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Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

42,360 - Ezra 2

One of the most prevalent finds of archaeology, when it comes to uncovering written documents is – lists!

 

Lists of inventory, lists of accomplishments, lists of laws, lists of accounts receivable – lists, lists, lists.

 

Perhaps you can think about your own profession.  Most of you spend some time tabulating lists.  You cross reference lists, you organize lists, you bullet point accomplishments, you grade results, and you scratch things off “to do lists” when they are done!  Lists.

 

I remember the awful images of 9/11, when the towers came crashing to the ground, that apart from the dust and debris -- what was scattered to the winds that day?  8X11 sheets of paper floating all around.

 

On those papers were not stories of brave young boys taking on tall giants with slings and stones.

There were not accounts of men sailing the stormy seas and fearing for their life.

There were not tales of down trodden peasants being won over by a traveling King…

 

Because they came from an office building, I’m sure they were mostly -- lists!

 

Those lists flying in the wind seemed rather trivial in light of the terror of 9/11.  But they were important to someone at one time.  They actually documented a part of the world that was important.  It was a representation of mutual trust among associates.  It was an accounting that spoke of at least two parties à the person who made the list and the person who would read it!  MOST OFTEN, those lists were an agreement between two parties so that if needed, a third party could officially declare that someone was in relationship with another.  That list would serve as a witness to the world that historic arrangements were in fact, reality.

 

The Bible is filled with such lists!  So that we the readers would know that an historic record exists documenting a relationship between at least two parties!  These lists provide context, rights, privileges, AND, reveal what was important enough to list!  This is so important to historians!

 

So in the Bible, we read genealogies, we read job descriptions, we read ceremonial instructions, we read travelogues, we read list after list…

 

But aren’t lists boring?  OH YEAH!  In fact, one king, who couldn’t fall asleep, asked that a police blotter be read to him just so it would make him tired and zonk out!  But lists like that, the ones that make it in the Bible, are always important!  Because they help the people who read them to learn what is important about the relationship they represent.  And what is important about these lists – NAMES!

 

THINK ABOUT IT FOLKS!  In New York City, at the place known as Ground Zero, they are going to build a brand new structure in that very spot, but we all know what else is also going to be there – there is going to be a list.  A list of nearly 3000 dead people.  Will that list be important to anyone?  YES, to all the people who were in relationship with those people, it will be very important!  It will mark painful memories, and it will mark how life had to go forward.

 

But Hypothetically speaking, a thousand years from now, will anyone care about a list of 3000 dead people?  Maybe only Archaeologists & Historians!  But that list will represent an important part of a people’s history – and that is what we have in Ezra, chapter 2.

 

Ancient Israel had encountered their version of Ground Zero when Nebuchadnezzar terrorized and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  But a rebuilding campaign had been decreed.  An entire nation which had been decimated will now assemble again with a band of pioneering colonists who are coming to rebuild, and these NAMES would make THE LIST.

 

Ezra Chapter 2 is a Looooong list.  70 verses.  But there are some great details here in one of the most important lists of the Bible because Israel, because Jerusalem, the supposed Mount Zion of God was NO LONGER!  But in an act of Divine providence, a foreign ruler was moved in his spirit to not just PERMIT the rebuilding of Jerusalem (And we all know how difficult the permitting process is!!)  NO, this ruler actually decides that he will even FUND the work.  And in response to the spirit’s work on a world ruler, a group of over 40,000 people decide to return to a wasteland to establish a dream that had been a nightmare for nearly 70 years.

 

Ezra 2:1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

 

Here we have the background to a problem – Nebuchadnezzar.  And here we have a responding group of leaders.

 

The first men mentioned are the most important – Zerubbabel, Jeshua, These  men are the leaders of this movement.  In these, we see the classic ordering of the offices of prophet, priest, and King.  This is important because it sets off at the ‘get go’ that this group of people are going to re-establish something that should have never been lost.  All these people could have come back and said, When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them AND JUST CHUCK that old model that didn’t work and establish an emergent government that will depend upon a living and breathing document to cater to the political climate of the day…

 

No these men, would follow a direct descendant and rightful heir to the throne of King David in a governor named Zerubbabel.  They will again establish a priestly office and assign it to Jeshua, and they will have a prophetic voice to stir the people to love and good deeds in Nehemiah

 

Now again, this list of Chapter 2 is a brand new beginning, it is as important to Israel as Noah’s family after the Ark, as the Jews fleeing Egypt in the Exodus, as the Hosts of Joshua conquering the Promised Land.  These people are going to be the New Israel, and what do they hope for the New?  To be a lot like the Old – but with that all elusive – ZEAL FOR WHAT PLEASES GOD ABOVE ALL.

 

This list is so important that it is repeated again in Nehemiah 7, and again in an Apocryphal book known as 1 Esdras, Chapter 5 – virtually identical…

 

Well, with problems.  It is hard to copy lists.  There are reasons for this – a little too technical to discuss right now; but some names are transposed, some names are spelled differently, some numbers are completely different.

 

In fact, verse 2 of Ezra 2 only has eleven names.  It should have 12 – and you know why it should be 12, because it is the New Israel getting established in the land.  Nehemiah and 1 Esdras has 12 – we’ll talk about some of these details in SS.

 

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, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812.

 

I’m going to stop right here and inform you that this goes on for a while.  But what is happening here are people reporting the names of their clan, or, starting at verse 21 the name of the city to which they can verify their family origin.  These people had been in Babylon some 70 years, but they had not lost their identity, they had not melded into Baylonian culture and given up on their unique history, and they can confirm their Jewishness.  They have a family claim to the land, and that land is the place where God would fulfill his promises to a faithful people – so only the faithful can come!

 

SIDEBAR on Textual Notes:  If you have the NIV translation, you have a version that is saving ink; because each verse mentions in the Hebrew, the phrase, “Sons of , or the Men of.”  Sometimes it should be Sons of, sometimes it should be Men of.  If you look at your text you will see that this happens

Ezra 2:28 The men of Bethel and Ai, 223.

Ezra 2:29 The sons of Nebo, 52.

NIV – Nothing, just saving ink…

The ESV is very faithful, as well as some really old translations.  The NAS cheats a little… ?

 

36 The priests: If you add up the numbers of the priests, you get just a little more than 4000 of the 40,000 – hey, the priests represent 1/10.  There is actually, more than a tithe of priests being donated to the New Israel – that could preach!  But that would get me talking about donating money, and people don’t want to hear that kind of preaching.  And besides, I don’t believe in tithing any way – I think you should give everything you have to the work of the Lord, AMEN!

 

The book of 1 Chronicles specifically outlines the duties of priests in the temple, especially chapter 25 and 26, which mention the lists of duties and the order by which all the clans of priest were to serve.  There were 24 rotations by which the priests were to perform their duties.  So the Levites had a lot of time off, and they had to do a lot of mutual sharing since they depended on the donations of the other tribes and clans.

 

Among the tribes of Levi was the clan of Aaron.  Only his descendants could serve in the actual temple and sacrificial ceremonies.  Those would be from the EMPHASIS HOUSE of Jeshua in vs. 36

 

The Levites were the supporting priests who represented all kinds of guilds of service starting in vs. 40

 

Some of the guilds were singers in vs. 41; gatekeepers in vs. 42; temple servants in vs. 43; and a special class of ministers in vs. 55 called Solomon’s servants who were thought to perform scribal duties, yes, people who made and studied lists!  I think today, we would call them Production Assistants.  Solomon’s Servants provided assistance to the Levites where they needed help in carrying out their assigned duties.

 

So the returning pioneers are being assembled and notice the emphasis on leadership and priests.  This would indicate, from this list, what kind of people the New Israel was going to be à  A worshipping community!  Sure, they would build, and they would farm, and they would manufacture; but as far as setting priorities – they would be known as a nation of worshippers, who valued the worship of the correct God, correctly.  Also a list that challenges us in our identity and calling!

 

Even though their focus would be worship, there are problems in verse 59

 

59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers' houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 60 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, 652. 61 Also, of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, and the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name). 62 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.

 

Here we have a group of people coming from Babylonian cities who can’t document their claim to ancestral land or family lineage.  Now, it is almost certain that 70 years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed documents that could verify someone’s legitimate claim to Israel.  Perhaps some records did make their way to Babylon over the 4 previous deportations prior to Jerusalem’s destruction.  Somehow, there was a way for them to determine who was truly Jewish – but now a suspicious group of people want to fit in.  Some guys come right out and claim they are related to the infamous Barzillai – remember him?  Yeah, he was not Jewish, but he and King David hit it off, so David said to him, “You belong with me in Jerusalem.”  But Barzillai is old, he can’t make that trip, and gives David his servant.  David kisses Barzillai and blesses him – and of course, anyone related to a man that King David kissed and blessed belongs in Israel – King David would have wanted it that way!

 

How does Zerubbabel respond to this story?

 

 63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.

 

Zerubbabel does not say, “You can’t come with us because you can’t prove your identity,”  He says instead, “Come with us, but abstain from priestly ceremonies until an authorized priest can make an official determination with the official device used to consult the will of God, the Urim and Thummim.  And EVERYONE knows that the Urim and Thummim were something that we don’t know – exactly.  That is to say, that it WAS some type of instrument by which the High Priest could discern the will of God on matters where God had not specifically established a law.  Most scholars believe that it was some kind of lot casting procedure.  And Zerubbabel decides that people wanting to come to Israel should not be refused; but they should wait to fully participate in the life of Israel until God’s official determination can be administered for them through the authority located in another office – the office of priest.

 

Sort of an insight into Zerubbabel wanting to do things right, or he wanted to triangulate…

 

 64 The whole assembly together was 42,360,

 

Now take out your calculators, and crunch all the numbers and see if this number is correct.  Maybe you can copy and paste this into an Excell spread sheet.  But what you’ll find is that the numbers do not add up!  In 3 separate lists tabulated in Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 Esdras, we have a Grand Total always summing up to 42,360; but the actual numerators when added, actually fall short by over 11,000.  Why?  Ah, c’mon, it’s good enough for government work!

 

A possible answers includes children who are under a certain age

65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers.

 

The fact that these Jewish people, after 70 years in Babylon had so many servants, speaks of the economic success they had while in a foreign land.  It makes us wonder why they would leave their apparent life of success and eek out a whole new life of starting over?  Well, in fact, many Jews did stay in Babylon – but we’ll talk about that in the future.

 

The singers were most likely hired singers for social events including celebrations and funerals.  Hey, people like their music!  So they hired singers to sing like we listen to our music.

 

  66 Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, 67 their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720. 68 Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests' garments.

 

Again this section says something about both their wealth and their generosity.  First of all, the major funding for this return to Israel was coming from Cyrus; but the people going wanted it to be a great success, so they gave beyond the funding to support the mission.  Again, in the mouth of a gifted pastor, this type of giving preaches; but I would like to close with another obvious application

 

And that is why this list is important.  We’ve established that this group of pioneers are among the hero status of Israel’s history.  They are important reminders of a group of people who were willing to believe that however successful they could be somewhere else, and despite how challenging it would be to follow God, true life could only be found in the place of God’s promises and at the center of true worship!

 

And of all the lists to which we can belong, there is only ONE LIST that counts, and that is the list that says, I belong to God’s Kingdom.  I am related to the tribe of Judah, I have been made a priest to serve God, I have been gifted by His spirit to build up the church, and my name is listed in the Lamb’s book of Life.  That is the most important list of all isn’t it?

 

Just think for a moment of how the survivors of 9/11 care about a list of names.  And now, after reading Ezra 2, and knowing from Revelation 20 that God care’s about names being listed on a roll; that we would be sure to have our names listed, by faith in Jesus Christ, as active members of his kingdom

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