Home » Various Sermons » Ezra 2.1-35 Zerubbabel’s Return Part I

Ezra 2.1-35 Zerubbabel’s Return Part I

Ezra 2.1-35

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. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, 2,172. The sons of Shephatiah, 372. The sons of Arah, 775. The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812. The sons of Elam, 1,254. The sons of Zattu, 945. The sons of Zaccai, 760. The sons of Bani, 642. The sons of Bebai, 623. The sons of Azgad, 1,222. The sons of Adonikam, 666. The sons of Bigvai, 2,056. The sons of Adin, 454. The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. The sons of Bezai, 323. The sons of Jorah, 112. The sons of Hashum, 223. The sons of Gibbar, 95. The sons of Bethlehem, 123. The men of Netophah, 56. The men of Anathoth, 128. The sons of Azmaveth, 42. The sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. The sons of Ramah and Geba, 621. The men of Michmas, 122. The men of Bethel and Ai, 223. The sons of Nebo, 52. The sons of Magbish, 156. The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. The sons of Harim, 320. The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 725. The sons of Jericho, 345. The sons of Senaah, 3,630.

In this section we have the listing of the people who have returned to Jerusalem and to Judea, from out of the Exiles. By and large, we have here a listing a of names of people who we have never heard of and outside of this section will never hear of. Yet the Holy Spirit has decided that this we ought to know the name of the families and the ancenstral places of those who have come out of the Exile, to return to Judea. This section of the Scripture is one of the sections that the average bible reader will try to speed through. These are names that we have never heard of, that may be hard to pronounce, and yet here it is part of the Scripture and is a significant part of the book of Ezra.  And therefore ought not be skipped.

Here we are looking at the first set of names in this chapter. The names here are the common people, the lay people, and are like many in the common church pews, those who were no the religious leaders, the average persons.

“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. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.”

2.1 The first chapter appears to have described an initial return with Sheshbazzar and the temple vessels, while this second chapter details another under Zerubabbel and Jeshua.[1] Either Zerubabbel journeyed to the land with Sheshbazzar in 538 BC, or he would have returned shortly after Sheshbazzar around 539 to 538 BC.[2] The children of the providence, is speaking of the Jewish people, this providence, was either referring to Judea, or to Babylon.[3] Although it is likely that the providence in question is Judea.[4] These people were the ones exiled, but are ready to return.

They went to their cities. It can be noted, once more, that only those people of the kingdom of Judah are here returning, those of Israel, were carried off by Assyria, and did not return.[5]Those who returned from the Exile did not go to just Jerusalem, but actually went  to other places in Judea, to towns such as Jericho, Tekoah, Gibeon, and Mizpha.[6] Therefore, some actually were able to live in the city of their ancestors.[7] Not everyone would have been able to go back to the home of their forefathers, which would had been destroyed in the Babylonian Conquest, and some of them may have been forced to go to certain areas, via the Persian government.[8]

2.2 One of the leaders of this return is Zerubabbel, who according to 2.63 was likely the governor of the providence (at some point, likely after Sheshbazzar).[9] Zerubabbel’s name means seed of Babel, or Born of Babel. We know significantly more about Zerubbabel than we do Sheshbazaar, for Zerubbabel will appear in other post exilic works, and is often connected with Jeshua.[10] For example Zerubbabel was a descendant of Jehoiachim, and thus of royal blood.[11] (If the kingdom was around he would have been heir to the throne).

The second verse details ten of his assistance, notably Yeshua the High Priest.[12] We know more of Jeshua than the others in the list as well. Jeshua’s grandfather was Seraiah, whom Nebuchadnezar had put to death after he had destroyed Jerusalem.[13] Therefore Jeshua, had a right to be the High Priest.

Of the 11 listed here, Nehemiah adds another name to list, Nahamani, which brings the leaders up to twelve, and may signify a new community was about to exist in Post Exilic Judea.[14] Of the eleven names mentioned here it is interesting to note, that three of the names have a Babylonian origin, and one a Persian origin, not all had Hebrew names.[15] (Concerning the names of Nehemiah and Mordecai, these are not the same men as those appearing in the book of Nehemiah and Esther).[16]

Comment: The return was at last on hand and God provided not only the allowance on it, via Cyrus, and the ability for the people to go, via gifts, but Yahweh also provided capable leaders. Specifically he provided in the early return, Sheshbazzar, and then eventually Zerubbabel and Jeshua. These three would eventually rebuild the Temple to Yahweh and Zerubbabel and Jeshua would lead the people for many years.

God has placed in our lives certain leaders to guide us. Men like our pastors and other sorts of leaders who direct and guide us as we make various difficult journeys with him. We need to recogonize the leaders he has placed in our lives and strive seek their wisdom for the various things that we may come to face.

“The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, 2,172. The sons of Shephatiah, 372. The sons of Arah, 775. The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812. The sons of Elam, 1,254. The sons of Zattu, 945. The sons of Zaccai, 760. The sons of Bani, 642. The sons of Bebai, 623. The sons of Azgad, 1,222. The sons of Adonikam, 666. The sons of Bigvai, 2,056. The sons of Adin, 454. The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. The sons of Bezai, 323. The sons of Jorah, 112. The sons of Hashum, 223.”

The people who described here, are noted to be the children of Israel, a term usually pointed at the entire nation of the 12 tribes, or to the later Northern Kingdom which fell.[17] However, the writer was likely trying to stress, that the people who returned were those who were faithful to covenant and we so called this to stress God’s continued faithfulness to his people.[18]

2.3 As one commentator noted: “God each individual and family is significant. Thus the group of returnees is not simply lumped together, but valuable space in Scripture is given to otherwise unknown families and individuals.”[19]

In this section, the writer mentions nearly twenty different families.[20] Each family is listed as the children of X, such as the Children of Parosh or the children of Arah, and this means either the family which descended from Parosh, or the family in which Parosh was the chief of.[21]

2.5 Nehemiah gives a different number for the children of Arah, there it is 652 instead of 775, likely some of this number had died on the journey, or had changed their minds, or some sickness or ill prevented the travel and so the different numbers in the two accounts.[22]

2.6 Could the children of Pahath-Moab, be decedents of those exiled by Tilgath Pillnesser III?[23] For that matter, Pahath-Moab, could be translated as govern of Moab and may indicate that in the past, the man who gave this family a name had been a governor over Moab.[24]

The men who are detailed at the beginning of this list are not the religious leaders, but instead are the everyday believers in God.

Yet, their leaving of Babylon, while in the eyes of the world might not have been in a the best choice, but spiritually it was excellent. When they left, there was a cost, it cost them their homes, their friends, and their families, despite going into a mostly unknown situation. This choice, however, showed that they were willing to trust in God, instead of their selves. Finally, it was because of this choice that the Scriptures remember them instead of the countless who had stayed behind.

“Finding one’s name on a list is frequently satisfying and encouraging; it gives assurance that arrangements have been made—that one is expected, valued, and privileged. Such was surely the case with these numbered here among the people God was welcoming back to the land of promise, a land that represented God’s commitment to redeem the earth from sin and judgment and to establish a divine and eternal kingdom of righteousness.”[25]

Comment: There will be times where we are asked to do hard things, where connected to this may mean a lost to our current way of life. Where we may lose friends, or family, or even our home. Where God calls us in such a dramatic way, that we must step into the unknown, uncertain of what awaits us. We need to have the same courage as many of the men and women of these families who trusted in God as they strove to return to Judea.

We will sometimes be walking into the dark, walking into a situation we know we have been led by God, but uncertain of the uncertainties attached to it. Yet as God gave these people courage, he too can and does give us strength and courage to continue the day. Let us strive to be faithful to him.

“The sons of Gibbar, 95. The sons of Bethlehem, 123. The men of Netophah, 56. The men of Anathoth, 128. The sons of Azmaveth, 42. The sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. The sons of Ramah and Geba, 621. The men of Michmas, 122. The men of Bethel and Ai, 223. The sons of Nebo, 52. The sons of Magbish, 156. The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. The sons of Harim, 320. The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 725. The sons of Jericho, 345. The sons of Senaah, 3,630.”

2.20 Here, Ezra has moved from listing people by their ancestors, and now is listing them based on places. [26] Like the previous section, nearly twenty different places are mentioned in this passage, some of the cities are well known areas, but most are not.[27] The lesser known places were likely small villages that had no real historical significance.[28] These villages, were, also all rather close to Jerusalem.[29] That is about a 25 mile radius.[30] Indicating, perhaps, the small remnant returning.

Why the list has shifted from a focus on family names to now place names is uncertain. It has been suggested that perhaps, it was because the first set were the richer of the returners, while this second set “represent the poor of the land.”[31] This second set had no specific land grant like that of the first, perhaps instead only a generally idea of where they had come, or where Persia was placing them. They would still have been able to prove their descent, just not their land.

Some of these places are well known, while others were likely listed because the people had retained some sort of traditional knowledge of the locality to which they had belonged. [32] The descendents from places are arranged in a generally geographic ordering, beginning in the south with Bethlehem and moving to toward the north, northwest with Jericho and Senaah.[33]

The Children of Gibbar, likely this is supposed to be the children of Gibeon.[34]  This is actually rather interesting, when realizes that ten tribes did not return, but the Gibeonites, and Solomon’s servants return, despite not being the Chosen people.[35]

1.23 The men of Anathoth, one might need to be reminded of the city’s appearance in Jeremiah 32. [36] In that chapter, Jeremiah had purchased a field, prior to the Exile, which might had saw as foolish. [37] Yet God had known that there would be return, and so Jeremiah’s purchase, would have again been of value.[38] In fact, God had directed Jeremiah to purchase this land, as a sign of the return, and the men of Anathoth would be able to return, because of Jeremiah’s purchase.[39]

Another note of interest is the fact that number of men returning to Anathoth is one of the smaller numbers, 128, there were few of these descendents returning due to their mistreatment of Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 11.21,23; Isa. 10.30).[40]

Comment: The Lists, as one commentator noted, “serves the practical purpose of assuring the restoration community that they had not arrived upon the scene from out of the blue but were in fact solidly established upon their ancestral roots as emphasized by their family pedigrees and upon their ancestral homes as emphasized by their territorial situation.”[41]

God had promised a returned and was able to fulfill that promise, the people had indeed returned as Jeremiah had noted in the purchasing of the land. He remembered not only those of important families, but also those who could only claim a general sense of their ancestor’s home. God is able to keep of this in mind and this shows he was more concerned, not just with family prestige, or ancestral homes, the presence of Gibeon indicate that God is also not merely concerned with his people. Instead, he is concerned with true believers, which this return comprised of, it was made those who were striving to be truly faithful.

As we go through our lives we need to seek to be faithful to God, not for prestige, not for a sense of look how well we’ve done, but instead to be able to say, that we have sought the Lord with all of hearts, for what he has done for us. That we can, like these people, strive to follow God even in these difficult times.


[1] Fensham, 48.

[2] Fensham, 48.

[3] Poole, 1:869.

[4] Breneman, 75.

[5] Pulpit 21

[6] Pulpit, 17

[7] Butler, 15.

[8] Poole, 1:869.

[9] Butler, 15.

[10] Fensham, 49.

[11] Simson, 385.

[12] Butler, 15

[13] Simson, 385.

[14] Breneman, 76.

[15] Myers, 12.

[16] Butler, 15-16.

[17] Breneman, 77.

[18] Breneman, 77.

[19] Breneman, 75.

[20] Butler, 16.

[21] Poole, 1:869.

[22] Poole, 869-70.

[23] Myers, 13.

[24] Breneman, 77.

[25] Breneman, 77.

[26] Pulpit, 17.

[27] Butler, 16.

[28] Butler, 16.

[29] North, 387.

[30] Simson, 385.

[31] Williamson, WBC, 34.

[32] Pulpit, 17.

[33] Fensham, 52.

[34] Pulpit, 17.

[35] Pulpit, 21.

[36] Ironside, 18.

[37] Ironside, 18.

[38] Ironside, 18.

[39] McGee, 2:482.

[40] Henry, 2:798.

[41] Throntvelt, 20


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