The Review and Herald


February 6, 1908

The Return of the Exiles—No. 12

Ezra the Priest, the Scribe



The results of Ezra's timely effort to revive an interest in the study of Holy Writ, were given permanency by his painstaking, life-long work of preserving and multiplying copies of the Old Testament Scriptures. During the captivity, the knowledge of God's will had to some extent been lost. Ezra gathered all the copies of the law that he could find, and had many copies of these made and distributed. The pure Word, thus diligently multiplied and placed in the hands of many people, gave knowledge that was of inestimable value. RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 1

As Ezra strove to promulgate the truths he had learned, his capabilities for labor increased and developed. He became a man of piety and zeal, because the truth was a sanctifying power in his soul. He was the Lord's witness to the world of what Bible truth is when revealed in the daily life of the receiver. His life, like the life of Christ, sowed the seeds of truth, by a revelation of the pure principles that can save the soul. Far happier would professed Christians be today if they would in the same way reflect the light of heaven upon the pathway of others, teaching in the life the statutes and judgments that rule in the heavenly courts. RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 2

Shall we let the example of Ezra teach us the use we should make of our knowledge of the Scriptures? The life of this servant of God should be an inspiration to us to serve the Lord with heart and mind and strength. We each have an appointed work to do, and this can be accomplished only by consecrated effort. We need first to set ourselves to know the requirements of God, and then to practise them. Then we can sow seeds of truth that will bear fruit unto eternal life. RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 3

Ezra's faith that God would do a mighty work for his people, led him to make known to King Artaxerxes his desire to return to Jerusalem that he might revive an interest in the study of God's Word, and assist his brethren in restoring and building up the holy city. Ezra declared that his entire trust was in the God of Israel, who was abundantly able to protect and care for his people. The king was deeply impressed. He well understood that the Israelites who wished to return, were going to Jerusalem in order that they might serve the living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth; yet so great was the king's confidence in the integrity of Ezra, that he showed him marked favor. Artaxerxes not only granted him his request, but bestowed rich gifts for the temple service, made him a special representative of the Medo-Persian kingdom, and conferred on him extensive powers to carry out the purposes that were in his heart. RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 4

This decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus for the restoring and building of Jerusalem, is the third issued since the close of the seventy years’ captivity. It is remarkable for the expressions it contains regarding the God of heaven; for the recognition it gives to the attainments of Ezra; and for the liberality of the grants made to the remnant people of God. Artaxerxes refers to Ezra as “the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel;” “a scribe of the law of the God of heaven.” The king united with his counselors in offering freely “unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem;” and in addition to the bestowal of rich gifts, he made provision for meeting many heavy expenses by ordering that they be paid “out of the king's treasure-house.” RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 5

The king's special anxiety was to assist in carrying out the commands of the God of heaven. “Thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counselors,” he declared to Ezra, “to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand.” And he further decreed: “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?” RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 6

Artaxerxes arranged for the restoration of the members of the priesthood to their ancient rites and privileges. In giving permission to the Israelites to return, he made particular mention of the priests and Levites, and he added: “We certify you, that, touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.” He also arranged for the appointment of civil officers to govern the people justly, in accordance with the Jewish code of laws. “Thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand,” he decreed, “set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.” RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 7

Thus, “according to the good hand of his God upon him,” Ezra persuaded the king to make abundant provision for the return of all of the people of Israel, and of the priests and Levites, in the Medo-Persian realm, who were minded “of their own free will to go up to Jerusalem.” What rejoicing this decree must have brought to those who had been uniting with Ezra in a study of God's purpose concerning his people! The sentiment of the hearts of many is expressed in the words of praise uttered by the servant of the Lord in devout thanksgiving to God for his wonderful providences. “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers,” Ezra exclaimed, “which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem; and hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes.” RH February 6, 1908, Art. A, par. 8