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Sefer Ezra: Part 4 - Who Were The Returnees
“These are the children of the land ascending from the captivity of the exile which Nevuchadnetzer, the king of Bavel exiled to Bavel, and they returned to Yerushalayim and Yehudah, each man to his city.”
This account of the Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael is cited also in Sefer Nechemia, but with many changes. The explanation to the repetition is that this account is speaking about important Jews who ascended to Eretz Yisrael from Bavel itself. In the galus of Yechanya, Nevuchadnetzer had exiled the leaders and the esteemed members of Bnei Yisrael, and exiled them to the royal city of Bavel. During the exile of Tzidkiyahu, Nevuchadnetzer exiled the commoners of Bnei Yisrael to the outskirts of Bavel because they were lowly in his eyes. Their ascent to Yerushalayim is accounted in Nechemia.
The Malbim notes that the account in Nechemia says “they returned to Yerushalayim and to Yehudah.” This account does not include the word “to” before Yehudah. This is because the main intent of these esteemed members of Klal Yisrael was to ascend to Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Once they reached Yerushalayim, they spread out to Yehudah. However, the commoners’ main intent was to settle in Yehudah, and therefore “to” Yehudah is emphasized.
“Those who had come with Zerubavel, Yeshua, Nechemiah, Seraya, Realaya, Mordechai Bilshan, Mispar Bigvai, Rechum, Baana; the number of the men of the people of Israel.”
Zerubavel was a descendant of Yehoyachin, and was an important leader of the Jews during the building of the second Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara says that Zerubavel was Nechemia, and he was called Zerubavel since he was conceived in Bavel.
Mordechai Bilshan is Mordechai of Mrgilas Esther. He ascended to Eretz Yisrael at this time, but returned to Paras when the royal permission for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash was retracted. The Ralbag says that he returned to Paras to try to influence the king to change his mind and allow the Jews to continue rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash.
“The children of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two…..”
The perek continues to list those who ascended to Eretz Yisrael. Some are listed by the name of their family, and others are listed by the name of their city. Those who were members of large family clans, which may have members living in different cities, are listed as families. Those who were part of large extended families are listed by city.
After listing all members of Yehudah and Binyamin, the possuk lists the Kohanim and Leviim, and specifies among the Leviim the singers, the gatekeepers, and the attendants of the kohanim. The Gemara says that only four families of Kohanim out of the twenty-four families who served in the first Beis Hamikdash left the exile at this time and returned to Eretz Yisrael.
“And these went up from Tel Melach, Tel Charsha, Kruv, Adan, Emar, and they were not able to tell of the house of their fathers and their children, if they were from Yisrael.”
These were people whose origins were unclear, and were possibly mamzeirim or actually non-Jews, and were therefore forbidden to marry into the community.
“The whole community together was forty two thousand three hundred and sixty.”
This total is 13,000 more than those listed above. The Malbim says that it listed by name only those who first came from Bavel, and the extra 13,000 are those who came later.
“The Kohanim and the Leviim, and the people, and the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the attendants settled in their cities, and all of Yisrael in their cities.”
They did not settle in Yerushalayim upon their arrival because of their need to sow the fields to provide sustenance for themselves. Also, they were not granted permission to rebuild the wall around Yerushalayim. Instead, each group or family settled in the cities their ancestors had lived in previously. The kohanim and leviim settled in the 48 cities of Leviim, and the Yisraelim settled in the cities of Yisrael.
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