 6 the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua [and] Joab, 2,812; 7 the sons of Elam, 1,254; 8 the sons of Zattu, 945; 9 the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2,056; 15 the sons of Adin, 454; 16 the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98; 17 the sons of Bezai, 323; 18 the sons of Jorah, 112; 19 the sons of Hashum, 223; 20 the sons of Gibbar, 95; 21 the men of Bethlehem, 123; 22 the men of Netophah, 56; 23 the men of Anathoth, 128; 24 the sons of Azmaveth, 42; 25 the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743; 26 the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621; 27 the men of Michmas, 122; 28 the men of Bethel and Ai, 223; 29 the sons of Nebo, 52; 30 the sons of Magbish, 156; 31 the sons of the other Elam, 1,254; 32 the sons of Harim, 320; 33 the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725; 34 the men of Jericho, 345; 35 the sons of Senaah, 3 the sons of Parosh, 2,172; 4 the sons of Shephatiah, 372; 5 the sons of Arah, 775; 6 the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua [and] Joab, 2,812; 7 the sons of Elam, 1,254; 8 the sons of Zattu, 945; 9 the sons of Zaccai, 760; 10 the sons of Bani, 642; 11 the sons of Bebai, 623; 12 the sons of Azgad, 1,222; 13 the sons of Adonikam, 666; 14 the sons of Bigvai, 2,056; 15 the sons of Adin, 454; 16 the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98; 17 the sons of Bezai, 323; 18 the sons of Jorah, 112; 19 the sons of Hashum, 223; 20 the sons of Gibbar, 95; 21 the men of Bethlehem, 123; 22 the men of Netophah, 56; 23 the men of Anathoth, 128; 24 the sons of Azmaveth, 42; 25 the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743; 26 the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621; 27 the men of Michmas, 122; 28 the men of Bethel and Ai, 223; 29 the sons of Nebo, 52; 30 the sons of Magbish, 156; 31 the sons of the other Elam, 1,254; 32 the sons of Harim, 320; 33 the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725; 34 the men of Jericho, 345; 35 the sons of Senaah, 3,630.
The first thing to note is that the returned exiles decide that Israel will be a truly unmixed Israel and that this must be tested. The existence of a list, preserved by God’s care, shows the importance that God attaches to origin. Here the work of the Spirit becomes clear in people whose names are recorded. They are known to God. He makes the names known to encourage all who also want to go His way in faithfulness in times of decay and apostasy (Rev 3:5).
What also stands out in the counting is that it is a remnant. There can be no full restoration of Israel. This will only happen, also according to the testimony of the prophets, when not only the two, but also the ten tribes return to the land. Anything that happens during “the times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24), i.e. in the time in which we live, is therefore not a fulfillment of the prophecy.
Everyone returns “to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city” (verse 1; verse 70). Cyrus has called for a return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2-3). Now we see that the returnees are also going to live in their own cities. Jerusalem is the great center of the people. The people themselves live in their own cities.
We can apply Jerusalem to the church as a whole. We can see the cities as a picture of the local churches where the general principles that apply to the whole church need to be worked out. We are all placed in local churches to maintain with our fellow saints what is in accordance with the thoughts of God.
Every believer should know where his own place of dwelling is. He must test against God’s Word whether the place where he is corresponds to what God says of the church. He should not be there because, for example, his parents are there, or certain people appeal to him. Also the blessing that is found there should not be a criterion. God also blesses in places that have deviated from God’s Word when it comes to being a church. It is about maintaining what is in God’s mind in the local church (1Cor 1:2; 4:17b; 7:17).
The return from exile is very different from the departure of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Out of Egypt the whole people leave. There God acts as the redeeming God. From Babylon He also calls. Yet here we see that not all the people leave Babylon. Only those who are attracted by Jerusalem go back to the land of Israel. This call is related to responsibility.
In this revival we can see the following characteristics:
1. One goes back to God’s original center, here Jerusalem.
2. There is no presumption to possess something that one no longer has, because one has lost it through previous failures. Here we can think of the pillar of cloud and the ark.
3. A spirit of dedication is revealed (verse 68).
4. There is obedience to the Word of God (Ezra 3:2,4).
5. A position of separation from the world is taken, resulting in
6. that there will be resistance from the world.
In verses 3-20 the exiles are mentioned with the name of their fathers. In verses 21-35 the exiles are mentioned with the name of the cities where they used to live, to live there again and to populate those cities again.
This list of names is an example of the book of eternity. We also find such a list in other parts of God’s Word. The two enumerations of David’s heroes are of the same character (2Sam 23:8-38; 1Chr 11:10-46). Paul also mentions a list of names (Rom 16:1-15; Heb 11:1-40). Such lists of names are lists of honor that will be consulted before the judgment seat of Christ. With them God shows how carefully He takes note of every person and every family who lives for Him and every work that is done for Him. We do not have such a list of all those who stayed behind in Babylon.
A particular place name that stands out in the list is Anathoth (verse 23). This place recalls the purchase of Jeremiah of the field of Anathoth so long ago. The field was bought for the purpose of restoration (Jer 32:6-15), which had been expected for so long and has now come. The sealed scroll now proves its worth.
The attentive reader will certainly notice more than this statement to which attention has now been drawn.
36 - 58 Several Returned Groups
36 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 973; 37 the sons of Immer, 1,052; 38 the sons of Pashhur, 1,247; 39 the sons of Harim, 1,017. 40 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, in all 139. 43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 44 the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, 45 the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, 46 the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, 47 the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, 48 the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, 49 the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, 50 the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephisim, 51 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 52 the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 53 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 54 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha. 55 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda, 56 the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 57 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Ami. 58 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.
In this section several classes are mentioned. These different classes represent different services necessary for the house of God to function according to the Divine order. Each must be exercised to see what he or she is called to do and not do anything else for which he or she is not suited. Every believer has his or her own gifts. No one has all the gifts. Believers need each other. That is how God wanted it. This is contained in the apostle Paul’s question to the Corinthians: “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they?” etcetera (1Cor 12:29-30)?
Only from one house do priests return to the land (verse 36). For us it means the indication that the general priesthood of the New Testament believers is also practiced by few in connection with the heavenly land. Levites, too, are few (verse 40). We can compare this with the exercising of the gifts in the church.
Every believer has a gift. Unfortunately, many believers are not aware of this. Gifts are hardly exercised. This is also due to the fact that in many cases in Christianity much is done by people who have been appointed for this purpose through human ways. They are paid for this. There is a great danger that the responsibility for the exercise of one’s own gift will be bought off.
Singers (verse 41) are many more than Levites. It is good to sing and praise the Lord. The spirit of praise supports the soul and makes it easier to go on rough roads. We are all singers, just as we are all Levites. Singing is easier than serving. This is noticeable in the meetings. Meetings in which the Lord is praised are often better attended than meetings in which the Lord speaks through His Word by means of His gifts. It is not only about serving, it is also about our interest.
The origin of “the sons of Solomon’s servants” (verse 55) can probably be found in 1 Kings 9 (1Kgs 9:21). Although the bond between “the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants” (verse 58) and Israel is very small, it is there. They also have the blessing of it which they appreciate and what brought them back to the land.
59 - 63 Those Who Could Not Prove Their Ancestry
59 Now these are those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan [and] Immer, but they were not able to give evidence of their fathers’ households and their descendants, whether they were of Israel: 60 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 652. 61 Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name. 62 These searched [among] their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean [and excluded] from the priesthood. 63 The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim.
Seventy years of Babylon has weakened the thought of inheritance and priestly privileges in the hearts of some. If we don’t appreciate both, we lose the right to it in a practical sense. God knows who belongs to Him. He knows His own. But we must prove “our genealogy” by abstaining from wickedness and pursuing ... (2Tim 2:19-22).
In the land of exile, not much care has been taken about claims and privileges. Some are now paying for this. Those who cannot show their genealogy cannot participate in the work and priests cannot perform their service. They are not told that they are not priests, but they must wait until it is proved, that is, until the time that God can make it clear.
For us, it means that a certain confession alone is not enough. At a time when Babylon rules and deliverance from it takes place, it is important that God’s Word shows us the way in receiving believers as priests at ‘the altar’, which is the Table of the Lord. Any danger of mixing with the (Christian) world must be recognized and must not take place.
In the first days of the church no one dared to join the church that did not belong to it (Acts 5:13). Then the Spirit can still work powerfully. It is not necessary to prove that someone belongs to the church in that good condition. However, that time is long gone.
What was neglected in Babylon is now necessary to maintain. They want to remain unmixed Israel, now that they have felt what it means to have to do with the nations. They have experienced the anger and power of those from whom they previously sought help.
“The most holy things” of which may be eaten (verse 63) are the meat offering (Lev 6:17), the sin offering (Lev 6:25-26) and the trespass offering (Lev 7:6). That there is no priest with Urim (Urim means “lights”) and Thummim (Thummim means “perfections”) is weakness. There is also no moderation of a power they do not possess. There is faithfulness to wait for that priest to come.
For us, that priest, the Lord Jesus, has already acted. In the future, if God’s people are utterly incapable of asserting any right to the blessing, He will be there. Now there are no priests except those who are acknowledged as such by Christ (Rev 1:6a). Any uncertainty is solved by going to Christ.
We show our genealogy among believers through our walk, the ways we go, the spirit we reveal and by serving in love. Demetrius has such a testimony, Diotrephes does not (3Jn 1:9-10,12). When the brothers and sisters see spiritual features in us, we prove our genealogy. Young people show their genealogy when they enjoy being with the saints, show interest in the meetings and what they hear there, read what builds them up spiritually and are not ashamed to confess Christ.
64 - 67 Total of the Returned
64 The whole assembly numbered 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and they had 200 singing men and women. 66 Their horses were 736; their mules, 245; 67 their camels, 435; [their] donkeys, 6,720.
The 42,360 returned are but a handful, and possess no strength whatsoever. Nor have they any external signs of God’s presence. There is only faith, but that is sufficient.
What is mentioned in verses 66-67 shows that God is attentive to all that is connected with His people, albeit only in a temporal sense.
68 - 69 Voluntary gifts
68 Some of the heads of fathers’ [households], when they arrived at the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 gold drachmas and 5,000 silver minas and 100 priestly garments.
Whatever the condition of the house, they arrive at “the house of the LORD,” for it still exists in the eye of God. At the sight of the ruin the heads of the family voluntarily give their gifts for the house of God, stirred up by the Spirit of God. The building of the house of God is not without sacrifice from our side. Our spiritual contribution is that God and His house have a great place in our hearts.
The contribution is made “according to their ability” (verse 69; cf. 1Cor 16:2). What they give is little compared to what David and the rulers gave (1Chr 29:1-9). But God sees the heart. The “priestly tunics”, as it also can be translated, speak of the invisible motives by which priestly service is performed. Our motives for priestly service are formed in part by our relationships with others. This is also something the heads of families think of.
70 The Cities Inhabited
70 Now the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants lived in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
They all go to the cities where they originally came from, where their ancestors lived. There is talk here of “their cities”, that is, the cities of the two tribes, and of “all Israel in their cities”, that is, the cities of the ten tribes. They live there, despite the fact that the city will have looked dead and ruined and there will have been a lot of work to be done. To live means to have come to rest. If we, as a local church, live together in accordance with our God-given blessings, we will also live in rest, peace and harmony, despite the decay in Christianity.