Those unable to find to prove their Israelite ancestry (Ezra 2:59-2:63)

“The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their families or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel. The descendents of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda were six hundred fifty-two. Also, the descendents of the priests Habaiah and Hakkoz were not clear. The Barzillai had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite. So he was called by their name. These looked for their entries in the genealogical records, but they were not found there. Thus they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.”

This poses a dilemma. What if you could not prove that you were an Israelite? Could you say you wanted land in Israel without being an Israelite? Apparently there were some genealogical records that could be consulted. Like many things, they may not have been 100% accurate. The first group was about whether they were Israelites, while the second group claimed to be priests. These names only appear here, and nowhere else in the biblical literature except for Immer who was one of the leaders in the preceding section going back to Jerusalem. There was a Hakkoz who served in King David’s time as a priest. Barzillai had been a friend of King David. I believe that the only question here was whether these people were related to the groups that they claimed to be from. The unnamed governor, who earlier was named Sheshbazzar, told them that they had to consult with a priest. The priests would go to the lots of Urim and Thummim. Urim and Thummim were in the breastplate of the ephod that the priests wore. They would consult with these stones on the breastplate to find out the will of Yahweh on what was to be done. Generally one was positive and the other negative. In fact, this was one of the ways that Yahweh communicated with his people. The other 2 ways were through dreams and prophets, which was also common among the Assyrians and Babylonians. This third way was like the tablets of destiny in Babylonia. Sometime in Jewish history it died out as a usage. However, this mysterious Urim and Thummim have found their way into novels and the writings of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon.

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