Who REALLY wrote the Old Testament?
How Jesus Christ viewed Ezra and Nehemiah (Feb 01)
"A student asks a great sage to explain ALL of Judaism while standing on one leg. This would seem to be an impossible task. How can anyone explain such a profound body of knowledge in just a few small moments? This was a challenging question, even for a great sage.... This sage was very wise indeed. He replied to the student, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' All the rest is commentary. Now go and learn."
--Rabbi Philip Berg, introducing the fascinating 6-volume video series "Kabbalah" (available from A&E's latest catalog).
That pretty well sums up to the teachings of Jesus Christ as well. Unfortunately, many so-called "Jews" and "Christians" have clearly disagreed with the point made in the above parable, and the consequences of their disagreement have been DEVASTATING for mankind in general and for the Jewish people in particular (as recorded in the Bible and in secular history over the past three millennia). The stories of Ezra and Nehemiah describe how the Jews who returned to Judea after the fall of Babylon once again "went astray" in that regard.
Last month I pointed out that one of the points that the author(s) of the book of Esther made was that Abraham's racially bigoted attitude towards the Canaanite women in his area did NOT conform with the will of God, and that despite Abraham's less than godly attitude and efforts described in Genesis 28, God saw to it that the descendants of those Canaanite women also got to share in the inheritance that He had promised for Abraham's descendants. Actually, earlier in Abraham's life, God had likewise demonstrated his disapproval Abraham's efforts to violate God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves when He intervened to rescue Hagar and their son (Ishmael) after Abraham exiled them to the desert (and almost certain death) at the insistence of his jealous wife Sarah (Genesis 21). Were these two stories already a part of the "Torah" that Ezra brought with him from Babylon, or were these and other stories like these added to the Torah in Ezra's time by scribes who wished to subtly illustrate the ungodliness of Ezra's views, policies, and actions? This is just one of the important issues regarding the authorship of the Old Testament that we will examine in this article. That being the case, we must examine the two books together. Actually, some of the earliest known versions of the Old Testament treated the canonized versions of Ezra and Nehemiah as a single book.
Ezra was a Levite scribe who was born and raised among the Judean exiles in Babylon. He and his group of fellow Levites and Judeans arrived in Judea approximately 58 years after Judean exiles first began returning to Judea and at least a generation after those early returning Judeans had rebuilt the "Second Temple" in Jerusalem. Apparently, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem about 15 years before Nehemiah arrived (the first time). It isn't known what tribe Nehemiah was from, but it is clear that he served as governor of Judea for 12 years.
It should also be noted that besides the canonical text that we shall review in this article, there are some apocryphal texts known as Esdras I and Esdras II which claim to have been written by this same Ezra, but which were clearly written three to six centuries after Ezra. Esdras I (written in Greek) is a paraphrased compilation of some canonized texts from II Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah with an extra story thrown in to explain how the King of Persia chose Ezra to go back and rebuild the temple (which the real Ezra did not do). Esdras II is a compilation of texts evidently composed around 100 AD that contain various New Testament texts and themes that were clearly alien to the original Ezra's way of thinking.
Ezra and Nehemiah are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, but as we will see, many of Jesus' teachings condemned Ezra's teachings as being satanically inspired. Also, as we shall see, various of the authors of the Old Testament likewise exposed the ungodliness of Ezra's teachings.
As far as authorship is concerned, Ezra could not have been the original author of the first six chapters of the book of Ezra, because the events described in those chapters took place 50 to 60 years before Ezra arrived in Judea. It does appear that Ezra himself wrote most of the remaining four chapters of the book of Ezra. Portions of the book of Nehemiah appear to have been written by Nehemiah himself, whereas other parts appear to have written by some other non-Levite scribe, perhaps by Meshullam, whose name appears in the book 13 times (Nehemiah's name only appears 7 times). Meshullam was one of the four men mentioned in Ezra 10:15 who openly opposed Ezra's racist teachings and decrees.
As with my review of the Book of Esther, my comments [in brackets] will reflect the second-heaven level of interpretation, because both books are essentially historical in nature. They do include some deliberately crafted second-heaven "lessons by example", but no third-heaven (allegorical) teachings. As before, I am using the New King James Version of these texts.
The Book of Ezra:
CHAPTER 1 of Ezra
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
[So far at least, copies of this decree have not been found outside of the canonized and apocryphal books attributed to Ezra. With or without such a decree, historians agree that many descendants of the Hebrews did in fact return to Judea after Babylon fell to the Mede-Persian alliance. Daniel served under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar's son and then under Cyrus and Darius, so he may have played a part in the creation of this decree.]
Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods; and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives, thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles. All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem.
[This was quite an extraordinary gesture on the part of King Cyrus. Most conquerors in those days were more inclined to seize gold and silver rather than give it away. Was Cyrus rewarding the Judeans for supporting his efforts to conquer Babylon? This text simply says that Cyrus did it because he was moved by Jeremiah's predictions in this regard. Perhaps it was Daniel who brought Jeremiah's prophesies to the attention of Cyrus. Chapter 1 tells us that Jeremiah's predictions did in fact become a "self-fulfilling prophecy", just as the establishment of the present nation-state of Israel was in no small way the result of such ancient self-fulfilling prophecies.]
CHAPTER 2 of Ezra
Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city. Those who came with Zerubbabel were Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: the people of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two; the people of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two; the people of Arah, seven hundred and seventy-five; the people of Pahath-Moab, of the people of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve; the people of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; the people of Zattu, nine hundred and forty-five; the people of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty; the people of Bani, six hundred and forty-two; the people of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-three; the people of Azgad, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two; the people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six; the people of Bigvai, two thousand and fifty-six; the people of Adin, four hundred and fifty-four; the people of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety-eight; the people of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three; the people of Jorah, one hundred and twelve; the people of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three; the people of Gibbar, ninety-five; the people of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three; the men of Netophah, fifty-six; the men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight; the people of Azmaveth, forty-two; the people of Kirjath Arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three; the people of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one; the men of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two; the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three; the people of Nebo, fifty-two; the people of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six; the people of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; the people of Harim, three hundred and twenty; the people of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five; the people of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five; the people of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty. The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three; the sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two; the sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven; the sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, seventy-four. The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight. The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, one hundred and thirty-nine in all. The Nethinim: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephusim, the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Tamah, the sons of Neziah, and the sons of Hatipha. The sons of Solomon's servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Peruda, the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth of Zebaim, and the sons of Ami. All the Nethinim and the children of Solomon's servants were three hundred and ninety-two.
As in the Chronicles II and Nehemiah, these listings were serious business, because (as with Hitler's Nazi regime) such listings pretty well determined who was considered (racially) "in" and who was considered "out" as far as the "establishment" was concerned. Did the fact that they were considered "in" at this point mean that they were racially "pure" Hebrews? Not likely, or at least Ezekiel didn't seem to think so.]
And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not identify their father's house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, six hundred and fifty-two; and of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Koz, and the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name. These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled.
[Notice that this new Levite establishment even considered their fellow Hebrews to be "defiled" if they couldn't specifically trace their genetic lineage back to Moses' brother Aaron. Once one "swallows" Satan's proposition that God thinks its OK to place restrictions on one's definition of "neighbor", there's virtually no limit to the number of different criteria that men can dream up make even further restrictions. It's important to note that many of the Judeans who returned from Babylon were already racially bigoted, long before Ezra appeared on the scene.]
And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.
[Supposedly, if they asked God a question and a gem called the "Urim" lighted up, it would mean that God's answer was "yes." If a gem called the "Thummim" lighted up, it would mean that God's answer was "no." Of course, there are many ways that a priest could create an illusion that one or the other of those gems had lighted up, so the authenticity of such a divination technique is dubious. Notice that this approach for "determining the truth" has no relationship whatsoever with God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As the Levite Priest Phinehas demonstrated in last few chapters of Judges, such an approach can (and did) lead to DISASTEROUS consequences! Although the Levite authors of Exodus and Leviticus attributed this Urim/Thummim routine to instructions from God (through Moses), this practice appears (to me at least) to be a carryover from far earlier idol-worshipping religious traditions. This practice apparently ended when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD.]
The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred men and women singers. Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and their donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty. Some of the heads of the fathers' houses, when they came to the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place: According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of SILVER, and one hundred priestly garments. So the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.
[Sixty-one thousands gold "drachmas" (gold coins from Greece?) was a LOT of money in those days! Evidently, many of those returning Judeans did quite well (financially) during their "captivity" in Babylon.]
CHAPTER 3 of Ezra
And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, although the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid. They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
[Here it is obvious that these Judeans already had at least some portions of the books Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers with them 58 years prior to the arrival of Ezra, since they specifically refer to these sacrificial customs as being "written in the Law of Moses..." Of course, such sacrificial customs were the primary source of income for the Levite priests, so it's not surprising that they would seek to reestablish such customary practices early on.]
Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: "For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel." Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.
[Some biblical commentators hypothesize that the elders wept because they could see from the new foundation that the new temple would not be as large as King Solomon's Temple. However, it appears more likely to me that they were simply weeping for joy. After 70 years in Babylon, if they still remembered seeing King Solomon's Temple, then they must have been VERY old.]
CHAPTER 4 of Ezra
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers' houses of Israel said to them, "You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us." Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
[Here the author points out that the leaders of the new Judean establishment had an opportunity to establish a cooperative working relationship with their non-Judean (Samaritan) neighbors, but they refused! In a defiant act of racially motivated bigotry, they "looked down their noses" at their Samaritan neighbors (who were "mixed breed" descendants of the ten "lost tribes of Israel"). Is it any wonder then that Samaritans reacted adversely toward the Judeans in return? Such are the ways of Satan. This is one of those second-heaven "lessons by example" that I mentioned.]
In the reign of Ahasuerus [a.k.a. Xerxes, who made Esther his new Queen], in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. In the days of Artaxerxes [Xerxes's son] also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language. Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes in this fashion: From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions--representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River--and so forth.
(This is a copy of the letter that they sent him) To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth: Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king's treasury will be diminished. Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king's dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.
[What the Samaritans said about the Judeans' prior conduct was true. Their point that the Judeans would cease paying tribute to the Persians once they completed Jerusalem's walls was of course speculation on their part. It's not difficult to see how the Judeans' attitude towards the Samaritans helped to inspire such a speculation. Apparently, that is precisely the "lesson by example" point that the author of the first few chapters of Ezra intended to make. Since Artaxerxes was the son of Xerxes, these events must have taken place at least fifty years after the events described in the first three chapters and a generation or two after the Jerusalem's Second Temple was built.]
The king sent an answer: To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River: Peace, and so forth. The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me. And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it. There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them. Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me. Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings? Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
[Ha! So the racially motivated snootiness of the Judeans' leaders led to a decree by the King of Persia to stop rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. You can see why Jesus Christ taught his followers to "judge" such people "by their fruits." Notice how this author gets his chronology mixed up. The reign of Darius was at least a generation before the reign of Artaxerxes. Perhaps this author meant to say Darius rather than Artaxerxes, or perhaps some editor or scribe got the reigns confused later on.]
CHAPTER 5 of Ezra
Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them. At the same time Tattenai the governor of the region beyond the River and Shethar-Boznai and their companions came to them and spoke thus to them: "Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall?" Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building. But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius. Then a written answer was returned concerning this matter.
[Here Haggai and Zecharaih are given the credit for getting things started again. We'll examine their writings as well in the next few months. Notice that this author specifically says, "we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building." This was before Ezra arrived on the scene, so the first five chapters of the book of Ezra were clearly NOT written by Ezra.]
This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai sent: The governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and his companions, the Persians who were in the region beyond the River, to Darius the king. They sent a letter to him, in which was written thus--To Darius the king: All peace. Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones, and timber is being laid in the walls; and this work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders, and spoke thus to them: "Who commanded you to build this temple and to finish these walls?" We also asked them their names to inform you, that we might write the names of the men who were chief among them. And thus they returned us an answer, saying: "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and completed. But because our fathers provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and carried the people away to Babylon. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to build this house of God. Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple that was in Jerusalem and carried into the temple of Babylon-- those King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon, and they were given to one named Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. And he said to him, 'Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.' Then the same Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and from that time even until now it has been under construction, and it is not finished." Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king's treasure house, which is there in Babylon, whether it is so that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send us his pleasure concerning this matter.
[So Tattenai, who was the Persian governor of that territory, decided to even-handedly take a wait-and-see approach by suggesting to king Darius that a search be made to see if they could find a copy of that original decree by king Cyrus. This also shows that the Second Temple was under construction during the reign of Darius.]
CHAPTER 6 of Ezra
Then King Darius issued a decree, and a search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. And at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found, and in it a record was written thus: In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem:
[Actually, the following appears to be Darius's response to Tattenai.]
"Let the house be rebuilt, the place where they offered sacrifices; and let the foundations of it be firmly laid, its height sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, with three rows of heavy stones and one row of new timber. Let the expenses be paid from the king's treasury. Also let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king's expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. And whatever they need--young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem--let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons. Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently.
[The above decree appears far more likely to have been written by a Levite (perhaps by Ezra, though theoretically it could have been written by Darius's friend Daniel). The expression regarding sacrificial offerings making a "sweet aroma" (to the God of heaven) appears 3 times in Exodus, 16 times in Leviticus, and 18 times in Numbers. It's the kind of expression a Levite (who relies on sacrifices for his meals) is likely to use, not a Persian king. Notice how this "decree" also hands all sorts of power and authority over to the "priests who are in Jerusalem." It seems unlikely that a Persian king would have knowingly issued a decree with such provisions and wording.]
Then Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, Shethar-Boznai, and their companions diligently did according to what King Darius had sent. So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
[As you can see, there are some disagreements among the authors of this book regarding the role that Artaxerxes played with regards to the Second Temple and even whether or not the Judeans actually halted their temple-building efforts.]
Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses. And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel. And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
[How did the king of (long-gone) Assyria get into this story? The statement that the children of Israel ate together with "all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land" is intriguing, because on one hand it reflects the condescending attitude that Judeans had toward their neighboring countries, and yet it leaves open the possibility that some of their non-Judean neighbors may have been allowed to participate in these celebrations. Most biblical scholars agree that there was a 57 to 58 year gap between the events described in the first six chapters of Ezra and the events described in the remaining four chapters of Ezra. The Second Temple was clearly completed during the reign of Darius. Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem took place about two generations after that. ]
CHAPTER 7 of Ezra
Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest--this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. Some of the children of Israel, the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.
[Here the author (who at this point appears to be Ezra himself) makes it clear that Ezra was not only a Levite, but also a direct descendant of Aaron (and Zadok, the High Priest who remained loyal to Solomon).]
This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of His statutes to Israel: "Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth. I issue a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my realm, who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem, may go with you. And whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand; and whereas you are to carry the silver and gold which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem; and whereas all the silver and gold that you may find in all the province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem--now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem. And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God. Also the articles that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem. And whatever more may be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to provide, pay for it from the king's treasury. And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the region beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, may require of you, let it be done diligently, up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred kors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribed limit. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? Also we inform you that it shall not be lawful to impose tax, tribute, or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God. And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them. Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment."
[As with the decree from Darius, the unusual provisions and wording in this decree attributed to Artaxerxes make it appear more likely to by been written by a Levite (like Ezra). According to the author of the book of Esther, Xerxes had loaned Mordecai his signet ring. Perhaps Xerxes' son Artaxerxes did likewise. That would have given Esther's uncle Mordecai a convenient opportunity to write such a decree, perhaps even without Artaxerxes knowing about it. So far at least, there appears to be no archeological evidence of this decree outside of the canonized and apocryphal versions of Ezra.]
Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me.
[This part of Chapter 7 and the rest of the book appears to have been written mostly by Ezra himself.]
CHAPTER 8 of Ezra
These are the heads of their fathers' houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of King Artaxerxes: of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom; of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel; of the sons of David, Hattush; of the sons of Shecaniah, of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah; and registered with him were one hundred and fifty males; of the sons of Pahath-Moab, Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males; of the sons of Shechaniah, Ben-Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males; of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males; of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males; of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him eighty males; of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males; of the sons of Shelomith, Ben-Josiphiah, and with him one hundred and sixty males; of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty-eight males; of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him one hundred and ten males; of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these--Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah--and with them sixty males; also of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
[As before, these genealogical lists were taken seriously for determining who was "in" and who was "outside" of the Judean establishment's restricted definition of "neighbor."]
Now I gathered them by the river that flows to Ahava, and we camped there three days. And I looked among the people and the priests, and found none of the sons of Levi there. Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leaders; also for Joiarib and Elnathan, men of understanding. And I gave them a command for Iddo the chief man at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say to Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim at the place Casiphia--that they should bring us servants for the house of our God. Then, by the good hand of our God upon us, they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and brothers, eighteen men; and Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brothers and their sons, twenty men; also of the Nethinim, whom David and the leaders had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim. All of them were designated by name.
[So Ezra evidently felt he needed to bring some fellow Levites along to help him establish his own brand of religious theocracy in Judea. As the author of the earlier chapters in this book has pointed out, the Levites who were already living in Judea had already created a theocratic establishment of their own.]
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, "The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him." So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. And I separated twelve of the leaders of the priests--Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them--and weighed out to them the silver, the gold, and the articles, the offering for the house of our God which the king and his counselors and his princes, and all Israel who were present, had offered. I weighed into their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, silver articles weighing one hundred talents, one hundred talents of gold, twenty gold basins worth a thousand drachmas, and two vessels of fine polished bronze, precious as gold.
[That's a fair amount of wealth for people who supposedly been living as "captives" in Babylon. Many former Judeans chose to remain in Babylon where they continued to make significant contributions to the development of Jewish theology.]
And I said to them, "You are holy to the LORD; the articles are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD God of your fathers. Watch and keep them until you weigh them before the leaders of the priests and the Levites and heads of the fathers' houses of Israel in Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD." So the priests and the Levites received the silver and the gold and the articles by weight, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God.
[Actually, with such a large group people traveling together, it wasn't very likely that they would be ambushed by mere bands of outlaws.]
Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road. So we came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days. Now on the fourth day the silver and the gold and the articles were weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui, with the number and weight of everything. All the weight was written down at that time. The children of those who had been carried away captive, who had come from the captivity, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. And they delivered the king's orders to the king's satraps and the governors in the region beyond the River. So they gave support to the people and the house of God.
[Such "king's orders" would have needed some form of authentication (like the mark of Artaxerxes signet ring) in order to be have been accepted by the king's satraps. This lends credibility to the claim that such a decree actually existed.]
CHAPTER 9 of Ezra
When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass."
[Apparently, there was a power struggle between the Levites and Judeans who arrived with Ezra and those who were already living in Judea, and those who arrived with Ezra decided to employ traditional Hebrew attitudes of racial bigotry in order to gain the upper hand in this struggle. A few years ago, Slobodan Milosovec used similar "racial" propaganda tactics to gain the upper hand in a similar struggle in Serbia--with VERY bloody consequences.]
So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice. At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God. And I said, "O my God: I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments, which You have commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity. Now therefore, do not give your daughters as wives for their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons; and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.'
[The above is one of the most significant (and DEADLIEST) examples of satanically inspired mis-direction contained in the Old Testament. Aside from the fact that Ezra's publically displayed attitude grossly violated God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, Ezra makes it appear that he is quoting some previously established Hebrew scripture. If that scripture really did exist, it was not included in any of the canonized or known apocryphal texts of the Old Testament outside of the books attributed Ezra and Nehemiah. Did Ezra simply dream up this so-called scriptural "commandment"on the spot? The closest thing to it in the canonized Old Testament appears to be the text of Judges 3:5-7:
"Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs."
Was their evil the fact that they took foreign wives or that fact that served foreign gods? Taking foreign wives does not violate the Ten Commandments. Serving other gods does. King Solomon obviously understood the difference. The Ezra and Nehemiah evidently did not (or chose not to). So the wise King Solomon clearly understood the Will of God far better than Ezra and Nehemiah.]
And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor? O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!"
[In spite of the fact that Joseph had freely married an Egyptian woman and Moses had freely married a Midianite woman, many subsequent Levite leaders of the Hebrews evidently viewed "foreign wives" as posing a threat to their desired ideological control over their human "flocks." Their opposition to "intermarriage" was inspired by Satan, not by God, and as I have pointed in numerous earlier articles on www.onesalt.com. The authors of many of the texts throughout the Old Testament often made it a point to describe situations and allegorical stories that illustrated both the satanic nature and ungodly consequences of the ancient Levites' teachings regarding "intermarriage". I'll cite some specific examples later in this article.]
CHAPTER 10 of Ezra
Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, "We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it."
[Notice that Shechaniah was one of the non-Levite Judeans who arrived in Judea with Ezra. It appears that that this whole scenario may have been a well-choreographed performance designed to help Ezra and his friends seize control of the theocratic establishment in Judea (from the Judeans who had actually rebuilt Jerusalem's Temple and walls).]
Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity. And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.
[To begin with, in his "Sermon on the Mount" (a sermon that Jesus probably preached in many places during is ministry), Jesus taught is followers not to swear oaths at all. Oaths are enforced by personal pride and peer pressure, not by the Will of God. It is also important to note that Ezra had for most practical purposes seized control of the Judeans' theocratic establishment at this point, and having done that, he didn't hesitate to threaten anyone who failed (or refused) to recognize his authority with theocratic ostracism (a satanically inspired tactic that the Roman Catholic Church subsequently embraced as "ex-communication.")]
So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives." Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "Yes! As you have said, so we must do. But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter. Please, let the leaders of our entire assembly stand; and let all those in our cities who have taken pagan wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of their cities, until the fierce wrath of our God is turned away from us in this matter."
[That was a "dark day" in more ways than one, especially for the Judeans and their descendants over the next two and a half millennia. At least a BILLION men, women, and children have been killed since then as a consequence of that particular satanically inspired doctrine (racism). It was this ungodly doctrine that established the ideological foundation that predictably led to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple AGAIN in 70 AD (as predicted by Jesus). Just a couple of generations ago, Adolph Hitler adopted a similar doctrine of racial exclusivity to help him seize control of Germany. He then turned the European Jews' practice of racial exclusivity against them by making them wear "Stars of David", severely restricting their rights, and then plotting their "final solution." Such are the ways of Satan.
Even today, while you watch the acts of terrorism being perpetrated by the Palestinians on the Israelis or by the Israelis on the Palestinians, keep in mind that at the heart of this bloody conflict is that ancient self-serving Levite doctrine of racism (racism embraced by a majority of the Palestinians as well as racism embraced by a majority of the Israelis). Satan's doctrine of racism (which Ezra so heartily embraced) has taken a beating in North America and many other parts of the world, but in some parts of the world the "spirit" of that ungodly doctrine is still very much "alive" and wreaking death and destruction in its wake.
This is an issue that most of the leaders of present-day Judaism have yet to face up to and resolve, and they won't be able to resolve it until they honestly admit that their seemingly "innocent" prohibition against "intermarriage" creates an ideological foundation for the growth of racist attitudes and practices. As shown historically (at great cost) over the past three millennia, such racist attitudes and practices tend to inspire racist attitudes and practices against them in response. This also applies to so-called "Christians" who have embraced such racist attitudes and practices. That particular satanic doctrine is not merely a "matter of Jewish concern"; it is a matter of concern for ALL of mankind, because it has already brought mankind to the brink of extinction on at least one occasion and is VERY LIKELY to do so again!]
[Ezra 10:15] Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite gave them support.
[This is probably one of the most "pregnant" verses in the entire Old Testament. When viewed from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments (as Jesus Christ viewed the Hebrew scriptures), this one verse pops up like "the finger of God" (Exodus 9:19) distinguishing and separating itself from a turbulent allegorical "sea" of satanically inspired teachings. As I pointed out in earlier articles on www.onesalt.com, these four persons were probably the persons who some biblical scholars refer to as the "Redactor" (a.k.a. "R") editors/authors/scribes of the canonized Old Testament. They alone clearly recognized and were willing to publically express their views that what Ezra was doing was ungodly. They lost the immediate battle of course, but it appears that as scribes following God's Holy Spirit, they succeeded in adding ("under the blind noses" of Ezra and Nehemiah) many of the third-heaven (allegorical) stories and second-heaven ("know them by their fruits") lessons to the scriptures that eventually became cannonized as the Old Testament. Were it not for such stories that lessons regarding the true nature of God, the Levites' writings would probably be viewed in today's world as nothing more than mythological teachings regarding an ancient ethnic "war god" (like the Norsemen's "Thor"). Based on their Ezra-refuting lessons, I suspect that the following stories in the Old Testament may actually have been added to the Hebrew scriptures by Jonathan, Jahaziah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai:
1. The two stories (in Genesis 12 and 20) where a xenophobic Abraham needlessly attempted to pass his wife Sarai (a.k.a. Sarah) off as his sister.
2. The story of Abraham's wife Sarah forcing her husband to banish Hagar and her son into the desert.
3. The story of Abraham's refusal to even consider any Canaanite women to marry his son Isaac.
4. The story of Jacob "pulling the wool" under the blind eyes of the elderly Isaac (symbolizing Ezra's theocratic establishment.)
5. The story of Levi's cunning dishonesty and bloody massacre of the innocent men of Schechem.
6. The story of Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) on his deathbed cursing and disinheriting his sons Levi and Simeon for their ungodly attitudes and conduct.
7. The fact that it was the Levites' beloved hero Aaron who created that golden calf for the children of Israel to worship, and that he then lied to Moses about how it came to be there.
8. The story of Moses' Midianite wife Zipporah legitimizing their son as a Hebrew by circumcising him.
9. The story about God turning Moses' sister Miriam into a leper when she and Aaron criticized Moses for marrying an "Ethiopian."
10. The story of Tamar (the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who through deception became the mother of Judah's twin sons). .
11. The story of the Levite Phinehas' massacre of nearly all of the tribe of Benjamin.
12. The story of Rahab (the Canaanite prostitute in Jericho who sided with the Hebrews).
13. The story of Ruth (the Moabite woman who married Boaz, the great grandfather of King David).
14. And perhaps parts of the story of Bath Sheba, the Hittite mother of King Solomon. The author of Matthew picked up on this recurring theme when he listed Rahab as Boaz's mother, thereby identifying the Canaanites Tamar and Rahab, and the Moabite Ruth as part of the not-so-pure "Hebrew" lineage of David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and eventually Jesus Christ (Matthew 1).
15. And perhaps most or all of the story of Esther (the Benjamite woman with probable Canaanite ancestry who saved the Judeans from total annihilation).
If most of theses stories were in fact part of the Hebrew scriptures prior to the time of Ezra, then Ezra clearly wasn't as "skilled a scribe in the Law of Moses" as he claimed to be.]
Then the descendants of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of the fathers' households, were set apart by the fathers' households, each of them by name; and they sat down on the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives. And among the sons of the priests who had taken pagan wives the following were found of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. And they gave their promise that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they presented a ram of the flock as their trespass offering.
[So it wasn't enough that they could trace their lineage to one of the twelve tribes of Israel, like Hitler's Nazi regime, Ezra was seeking to establish "racial purity." There has been considerable disagreement among biblical scholars as to whether the phrase "putting away" their wives and children was a euphemism for executing them or if it simply meant divorcing and banishing them. Killing them would clearly have violated the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", and yet banishing them was likely to have a similar (deadly) consequence in those days. Could this have been the incident that the story of Abraham's banishment of Hagar and Ishmael was really referring to? Jesus Christ clearly didn't view divorcing them as being godly option. So, whereas the prophets of the former Israel used to chastise the pagans and paganized Judeans for sacrificing their children to idols, here we have the Jewish hero [?] Ezra demanding that ALL Judeans sacrifice their non-Judean wives and children to his satanically corrupted vision of "the Lord." From God and Jesus' point of view, Ezra was no more "righteous" than those pagan priests. When Jesus Christ said the following, he was referring not to just to the scribes and Pharisees of his own day, but also to the satanically corrupted teachings and conduct of their ideological predecessors including Ezra, Samuel, and many of the ancient Levites--all the way back to Cain!
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar."
In his parable about the "good Samaritan", Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere throughout his ministry, Jesus made it clear that God wants us to place NO RESTRICTIONS on our definition of "neighbor." At the end of the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is quoted as having specifically commissioned his disciples to preach this "gospel" to ALL NATIONS (not just to fellow Judeans). And yet, the racially bigoted teachings of the ancient Levites were so heavily ingrained in the minds of those disciples that this mission to create a true "one world religion" didn't actually begin to happen until a Pharisee name Saul (a.k.a. St Paul) "saw the Light." Even with the communications capabilities available to us today, it will not be easy for our religious leader to help the rest of the world to likewise "see the Light", but THAT is was God wants our religious leaders to do! ]
Also of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah; of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah; of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah. Also of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (the same is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. Also of the singers: Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri. And others of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Jeziah, Malchiah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah; of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Eliah; of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza; of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai; of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Ramoth; of the sons of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh; of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah; of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei; of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluh, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasai, Bani, Binnui, Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph; of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. All these had taken pagan wives, and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
[Although the individuals referred to above as Parosh, Zechariah, Pahath-moab, Zebadiah, Jehiel, Meshulam (one of the four who objected) and some sons of Elam and Bebi may have been among the group that arrived with Ezra, it's clear that a vast majority of those who where indicted for having married non-Judean wives were Judeans who had already re-settled in Judea. Many biblical commentators have praised Ezra's actions in this regard and claimed that those whose names were listed in at the end of the book of Ezra were displayed there for "perpetual shame." From God and Jesus' point of view, the opposite is true. Those listed at the end of Ezra (and their wives and children) will be remembered as having been victims of the satanic ideology of racism so heartily endorsed by Ezra (and those biblical commentators). Indeed, their names may have been added to the book of Ezra by those listed in Ezra 10:15 specifically so that they would be remembered from this point of view.
It's also important to note that since Ezra didn't arrive in Judea until 58 years after the Judean exile ended, more likely than not, many of those who "put away" their wives and children in order to be accepted by Ezra's religious establishment may well have been "half-breeds" themselves. ]
The Book of Nehemiah:
CHAPTER 1 of Nehemiah:
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire." So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: "I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer.
[From this we can see that Nehemiah was really good at praying. He was also a highly trusted personal servant of the Persian King Artaxerxes (whose father Xerxes made a Benjamite woman his Queen, according to the Book of Esther).]
CHAPTER 2 of Nehemiah:
And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?" Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it." Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), "How long will your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Furthermore I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy." And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me."
[So evidently, the awesome powers that were previously granted to Judean administrators and religious leaders by the Persian Kings Cyrus and Darius (as described in the Book of Ezra) weren't sufficient to get much more than the Second Temple and some living quarters built. The walls and much of the former city of Jerusalem were still in shambles. So Nehemiah's mission was to rebuild the city itself (including its walls).]
Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work. Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.
[Such detailed observations of the devastated Jerusalem indicate fairly convincingly that this was a "first hand account" of what happened at that time. Anyone who reads how the Judeans treated the Ammonites and other neighboring nations in I and II Samuel and I and II Kings can readily see why the non-Judeans in that area would be wary about their future prospects if the Judeans were allowed to come power again.]
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?" So I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."
[So Nehemiah was not only arrogant and unneighborly in his attitude towards the people who were already living there, he was also rather dumb. Like his Judean predecessors, many of the problems he encountered were largely a result of his own attitudes and actions.]
CHAPTER 3 of Nehemiah:
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. Also the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, made repairs. Next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok the son of Baana made repairs. Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. Moreover Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors, with its bolts and bars. And next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, repaired the residence of the governor of the region beyond the River. Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Also next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they fortified Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. And next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, leader of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs in front of his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabniah made repairs. Malchijah the son of Harim and Hashub the son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section, as well as the Tower of the Ovens. And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs. Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Refuse Gate. Malchijah the son of Rechab, leader of the district of Beth Haccerem, repaired the Refuse Gate; he built it and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King's Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David.
[This provides interesting historical details regarding Jerusalem's walls and gives perpetual credit to those who helped rebuild them.]
After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, leader of half the district of Beth Zur, made repairs as far as the place in front of the tombs of David, to the man-made pool, and as far as the House of the Mighty. After him the Levites, under Rehum the son of Bani, made repairs. Next to him Hashabiah, leader of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. After him their brethren, under Bavai the son of Henadad, leader of the other half of the district of Keilah, made repairs. And next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the Ascent to the Armory at the buttress. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai carefully repaired the other section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. After him Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, repaired another section, from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. And after him the priests, the men of the plain, made repairs. After him Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs by his house. After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress, even as far as the corner.
[So according to the author of this part of Nehemiah, this rebuilding project was a cooperative effort by quite a few people.]
Palal the son of Uzai made repairs opposite the buttress, and on the tower which projects from the king's upper house that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. Moreover the Nethinim who dwelt in Ophel made repairs as far as the place in front of the Water Gate toward the east, and on the projecting tower. After them the Tekoites repaired another section, next to the great projecting tower, and as far as the wall of Ophel. Beyond the Horse Gate the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. After them Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs. After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah made repairs in front of his dwelling. After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the Nethinim and of the merchants, in front of the Miphkad Gate, and as far as the upper room at the corner. And between the upper room at the corner, as far as the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.
[As we shall see later, many of these Judeans who helped to rebuild the city had freely "intermarried" with local Samaritans and other non-Judean women.]
CHAPTER 4 of Nehemiah:
But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish--stones that are burned?" Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall."
[They obviously had very low opinion of the Judeans' masonry abilities. Most of those Judeans were probably farmers or sheep raisers who had never participated in a major construction project before.]
Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
[It's not hard to imagine how Jesus Christ (who taught his followers in Matthew 5:44 "...Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.") probably viewed this vengeful prayer by Nehemiah.]
Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Then Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall." And our adversaries said, "They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease." So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, "From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us." Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
[Perhaps Nehemiah's paranoid view of his non-Judean neighbors may have been the inspiration for the stories about a xenophobic Abraham in Chapters 12 and 20 of Genesis.]
Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared. At the same time I also said to the people, "Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day." So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.
[It would have been a lot easier for all of those Judeans if Nehemiah had simply made friends with their non-Judean neighbors (and treated them in a neighborly manner).]
CHAPTER 5 of Nehemiah:
And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, "We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live." There were also some who said, "We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine." There were also those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards." And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.
[By "against their Jewish brethren", he was implying that these were complaints by Jews regarding the misconduct of other Jews.]
After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, "Each of you is exacting usury from his brother." So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, "According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?" Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them."
[So, to Nehemiah's credit, at least he was more concerned than most of his fellow Judeans about following God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves within the confines of his Judean community.]
So they said, "We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say." Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, "So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise. Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor's provisions.
[Here Nehemiah makes it clear that King Artaxerxes had sent him to Judea to serve as the "governor of the land of Judah". ]
But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God. Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work. And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us. Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor's provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
[Notice that the author implies here that Nehemiah allowed non-Judean people "from the nations around us" to "eat as his table". This also implies that those non-Judeans were helping to rebuild Jerusalem's walls. Perhaps Nehemiah had a change of heart at this point.]
CHAPTER 6 of Nehemiah:
Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, 'There is a king in Judah!' Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart." For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
[Well, at least the two sides were communicating with each other. Perhaps this was the incident that inspired the writing of those stories about a xenophobic Abraham in Genesis 12 and 20.]
Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you." And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!" Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
[Nehemiah was correct in realizing that it was impractical to "hole up" in the temple forever. He was also wise to recognize that the things he learned from a "secret informer" might not be true.]
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.
[This is interesting. Could that Meshullam be the same Meshullam who publically objected to Ezra's actions in Ezra 10:15? I suspect so, because why else would the author of this part of Nehemiah go to the trouble of mentioning who so-and-so's son had married? It appears from this paragraph that many of the Judeans who were rebuilding the walls knew Tobiah and his friends personally and didn't share Nehemiah's paranoid perceptions regarding them. As far being able to rebuild the extensive walls around Jerusalem in a mere 52 days, it's little wonder that some people in the neighboring towns viewed such an accomplishment as a "miracle." Nehemiah must have had a substantial number of people working on it.]
CHAPTER 7 of Nehemiah:
Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. And I said to them, "Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house." Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.
[This sounds a bit like conditions in the nation state of Israel today, still living in fear of their neighbors, and for essentially the same reasons.]
Then my God [Satan?, Ezra?] put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy.
[Whose guidance was Nehemiah REALLY following? As Jesus said, "...you will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20)]
And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it: These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city. Those who came with Zerubbabel were Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two; the sons of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two; the sons of Arah, six hundred and fifty-two; the sons of Pahath-Moab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and eighteen; the sons of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; the sons of Zattu, eight hundred and forty-five; the sons of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty; the sons of Binnui, six hundred and forty-eight; the sons of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-eight; the sons of Azgad, two thousand three hundred and twenty-two; the sons of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-seven; the sons of Bigvai, two thousand and sixty-seven; the sons of Adin, six hundred and fifty-five; the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety-eight; the sons of Hashum, three hundred and twenty-eight; the sons of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-four; the sons of Hariph, one hundred and twelve; the sons of Gibeon, ninety-five; the men of Bethlehem and Netophah, one hundred and eighty-eight; the men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight; the men of Beth Azmaveth, forty-two; the men of Kirjath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three; the men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one; the men of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two; the men of Bethel and Ai, one hundred and twenty-three; the men of the other Nebo, fifty-two; the sons of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; the sons of Harim, three hundred and twenty; the sons of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five; the sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-one; the sons of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty. The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three; the sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two; the sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven; the sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah, seventy-four. The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and forty-eight. The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, one hundred and thirty-eight. The Nethinim: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Salmai, the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephishesim, the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Tamah, the sons of Neziah, and the sons of Hatipha. The sons of Solomon's servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth of Zebaim, and the sons of Amon. All the Nethinim, and the sons of Solomon's servants, were three hundred and ninety-two.
[As mentioned earlier, these genealogical lists were taken quite seriously, because they determined who was "in" and who was "out" at that time and well into the future.]
And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not identify their father's house nor their lineage, whether they were of Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, six hundred and forty-two; and of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Koz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name. These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.
[So, even if they helped to rebuild the Second Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, as far as Nehemiah was concerned, if they couldn't find scriptural evidence that showed that they were of "Hebrew blood", they were considered to be "defiled" and their futures as Judeans would be left to the whims of priests using the aforementioned Urim and Thummim divination technique.]
Altogether the whole assembly was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred and forty-five men and women singers. Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty. And some of the heads of the fathers' houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. Some of the heads of the fathers' houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
[That was a LOT of money in those days.]
CHAPTER 8 of Nehemiah:
Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
[When you consider that Ezra was able to publically read the entire Torah as it existed at that time in a single morning , interrupted from time to time with explanations by the Levites to help the people understand various portions of it, it appears evident that the Torah that existed at that time was considerably shorter than the version that we presently have in the canonized Old Testament. It also appears doubtful that Ezra's version of the Torah contained many of the previously mentioned stories that satirized the Levites and their racially inspired teachings. In the Book of Ezra, this event is made to appear like it happened soon after Ezra and his friends arrived in Judea. But the authors of the Book of Nehemiah indicate that it happened a considerable number of years later--after Nehemiah had arrived and completed the wall-building project. ]
So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written." Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.
[So they re-established the Festival of Booths celebration as prescribed in Leviticus 23 to remind the people of their forefathers' 40 years in the wilderness.]
CHAPTER 9 of Nehemiah:
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the LORD their God. And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said: "Stand up and bless the LORD your God forever and ever! "Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the LORD; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You. You are the LORD God, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham; You found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites--to give it to his descendants. You have performed Your words, for You are righteous. You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea. You showed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants, and against all the people of his land. For You knew that they acted proudly against them. So You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day. And You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors You threw into the deep, as a stone into the mighty waters. Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the road which they should travel. You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, and brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, and told them to go in to possess the land which You had sworn to give them. But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments. They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them. Even when they made a molded calf for themselves, and said, 'This is your god that brought you up out of Egypt,' and worked great provocations, Yet in Your manifold mercies you did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, to lead them on the road; nor the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way they should go. You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations, and divided them into districts. So they took possession of the land of Sihon, the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to go in and possess. So the people went in and possessed the land; you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they wished. And they took strong cities and a rich land, and possessed houses full of all goods, cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, and delighted themselves in Your great goodness. Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; and they worked great provocations. Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, who oppressed them; and in the time of their trouble, when they cried to You, you heard from heaven; and according to Your abundant mercies you gave them deliverers who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they again did evil before You. Therefore You left them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; yet when they returned and cried out to You, you heard from heaven; and many times You delivered them according to Your mercies, And testified against them, that You might bring them back to Your law. Yet they acted proudly, and did not heed Your commandments, but sinned against Your judgments, 'Which if a man does, he shall live by them.' And they shrugged their shoulders, Stiffened their necks, and would not hear. Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless in Your great mercy you did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful. Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy: do not let all the trouble seem small before You that has come upon us, our kings and our princes, our priests and our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until this day. However You are just in all that has befallen us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly. Neither our kings nor our princes, our priests nor our fathers, have kept Your law, nor heeded Your commandments and Your testimonies, with which You testified against them. For they have not served You in their kingdom, or in the many good things that You gave them, or in the large and rich land which You set before them; nor did they turn from their wicked works. Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, to eat its fruit and its bounty, here we are, servants in it! And it yields much increase to the kings you have set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle at their pleasure; and we are in great distress. And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it."
[That's a fairly concise and accurate summary of the history of the Hebrew people (or at least the Judeans) from the point of view of the Levites. Notice their endorsement of the Levite view that God "gave" them the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, etc. even though the book of Joshua clearly shows that their forefathers brutally took those lands by force. So despite their claims about having "learned their lesson", they clearly had not. This abbreviated version of their history was probably devised so that it could be more easily reproduced and distributed throughout Judea at that time. Perhaps one of the reasons Jonathan, Jahaziah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai were able to get away with making so many enhancements while they transcribed the Hebrew scriptures was because once Ezra had succeeded in seizing control of the Judeans' theocratic establishment, he lost interest in the actual scriptures and relied instead on this abbreviated version to "morally justify" is policies and conduct. It does appear, however, that Ezra played a key role in the writing of Chronicles I and II in order to help reinforce his view of Judean history and to add some more families to his list of those where were "in."]
CHAPTER 10 of Nehemiah:
Now those who placed their seal on the document were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These were the priests. The Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, and Kadmiel. Their brethren: Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Bani, and Beninu. The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.
[Notice that this list of names includes Meshullam, Parosh, Pathab_moab, and others who would soon become victims of Ezra's "racial purity" purge.]
Now the rest of the people--the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding--these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God's Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes: We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year's produce and the exacting of every debt. Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God. We cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for bringing the wood offering into the house of our God, according to our fathers' houses, at the appointed times year by year, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God as it is written in the Law. And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD; to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.
[So at this point, Ezra's Babylonian Levite establishment (i.e. the original "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT" referred to in Revelation 17:5) was firmly in control of Jerusalem and probably most of the rest of Judea as well.]
CHAPTER 11 of Nehemiah:
Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
[The expression "willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem" implies that many of them may have preferred not live in Jerusalem. Perhaps they would have preferred to "work on the farm." Anyhow, this arrangement helped ensure that the Levite establishment would have plenty of Judeans around to help do the chores, defend the city, etc.]
These are the heads of the province who dwelt in Jerusalem. (But in the cities of Judah everyone dwelt in his own possession in their cities-- Israelites, priests, Levites, Nethinim, and descendants of Solomon's servants.) Also in Jerusalem dwelt some of the children of Judah and of the children of Benjamin. The children of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the children of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni. All the sons of Perez who dwelt at Jerusalem were four hundred and sixty-eight valiant men. And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah; and after him Gabbai and Sallai, nine hundred and twenty-eight. Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer, and Judah the son of Senuah was second over the city. Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, and Jachin; Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, was the leader of the house of God. Their brethren who did the work of the house were eight hundred and twenty-two; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, and his brethren, heads of the fathers' houses, were two hundred and forty-two; and Amashai the son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, and their brethren, mighty men of valor, were one hundred and twenty-eight. Their overseer was Zabdiel the son of one of the great men. Also of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the heads of the Levites, had the oversight of the business outside of the house of God; Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the leader who began the thanksgiving with prayer, and Bakbukiah the second among his brethren, and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred and eighty-four. Moreover the gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon, and their brethren who kept the gates, were one hundred and seventy-two. And the rest of Israel, of the priests and Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, everyone in his inheritance. But the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel. And Ziha and Gishpa were over the Nethinim. Also the overseer of the Levites at Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micha, of the sons of Asaph, the singers in charge of the service of the house of God. For it was the king's command concerning them that a certain portion should be for the singers, a quota day by day. Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, was the king's deputy in all matters concerning the people. And as for the villages with their fields, some of the children of Judah dwelt in Kirjath Arba and its villages, Dibon and its villages, Jekabzeel and its villages; in Jeshua, Moladah, Beth Pelet, Hazar Shual, and Beersheba and its villages; in Ziklag and Meconah and its villages; in En Rimmon, Zorah, Jarmuth, Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages; in Lachish and its fields; in Azekah and its villages. They dwelt from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. Also the children of Benjamin from Geba dwelt in Michmash, Aija, and Bethel, and their villages; in Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah; in Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim; in Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat; in Lod, Ono, and the Valley of Craftsmen. Some of the Judean divisions of Levites were in Benjamin.
[Once gain, such "name dropping" lists were taken very seriously in those days. They helped to ensure their future descendants would be also be considered part of the "in" crowd.]
CHAPTER 12 of Nehemiah:
Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the heads of the priests and their brethren in the days of Jeshua. Moreover the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah who led the thanksgiving psalms, he and his brethren. Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, stood across from them in their duties. Jeshua begot Joiakim, Joiakim begot Eliashib, Eliashib begot Joiada, Joiada begot Jonathan, and Jonathan begot Jaddua. Now in the days of Joiakim, the priests, the heads of the fathers' houses were: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; of Melichu, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; of Abijah, Zichri; the son of Minjamin; of Moadiah, Piltai; of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; and of Jedaiah, Nethaneal. During the reign of Darius the Persian, a record was also kept of the Levites and priests who had been heads of their fathers' houses in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua. The sons of Levi, the heads of the fathers' houses until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib, were written in the book of the chronicles. And the heads of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers across from them, to praise and give thanks, group alternating with group, according to the command of David the man of God. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers keeping the watch at the storerooms of the gates. These lived in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe.
[The author of this portion of the Book of Nehemiah seems to be concerned with "covering all the bases", genealogically speaking.]
Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps. And the sons of the singers gathered together from the countryside around Jerusalem, from the villages of the Netophathites, from the house of Gilgal, and from the fields of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built themselves villages all around Jerusalem. Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, the gates, and the wall.
[This purification ritual, which harkens back the story of Noah's Ark, was an early version of the ritual that became known as "baptism" in Jesus' day.]
So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. One went to the right hand on the wall toward the Refuse Gate. After them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the priests' sons with trumpets-- Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph, and his brethren, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneal, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God; and Ezra the scribe went before them. By the Fountain Gate, in front of them, they went up the stairs of the City of David, on the stairway of the wall, beyond the house of David, as far as the Water Gate eastward. The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I was behind them with half of the people on the wall, going past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, above the Old Gate, above the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped by the Gate of the Prison. So the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the house of God, likewise I and the half of the rulers with me; and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Minjamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. The singers sang loudly with Jezrahiah the director. Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off. And at the same time some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered. Both the singers and the gatekeepers kept the charge of their God and the charge of the purification, according to the command of David and Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chiefs of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.
[So they had quite a celebration, which no doubt helped to enhance the popularity of the Levites.]
CHAPTER 13 of Nehemiah:
On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people, and in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God, because they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. So it was, when they had heard the Law, that they separated all the mixed multitude from Israel.
[Here the author attributes the scriptural justification that was used for Ezra's "racial purity" purge to
Deuteronomy 23:3, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the congregation of the LORD forever." It's unknown who actually wrote the book of Deuteronomy, or who wrote that particular "commandment." But one thing is certain, such a "commandment" does NOT reflect the Will of God. In fact, this incident may have been what inspired the writing of the story of Ruth (allegedly the Moabite grandmother of King David).]
Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests. But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field. So I contended with the rulers, and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" And I gathered them together and set them in their place. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren. Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!
[It's interesting to note that in spite of the fact that Nehemiah at one time feared that Tobiah was out to kill him, when Nehemiah returned to visit the King of Persia, the rest of the Judeans who managed the temple saw nothing wrong with allowing Tobiah to occupy one of the rooms in the new temple. Evidently, Tobiah was not so greatly disliked or feared by the rest of the Judeans. And where was Ezra during all this? Anyhow, we can see that Nehemiah promptly reclaimed that room for the Levites upon his return.]
In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath." So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day. Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. So I warned them, and said to them, "Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!" From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!
[Apparently, the "oath" that those Judeans signed to abide by the "Laws of Moses" didn't stick. So Nehemiah decided to resort to brute force to make the people comply.]
In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?" And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan. I also assigned duties to the priests and the Levites, each to his service, and to bringing the wood offering and the firstfruits at appointed times. Remember me, O my God, for good!
[Here the author makes it appear that it was Nehemiah rather than Ezra who initiated the "racial purge", and that in spite of the more godly efforts of Nehemiah described earlier in this book, he was still a racial bigot. Notice that this author is apparently quoting the same scriptural text referred to in Ezra 9:12, "You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves" even though that text does not appear anywhere in the canonized Old Testament outside of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. As pointed out before, the closest thing to it appears to be the text of Judges 3:5-7 which reflects the Levites' traditional racial bigotry but doesn't specifically present a prohibition against "intermarriage" as a "commandment" from God.
In light of the above, it appears quite likely that many parts of the Old Testament (including many parts of the Torah) were actually written, compiled, and/or edited around the time of Ezra or shortly thereafter, and that many of the parts of the Old Testament that truly reflected God's Will were created in response to the ungodly acts and teachings of Ezra and Nehemiah. It also appears that in many places throughout the Old Testament, it was the four individuals listed in Ezra 10:15 who framed the Levites' own writings in contexts that SATIRICALLY illustrated lessons regarding "what not to do" or "what not to believe", so that those like Hillel and Jesus who were Godly and perceptive enough to recognize the satanic nature of those particular Levite teachings (and their ungodly consequences or "fruits") would ultimately figure out a way to vanquish such evil "spirits"/teachings forever. Indeed, they did this so consistently that Hillel, Jesus, and the authors of the Kabbalah all came to the same conclusion: namely, that when viewed as a whole, the Old Testament scriptures could be accurately summarized as Jesus did in Matthew 22:37-40:
" 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Unfortunately for mankind (especially the descendants of the Judeans) over the past two and half millennia, many religious leaders (for their own personal gain) have used the Old Testament as if it were an idol to "morally justify" all sorts of evil attitudes and conduct by focusing attention on the parts that were written by the Levites and ignoring all the rest (especially God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves). And this is still happening today. Many of America's best known "television evangelists" have been doing it, as have many of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East. The "bottom line" is this. There is a VERY HIGH PROBABILITY that those religious leaders' satanically inspired misrepresentations of God to the people of this world will lead to a scenario that will bring an end to the human race, and the technology is already in place for this to happen ANYTIME now!
(one grain of salt)
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002