Ezra went to great lengths to give detail about the families that returned to Israel to occupy their land after the Babylonian captivity. He begins by listing the people by their 18 families and clans. The total of this count is 15,604 families and clans listed by name. The individual clans and families are recorded in Ezra 2:3-19, “The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, 2,172. The sons of Shephatiah, 372. The sons of Arah, 775. The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812. The sons of Elam, 1,254. The sons of Zattu, 945. The sons of Zaccai, 760. The sons of Bani, 642. The Sons of Bebai, 623. The sons of Azgad, 1,222. The Sons of Adonikam, 666. The sons of Bigvai, 2,056. The Sons of Adin, 454. The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. The Sons of Bezai, 323. The sons of Jorah, 112. The sons of Hashum, 223.”

 If a person makes it through the book of Numbers and Chronicles in their read through the Bible plan, they face another big challenge in the Book of Ezra. In Chapter Two, they encounter a long list of unpronounceable names. Why does God include such lists in the Bible? I find that the interesting thing about this long list of unfamiliar names is that the thousands of home comers were not lumped together but were separated and counted out by family affiliations. This humanizes the settlers. It specifically recognizes them by name as the brave men and their families who made the long, dangerous trek to Israel to reclaim the Land that God had promised them. The men are listed because they were heads of households. All their descendants could identify with them. These names were of individuals, of course, but they represented their clans and families. The descendants in all generations to follow will have this list and will be able to point at a name and say, “That’s my family heritage.” Imagine opening the Bible and having your family name recorded as a permanent record.

If you visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., you will see a list of men who gave their lives in a war that the Nation as a whole rejected. Those names on the wall are not just of individual men but of people that are identified with families. The families visit that wall and remember with pride the sacrifice that their relatives made during this unpopular war. There are over fifty thousand names on the wall. It’s a very moving scene. Wives point out their husbands. Children point out their fathers. Fathers and Mothers point out their sons. Their names are memorialized on the wall so that we, as a nation, never forget the sacrifices that were made to secure for us all the liberty and freedom we enjoy today. I think God wanted to ensure that the generation of Israelites that would be born in the land after the Babylonian captivity would look at their names and remember their heritage also. The lives they were enjoying were bought and paid for by those who came before them.

Rudyard Kipling is one of my favorite poets. He understood the importance of remembering our heritage and those whose sacrifice gave us the good things in life we enjoy now. He wrote,

The captains and the kings depart;

Still stands thine ancient Sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far called, our navies melt away—

On dune and headland sinks the fire—

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget![1]

[1] Federer, William J. 2001. Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions. St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch.