Ezra 2:1-67 – Israel Transplanted
SummaryThis list consists of those exiles who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel.
Scholars inevitably find problems with this dreary list. The numbers are too large to convey accurately the actual host of the initial return, and the list seems misplaced and secondary in its present context. Most of the lists in Ezra-Nehemiah, however, have been constructed from other lists and serve the practical purpose of providing a running commentary on the status of the community in relation to the developing situation of reform. One scholar suggestively describes this lengthy register as "the living portions of Israel, roots and all, for transplanting." The same list, with minor discrepancies, also appears at Nehemiah 7:6-69, though with a very different theological agenda. The purpose here is to lift up the community's continuity with the past. This is accomplished in three ways:
1. Comparison with Nehemiah 7:7 suggests that "Nahamani" has dropped out of our list. Restoring him to the list would yield a total of twelve names that may be taken as an echo of the original twelve tribes of Israel, a clear source of continuity.
2. The list itself falls into two sections: those who could prove their descent from Israel of old, whether lay (vv. 2b-35) or clergy (vv. 36-58); and those who could not, again, whether lay (vv. 59-60) or clergy (61-63). Continuity with the past is again of the essence.
3. The framework of the list links people "to their own towns" (v. 1, see also v. 70), recalling the allocation of the land in Joshua under the leadership of a diarchy: Joshua and Eleazar (Joshua 14:1), and Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 2:2).
Thus, this tedious listing of returnees has been used to assure the restoration community that their occupation of the land is not serendipitous but based upon their ancestral roots as seen in their family pedigrees, as well as in their ancestral home as seen in their territorial situation. They have become the transplanted raw material from which God will grow Israel.