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people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.” (Ezra vii. 11-26.)
Perhaps, all the circumstances considered, this is the most remarkable decree that ever was issued. That the greatest monarch in the world—an absolute and despotic heathen prince -should, by a formal edict, thus acknowledge “the God of heaven,” “the God of Jerusalem;" that he should deprecate His wrath, and grant such peculiar privileges to His captive and dispersed people: that he should give such an amplé supply of gold and silver, and other valuable offerings; exempt them from toll, tribute, and custom; and enforce such a decree by the threat of banishment, confiscation of goods, and imprisonment, is so much out of the common way of human actions, that nothing on record can account for it, but the circumstance above alluded to-the advancement of Esther and Mordecai—and that will account for it. Connecting likewise such an important interposition of Providence, which happened in a foreign land, and so far from their own country, with such important consequences to their na
tion as followed this decree given to Ezra although the connection is not mentioned in the Scriptures—stamps a design and end to the whole transaction more analogous to the general Divine procedure, than supposing, as some do, the time when Esther and Mordecai lived to have been at a much later period. But we read in profane history of no particular favour having been shewn to the Jews by any successor of Artaxerxes. The probability therefore is, and such is the opinion of Dr. Prideaux, that as he did by these two edicts, given respectively to Ezra and Nehemiah, shew especial favour to the Jews; and as no other reason is any where recorded why he should do so, but that which is found in the book of Esther, that he was the Ahasuerus there mentioned.
And in assigning the period which was to elapse before that most astonishing of all events, the death of Christ, it is probable that, like all the other chronological events, it would be marked in its commencement by something happening of no ordinary kind; and I have therefore no doubt that the “ going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem,” from which these 490 years are unquestionably to be dated, was the consequence of the deliverance of the Jews from the malice of Haman, and the advancement of Mordecai. In
fact, it may be asserted that all the events which mark the commencements and terminations of the few prophetical dates which God hath given to mankind, are like great master-wheels round which the secular affairs of the world revolve; -like the great levers of society, which lift and sink all the nations and states with which they are concerned ; and all having one great end, the glory of God in the salvation of a ruined world.
But the importance of this decree of Artaxerxes appears in a still stronger light when the character of Ezra is more duly considered. “The Jews look upon him," says Dr. Prideaux, “as another Moses: for the law, they say, was given by Moses, but it was revived and restored by Ezra, after it had been in a manner extinguished and lost in the Babylonish captivity: and therefore they reckon him as the second founder of it.” “And indeed, by virtue of the ample commission which he had from king Artaxerxes, he had an opportunity of doing more herein than any other of his nation; and he extended all his powers hereof to the utmost, for the re-settling both of the ecclesiastical and political state of the Jews, in the best posture they were capable of; and from it his name is in so high an esteem and veneration among the Jews, that it is a common saying among their writers,
that if the law had not been by Moses, Ezra was worthy by whom it should have been given.” (Vol. ii. 433.)
Considering the Jewish church and state to have lasted 2000 years—that is, from the time of Abraham to the death of Christ-Abraham stands at the head of the first quarter; Moses, the second; David, the third ; and Ezra, the fourth and last ; each portion occupying about 500 years. So that his name stands in juxtaposition with the three most important characters in the Holy Scriptures.
And though in his time the Jewish church was so awfully on the decline, yet still it was the true church—the church of Christ-represented under types and shadows; and the blessings of salvation were found within its pale to every true and faithful worshipper. Hence it is that God so remarkably preserved it, and under Ezra restored it from the ruins of the Babylonish captivity; and by this celebrated edict of Artaxerxes placed it on that footing which, with little interruption, it continued, till the appearance of the Sun of Righteousness caused its feeble light to be no longer required—on that footing on which it continued till the great transaction was accomplished which completed the termination of this period. The type then, was lost in the anti-type; for after Christ by his vicarious sacrifice was made the end of the law
for righteousness to every believer, the observance of Jewish rites and ceremonies were abolished; the pale of separation between Jew and Gentile was broken down; and though the offence of the Cross is still to the “ Jew foolishness,” yet to them that believe it is “the power
of God and the wisdom of God.” But Ezra was not only the instrument in the Lord's hands of carrying into effect this memorable and important decree : it is not only for this that his name stands so high among the Jews: God by him forwarded the work of redemption in other ways. He collected all the various writings of which the Holy Scriptures then consisted, and disposed them in their proper order, as they were handed down till Christ's time, when the Christian church received them and have delivered them to us. He wrote them out fairly and correctly in the Chaldee language, and solemnly published them; having added in several places throughout the books what appeared necessary for the illustrating, connecting, or completing of them ; wherein he was, as an inspired writer, assisted by the same Spirit by which they were at first written. He added to them the book bearing his name, and is supposed to have written the two books of the Chronicles. He was descended from Seraiah the high priest, who was slain by Nebuchadnezzar when he burned the city and the