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If you just had the text of Ezra and Nehemiah to go on (and, FYI, they were probably written by the same person and intended as one book–another piece of Twible twivia I’ve amassed in doing this project), you’d think that all of the former Israelites who’d been taken captive into Babylon were overjoyed at the prospect of returning to their own land. They’d be all over that, right, after decades of exile in Babylon?
Here’s what Mark Throntveit’s commentary Ezra-Nehemiah has to say about the topic:
…the response did not include all who were in Babylon. Many had learned to cope and even thrive in the environs of Mesopotamia and so were unwilling to pull up stakes and return to the impoverished conditions of Palestine. That the priestly families comprised a disproportionate ten percent f those who returned is a sobering testimony to the numbers who chose to stay behind. Especially ill-represented were the Levites who may have felt they had little to gain in a secondary role in the Jerusalem temple.
I see myself among the group that would have decided to stay in comfortable Babylon. “We have a home here now,” I’d rationalize. “The hanging gardens are awesome. Our kids are learning that pidgin Aramaic language thing that’s all the rage. Nobody messes with us here. Why go back to that wasteland where we were always being attacked?”
Thinking about what my own reaction would have been gives me more respect for pioneers like Ezra and the prickly Nehemiah, who risked everything to follow God and restore their nation. As we’ll see soon enough, Nehemiah isn’t always the most likable fellow, and I could do without his legalism. But the guy had faith. We have to give him that much.
#Twible 2 Chron 34: Kg Josiah does national purge: No idols, high places & sacred poles. (The blue plaid ephods could also go. Just sayin’.)
#Twible 2 Chron 35: Kg Josiah slain by Pharaoh Neco Wafer. All Judah mourns & Jeremiah offers special lament. He’s famous for his laments.
#Twible 2 Chron 36: Last ch of Chron features young people hacked to bits, Jerusalem seized, & exile imminent. Hey, where’s my happy ending?
#Twible overview of Ezra: After 50+ yrs of exile in stinkin’ Babylon, we’re home & rebuilding. Actually, those gardens in Babylon were nice.
#Twible Ezra 1: Kinder, gentler Babylonians release the Jews. Why? B/c G told them to, and when G speaks, even the bloody foreigners listen.
#Twible Ezra 2: List of returnees includes over 42K folks plus servants. Uh oh! Macauley ben-Culkin isn’t on the list. Did we leave him?
#Twible Ezra 3: Old folks get seriously weepy @ foundation dedication for 2nd temple. They remember the 1st one back in the day, see. Sniff.