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How do classical sources explain the discrepancy in the numbers of the olei Bavel (those who returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile) in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7?

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Although the total for the “whole community” is the same (42,360) in both Ezra (2:64) and Nehemiah (7:66), numerous details are different.

The note to Ezra 2:3 on page 14-15 of Ezra in the Art Scroll Kesuvim volume covering Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel addresses the discrepancies and states:

“Several explanations of these discrepancies have been suggested. Rashi (Nehemiah 7:7) does not attempt to reconcile the differences, but remarks that care was taken only in establishing the total for the entire emigration from Babylonia. In that respect the two lists agree perfectly. Scripture, however, was not concerned with the differences in the individual numbers.

“[Perhaps Rashi may be understood in the following way: although he agrees with the other commentators that the discrepancies may be reconciled in a number of ways. Rashi cannot satisfactorily explain why Scripture left the two lists in apparent contradiction without indicating how the conflicts may be resolved. Therefore, Rashi asserts that the differences in individual numbers are of no major significance and their reconciliation is left to the reader.]"

"Other commentators offer a wide variety of differing explanations. For example, Ibn Ezra and Metzudos on Nehemiah explain that although Nehemiah states that the document that he found was written at the time of the original settlement, he updated the number of settlers to reflect the population of the Jewish community at the time of his writing, 36 years later."

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