Ezra

This history, origins, and contents of Ezra are examined.

Introduction

Yet another reason to take care that the divisions in the Bible do not effect our reading and understanding is seen in the arbitrary split of Ezra and Nehemiah. After completing Ezra, you will see that it ends abruptly. This is because up until the third century (ad), Ezra and Nehemiah were one book. The books were initially split by Origen, a Biblical scholar from Alexandria.[1][3] When Jerome constructed the Latin Vulgate, which had a major influence on our modern translations, he followed Origen's example.[3]
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Authorship

Ezra is a mixture of narratives, letters, and prayers. It almost reads like a scrapbook, where someone inserted news clippings and letters amongst personal reflections. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 all contain references to the first person, which is rare in the Bible. The original text also mixes languages, preferring Aramaic for the official documents. Aramaic was the official language of Persia, which means decrees and proclamations would have been issued in Aramaic as shown by the author.[4] Most scholars assume Ezra to be the author, though it is impossible to tell for certain.[1][4]

The Aramaic present in the book is very similar to that of a Jewish community dated to 5th century bc, which is used to support the theory that the book was written during that time period. Presumably, Ezra authored the book before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in 444bc.[4]
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Purpose

Each book of the Bible has a specific purpose. Even great secular writers will tell you, everything in a your writing should be necessary. If it doesn't serve a purpose, leave it out. God's Word was given to us for a purpose, and it is up to us to decipher that purpose for each book.

Ezra covers three main events: the return/restoration of the Jews, opposition to the construction of the Temple, and the sending away of foreign wives among Israelite men. Within these events, we are introduced to Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra. The events in the book of Esther take place in between chapters 6 and 7 (chronologically). The return to Jerusalem fulfills a prophecy given by Jeremiah 29. Further, the proclamation to rebuild the city fulfills the prophecy of Daniel 9. The prophecy in Daniel 9 helps us identify Jesus as the Messiah!
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Kings of Persia

The kings of Persia are heavily referenced in the book of Ezra, as it is by their decrees that the Israelites are able to to rebuild the Temple or told to cease reconstruction. As such it is important to look at the timeline of Persian kings before reading Ezra or Nehemiah.[1][2]
Kings of Persia
King Reign (bc) Bible Reference
Cyrus II 559-530 Cyrus is mentioned in 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Daniel, and Isaiah. He is the one who issues the proclamation that Israel can return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.
Cambyses II 530-522 Not mentioned
Darius I 522-486 Darius is mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah. It is during his reign that construction of the Temple continues
Xerxes I 486-465 Xerxes I is considered a possibility for the identity of Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6 and Esther.
Artaxerxes I 465-425 Artaxerxes is discussed in Ezra and Nehemiah; Ezra's mission is usually interpreted as occurring during his reign.
Xerxes II 423 Not mentioned
Darius II 423-404 Possibiliy referenced in Nehemiah 12:22
Artaxerxes II 404-359 Those who do not believe Ezra's mission occurred during Artaxerxes I's reign, place it in Araxerxes II' reign.

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Cyrus' Cylinder

When Israel was in Egypt, God had to force pharaoh's hand to let the people go, yet Cyrus decreed they could go home and rebuild the Temple without a big production from God. Many people find this hard to believe, but an ancient artifact known as Cyrus' Cylinder, fully supports this chain of events. Cyrus' Cylinder is currently in the British Museum. This cylinder contains an account of Cyrus' rule, including his restoration of various temples that had been previously destroyed by Babylon.[5]
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References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 789-794. 2014
  2. "List of monarchs of Persia". Wikipedia; visited March 2017
  3. "Origen". Christianity Today; visited March 2017
  4. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 471-472. 1995
  5. "The Cyrus Cylinder". The British Museum; visited March 2017

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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