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66 an hundred cori of wheat. And I enjoin you not to lay any " treacherous imposition, or any tributes, upon their priests 66 or Levités, or sacred singers, or porters, or sacred servants, 6 or scribes of the temple. And do thou, O Esdras, appoint “ judges according to the wisdom (given thee] of God, and " those such as understand the law, that they may judge in « all Syria and Phenicia; and do thou instruct those also “ which are ignorant of it, that if any one of thy countrymen “ transgress the law of God, or that of the king, he may be “ punished, as not transgressing it out of ignorance, but as « one that knows it indeed, but boldly despises and contemns “ it; and such may be punished by death, or by paying fines. « Farewell.”
2. When Esdras had received this epistle, he was very joyful, and began to worship God, and confessed that he had been the cause of the king's great favour to him, and that for the same reason he gave all the thanks to God. So he read the epistle at Babylon to those Jews that were there, but he kept the epistle itself, and sent a copy of it to all those of his own nation that were in Media. And when these Jews had understood what piety the king had towards God, and what kindness he had for Esdras, they were all greatly pleased; nay, many of them took their effects with them, and came to Babylon, as very desirous of going down to Jerusalem; but then the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country, wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Eu. rope subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers. Now there came a great number of priests, and Levites, and porters, and sacred singers, and sacred servants to Esdras. So he gathered those that were in the captivity together beyond Euphrates, and staid there three days, and ordained a fast for them, that they might make their prayers to God for their preservation, that they might suffer no misfortunes by the way, either from their enemies, or from any other ill accident; for Esdras had said before-band, that he had told the king how God would preserve them, and so he had not thought fit to request that he would send horsemen to conduct them. So when they had finished their prayers, they removed from Euphrates, on the twelfth day of the first month of the seventh year of the reign of Xerxes, and they came to Jerusalem on the fifth month of the same year. Now Esdras presented the sacred money to the treasurers, who were of the family of the priests, of silver six, hundred and fifty talents, vessels of silver one hundred talents,
Israel remasia and Ea
vessels of gold twenty talents, vessels of brass, that was* more precious than gold, twelve talents by weight; for these presents had been made by the king and his counsellors, and by all the Israelites that stayed at Babylon. So when Esdras had delivered these things to the priests, he gave to God, as the appointed sacrifices of whole burnt-offerings, twelve bulls on account of the cominon preservation of the people, ninety rams, and seventy-two lambs, twelve kids of the goats, for the remission of sins. He also delivered the king's epistle to the king's officers, and to the governors of Celesyria and Phenicia; and as they were under the necessity of doing what was enjoined by him, they honoured our nation, and were assistant to them in all their necessities.
3. Now these things were truly done under the conduct of Esdras, and he succeeded in them, because God esteemed him worthy of the success of his conduct, on account of his goodness and righteousness : But some time afterward there came some persons to him, and brought an accusation against certain of the multitude, and of the priests and Levites, who had transgressed their settlement, and dissolved the laws of their country, by marrying strange wives, and had brought the family of the priests into confusion. These persons desired him to support the laws, lest God should take up a general anger against them all, and reduce them to a calamitous condition again. Hereupon he rent his garment immediately out of grief, and pulled off the hair of his head and heard, and cast himself upon the ground, because this crime had reached the principal men among the people, and considering that if he should enjoin them to cast out their wives, and the children they had by them, he should not be hearkened to, he continued lying upon the ground. However, all the better sort came running to him, who also themselves wept, and partook of the grief he was under for what had been done. So Esdras rose up from the ground, and stretched out his hands towards heaven, and said, that “ he was ashamed to “ look towards it, because of the sins which the people had “ committed, while they had cast out of their memories what " their fathers had undergone on account of their wickeds ness: and he besought God, who had saved a seed and a “ remnant out of the calamity and captivity they had been " in, and had restored them again to Jerusalem and to their “ own land, and had obliged the kings of Persia to have compassion on them, that he would also forgive them their sins « they had now committed, which, though they deserved " death, yet was it agreeable to the mercy of God to remit “ even to these the punishment due to them.”
* Dr. Hudson takes notice here, that this kind of brass or copper, or rather mixture of gold and brass or copper was called anrichalcum, and that this was of old esteemed the most precious of all metalsa
4. After Esdras had said this, he left off praying; and when all those that came to him with their wives and children were under lamentation, one whose name was Jechonias, a principal man in Jerusalem, came to bim, and said, that they had sinned in marrying strange wives; and he persuaded him to adjure them all to cast those wives out, and the children born of them, and that those should be punished who would not obey the law. So Esdras hearkened to this advice, and made the heads of the priests and of the Levites, and of the Israelites swear that they would put away those wives and children, according to the advice of Jechonias. And when he had received their oaths, he went in haste out of the temple into the chamber of Johanan, the son of Eliasib, and as he had hitherto tasted nothing at all for grief, so he abode there that day. And when proclamation was made, that all those of the captivity should gather themselves together to Jerusalem, and those that did not meet there in two or three days, should be banished from the multitude, and that their substance should be appropriated to the uses of the temple according to the sentence of the elders, those that were of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin came together in three days, viz. on the twentieth day of the ninth month, which, according to the Hebrews, is called Tebeth, and according to the Macedonians, Apelleus. Now, as they were sitting in the upper room of the temple, where the elders also were present, but were uneasy because of the cold, Esdras stood up, and accused them, and told them they had sinned in marrying wives that were not of their own nation; but that now they would do a thing both pleasing to God, and advantageous to themselves, if they would put those wives away. Accordingly they all cried out, that “ they would do so. That however the inul" titude was great, and that the season of the year was winter, " and that this work would require more than one or two “ days. Let their rulers therefore, [said they), and those “ that have married strange wives, come hither at a proper ' time, while the elders of every place, that are in common “ to estimate the number of those that have thus married, " are to be there also.” Accordingly this was resolved on by them; and they began the inquiry after those that had married strange wives on the first day of the tenth month, and continued the inquiry to the first day of the next month, and found a great many of the posterity of Jeshua the bigke priest, and of the priests and Levites, and Israelites, who had * a greater regard to the observation of the law than to their natural affection, and immediately cast out their wives, and the children which were born of them. And in order to appease God, they offered sacrifices, and slew rams, as oblations to him ; but it does not seem to me to be necessary to set down the names of these men. So when Esdras had reformed this sin about the marriages of the forementioned persons, he reduced that practice to purity, so that it continued in that state for the time to come.
5. Now when they kept the t feast of tabernacles in the seventh month, and almost all the people were come together to it, they went up to the open part of the temple, to the gate which looked eastward, and desired of Esdras that the laws of Moses might be read to them. Accordingly he stood in the midst of the multitude and read them; and this he did from morning to noon. Now by hearing the laws read to them, they were instructed to be righteous men for the present and for the future; but as for their past offences they were displeased at themselves, and proceeded to shed tears on their account, as considering with themselves, that if they had kept the law, they had endured none of these miseries which they had experienced. But when Esdras saw them in this disposition, he bade them go home, and not weep, for that it was a festival, and that they ought not to weep thereon, for that it was I not lawful so to do. He exhorted them rather to proceed immediately to feasting, and to do what was suitable to a feast, and what was agreeable to a day of joy, but to let their repentance and sorrow for their former sins be a security and a guard to them, that they fell no more into the like offences. So upon Esdras's exhortation, they began to feast : and when they had so done for eight days, in their ta
* This pincedure of Ezra, and of the best part of the Jewish nation, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, of reducing the Jewish marriages, once for all, to the strictness of the law of Moses, without any regard to the greatness of those who had broken it, and without regard to that natural affection or compas. sion for their heathen wives, and their children by them, which made it so hard for Ezra to correct it, deserves greatly to be observed and imitated in all attempts for reformation among Christians, the contrary conduct having ever been the bane of true religion, both among Jews and Christians, while political views, or human passions, or prudential motives, are suffered to take place instead of the divine laws, as so the blessing of God is forfeited, and the church still suffered to continue corrupt from one generation to another. See chap. viii. sect. 2.
+ This Jewish feast of tabernacles was imitated in several heathen solemnities, as Spavheim here observes and proves. He also farther observes presently, what great regard many heathens had to the monuments of their forefathers, as Nehemiah had here, sect. 6.
This rule of Ezra's, not to fast on a festival day, is quoted in the Apostolical Constitutions, B. V. as obtaining among Christians also.
bernacles, they departed to their own homes, singing hymns to God, and returning thanks to Esdras, for his reformation of what corruptions had been introduced into their settlement, So it came to pass, that after he had obtained this reputation among the people, he died an old man, and was buried in a magnificent manner at Jerusalem. About the same time it happened also, that Joacim the high priest died ; and his son Eliasib succeeded in the high priest-hood.
6. Now there was one of those Jews ihat had been carried captive, who was cup-bearer to king Xerxes; his name was Nehemiah. As this man was walking before Susa, the metropolis of the Persians, he heard some strangers that were entering the city after a long journey, speaking to one another in the Hebrew tongue, so he went to them and asked them whence they came? And when their answer was, that they came froin Judea, he began to enquire of them again in what state the multitude was? and in what condition Jerusalem was? and when they replied, that they were in a * bad state, for that their walls were thrown down to the ground, and that the neighbouring nations did a great deal of mischief to the Jews, while in the day-time they overran the country, and pillaged it, and in the night did them mischief, insomuch that not a few were led away captive out of the country, and out of Jerusalem itself, and that the roads were in the day-time found full of dead men. Hereupon Nehemiah shed tears, out of commiseration of the calamities of his countrymen: and looking up to beaven he said, “ How long, O Lord, wilt thou w overlook our nation, while it suffers so great miseries, and 56 while we are made the prey and the spoil of all men?” And while he stayed at the gate and lamented thus, one told him that the king was going to sit down to supper; so he made haste, and went as he was, without washing himself, to minister to the king in his office of cup-bearer : But as the king was very pleasant after supper, and more cheerful than usual, he cast his eyes on Nehemiah, and seeing him look sad, he asked him, why he was sad ? Whereupon he prayed to God to give him favour, and afford him the power of persuading by his words; and said, “ How can I, o kiny, appear other“ wise than thus, and not be in trouble, while I hear that " the walls of Jerusalem, the city where are the sepulchres “ of my fathers, are thrown down to the ground, and that its
* This miserable condition of the Jews, and their capital must have been after the death of Ezra, their former governor, and before Nebemiah came with his commission to build the walls of Jerusalem: Nor is that at all disagreeable to these histories in Josephus, since Ezra came on the 7th, and Nehemiah not till the 25th of Xerxes, at the interval of 18 years.