historical book telling of the return after the Exile and the rebuilding
of the Temple and reforms brought to the returning community.
a scribe, possibly Ezra.
Originally written as one book with Nehemiah
written : 440BC
Gets its name from the key figure, Ezra.
King Cyrus of Persia , present ruler over
the exiles of Israel , is moved by the Lord to decide to rebuild the
temple in Jerusalem .
He releases the Jews to return to do the
The rebuilding of the Temple starts but
they receive much opposition and eventually help is received from documents
back in the royal archives.
The Temple rebuilding is completed.
Ezra the scribe comes at the next king's
direction to bring administration to Jerusalem in accordance with God's
The returning exiles realise they have
failed the Law by having mixed marriages and resolve to put this right.
First Return from Exile and Rebuilding of the Temple
First Return of the Exiles
List of Returning Exiles
Revival of Temple Worship & beginning of temple rebuilding
Opposition to Rebuilding
Completion of the Temple
7-10 Ezra's Return and Reforms
Ezra's Return to Jerusalem
releases the Jews to return home
the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word
of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king
of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it
in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "`The
LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth
and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah…..
family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone
whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of
the LORD in Jerusalem .
start rebuilding the Temple
the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house
of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak
and the rest of their brothers (the priests and the Levites and all
who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work, appointing
Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the
house of the LORD.
the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building
a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and
to the heads of the families and said, "Let us help you build because,
like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the
time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." But Zerubbabel,
Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered,
"You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone
will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king
of Persia , commanded us." Then the peoples around them set out
to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.
prophets encourage the rebuilding
Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo,
prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God
of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua
son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem
. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.
rebuilding of the Temple is finished
the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching
of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished
building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and
the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.The temple
was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year
of the reign of King Darius.
these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia , Ezra ….
came up from Babylon . He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses,
which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him
everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Some
of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers
and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of
King Artaxerxes. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the
seventh year of the king.
King directs administration
is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra….. Now I decree
that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites,
who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. Whatever
the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for
the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the
realm of the king and of his sons?.....And you, Ezra, in accordance
with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates
and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates--all
who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know
them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king
must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property,
realise things need putting right
Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before
the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites--men, women and children--gathered
around him. They too wept bitterly. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one
of the descendants of Elam , said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful
to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But
in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel . Now let us make a
covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children,
in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the
commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.
the books shows signs of a scribe with a great sense of administration
and record keeping and the combined books of Ezra and Nehemiah include
the following lists:
the temple articles (Ezra 1:9-11),
the returned exiles (Ezra 2, which is
virtually the same as Neh 7:6-73),
the genealogy of Ezra (Ezr 7:1-5),
the heads of the clans (Ezra 8:1-14),
those involved in mixed marriages (Ezra
those who helped rebuild the wall (Neh
those who sealed the covenant (Neh 10:1-27),
residents of Jerusalem and other towns
priests and Levites (Neh 12:1-26).
we find seven official documents or letters (all in Aramaic except the
first, which is in Hebrew), each of which plays a significant part in
all that took place.
the decree of Cyrus (1:2-4),
the accusation of Rehum and others against
the Jews (4:11-16),
the reply of Artaxerxes I (4:17-22),
the report from Tattenai (5:7-17),
the memorandum of Cyrus's decree (6:2b-5),
Darius's reply to Tattenai (6:6-12)
the authorization given by Artaxerxes
I to Ezra (7:12-26).
The new reader might wonder why so much
attention is given to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem . The
answer is that the Temple was the symbolic “house of God” the place
where God revealed His glory to His people in the past and where He
was said to reside. It was the focal point for worship and the sacrificial
system that was at the heart of their relationship with the Lord.
Intriguingly Jeremiah prophesied a 70
year period of the Exile but the Jews started returning to Jerusalem
long before that period was up. What is interesting is that it was exactly
seventy years between the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar
and the finishing of its rebuilding. The seventy years would thus appear
to be the period of the absence of the Lord's presence within the city.
What is remarkable about this history
is that Cyrus was a heathen king who was impressed
by God to initiate the return and the rebuilding. Even more, the later
king, Artaxerxes ,
sent Ezra with very godly instructions to establish the people, and
in between King Darius gave them a very favourable
conclusion to the debate about their right to be there in the Land.
The hand of God was clearly on these three heathen kings to bring about
the restoration of His people.
We might find the closing chapters disturbing
in the light of the non-Jewish wives being put away but two comments
are applicable. First, it is a reminder of what comes all the way through
the Old Testament: these are God's unique people who were to remain
distinct from other peoples. Second, we are not told HOW they resolved
this issue. We assume that they simply divorced their foreign wives
but we would remember that the Law was always remarkably caring for
all classes of people. It is possible that some of those men returned
to Babylon with their wives; we just don't know. The account leaves
us speculating for it does not give us an answer. What is clear, however,
is the determination of the returning remnant of Israel to do all they
could to be right with God.
Although we have not featured it in the
Key Verses above (simply to save space) it is worth reading the accounts
of the enemy opposition and the ways it was overcome, especially in
the light of our comments above about the heathen kings that were involved.
Clearly as much as the destruction of
Jerusalem was the judgment of God, the restoration after exile was the
goodness and grace of God, working to bring His people back to the land
and create an environment in which to bring His Son, some four hundred
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