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What is meant by...

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. (Ezr 7:10)

I am specifically interested to understand what is meant by "to seek". I am studying the transmission of the Old Testament Scriptures and was wondering if it could mean that he was looking for the Original Autograph in the hand of Moses that was discovered by Hilkiah (2 Cor 34:14) and subsequently taken to the house of rolls (Ezra 6:1) when the treasures of the House of God was taken to Babylon (2Ch 36:18) or wherever it was hidden since 2 Maccabees suggests Jeremiah hid it in a cave (2 Macc 2:4-5)?

Based on some very helpful answers already, I discovered that

  • the Hebraic font had changed over time and especially the common language of the Hebrews after the Exile. Some suggest that it meant Ezra and his fellow scribes intended to produce the Modern Tanakh.
  • Early Church Fathers (Iranaeus and Clement of Alexandria) suggested that the text had been corrupted and it meant Ezra was inspired to restore the original.
  • Other translations use "study" instead of "seek" suggesting Ezra's desire to "to re-establish the ancient Israelite spirituality and true religion"

Though these answers were all well-argued and helpful, notice that they are actually mutually exclusive explanations: Ezra could not have been producing a Modern form AND restoring the Original, could he? If the text was corrupted, he could not have been studying to re-establish true religion if he did not have access to infallible source documents that defined it, i.e. if the text was corrupted.

My hypothesis is: "he was looking for the original autograph in the hand of Moses that was discovered by Hilkiah". With that, he could actually accomplish all of the above...

What I need for a good answer is:

  • A refutation of my hypothesis or well-reasoned argument against it will be most helpful, which is why I am enquiring into the word "seek" in Ezra 7:10. Could it mean what I am hypothesising?

  • Or Biblical support that could further justify such an interpretation (although I'm sincerely not trying to bolster my hypothesis, I'm trying to test it)

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  • Ezra 7:10 and he (Ezra) was a ready scribe in the law of Moses which the Lord God of Israel had given.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 4 '20 at 13:31
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What is meant by "Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD"?

In context to Ezra 7:25, the main purpose of “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Torah of YHVH” (עֶזְרָא֙ הֵכִ֣ין לְבָב֔וֹ לִדְרֹ֛שׁ אֶת־תּוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָ֖ה) in [Ezra 7:10] directly relates to Ezra’s commission to interpret/translate the ancient Hebrew Torah scrolls for an Aramaic speaking audience.

In [Ezra 7] we learn the Hebrew Scribe Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah (עֶזְרָא֙ בֶּן־שְׂרָיָ֔ה בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָ֖ה בֶּן־חִלְקִיָּֽה ) was among last scribes to understand Biblical Ivri during Persian oppression.

During Babylonian exile, Yisraelites were taught imperial Aramaic. - Ezra wanted to understand biblical Hebrew in order to re-write ancient Hebrew Torah (תּוֹרַ֥ת) scrolls with imperial Aramaic font.

Ezra 7:10 [MT] "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Torah of YHVH and to perform and teach in Israel statute and ordinance." (כִּ֚י עֶזְרָא֙ הֵכִ֣ין לְבָב֔וֹ לִדְרֹ֛שׁ אֶת־תּוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָ֖ה וְלַֽעֲשֹׂ֑ת וּלְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֹ֥ק וּמִשְׁפָּֽט ).

Ezra helped create the modern Tanakh using Imperial-Aramaic font for Hebrew characters, to reintroduce Yisraelites of the Babylonian exile to "The Law" (Torah). - Referenced in Ezra 7:25.

Ezra 7:25 [MT] "And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God, which is in your hand, appoint judges and magistrates who will judge all the people beyond the river, all who know the decrees of your-God, and whoever does not know, you shall teach them." (וְאַ֣נְתְּ עֶזְרָ֗א כְּחָכְמַ֨ת אֱלָהָ֚ךְ דִּֽי־בִידָךְ֙ מֶ֣נִּי שָֽׁפְטִ֞ין וְדַיָּנִ֗ין דִּי־לֶֽהֱו‍ֹ֚ן דָּאיְנִין֙ (כתיב דָּאְנִין֙) לְכָל־עַמָּא֙ דִּי בַּֽעֲבַ֣ר נַֽהֲרָ֔ה לְכָל־יָדְעֵ֖י דָּתֵ֣י אֱלָהָ֑ךְ וְדִ֧י לָ֥֥א יָדַ֖ע תְּהוֹדְעֽוּן ).

After Ezra translated the Torah scrolls, ancient Hebrew words like Azariah ‎(𐤏𐤆𐤓𐤉𐤄) were then written in Imperial-Aramaic font (‎עֲזַרְיָ֖ה).  * Archeology has proven this by discovering a Seal of Ezra's grandfather Azariah - dating to 605BC.

https://www.bible.ca/bulla/bible-archeology-jeremiah-clay-bullae-seal-inscription-Belonging-to-Azariah-son-of-Hilkiah-high-priest-1Chron-6-12-15-2Chron34-14-Jer-1-1-605bc.htm

To learn additional information regarding Imperial Aramaic font & ancient Hebrew font used by Ezra the scribe, see :

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    Thank you for this answer I think it really gives some perspective and exposed me to the fact that Hebrew Script changed! That must be how they recogised the authorship of the Scroll found by Hilkiah! Fascinating... I see the article claims it was the Paleo-Hebrew copy of Samuel... Mmm... not so sure... So just to understand, are you saying that you think "set his heart to seek the Law of God" meant "Ezra wanted to understand biblical Hebrew"? Sep 5 '20 at 13:12
  • In context to Ezra 7:25, the main purpose of “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Torah of YHVH” (עֶזְרָא֙ הֵכִ֣ין לְבָב֔וֹ לִדְרֹ֛שׁ אֶת־תּוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָ֖ה) in [Ezra 7:10] directly relates to Ezra’s commission to interpret/translate the ancient Hebrew Torah scrolls for an Aramaic speaking audience. Sep 5 '20 at 14:27
  • Thanks! I'll look into this and your references to verify... Sep 6 '20 at 0:07
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@Ctalorgraphics answer is a good one, so I will contribute a little extra to that answer.

The important word in Ezra 7:10 is לֵבָב (lebab) which the OP's version translates as "heart". It can mean a variety of things but the idiom is always the inner mind where discipline and will acts. BDB suggests:

4 specific reference to inclinations, resolutions determinations of the will (characteristic of ׳ל): ׳הכין ל set the mind, with אֶל 1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Chronicles 29:18, לְ2Chronicles 20:33 לדרשׁ2Chronicles 19:3; 30:19; Ezra 7:10; אֶל׳הטה ל Joshua 24:23 (E) 1 Kings 8:58; לדרשׁ ׳נתן ל 1 Chronicles 22:19, compare 2Chronicles 11:16; פנה מעם ׳ל mind turn away from Deuteronomy 29:17; Deuteronomy 30:17; ׳פ ׳יֵהָפֵךְ ל Pharaoh's mind was changed Exodus 14:5 (E).

The verb translated "prepared" is כּוּן (kun) in the Hifil perfect form meaning (BDB):

3 direct one's face towards (אֶלֿ) Ezekiel 4:3,7; in moral and spiritual sense, direct one's step (צַעֲדוֺ) = order aright, Jeremiah 10:23 (see above), Proverbs 16:9, so (מְּעָמַי) Psalm 119:133; אֱלֹהָיו ׳הֵכִין דְּרָכָיו לִפְנֵי י2Chronicles 27:6, also (followed by דרכיו only) Proverbs 21:29 Kt (Qr יָבִין); עַל הַהֵכִין הָאֱלֹהִים לָעָם2Chronicles 29:36 that which God had ordered aright for the people (on article = relative pronoun see Ges§ 138. 3. b); followed by לֵב Job 11:13; Psalm 78:8; + לְ, ׳לֹא הֵכִין לִבּוֺ לִדְרוֺשׁ אֶתיֿ2Chronicles 12:14, so 2 Chronicles 19:3; 30:19; + ׳לִדְרוֺשׁ אֵתאתּוֺרַת י Ezra 7:10; הכין לבב ׳אֶלֿ 1 Samuel 7:3 direct the heart towards ׳י, 1 Chronicles 29:18 (׳י subject), so (with לֵאלֹהִים) 2 Chronicles 20:33; hence (no object expressed) = give attention, followed by infinitive Judges 12:6.

That is, Ezra had made a firm decision to discipline his mind and life to do this task. The Cambridge commentary suggests:

‘Had set his heart’. A not uncommon phrase, cf. 2 Chronicles 12:14; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 30:19. In every instance the R.V. has rightly changed ‘prepare his heart’ to ‘set his heart’. The idea of the original is not ‘preparedness for the unforeseen’, but ‘fixity and stability of purpose’. Compare the expression ‘my heart is fixed’ (Psalm 57:7; Psalm 108:1; Psalm 112:7) where the same verb occurs.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

  1. Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, &c.—His reigning desire had been to study the divine law—its principles, institutions, privileges, and requirements; and now from love and zeal, he devoted himself, as the business of his life, to the work of instructing, reforming, and edifying others.

That is, Ezra the scribe had trained and disciplined himself in the language and laws of the Scripture in order to teach and preserve the Bible (we owe him a lot even today!) Thus, some versions correctly translate Ezra 7:10 as:

  • NIV: For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
  • NLT: This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.
  • CEV: This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.
  • NET: Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the LORD, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel.

UPDATE: "The Law of the LORD"

The second part of the question involves just what Ezra devoted himself to studying, namely, "The Law of the LORD". This phrase occurs regularly in the OT, eg, Ps 19:7, 1:2, 119:1, Amos 2:4, etc. In this context, it probably the Torah.

However, as used in Ezra and the contemporary literature, it probably refers more specifically to "The Book of the Law of the LORD" which is the book of Deuteronomy. It was this specifically that was found by Hilkiah the priest and plays a significant part in the Judah's royal history.

It was important because it often refers to the Israelite Covenant (Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3, 7:2, 9, 12, 8:18, 9:9, 11, 15, 10:8, 17:2, 29:1, 9, 14, 21, 31:9, 16, 20, 26, 33:9) and is a re-statement and expansion of the Moral Law based around the 10 Commandments. The centrality and importance of the book of Deuteronomy can be gauged by the requirement for each king of Israel to personally write out a copy of the book and keep it with him (Deut 17:18).

This book of the Law of the Lord is regularly referenced as such:

  • Neh 9:3 - They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God.
  • 2 Chron 17:9 - They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD. They went throughout the towns of Judah and taught the people.
  • 2 Chron 34:14 - While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD written by Moses.

Thus, Ezra's devotion to this book of the law of the LORD his God, was simply to re-establish the ancient Israelite spirituality and true religion as defined by the ancient prophets, particularly in the book of Deuteronomy.

It was on this very point that many of Israel's ancient problem began, eg, 2 Chron 12:1, 35:26, 1 Chron 16:40, 22:12, Amos 2:4, Josh 24:26, Jer 8:8, 2 Kings 10:31, etc.

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  • Thank you so much for this answer Dottard - an excellent response... but I think my question could have been clearer about the phrase I needed clarity on: "seek the Law of the Lord" - your answer focused on "prepared his heart" which I think you nailed, but I can apply that interpretation of "prepared his heart" and still not have calrity to my question and ask, was it to find the Original Autographs? The commentary and translations you quoted incidentally eliminate that interpretation, but without giving reason for why "seek" is best interpreted as "study" Sep 5 '20 at 13:34
  • @PieterRousseau - Updated as requested.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 '20 at 21:38

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