Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
After these things - The words mark an interval of 57 years; if, with most commentators, we take Artaxerxes to be Longimanus. See the introduction to the Book of Ezra. Three kings named Artaxerxes, the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Artakhshasta, and the Persian Artakhshatra, ruled over Persia, namely,: Longimanus, Mnemon, and Ochus. The evidence is in favor of the first being meant here: he was the grandson of Darius Hystaspis, Jeshua's contemporary.
The genealogy of Ezra here is incomplete. The time between the Exodus and Ezra must have exceeded one thousand years, and cannot have been covered by 16 generations. One gap may be filled up from Ch1 6:7-10, which supplies six names between Meraioth and Azariah Ezr 7:3 : another gap probably occurs between Seraiah Ezr 7:1 and Ezra himself; since Seraiah appears to be the high priest of Zedekiah's time (marginal reference), who lived at least 130 years before Ezra. Three or four names are probably missing in this place. Another name (Meraioth) may be supplied from Ch1 9:11, between Zadok and Ahitub Ezr 7:2. These additions would produce 27 generations - a number nearly sufficient - instead of 16 generations.
A ready scribe - Or, "a ready writer" Psa 45:1. The professional scribe was well known in Egypt from an early date (see Gen 39:4 note); and under David and his successors "scribes" were attached to the court as the king's secretaries (Sa2 8:17; Sa2 20:25; Kg2 12:10, etc.). It was scarcely, however, until the time of the captivity that the class to which Ezra belonged arose. The "scribes" of this time, and of later Jewish history, were students, interpreters, and copiers of the Law (see the marginal references and Jer 8:8). They retained the knowledge of the old dialect, which was being rapidly superseded by a new one. The emphatic application of the title "the scribe" to Ezra marks the high honor in which the office was now held. Its glories eclipsed those of the priesthood.
The hand of the Lord ... upon him - The use of this phrase in a good sense is rare elsewhere (compare Kg1 18:46), but is a favorite one with both Ezra and Nehemiah (see the marginal references; Neh 2:8, Neh 2:18).
The direct distance of Babylon from Jerusalem is about 520 miles; and the circuitous route by Carchemish and the Orontes valley, which was ordinarily taken by armies or large bodies of men, is about 900 miles. The time occupied in the journey is long, and is perhaps to be accounted for by the dangers alluded to in Ezr 8:22, Ezr 8:31.
The title, "king of kings," is assumed by almost all the persian monarchs in their inscriptions.
Perfect peace - "Peace" is not in the original, and the word translated "perfect" occurs only in this place. Some prefer to take it as an adjective descriptive of Ezra (see margin); others (Septuagint) as the opening word of the first paragraph of the letter, and give it the meaning, "it is completed."
Seven counselors - Herodotus relates that there were seven families pre-eminent in Persia, those of the seven conspirators against the Pseudo-Smerdis (Ezr 4:7 note); and it is reasonable to suppose that the heads of these families formed the special council of the king; the "Achaemenidae," or royal family, being represented by the head of the branch next in succession to that of the reigning monarch (see the marginal reference).
All the treasurers - The Persian system of taxing the provinces through the satraps involved the establishment in each province of at least one local treasury.
This verse assigns limits to the permission of Ezr 7:20. As the Persian tribute was paid partly in money and partly in kind (see Ezr 4:13 note), the treasuries would be able to supply them as readily as they could furnish money.
Literally, as in the margin, i. e., Whatsoever is commanded in the Law with respect to the temple service.
The decree of Artaxerxes was more favorable to the Jews than those of all previous Persian monarchs. We hear of a similar exemption of ecclesiastics from tribute, only to a less extent, under the Seleucidae.
Ministers - The rare word here used, which in Daniel has the sense of "worshippers," appears to designate in this place the lowest class of persons employed in the service of the temple.
Banishment - literally, as in the margin. Separation from the congregation is probably intended (compare Ezr 10:8).
An abrupt transition from the words of Artaxerxes to those of Ezra. Compare a similar abrupt change in Ezr 6:6. The language alters at the same time from Chaldee to Hebrew, continuing henceforth to be Hebrew until the close of the book.