Jews headed home after exile
Jewish families join Jerusalem caravan1Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and took Jews captive to Babylon. But now, people from those same families decided to return to Jerusalem and to other towns of Judah.
2Here’s the list of Jewish men whose families returned to Judah. Caravan leaders included Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
6Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812
16Ater (descendants of Hezekiah) 98
Family groups from Judah’s cities21Men of Bethlehem 123
22Men of Netophah, 56
23Men of Anathoth, 128
24Men of Azmaveth 42
25Men of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth 743
26Men of Ramah and Geba 621
27Men of Micmash 122
28Men of Bethel and Ai 223
29Men of Nebo 52
30Men of Magbish 156
31Men of the other Elam 1,254
32Men of Harim 320
33Men of Lod, Hadid, and Ono 725
34Men of Jericho 345
35Men of Senaah 3,630
Four families of priests join the trip36Jedaiah (descended from Jeshua) 973
Levite associates of priests40Jeshua, Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) 74
41Asaph, the singers 128
42Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai, temple guards at the gates 139
43Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
44Keros, Siaha, Padon,
45Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
46Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan,
47Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
48Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
49Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
50Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim,
51Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
52Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
53Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
54Neziah, and Hatipha.
Descendants of men who worked for Solomon55These are descendants of men who worked for Solomon and who made the trip back from exile. Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
56Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
57Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.
58Total workers at the Temple, including those descended from Solomon 392.
Other returning families59Some people who joined the caravan to Judah couldn’t prove they were Jews. They came from the Babylonian towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer. 60Families from these towns included Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, for a total of 652.
61Three families claimed to be priests: Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. But Barzillai borrowed this family name from his wife. She was a daughter of the Barzillai’s from Gilead. 62Jewish leaders searched the genealogical records but couldn’t find any mention of these three families of priests. So, leaders disqualified them from working as priests.
63The Persian-appointed governor ordered them not to practice as priests and not to eat the priest’s share of meat offered in sacrifices. He said they had to wait until a legitimate priest could consult the LORD and get an answer from the two sacred objects called Lights and Perfection.
64In all, 42,360 people were returning to Judah. 65That doesn’t count the 7,337 temple workers and the 200 singers—men and women.
66The caravan included 736 horses, 245 mules, 67435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
Coming home to Jerusalem in ruins68When the people finally arrived at the Jerusalem hilltop where the Temple once stood, some family leaders gave donations to rebuild the worship center. 69The men donated 1,100 pounds of gold, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.
70People who settled in villages near Jerusalem were mostly priests and their Levite associates, along with other Temple workers, guards, and singers. Some others not involved in Temple work settled there, too. The rest of the Jews settled into their hometowns scattered throughout Israel.
Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and other cities of Judah in 586 BC. That was half a century before Persian King Cyrus freed Jews and others to go home in about 538 BC. Jews immediately begin returning home. Ezra’s ancestors, however, stayed. It wasn’t until another century passed before Ezra returned to Judah. He left Babylon in the spring of 458 BC.
Sorry ladies, but the census seemed to count only males. It was the patriarchal age. Nehemiah 7 reports the same information with some differences, especially in donations collected for rebuilding the Temple (verse 69; Nehemiah 7:69-70). Roughly half a ton of gold and three tons of silver in Ezra and only half that in Nehemiah.
Zerubbabel was a descendant of one of Judah’s last kings, Jehoiachin—from King David’s family dynasty. Persians appointed Zerubbabel governor of the new Persian province of Judah. Ideally, Zerubbabel would have been king of an independent Jewish nation of Judah. He shows up in the stories of Haggai and Zechariah as the top Jew in charge of rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple. He led the people even after Darius I became King of Persia. But then he suddenly disappeared. Some scholars guess the new Persian king removed him because Zerubbabel grew into a powerful Jewish ruler whom the people considered their rightful king.
The Hebrew word describing which Elam is aher. It can mean: other, different, or next. In a list of cities, it seems to refer to one of two or more cities named Elam. The “other” might otherwise mean an Elam family different than the man mentioned in verse 7.
Some use “Shamlai,” as it appears in Nehemiah 7:48.
At this time in history, Jewish leaders such as Ezra seemed to strongly embrace racial purity. They taught that Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem and Judah and the exile of the Jews was God’s punishment for Jews letting other cultures and religions intrude into their way of life, obeying God. People who couldn’t prove they were Jews may have been non-Jewish converts to the religion, some scholars speculate.
Location of these cities is unknown.
For more about what share of the meat priests got from sacrifices, see Leviticus 7.
The Hebrew names are Urim and Thummim, described as meaning “lights” and “perfection.” These were two objects never described in the Bible. They show up first in Exodus 28:30. They might have been stones, marked or colored in different ways. The high priest used them to answer questions with a “yes” or “no” or “wait.” It might have worked a bit like tossing two coins in the air and seeing how they land. Two heads for “yes.” Two tails for “no.” One of each for “wait.” It might seem foolish to make an important decision that way, such as whether to go to war. But the people of Israel seemed to believe that God controlled the objects the priests used. That doesn’t mean the Bible endorses making decisions that way today. As in, two heads up for a four-wheeler or two tails up for retirement savings.”
That’s 500 kilograms of gold and about 3 tons or 2.8 metric tons of silver. These numbers are different than those reported for the same donation in Nehemiah 7:69-70. Heads of the family gave 1,100 pounds of gold in Ezra, but only 375 pounds in Nehemiah. And they gave more than 3 tons of silver in Ezra, but half that in Nehemiah. This is the point at which Ezra and Nehemiah part company in the reporting on this caravan trip.
But it wasn’t called Israel anymore. It was the Persian province of Judah—one of many provinces in the land once called Israel. Other provinces in the former Israel included Samaria, Ashdod, Dor, and Gaza. They were all in territory that became known as Palestine.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.