by Henry T. Vriesen
About seventy years after the first return from the captivity another company of exiles left Babylon for Jerusalem. This company was led by Ezra, the priest and scribe. He had a letter from king Artaxerxes, which read, “I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel … in my realm, which are minded of their own free will to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee … and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel … with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offered willingly for the house of your God which is in Jerusalem … And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God … bestow it out of the king’s treasure house … and thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God … set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people … all such as know the laws of thy God, and teach ye them that know them not.”
It was a long and dangerous journey, but the exiles looked up to God for protection and guidance. Ezra says, “I was ashamed to enquire of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that: seek him … And the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way. And we came to Jerusalem.” And we weighed the silver and the gold and the vessels in the house of our God, and offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, and delivered the king’s commission unto the governor.
And the princes drew near to Ezra, saying, “The people of Israel … have not separated themselves from the people of the land … for they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons.” This was a matter of great grief and humiliation for the man of God. He rent his garment, fell upon his knees and prayed? “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our heads … For our iniquities have we … been delivered … to the sword and to captivity … Wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hast consumed us … And all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and for the great rain. And Ezra … said unto them, Ye have trespassed and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord … and do his pleasure: separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.”For further information on this resource, click here.