410 BC to 390 BC, Psalm 27: Ezra.

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    Summary

This generation is from the years 410 BC to 390 BC

According to our count, this generation is the 27th generation associated with Psalm 27. It is in this Psalm 27 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

This generation is the one where Ezra concludes the action of Nehemiah and allows the restoration for many centuries of the divine service on the restored Temple of Jerusalem. The beginning of the mission of Ezra is located under the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes who entrusts him with the mission to continue the restoration of Jerusalem.

However, for Ezra, having to reach Jerusalem from Persia with the treasures entrusted by the king is a delicate mission. To ask for a military escort would have been a negation of the divine power. Ezra decides to accomplish this mission without military support but only by trusting in God. God listened to Ezra’s prayers.

However, the road to Jerusalem is not the main danger for Ezra and the survivors of the people of Israel. Indeed the Jewish survivors, who remained, did not hesitate to marry their sons and daughters by inhabitants of the country belonging to other peoples and therefore strangers to the worship of God. By marrying the wives of the surrounding peoples, the Israelites can only gradually detach themselves from the law of God and therefore from the covenant which binds God to his people.

Talk

A high-risk mission

This generation is the one where Ezra concludes the action of Nehemiah and allows the restoration for many centuries of the divine service on the restored Temple of Jerusalem.

Again, the biblical text is unclear enough to pinpoint the dates of events related to Ezra’s journey.

The beginning of the mission of Ezra is located under the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes who entrusts him with the mission to continue the restoration of Jerusalem.

There were several Artaxerxed kings who reigned in Persia, in addition to the reign of Artaxerxes I (Longuemain from 465 BC to 423 BC) that we have already mentioned. There was also that of Artaxerxes II (Mnemon 404 BC to 359 BC) and that of Artaxerxes III (Ochos from -359 to -338). It is likely that the mission was entrusted to Ezra by Artaxerxes II:

  • “Artaxerxes[4], king of the kings, to Ezra the priest, the scholar who has mastered the Book of the Law of the God of heaven, and Ke’eneth.
  • An order is issued by me that whoever of my kingdom of the people of Israel, its priests and Levites, who volunteers to go to Jerusalem with you, may go.
  • Because of this, before the king and his seven advisors you are sent to search out Judea and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your hand.
  • And to bring silver and gold that the king and his advisors donated to the God of Israel, Whose habitation is in Jerusalem.
  • And all the silver and gold that you will find in the entire province of Babylon, with the donation of the people and the priests, which they are donating to the House of their God, which is in Jerusalem.
  • Because of this, you shall quickly purchase with this money bulls, rams, lambs, and their meal-offerings, and their libations, and offer them up on the altar of the House of your God, which is in Jerusalem.
  • And what pleases you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and gold, as your God wishes, you shall do.

However, for Ezra, having to reach Jerusalem from Persia with the treasures entrusted by the king is a delicate mission. Without military accompaniment, he is at the mercy of any regular troop or not on the way. To ask for a military escort would have been a negation of the divine power, by putting it in question with the king Artaxerxés, Ezra would take the risk that this one returns to its decision.

Ezra must therefore accomplish this mission without military support but only by trusting God:

  • And  [1] of the Nethinites, whom King David [2] had appointed, and the chiefs, for the service of the Levites, Nethinites [were] two hundred and twenty-all of them specified by name.
  • And I proclaimed there a fast by the river Ahava, to fast before our God, to beseech Him for a straight way for us and for our children and for all our belongings.
  • For I was ashamed to request of the king an army and horsemen to aid us from enemies on the way, for we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is upon all who seek Him for good, and His power and His wrath are upon all who forsake Him.”
  • And we fasted and beseeched our God concerning this, and He accepted our prayer.

Ezra’s plea to be preserved during the journey so as to be able to deal with the service of the Temple of Jerusalem that we can imagine from the preceding quotations is illustrated by the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 4 )

  • Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; from whom shall I be frightened?
  • When evildoers draw near to me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies against me-they stumbled and fell
  • If a camp encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; if a war should rise up against me, in this I trust.
  • One [thing] I ask of the Lord, that I seek-that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit His Temple every morning.
1024px-104.Cyrus_Restores_the_Vessels_of_the_Temple

God listened to Ezra’s prayers:

  • Then [3] we traveled from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem, and the hand of our God was upon us, and He saved us from the clutches of the enemy and those who lie in wait on the way.
  • And we came to Jerusalem and stayed there three days.
  • And on the fourth day, the silver, the gold, and the vessels were weighed in the House of our God onto the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest, and with him Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them Josebad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, the Levites.
  • Everything was counted and weighed and the entire weight was written at that time.
  • hose coming from captivity, the people of the exile, offered up burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve he-goats for sin-offerings, all this was a burnt offering to the Lord.

This fulfillment of Ezra’s mission is illustrated by the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 5 to 7 )

  • That He will hide me in His tabernacle on the day of calamity; He will conceal me in the secrecy of His tent; He will lift me up on a rock.
  • And now, my head will be raised over my enemies around me, and I will sacrifice in His tent sacrifices with joyous song; I will sing and chant praise to the Lord.
  • Hearken, O Lord, to my voice [which] I call out, and be gracious to me and answer me.

Another mission for Ezra

However, the road to Jerusalem is not the main danger for Ezra and the survivors of the people of Israel. Indeed the Jewish survivors, who remained, did not hesitate to marry their sons and daughters by inhabitants of the country belonging to other peoples and therefore strangers to the worship of God:

  • And[5] they gave the king’s decrees to the satraps of the king and the governors of the land beyond the river, and they exalted the people and the House of God.
  • And when these were completed (the offerings to God), the chiefs approached me, saying “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites were not separated from the peoples of the lands, like the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
  • For they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons, and the holy seed has become mingled with the peoples of the lands, and the hand of the chiefs and the deputies was first in this treachery.”
  • And when I (this is Ezra speaking) heard [of] this matter, I rent my garment and my robe, and I tore the hair of my head and my beard, and I sat bewildered.

Ezra can only observe that divine clemency, after his anger due to past mistakes, did not allow the people of Israel to move fully this time towards the path of the divine commandments. For by marrying the women of the surrounding peoples, the Israelites can only gradually detach themselves from the law of God and therefore from the covenant that binds God to His people:

  • And I (it’s always Ezra speaking) said[6], “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have increased over our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.
  • Since the days of our forefathers, we are in great guilt until this day, and because of our iniquities, we were delivered-we, our kings, our priests-into the hands of the kings of the lands by the sword, in captivity, and with plunder and with shame-facedness as of this day.
  • And now, for a short moment, favor has been granted by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, so that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little life in our servitude.

So Ezra mentions the fault of the fathers to explain the destitution of the people of Israel during his speech. He also recalls his faith in divine goodness to ensure the survival of the rest of Israel, who is re-establishing itself in the land of Israel and facing the temptation to mingle with neighboring peoples through matrimonial unions. With the risk of falling back into idolatry and thus departing again from the divine law, and falling back into disgrace with God.

This can be compared with the rest of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 8 to 14 )

  • On Your behalf, my heart says, « Seek My presence. » Your presence, O Lord, I will seek.
  • Do not hide Your presence from me; do not turn Your servant away with anger. You were my help; do not forsake me and do not abandon me, O God of my salvation.
  • For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord gathers me in.
  • Instruct me, O Lord, in Your way, and lead me in the straight path because of those who lie in wait for me.
  • Do not deliver me to the desires of my adversaries, for false witnesses and speakers of evil have risen against me.
  • Had I not believed in seeing the good of the Lord in the land of the living!
  • Hope for the Lord, be strong and He will give your heart courage, and hope for the Lord.

We will see, in the next generation, that according to his wishes, Ezra will be able to separate from the surrounding peoples and thus to find favor with God.


[1] EZRA Chapter 8, verses 20 to 23

[2] See: EZRA beginning of chapter 8

[3] EZRA Chapter 8, verses 31 to 35

[4] Ezra – Chapter 7, verses 12-18. The remainder of the paragraph allows us to judge the confidence of King Artaxerxes in Ezra and the God he represents.

[5] EZRA Chapter 9, verses 1 to 3

[6] EZRA Chapter 9, versets 7 to 9