Ezra 2

Ezra 2 contains the list of the families and individuals who made the return to Judah and Jerusalem, now that it was a province of the Persian Empire.  There are eleven names here, but Nehemiah’s copy of the list preserves one more, so one may have been lost during translation or copying of the book.  “They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town”.  Zerubbabel was the appointed governor over the province of Judah. He was also a descendent of the last reigning Judean king.

This list names the heads of families, with the numbers of the men of those families. It means that the total number of people would be more, because they are listed and counted by heads of families.  There are some discrepancies in the numbers from here in Ezra to the list in Nehemiah.  Commentaries say that in Nehemiah they were only six hundred and fifty-two. Here in Ezra it seems seven hundred and seventy-five marched out of Babylon, or gave in their names that they would go; but some of them likely died, others changed their minds, others were hindered by sickness, or other casualties, happening to themselves or their near relations; and so there came only six hundred and fifty-two to Jerusalem.

Many of the listed had names that were a result of the practice of giving Babylonian or Persian names to Jews in captivity.  The names and meanings are certainly different the biblical names that had been prevalent.  Ezra also lists the priest and Levites returning from exile.  Only four of the twenty-four divisions of the priesthood established by King David are included here. Most of the priests stayed behind in Babylon.  The total number of Levites was actually less than the number of priests that returned. This means that a remarkably small percentage of the Levites returned from Babylon.

The chapter ends with a summary of the returning exiles.  The size of this entire group is here stated to be about 50,000. However, this was only the first wave to return from the Babylonian captivity and includes only the heads of families. The approximate total of the returned exiles was probably somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000.  Many remained in Babylon, being unwilling to leave their possessions.  After two generations in exile, there was again a substantial presence of Jewish people in the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is a wonderful fulfillment of God’s promise to bring Israel back from exile.

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