V 1: "And all Israel were reckoned by their genealogies." As explained by the commentators, Ezra is saying: "Even though I have not set forth the genealogies of all Israel , their lineages were all investigated and are written in the book of the kings of Israel - and this book went into exile with them and is not in my hands in order to copy all of their lineages from it. But Judah went into exile to Babylon because of their sin and the book of their lineages was with them, and what I found in it I have copied, because I am located with them" (Metzudas David, cf. Rashi and RaDaK ad loc.).

In verse 1 of this chapter, Ezra is summarizing and sealing the contents of the introductory genealogical chapters of DIVREY HAYOMIM (ch's 1-8). Having thus completed his overall genealogy of the tribes of Israel , Ezra takes most of the remainder of our present chapter (vv 2-38) to set forth the names of leading returnees from the exile in Babylon , including the Israelites, Priests and Levites, enumerating the duties of the latter in the Temple . This account of the population of Jerusalem on the threshold of the Second Temple era (which parallels Nehemiah ch 11) concludes the genealogical part of DIVREY HAYOMIM, the whole of the rest of which is devoted to a detailed narrative of the history of the House of David from the time of the death of King Saul until the destruction of the First Temple.

Vv 2-9: Details of the members of the tribe of Judah and other tribes who returned from the Babylonian exile.

The returning exiles who came to Judea with Zerubavel in the first wave of "aliyah" prior to the arrival of Ezra and his group settled mostly in their ancestral lands in the cities of Judea rather than in Jerusalem . In addition to members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the returnees also included members of the tribes of Ephraim and Menasheh, as specified in verse 2 of our text. Metzudas David (on v 2) states that even though members of the Ten Tribes were exiled to Ashur, many had remained in their land and went into exile in Babylon with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and returned with them.

Vv 10-16: Genealogies of the Cohanim and Levites. The text emphasizes the strength and devotion which the priests put into their work in the Temple (v 13).

Vv 17-21: Names of the Temple gate-keepers.

V 18: ".And until now they were in the Gate of the King to the east: they are the gatekeepers for the camp of the children of Levy" - "Just as David and Samuel had instituted the gate-keepers, so it remained throughout all the days that the First Temple stood, and so it was until now in the Second Temple" (Metzudas David, cf. RaDaK ad loc.) Ezra is emphasizing the continuity between the service in the First Temple and that in the Second Temple . This would appear to contradict the view of those who theorize that Ezra made radical changes in the Temple , its music and services.

V 20: "And Pinchas son of Elazar was the ruler over them; in time past HaShem was with him." Taken at face value this verse could be construed as referring to the governor of the Temple Levites in the time of the return (see RaDaK ad loc.). However, the Midrashic explanation (taking off from AVOSEIHEM in v 19, alluding to the ANCESTORS of the functionaries in the Second Temple ) is that it refers to Pinchas son of Elazar, the hero of Numbers 25:7ff, who later took over from his father as superintendent over the functioning of the Levites in the Sanctuary. According to tradition, God was with Pinchas initially because he protested against Zimri's flagrant immorality, but the Divine Presence later left him because he did not go to Jephthah to release him from his vow (Koheles Rabbah 10:17).

Vv 22-34: Numbers of the gate-keepers and their roles. It appears from our text that certain Levitical families traditionally provided the guards at specific gates and entrances to the Temple, and that while the captains resided in Jerusalem near the Temple precincts, other members of these families resided in their ancestral Levitical towns and villages, coming up to serve in the Temple at specified times during the year.

V 22: ".these are they that David and Samuel the Seer instituted in their enduring order." The Talmud states that Moses originally instituted a rota of eight watches of priests and Levites, who took turns in serving in the Temple for a week at a time. Owing to the natural increase in the numbers of priests and Levites over the generations, David and Samuel found it necessary to reorganize these watches, which now became twenty-four in number (Ta'anis 27a).

Vv 27ff: The duties of the Levites in the Temple included taking out and returning the Temple vessels for use in the sacrifices and supervising the provision of managing the necessary supplies of grain, wine, oil and incense ingredients. The actual blending of the incense spices was reserved by the priests to themselves (v 30) because only one family of priests knew the carefully-guarded secret of the MA'ALEH ASHAN - that minute quantity of a certain ingredient that caused the smoke from the incense to rise in a single column directly upwards. Other duties of the Levites included the baking of the pancake offerings brought daily by the High Priest and of the weekly Show Bread (vv 31-2).

V 33: "And these are the singers.. they were EXEMPT FROM OTHER DUTIES for they were employed in that work DAY AND NIGHT" - Because of the depth and profundity of the Temple music, it was necessary to devote themselves to its study DAY AND NIGHT!!! This just goes to prove the supreme importance of soul music!!!

Vv 35-38: Names of the Benjaminite inhabitants of Giv'on. This entire section together with that which follows on the genealogy of King Saul (vv 39-44) appeared at the end of the previous chapter (I Chron. 8:29-32 & 33-40), which was devoted to the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin culminating in the lineage of Saul. Metzudas David (on v 35) explains that the section on the Benjamite inhabitants of Giv'on was introduced into the previous chapter after the account of the Benjaminites who lived in Jerusalem (at the beginning of the Second Temple period). The chronicler then digressed from the beginning of our present chapter until now, enumerating the priests, Levites and other inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time. But now, since he is coming to tell of the kingship of David, which came after the death of Saul, he goes back again to set forth the lineage of King Saul (vv 39-44).

The commentators explain that Saul's son ESH-BA'AL (v 39) is ISH-BOSHES (II Samuel 2:8) etc.) while Jonathan's son MEREEV BA'AL (v 40) is MEPHIBOSHES (II Samuel 4:4 etc.). Because BA'AL was the name of an idol, it was referred to as BOSHES, "shame", while Saul and his family strove (MEREEV) against such idolatry (cf. Gideon-Yeru-baal Judges 7:1).


The sad story of the death of King Saul and his sons and their burial by the men of Yaveish Gil'ad is told in I Samuel ch 31. It is retold here since it is the prelude to the story of the kingship of David, who despite having been anointed by the prophet Samuel much earlier, only actually became king with the death of Saul.

The reason why the men of Yaveish Gil'ad specifically took upon themselves the dangerous task of burying Saul and his sons just after the Philistine victory, which threw Israel into turmoil, was because early in his career, King Saul had come to their rescue from the cruel ultimatum issued against them by Nachash king of Ammon (I Samuel ch 11).

Vv 13f: "So Saul died for his transgression. and He killed him and turned over the kingship to David son of Yishai". The chronicler is intent on telling his story and on concisely but surely making the moral import of the story very clear.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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