Ezra Thanks God for His HelpEzra 2: 61-63
Background: abt 537 BC
Cyrus, king of Persia declared that God had commanded him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). He commanded the Jews, who had been taken into captivity 70 years before, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1: 3-11). He gives them the vessels from the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had taken. 42, 360 Jews returned as well as 7,337 servants, maids, and 200 singing men and women (Ezra 2: 64-65). Ezra was a priest/scribe who brought a group of Jews back to Jerusalem. His first reform in Jerusalem is was to separate Jews form their foreign wives (Ezra 10). The temple was completed in 516 BC.
Facts about her:
- She married a priest;
- Her husband took her surname;
- She and her family returned to Jerusalem and helped to rebuild the temple;
- The name Barzillai means "of Iron" in Hebrew;
- Her family's, as well as the families of Habaiah and Koz, names were not recorded on the genealogy as being priests. Therefore they were not allowed to hold the priesthood. The Tirshatha (high civic officer) told them that they were not to eat of the "most holy things" until there was a priest with a Urim and Thummin;
- She was a decedent of the Barzillai who sheltered and fed King David when he was in hiding from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 17: 27-29) . David offered him a place in his house, but Barzillai turned it down because he was 80 years old and wished to die among his own people (2 Samuel 19:31-39);
- Barzillai is mentioned to be "a very great man" who was kind and humble (2 Samuel 19:32). On his death bed David tells his son Solomon to" shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite" (1 Kings 2:7);
- The area of Gilead belonged to half the tribe of Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh (see Bible Map 1).
- The reason her husband probably took her surname was because she came from a very famous and respected family (see story on Barzillai the Gileadite, 2 Samuel 17: 27-29; 2 Samuel 19:31-39);
- In the book of Esdras her name is given as Agia and her husband's name is Jaddus.
Priesthood authority can only be given through the direct lineage of Aaron or by one having authority (D&C 107: 13-16). This right lies with the prophet of the church who is ordained as a prophet, seer and revelator. He has been given the keys of the priesthood and is able to authorize someone else to ordain others, who can then authorize someone else to ordain another, etc... Every man ordained to the priesthood should be able to trace his line of authority back to the prophet, who received the key to administer from Jesus Christ. The power of the priesthood does not lie with man, but with God.
In this story the sons of Barazillai were not allowed the priesthood because they could not prove they were direct descendant of Aaron and there was no prophet on earth who had the authority to ordain someone to the priesthood. This is the reason that the Tirshatha (high civic officer) told them "they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. " (Nehemiah 7:65) The Urim and the Thummin represent the gift of revelation.
What we can learn from her:
- Knowing our genealogy is important;
- There are blessings that come to us because of the righteous lives our ancestors lived;
- A man can take a woman's surname when they get married. There is no scriptural reason to show otherwise;
- The choices and decisions we make now will affect the lives of our descendants, for good and for bad;
- There are only two ways to be ordained to the priesthood, by being a literal descendant of Aaron or by being ordained by one who has authority from Jesus Christ.
- Why is it important for priesthood holders to be able to trace their line of authority back to Jesus Christ?
- Why are literal descendants of Aaron automatically granted the Aaronic priesthood?
- How have the lives of your ancestors influenced your life?
- Would your husband ever take your last name instead? Why not?