Monday, July 1, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Counted: It Matters

Once Cyrus issues his proclamation, he sends the Jews on their way with a bounty that displays the intentions of his heart towards them.

At the end of the first chapter of Ezra, we see Cyrus restoring to the Jews what was rightfully theirs. When they were captured,  Nebuchadnezzar took accouterments from the sanctuary and placed them in his temple, which was dedicated to idol worship. These items were plenteous, precious, and treasured. Ezra 1:7-11 reads:

Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah. This is a list of the things that were returned:
  • gold basins -  30
  • silver basins - 1,000
  • silver incense burners - 29
  • gold bowls - 30
  • silver bowls - 410
  • other items - 1,000
In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and silver. Sheshbazzar (aka Zerubbabel) brought all of these along when the exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:7-11). In addition to the listed items, 2901 items were also returned, therefore bringing the total to 5,400.

Once these accouterments are returned, Ezra 2:1-67 provides a tally of all the Jews returning to Jerusalem. Not all the Jews returned at the same time, and some never left. The first wave went with Zerubbabel, others afterward with Ezra and a large number with Nehemiah at a still later period. All the Jewish exiles did not embrace the privilege which the Persian king - Cyrus, granted them. A significant number who were born in Babylon preferred continuing in their comfortable homes rather than undertaking a distant, expensive, and hazardous journey to a desolate land.

The census in Ezra 2 itemizes those who returned by family; function - Levites, Nethinim, singers, servants; and livestock - horses, mules, camels, and donkeys.

So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, in addition to 7,337 servants and 200 singers, both men and women. They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys (Ezra 2:64-67 NLT). 

Of particular interest to me were the Nethinim (a term I was not familiar with). Nethinim was the name given to the temple servants to do the menial work of taking care of the sanctuary. Traditionally the Gibeonites were the first Nethinim (Joshua 9:27) and were given to the Levites to be their servants. Though they performed menial tasks, they were God-fearing. Nethinim means “given ones” or “those set apart.”

Reflections: When we're counted, we're identified, we're noticed. Counting lets us know that we matter. Counting is also indicative of order and in alignment with how God works - no confusion and chaos with an eye on the details.
Notice that the temple servants were included even though their tasks were considered menial. Many of us are often relegated to menial tasks, but our work is essential. We're included and counted in the kingdom. You are not your job; those performing menial tasks can be those set apart by God.

Prayer: Dear God, I thank you that you are a God of restoration and order. As the articles for your sanctuary were restored to their rightful place, so you restore us. You restore us and lead us in righteous paths. I thank you, Lord, that the minute details matter to you; nothing is insignificant. This passage provides a full picture of your people - their families, their roles, and their livestock. Every part of us is important to you. Help us to see our significance in you and order our steps, dear Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Logos Bible Software
Scofield Reference Bible
Bible Gateway


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  1. I loved the way you tied it all in! Such a great post.

  2. "We're included and counted in the kingdom." I'm so thankful we're counted in the kingdom, regardless of the job we perform! Thanks, Nylse.

  3. So grateful for the Nethinim who serve alongside me, and also for the times when I am serving in that role. What a great analysis of this important period of biblical history!

  4. In order to be counted, you have to be noticed! Thanks for this perspective, I never thought about the noticing before counting before. I always marvel at the scripture that says He numbers the very hair on our heads. Now THAT is taking notice!

  5. We see restoration over and over in Scripture: how Job was restored with double the riches, how those who followed God (like Abraham) were raised in power and riches, and even Peter was restored after denying Christ. Our God restores and then lifts up.

  6. It's been a while since I studied Ezra. Love how you state counting matters because it includes us and helps against chaos and disorder. And particularly liked how even those performing what are lower tasks were also set apart by God!

  7. Amen. God is so faithful to complete His works. I have been reading Hosea and have been humbled to my knees because He loves us no matter what. Through Ezra, I can see the restorative grace He has too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. ah yes. no matter what, we all love being noticed! thanks, nylse for reminding us that God always sees (and that counts!) I'm thinking of a new book idea (well, 4 book ideas) and this will help! (more later when you're back on marco polo!!)

  9. So thankful to be noticed and counted in His kingdom! Thanks for sharing this inspiration with us at The Blogger's Pit Stop!


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