From whom does this book receive its title, and what do we learn in the history respecting the pedigree of the author? ch. 7.1. — N.B. The name Ezra signifies a helper. He is the same person as Esdras in the Apocrypha, and the two books bearing that name have been palmed upon him as author, though undoubtedly spurious.
Is he the reputed author of any of the genuine books of Scripture except that which bears his name? N. B. It is generally agreed that he wrote the two books of Chronicles, and also that he revised the whole sacred Canon and gave a perfect edition of it to the nation of Israel, of which we are reaping the benefit at this day.
How long after the decree of Cyrus before he came up from Babylon to Jerusalem? N. B. About seventy nine years.
What are the general contents of this book? N.B. The proclamation of Cyrus and the return of a company of the Jews with the intent to rebuild the Temple—the opposition and delays they met with—their success notwithstanding—the arrival of Ezra himself and a large reinforcement under a new commission—his deep humiliation on account of the intermarriages of the holy people with the neighboring heathen—and his pious efforts to separate them from idolaters.
How long a period of time is embraced in this history? N. B. About eighty years, from B. C. 536 to B.C. 456.
What remarkable prophecy was made respecting Cyrus 120 years before he was born? Is. 44. 26—28.
Was it owing to the special providence of God that he obtained possession of the city and kingdom of Babylon ? Is. 45. 1, 2.
How long before Christ did his reign commence? Ans. Five hundred and thirty-six years.
What prophecy was designed to be fulfilled by the stirring up of Cyrus' spirit to issue his proclamation? Jer. 29. 10.
What distinguished character was now in the court of Cyrus, whose exertions were probably instrumental in procuring this proclamation? Dan. 1. 21.
What arguments may we suppose he used with Cyrus for this purpose? N. B. Josephus says that Daniel showed him Isaiah's prophecy in which he was predicted by name to execute this very work, and the statement is by no means improbable, as the phraseology of the decree, in the original, corresponds remarkably with that of the prophecy.
How does the proclamation run?
What was the effect of it? v. 5.6.
Why did not the whole nation in a body at once avail themselves of this permission to return?
To what was it owing that any of them improved the opportunity ? v.4.
Does the same thing hold good as to the sinner's acceptance of the gospel offer?
What further did Cyrus do to promote this enterprize?
Of what prophecy was this the fulfillment ? Jer. 29.19—22.
To whom were these vessels consigned, and what did they principally consist of? N. B. Sheshbazzar, a name signifying joy in affliction, is unquestionably the same person with Zerubbabel, i. e. stranger in Babylon, who was the grandson of Jehoiachin, and consequently heir of the royal house of David. He is, therefore, with great propriety termed the " Prince of the Captivity. In the prophecy Zechariah ch. 4. 7. he is to be considered as an eminent type of Christ.
What typical meaning may be attached to the restoration cf the sacred vessels? N.B. "Though God's ordinances, like the vessels of the sanctuary, may be corrupted and profaned by the Nev/ Testament Babylon, they shall in due time be restored to their primitive use and intention, for not one jot or title of divine institution shall fall to the ground."—Henry.
Name some of the principal persons or fathers who went up with Zerubbabel. N. B. "The children of the province" doubtless means those who are afterwards called "the people of Israel," as Judea, from being an independent and illustrious kingdom had now by its sins become reduced to a poor tributary province.
What was the office of Jeshua or Joshua? Hag. 1.1. Zech. 3.1. N. B. This is not the same person with him mentioned ch. 3.9.
What was the sum total of the congregation that returned, exclusive of the servants? v.6.
How many were the children of Adonikam, v.13, and what passage of the Revelations is, supposed to allude to his name and number? Rev. 13. 18. N. B. Adonikam signifies high or self-exalting lord, and when this is compared with the character given by the Apostle, 2 Thess. 2. 4. of the Antichristian Beast, the coincidence, if not designed, will appear truly surprising. It should be born in mind that name in the passage in Rev. as well as in almost every part of the scriptures implies nature or character, as well as the appellation by which one is known.
Does the enumeration given in this catalogue agree with that of Nehemiah? Neh. 7.66,67. N. B. There are some variations in the details which are not easily reconciled, though not sufficient to impeach the general credibility of either history.
What singular coincidence is to be noted in verses 7 and 31?
How many were there of the children of Bethlehem, where the Savior was to be born, and what prophecy corresponds with this? Mic. 5.2.
How many priests went to Jerusalem on this occasion ? v. 36—39.
Were there any that could not prove themselves to be of the seed of Israel? v. 59, 60.
By what means had some of the line of Aaron lost the evidence of their descent, and what was accordingly done with them? v. 61, 62
Who was the Tirshatha, and what did he say to them? N. B. This was a title of office equivalent to governor, and is here applied to Zerubbabel as it was afterwards to Nehemiah. Neh. 7. 65.
What did they do after arriving at Jerusalem?
What was the amount of their contributions?
Is it to be inferred from their ability in this respect that they were not reduced to abject slavery during the captivity, but had liberty to trade and acquire property?
Would it seem that the Jews from time immemorial have been a money-making people? Did they all settle in Jerusalem?
How long after their arrival before they all met together, and what work did the leading men cause to be immediately under taken?
Should we in all our concerns, however urgent, take time to begin with God?
What cause more especially prompted them in this manner to secure the divine favor and protection? v. 4.
Should the apprehension of danger always stir us up to our duty?
Of what other solemnities did they then commence the regular observance?
From what neighboring people did they receive assistance, and on what conditions?
How long after their arrival in Jerusalem before they laid the foundations of the Lord's house, and with what ceremonies was this done?
What prophecy was accomplished in this? Jer. 33. 10, 11.
What different emotions were excited among the people on this occasion?
Did the sorrow of some-seem to indicate that they undervalued their present mercies? Hag. 2.3.
What remarkable promise was now given for their encouragement, and how was it fulfilled? Hag. 2. 9.
What people proffered their services as partners to Benjamin and Judah in rebuilding the Temple, and what answer was given them? v. 1—3.
Is there any reason to think their intentions were either pious or friendly?
Does this strikingly represent the pretensions of false teachers, and the manner in which they should be treated by the true followers of Christ?
Ought we to have christian fellowship with those who deny the fundamental doctrines of religion, or who deny that there are any fundamental, however specious or flattering their professions?
What effect had this prompt refusal on these adversaries? v.4—6.
Who seem to have instigated, and who to have written this letter? v. 7—10.
What was the purport of it?
Is this letter pervaded by a malice and subtlety that savors of the wicked one, "the accuser of the brethren?"
What is the old slander brought against them, the one which persecutors have always harped upon? Acts 24. 5.
What answer did the king return to their letter? v. 17—22.
How did the enemy improve their advantage, and what effect had it on the progress of the work?
Is it not probable that the zeal of the builders themselves had somewhat flagged? Hag. 1.1—9.
What distinguished prophets now arose to excite and encourage the people to resume the work which they had suspended?
Is it important that their prophecies should be read in connection with this history?
What change of governors was made by the new king Darius, and what reason have we to think better of them than of their predecessors? v.3—5. N. B. As Ezra, the historian, was not at this time at Jerusalem and therefore could not properly be included in the we (v. 4.) it is supposed that these are the words of the governors of Samaria which are afterwards given (v. 9, 10.) and that the writer designing at first to abridge the letter, or give an extract from it, determined on a second thought to insert the whole, which he has done, and therefore breaks off abruptly in the 4th verse.
Recite the substance of the epistle which these men transmitted to Darius v. 6—17.
How does it compare with the one contained in the foregoing chapter in point of truth and fairness?
Is it one great reason why God's people are persecuted, that they are misrepresented?
What evidence does the letter afford that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are the same person 1 v.16.
What did Darius do in compliance with the request of the letter, and what was the result ? v. 1—5.
Would it not have saved those pious Jews a great deal of trouble if they had had the precaution to take a copy of the decree when it was first issued?
Is it most prudent that in our dealings with mankind we should make every thing secure by written instruments?
What command was herewith given to the governor, and what additional decree did the king issue?
Did he give evidence of having some knowledge of the true God, and of the value of his favor?
What penalties and imprecations were attached to the decree?
Is this decree an exemplification of the way in which "the earth helps the woman?" Rev. 12. 16.
What was the effect of Darius' decree both upon the governor's party, and upon the Jews? v.13, 14.
Ought the gospel-prophets, or expounders of the scriptures, and other Christians, to have each their appropriate sphere, in the great work of evangelizing the world? N. B. It may be seriously questioned whether at the present day there is altogether a wise distribution of Christian effort in the churches—whether pastors and teachers are not so generally enlisted in the secular departments of action, as to be unduly withdrawn from the devout study of the word, in its inexhaustible riches, and from the application of its truths to their people. We believe the rearing of the gospel-temple ought to be conducted very much on. the plan that we are now considering.
At what time was the house finished? N. B. Chronologists have made it very apparent that this decree of Darius was published in Judea just seventy years after the destruction of the Temple by the Chaldeans.
Have we any intimation that the Jews during this period kept annual fasts on account of the ruin of the city and temple? Zech. 7. 1—7.
With what emotions was the house dedicated, who officiated, and what solemnities were observed on the occasion? v. 16—18.
At what time did they celebrate the passover, and with what careful preparations beforehand?
Does the benefit of divine ordinances depend greatly upon the frame of mind in which we approach them?
Were there any proselytes from the surrounding nations who united with them in this festival? v. 21
How long did they keep the feast of unleavened, bread?
To what source did they attribute all their mercies? Prov. 21. 1.
In whose reign did Ezra with a considerable company come up to Jerusalem? N. B. This was seventy-nine years after the decree of Cyrus, and fifty-nine after the finishing of the Temple as related in the preceding chapter. The Artaxerxes here mentioned is pretty clearly proved by learned historians to be the same with Ahasuerus who married Esther.
From whom was Ezra descended?
What other account have we of this Seraiah? 2 Kings 25. 18—21. N. B. As his death occurred upwards of one hundred and thirty years before this, it is probable that Ezra was his grandson instead of his son, and consequently the brother of Joshua the High Priest, 1 Chron. 5. 14, 14. Grand sons are frequently called sons in the Scriptures.
What was Ezra's character ? v. 6. 10.
In what sense is the word "scribe" to be understood both here and elsewhere? N. B. Not so much a copyer or transcriber of the law, as a skilful expounder of it; for we find those who are at one time called "scribes" in the New Testament, elsewhere called " lawyers," i. e. teachers of the law. Even gospel-ministers are termed "scribes well instructed unto the kingdom of heaven." In addition to being conversant with all points of the law, Ezra has the honor of having settled the canon of scripture extant in his day and delivered it down in its present perfect condition to the church in after ages, and by his invaluable labors in this respect his reputation among the Jews is next to that of Moses, and no lover of the Bible can fail greatly to reverence his memory to the end of time.
How long was he employed in his journey?
From whom did he receive a commission, and what was the purport of it ? v. 13—26.
Is this a most noble document to have emanated from a heathen king?
Who is supposed to have been instrumental in procuring it? N. B. It is conjectured that this, as well as Nehemiah's subsequent commission, were obtained by the agency of Esther, the great patroness of her people.
How does Ezra give utterance to the pious sentiments of his heart on this occasion?
Are occasional devout ejaculations both in conversation and our writings very proper when sincere and unaffected?
Of what rank and standing were those who were persuaded to accompany Ezra?
Where did he gather the company together, and what deficiency did he find in it?
What measures did he take to obtain a supply, and with what success? v. 26—20.
What step did they take at the river Ahava to secure the divine guidance ?
Is this a good precedent for the pious in the commencement of arduous or important journies? Phil. 4. 6.
Why had he not obtained a military guard from the king?
Is any argument to be drawn from this circumstance against the prudent use of means in ordinary cases?
Were they blessed in the performance of this duty?
What office was entrusted to a select number of Priests, and what special charge accompanied if?
What is said of the remainder of the journey, and of their doings after they arrived at Jerusalem?
What melancholy information was given to Ezra by the princes, and how was he affected by it ? v. 1—3.
Whose sin was peculiarly aggravated in this affair? Lev. 21.7—15. Mai. 2. 7, 8.
Who gathered themselves to Ezra, and by what tokens did he express his unspeakable grief?
Is this a specimen of the manner in which the godly ought ever to be affected in view of great public transgressions?
What did he do at the time of the evening sacrifice?
What are the principal sins acknowledged in this prayer, and what considerations are cited as heightening the guilt of them?
Does it appear from this prayer that we are not to confine our confessions to our own transgressions, hut to extend them to those of our fathers and our brethren?
Are those to be found fault with who go back in their humiliation as far as to the first sin of Adam himself?
What was the effect of Ezra's deep affliction for the sins of his people, and what acknowledgments were made to him?
Is there any evidence that Shecaniah was himself implicated in this public guilt? N. B. He is not mentioned among the delinquents
What did he then propose towards a reformation and how did Ezra receive his counsel? v. 3—5.
Whither did Ezra go from this place of meeting, and how does it appear that his depression still continued?
How did they prosecute the begun work of reformation? v. 7, 8.
What is said of the circumstances of their general meeting in the ninth month? v. 9.
What address did Ezra make to them, and how did they answer him? v. 10—13.
Of whom did they propose that this bench of Judges should consist, and who were to preside over it? v. 14, 15.
Was the readiness of the people to enter into the reformation very remarkable? N.B. " It is likely those princes who informed Ezra of this enormous practice had endeavored to reform them, but could not, because they were opposed by as great men as themselves. , But we must not cast away all hope though we cannot presently reform men's lives : the time may come when it may be done." Patrick.
Who were first to confess and forsake their sin, and to atone for it?
Had any of the one hundred and thirteen here mentioned had children by these heathen wives, and what was done with them? v. 4. N.B. As there is no express mention of the children being put away with their mothers, and as the divine injunctions, when justice does not forbid, generally lean to the side of mercy, we may charitably hope they were retained among the children of God. Perhaps the Apostle alludes to this 1 Cor. 7. 14.
Did this inveterate evil again creep in among the people not many years after? Neh. 13.23. Mai. 2.11.
How long after this did Ezra still continue at Jerusalem? N. B. Twelve years ; which he probably occupied in instructing the people, promoting religion, and settling the ecclesiastical Fate of his brethren.
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