The Book of Ezra is named after the main character of the book. Ezra was a priest and scribe who was born in captivity in Babylon and later returned to Judah. Tradition says that Ezra is also the author of the whole book. He is certainly the author of chapters 7-10.
PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
The Book of Ezra was written in order to give the account of the restoration of the Jews to the land of the promise. The stress of the book is on the restoration of their spiritual life in their own land. In Jer. 29:10-12 God had promised: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place … Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” The Book of Ezra is proof that God fulfilled His promise to His people from whom the Messiah would come.
GENERAL OUTLINE OF EZRA
- The First Return of the Exiles (1-2)
- The Restoration of the Worship of Jehovah (3-6)
- The Return Under Ezra (7-10)
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CONTENTS OF EZRA
King Cyrus of Persia makes a proclamation that the Jews may return to Judah to build a temple to the Lord at Jerusalem. They are allowed to take the articles for the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away. With Zerubbabel and other leaders, 42,360 Jews return and arrive at Jerusalem (chaps. 1-2). The Jews first rebuild the altar at Jerusalem and again offer sacrifices and celebrate the festivals commanded by God. Then they begin rebuilding the temple. The temple foundation is laid, but enemies keep them from continuing to build. Finally, at the urging of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the work is started again and completed. The temple is dedicated in 516 B.C., about 58 years after the work had started (chaps. 3-6). King Artaxerxes of Persia gives Ezra permission to go to Jerusalem together with many other Jews and gifts for the temple. This would be about 458 B.C. Because many of the Jews in Judah had taken heathen wives, Ezra exhorts them to turn away from their sin (chaps. 7-10).
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