Ezra 2: Those Who Returned

Ezra 2 (and Nehemiah 7) list the families that returned to Jerusalem after Cyrus' decree.


Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 are almost identical. Both chapters contain a list of families that returned from the exile. The purpose of this list is show that those who returned we still connected to their Jewish roots (i.e. they could still trace their lineage and had not been lost), as well as, illustrate the reduction of of the Jewish population. Only a small portion of the Jews that had been taken returned.

The List of Returnees

People listed in this chapter are listed either by family name or by hometown (in Judah). There is also a group of people that returned who could not verify their Israelite heritage. This parallels the exodus, in which a mixed-multitude also travelled with Israel. Both cases also include the Israelites receiving treasures from their captors.

Photocredit: Unsplahs.com/Laura Gariglio
The total number of people returning is given as 49,697. Of these people 7,337 were servants and 200 were singers for worship in God. In addition to these people, the Jews brought 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

Conflict with Nehemiah

Nehemiah 7 also lists the number of Jews returning. There are minor differences in the numbers given for each family or hometown, but the final total matches. Nehemiah 7:66-69 states that there were 42,360 returnees who brought with them 7,337 servants; this adds to 49,697 people. However, Nehemiah says 245 of these returnees were singers. Differences in numbers by family and city can be explained by how each person was categorized. In one list a person may be counted under his family, but in the other he may be counted for his hometown instead. The difference between singers is harder to explain. One possibility is that 200 people were singers at the time they returned but 45 of those returnees became singers later (certainly there were children in the group of returnees). Another possibility is that Ezra may have only included singers by the lineage appointed by David to sing, while Nehemiah may have included other singers as well. The people of CARM remind us that between the time Ezra penned his list and the time Nehemiah penned his, people could have died and been born into those families, thus accounting for changes in values. Copyist errors are also a possibility.[1] Once we understand that there are many rational explanations for the difference in values, we can conclude that just under 50,000 people returned to Judah.


  1. Matt Slick. "Why are the statistics in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 different?". Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry; visited March 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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