Names Names Names (Ezra 2)
by Jarrod M. Jacobs
Interspersed in the Bible are lists of names. Sometimes, these are genealogies of certain families (Genesis 5, 10, etc.). Often, these genealogies focus on Judah’s descendants leading to Christ (Ruth 4; Matthew 1; Luke 3). At other times, these names teach us about faith (Hebrews 11; Romans 16). There are also lists of those worthy of honor due to their bravery (I Chronicles 10:11-47). How lists of names are used in Scripture is made apparent as we read and study.
While sometimes these names are hard to pronounce, and sometimes they frustrate us, please do not give up on reading these sections of Scripture. It concerns me that people come to sections like this, become overwhelmed with pronunciation, and pass along and ignore that section or that chapter. Please understand that sections like this have much to teach us. Sometimes, when we read these names, we discover people whose lives are rich with meaning and teach us practical lessons that we might not have learned otherwise (Romans 15:4).
I think another reason for using names is to prove that the Bible is true. It is like someone speaking about a particular event that they witnessed. If we do not believe someone’s story, that person may respond by saying, “If you don’t believe me, just ask …” and name some people who were also there who can corroborate the story. With this in mind, please read Ezra 2.
Ezra 2 records many names. These people, and their respective families, were the first of three groups who returned to Jerusalem because of Cyrus’ decree. How do we know this is true? How can we be assured that this exodus from Persia happened? While someone might suggest we go read the “Cyrus Cylinder,” which records these events in the words of Cyrus, another way we can be assured this is true is by reading the Bible and noting the names of those who returned with Zerubbabel. When we read these names, we can see this event as credible. Ezra 2 states that some 42,360 people left with Zerubbabel to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64). If you had heard of an event that took place, and 42,000 people corroborated the story, would you believe it happened? If you had the names of the people, would you believe it then?
Similarly, please note that Paul talks about over 500 people who saw the resurrected Christ (I Cor. 15:1-8). He names several of them also! While 500 people are just 1/80 of the number of people who left Persia, would 500 people corroborating that an event took place to be sufficient to convince you that it happened?
Let us do better about reading the names in Scripture and seeing the purpose of having those people listed in the Bible. These are not random lists. They are not “filler.” They serve a purpose! Let us find out what that purpose is and respect it.
Friend, do you believe the Bible and its message? If not, why not?