Those who came with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-8:14)

“These are the family heads. This is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of King Artaxerxes. There was the descendent of Phinehas, Gershom. There was the descendent of Ithamar, Daniel. There was the descendent of David, Hattush. There were the descendents of Shecaniah. There were the descendents of Parosh, Zechariah with one hundred fifty registered men. There were the descendents of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah with two hundred men. There were the descendents of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel with three hundred men. There were the descendents of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan with fifty men. There were the descendents of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah with seventy men. There were the descendents of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael with eighty men. There were the descendents of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel with two hundred eighteen men. There were the descendents of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah with one hundred sixty men. There were the descendents of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai with twenty-eight men. There were the descendents of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan with one hundred ten men. There were the descendents of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah with sixty men. There were the descendents of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur with seventy men.”

Once again, we have the use of the singular personal pronoun “with me.” This no longer is a story about someone else but a personal eye witness account. It is the story of Ezra himself, or someone pretending to be him. These are the people who were with him, about 1,500 men. If you count women and children then this would be about 5,000, about a 10% the size of the group that set out under King Cyrus in 537 BCE, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. A number of these families seem to have only 1 person since there is no number given unlike the others with specific numbers. Thus the descendents of Phinehas, Ithamar, David, and Shecaniah have either one or no one listed. Phinehas and Ithamar were the son and grandson of Aaron. This Shecaniah is virtually unknown since a lot of biblical people had that name. Most of these people were the descendents of those who had come to Jerusalem in chapter 2 of this book 80 years earlier. Thus the descendents of Parosh only had 150 men instead of 2,172 men 80 years earlier. The descendents of Pahath-moab are only 200 instead of 2,800. The descendents of Zattu were 300 instead of 945. The descendents of Adin were 50 instead of 445. The descendents of Elam were 70 instead of 1,294. The descendents of Shephatiah were 80 instead of 372. The descendents of Bani were 160 instead of 642. The descendents of Bebai were 28 instead of 623. The descendents of Azgad were 110 instead of 1,222. The descendents of Adonikam were 60 instead of 666. The descendents of Bigvai were 70 instead of 2,256. There was no mention of the descendents of Arah, Zaccai, Ater, Bezai, Hashum, or Jorah that were in chapter 2. The only new group here was Joab with 218 men.

The duties of the priests (1 Chr 24:1-24:6)

“The divisions of the descendents of Aaron were these. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died before their father. They had no sons. Thus Eleazar and Ithamar became the priests. Along with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, King David organized them according to the appointed duties in their service. Since more chief men were found among the sons of Eleazar than among the sons of Ithamar, they organized them under sixteen heads of ancestral houses of the sons of Eleazar, and eight of the sons of Ithamar. They organized them by lot, all alike, for there were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God among both the sons of Eleazar and the sons of Ithamar. The scribe Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded them in the presence of the king, the officers, Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech son of Abiathar, and the heads of the ancestral houses of the priests and of the Levites. One ancestral house was chosen for Eleazar and one chosen for Ithamar.”

The priests seem to be sons of Aaron. They are listed separately from the Levites. This beginning is loosely based on Numbers, chapter 3. Aaron had 4 sons. 2 died, Nadab and Abihu, without children when they presented unholy fire before Yahweh as mentioned in Leviticus, chapter 10. However, the other 2, Eleazar and Ithamar, served as priests with their father Aaron. This biblical chronicler makes Eleazar more important than Ithamar, when the other writings have Ithamar as the high priest. They were organized by lot. This seems to be the common way that things happened. The father of Zadok was made high priest by Saul after the extermination of the family of Ahimelech in 2 Samuel, chapter 8. This Zadok was the trusted priest friend of King David, who helped to put Solomon on the throne. This Ahimelech was the grandson of the slain Ahimelech. Although there are over 18 people with the name of Shemaiah, many of them Levites, this son of Nethanel was the scribe and recorder for David.

The sons of Aaron (1 Chr 6:3-6:3)

“The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.”

Once again, this is based on Exodus, chapter 6. Notice that this biblical author does not follow the genealogy of Moses, but rather his brother Aaron, since there is no mention of Moses, his wife or children in this genealogy. This is where the connection of the family of Levi and the cult gets its beginnings. The family of Aaron not Moses will lead to the Yahweh Levite priests. Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon. They had four sons, (1) Nadab, (2) Abihu, (3) Eleazar, and (4) Ithamar. Elisheba’s brother Nahshon had an important role in the Exodus since he was the bother-in-law of Aaron. Both Nadab and Abihu met a very violent fiery death in the desert journey in Leviticus, chapter 10, for using bad incense and making an unholy fire. Eleazar married the daughter of Putiel and they had a son called Phinehas. He was important because his two older brothers died childless. For some reason the high priest will pass through Ithamar as he was put in charge of the tabernacle.

Counting the materials (Ex 38:21-38:31)

“These are the records of the tabernacle.  The tabernacle of the Covenant  was drawn up at the commandment of Moses.   The work of the Levites was under the direction of Ithamar son of the priest Aaron.  Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that Yahweh commanded Moses.  With him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, engraver, designer and embroiderer in blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen.”

We now have the records about the tabernacle. Moses led the construction but the Levites under the directions of Ithamar, the son of Aaron, were in charge.  The skilled work of Bezalel and Oholiab led to the completion of this task, the building of the holy places.

“All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel. The silver from those of the congregation who were counted was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel.   A beka a head, that is half a shekel, measured by the sanctuary shekel, for everyone who was counted in the census, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred and three thousand, five hundred fifty men. The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary, and the bases of the curtain.  One hundred bases were for the hundred talents, a talent for a base.  Of the thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their calyxes and made bands for them.   The bronze that was contributed was seventy talents, and two thousand four hundred shekels.  With it he made the bases for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the bronze altar and the bronze grating for it and all the utensils of the altar, the bases all around the court, and the bases of the gate of the court, all the pegs of the tabernacle, and all the pegs around the court.”

Here then is an accounting of the gold, silver, and bronze used in this construction:

1)      29 talents, 730 shekels of gold;

2)      100 talents,1775 shekels of silver;

3)      70 talents, 2400 shekels of bronze.

According to the ancient Babylonian scales, a talent was the equivalent to 360 shekels, so that it was the highest value.  The problem of course is that they were coming from Egypt, and obviously they had no minting process.  The shekel was a silver coin of about ½ once of silver.  Somehow they took a census where everyone had to give half a shekel, a beka, or a quarter ounce of silver, probably worth about 20 cents.  According to the text, there were 603,550 males all over the age of twenty counted in this census, about the same as the 600,000 who left Egypt. I wonder why they needed this beka, since they had too much stuff in offerings in chapter 36.