Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
Encouraged by all that God has done to create favourable circumstances and positive attitudes from the powers that be, Ezra gathers leaders from the Jewish community in Babylon to accompany him to Jerusalem. Both Ezra and Nehemiah are excellent administrators and disciplined leaders. They keep proper records to ensure proper governance. In this passage, Ezra lists the names of the Jewish leaders in his group (Ezra 8:1–14).
It is a sizeable group—not as large as the first group that accompanied Zerubbabel (a descendant of David who continues the royal line and is named in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:13 and Luke 3:27) but nevertheless a large enough number. According to Ezra’s records, there are 1,496 men. If women and children are included (Ezra 8:21), the total number of returnees would have been about 6,000 to 7,000 people, according to some Bible scholars8.
Though the names may not mean much to the modern reader, the Jews in Ezra’s time would have understood their significance. Many of the men came from prominent Jewish families, and the first few names include two priests and their relatives and a descendant of David. Bible commentator Derek Kidner notes that “in every case but one these groups are joining, at long last, the descendants of the pioneers from their own family stock, who had been in the first party to return from Babylon eighty years before. The family names in verses 4–14 can all (except Joab, verse 9) be found in 2:3–15.”9
Kidner further observes that when the first group of returnees decided to accompany Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, some families may have been divided when some members went and some stayed. Ezra brought with him family members who had originally chosen to remain in Babylon, and there must have been a joyful reunion of families in Jerusalem. It shows us that God can give us second chances when we fail to act rightly, and that He loves to bring families together.
Through Ezra 7:28 to 9:15 (except for Ezra 8:35–36), Ezra writes with a personal “I” or “we”. In his heart, he must have rejoiced that God had chosen to send others with him. God often ensures that we have company to encourage us when we do His work. Remember how Jesus chose 12 disciples to be with Him, and how He sent them and other disciples out two by two (Luke 6:13, 10:1). The church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas as a missionary team (Acts 13:2–3), and henceforth, Paul also had teams in his various missionary journeys.
God seldom sends us alone on a mission. He often sends others to work with us, to lessen our burden and to encourage us. Even if you feel alone, you are never alone, for there are others who are praying for you or supporting you in other ways. Take courage and give thanks to God for those who stand with you in life’s tasks and challenges.
Why do you think it is good to have partners in what we do for God? Reflect on your experience of working in teams and how it helped you and the others.
We saw how God loves to bring families together. Is there any practical application that you can think of for yourself or your church?