Ezra took more people from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The genealogy vaguely lists some people without numbers and some with numbers. Considering about 45,000 had returned with the earlier group of exiles, it seems that the new people were not more than 5% more than that. I wonder why some had waited till now to return. Had their fathers been waiting to see what happened with the Temple first? This was a new generation and more wished to return with Ezra.
Ezra assembled the group at a place outside Bablyon called the Ahava Canal. He checked the group and discovered there were no Levites included in the number (apart from himself of course). He sent word to Casiphia which was north of Babylon to a group of Jews living there. He asked their chief, Iddo, to send priests and Levites to join the group. The sent over 240 men who could prove their lineage to Levi including descendants of those allocated to work as temple servants by David. I don’t know why this was so important to Ezra since there were Levites and priests in Jersualem already, men who had consecrated themselves for the tasks in the Temple. Perhaps he felt that more Levites and priests would be good as the focus of this return was the Temple.
My favourite part of the chapter is verses 21 to 22. Ezra admits that he had been too ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to protect them on the journey because he had told the king that God would look after them. But he was still worried about his relatively small group of people travelling with children and treasure. Therefore Ezra declared they would fast and ask for God’s protection.
Before leaving Ezra divided the treasure destined for the Temple between 12 leading priests. It was weighed and each parcel was recorded. Once they reached Jerusalem they counted the treasure back into the hands of the priests there. All the treasure and all the people arrived safely in Jerusalem having received God’s protection all the way. The newly returned exiles made burnt offerings to God on their arrival.
The last verse includes a short note that the people also gave the king’s orders to the governors of the region who gave them their assistance. Ezra is a man who records each detail from his own fears to the last bureaucratic note.