“Their camels four hundred and thirty five, and their donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty.”
That’s Ezra 2:67. Ezra says that’s how many there were and I believe him.
We would have been just as happy with Ezra’s accurate record if he had recorded 438 and 6725. A few camels or donkeys more or less wouldn’t trouble us. What we got in Ezra 2:67 is accurate information but it doesn’t generate a lot of interest on its own. But we’re not supposed to read it “on its own.” We’re supposed to get up on a high place and look down.
If we were in the mood we’d count the number of camels and donkeys. “Yes, he got it right,” we might say, “for we saw it with our own eyes.” But then we’d notice horses and mules and maybe we’d count them to assure ourselves of Ezra’s accuracy. Then we’d notice there were flocks and herds! Then people; boys and girls and women and men—250 of them are singers. We give up all counting and recognize on Ezra’s count that the entire assembly numbered 42,360.
We might walk over to him and commend him for his accuracy as a chronicler. He’d probably thank us but if we made the throbbing center of our speech something about his good counting he would tell us, “You’re missing the point!”
Ezra wasn’t counting heads or hoofs—he was recording a momentous event of which the details were a part. He wasn’t just logging information—he was telling a story, he was rehearsing an event filled with glory! This event said things about mighty Babylon! The herds and donkeys, the flocks and the camels, the mules, horses, singers and the rest of the host sang the fulfillment of Isaiah 44 & 45 where Cyrus is named as God’s deliverer of His people.
To isolate two verses about the animals reduces the message that even the animals proclaim. Mules and camels, horses and donkeys all kicking up dust and chaos were stirring the dust of freedom and and proclaiming the chaos of freedom. These animals meant and mean something! But they only man something if we let them be what the Bible means them to be!
They function as a part of a great Return with the faithful God fulfilling His promise to bring them home. But He is more than faithful; He is capable of doing the wondrous things He promises. And that means He is the Lord of nations and the God who shapes and uses history.
Isolating verses, atomizing scriptures, slavishly repeating what they say without giving them their place within the Cosmic Adventure is no good kind of Bible study!
It not only misses the POINT of the text, it is robbed of the POWER of it; the power it brings! God makes His presence felt in the truth He gives, John 6:3.
(Holy One, thank you… but please…! This prayer on the Lord Jesus Christ.)