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Series Theme: Why Read the Bible: Ezra

 

 

INTRODUCTION to EZRA

Why read Ezra: Well, to understand the wonder of the contents of this relatively short book, we have to remind ourselves where it fits in the history of Israel:

 

1. About 688 BC Isaiah prophesied that a Cyrus would be used by the Lord to return an exiled Israel to their land to rebuild the temple see Isa 44:28 / 45:13

 

2. Throughout the reigns of three of the last kings of Judah, Jeremiah brought warning after warning that God would destroy Jerusalem and carry the people into captivity if they did not repent and turn away from their idolatry. They ignored him.

 

3. Three times Nebuchadnezzar, the all-powerful king of Babylon, invaded the Land first in 605 when Daniel and his friends were taken with many others, second in 597 when Ezekiel and some ten thousand Jews were deported to Babylon [ see 2 Kings 24:12-17] and finally in 588/87 when Jerusalem AND the Temple was eventually destroyed and the vast majority of the remaining people taken into exile in Babylon.

 

4. According to Ezra 2:64 over 42,000 returned in 538BC after Cyrus was moved upon by the Lord to return them, and records suggest the work of rebuilding the temple started on 537BC , was then delayed, resumed on Sept 21, 520BC (Ezra 3:8) and was finished on Mar 12, 516BC (Ezra 6:15), i.e. approx. three and a half years building. The problems of rebuilding are recounted in this book.

 

5. In 458 Ezra returned to Jerusalem as seen in chapters 7 & 8 of this book. (Nehemiah will return in 445 )

 

The background Kings of Ezra & Nehemiah

As various kings are mentioned in both books, we need to understand the times of their various reigns:

a) Kings of Babylon:

  • Nebuchadnezzar (605 562),
  • various lesser rulers concluding with Belshazzar (562 539)
  • after which Babylon fell to Cyrus the Persian

b) The Persian Empire:

  • Cyrus (539 530)
  • Cambyses (530-522)
  • Darius (522-486)
  • Xerxes (Ahasuerus) (486-465/64)
  • Artaxerxes (464-423) [NB. From Neh 2:1 we see Nehemiah came in 444/5BC]

  

Time Frame Summary: It is important to try and grasp the times:

587 The sack of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

538 Cyrus sends the first group back to the Land to rebuild the Temple.

516 The Temple completed. (roughly a 20 year delay)

458 Ezra returns to Jerusalem. (roughly 60 years later)

445 Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem

 

In Part 1 of this book, we see Cyrus sending back the first exiles to rebuild the Temple. Chapters 1-3 are the run-up to the rebuilding and chapters 4-6 recount the opposition they experienced to the rebuilding up to completion.

Part 2, a number of decades later, sees Ezra returning to Jerusalem and his concern over the intermarriages that had been going on contrary to God's words through Moses.

 

 

CONTENTS

 

PART ONE: The First Return (538BC) & Temple Rebuilding

1: Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return   

2: The List of the Exiles Who Returned

3: Celebrations & Starting to Rebuild the Temple

4: Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

5: The local governor enquires of the king

6: Approval, Continuation & Completion (520BC)

 

PART TWO: The Second Return (458BC) & Reordering Marriages

7: Ezra's return to Jerusalem

8: Those Returning to Jerusalem

9: Ezra's Anguish & Prayer About Intermarriage

10: Resolving the issue of Marriage Unfaithfulness