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Deep Dive: Ezra

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to take a deep dive into the fifteenth book listed in the Holy Bible, Ezra. Specifically, we're going to look at the Literary Form and Authorship, Languages, Order, & Major Theological Themes.






Literary Form and Authorship

As in the closely related books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, one notes the prominence of various lists in Ezra and Nehemiah, which have evidently been obtained from official sources. Included are lists of (1) the temple articles (Ezra 1:9-11), (2) the returned exiles (Ezra 2, which is virtually the same as Nehemiah 7:6-73), (3) the genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1-5), (4) the heads of the clans (Ezra 8:1-14), (5) those involved in mixed marriages (Ezra 10:18-43), (6) those who helped rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 3), (7) those who sealed the covenant (Nehemiah 10:1-27), (8) residents of Jerusalem and other towns (Nehemiah 11:3-36) and (9) priests and Levites (Nehemiah 12:1-26).


Also included in Ezra are seven official documents or letters (all in Aramaic except the first, which is in Hebrew): (1) the decree of Cyrus (1:2-4), (2) the accusation of Rehum and others against the Jews (4:11-16), (3) the reply of Artaxerxes I (4:17-22), (4) the report from Tattenai (5:7-17), (5) the memorandum of Cyrus's decree (6:2b-5), (6) Darius's reply to Tattenai (6:6-12) and (7) the authorization given by Artaxerxes I to Ezra (7:12-26). The documents are similar to contemporary non-Biblical documents of the Persian period.


Certain materials in Ezra are first-person extracts from his memoirs: 7:27-28; 8:1-34; 9. Other sections are written in the third person: 7:1-26; 10; see also Ne 8. Linguistic analysis has shown that the first-person and third-person extracts resemble each other, making it likely that the same author wrote both.


Most scholars conclude that the author/compiler of Ezra and Nehemiah was also the author of 1,2 Chronicles. This viewpoint is based on certain characteristics common to both Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. The verses at the end of Chronicles and at the beginning of Ezra are virtually identical. Both Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah exhibit a fondness for lists, for the description of religious festivals and for such phrases as heads of families and the house of God. Especially striking in these books is the prominence of Levites and temple personnel. The words for singer, gatekeeper and temple servants are used almost exclusively in Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.


Languages

Ezra and Nehemiah were written in a form of late Hebrew with the exception of Ezra 4:8 -- 6:18; 7:12 -- 26, which were written in Aramaic, the language of international diplomacy during the Persian period. Of these 67 Aramaic verses, 52 are in records or letters. Ezra evidently found these documents in Aramaic and copied them, inserting connecting verses in Aramaic.


The Order of Ezra and Nehemiah

According to the traditional view, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the seventh year (Ezra 7:8) of Artaxerxes I (458 B.C.), followed by Nehemiah, who arrived in the king's 20th year (444; Ne 2:1,11).


Some have proposed a reverse order in which Nehemiah arrived in 444 B.C., while Ezra arrived in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II (398). By amending seventh (Ezra 7:8) to either 27th or 37th, others place Ezra's arrival after Nehemiah's but still maintain that they were contemporaries.


These alternative views, however, present more problems than the traditional position. As the text stands, Ezra arrived before Nehemiah and they are found together in Nehemiah 8:9 (at the reading of the Law) and Nehemiah 12:26,36 (at the dedication of the wall).


Major Theological Themes

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah relate how God's covenant people were restored from Babylonian exile to the covenant land as a theocratic (kingdom of God) community even while continuing under Gentile rule. The major theological themes of this account are:

  1. The restoration of Israel from exile was God's doing. He moved the hearts of Persian emperors; he moved the hearts of the repatriates and those who supported them; he raised up prophets to prod and support the repatriates; he protected them on the way and delivered them from their opponents; he stirred up Ezra and Nehemiah to perform their separate ministries; he prospered the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.

  2. The restoration of the covenant community was complete -- even though political independence was not attained. All Israel was repatriated through a representative remnant; the temple was rebuilt and its services (daily sacrifices, priestly ministries, Levitical praise, annual feasts) revived in accordance with the Law of Moses and the regulations instituted by David; the Law was reestablished as regulative for the life of the community; the holy city (Jerusalem) was rebuilt and inhabited; the people were purged; the covenant was renewed.

  3. Just as God used the world powers to judge his people, so he used them to restore his people to their land; imperial action and authority directly and indirectly initiated, protected and sustained every aspect of the restoration.

  4. Israel's restoration evoked fierce opposition, but that opposition was thwarted at every turn.

  5. The restored community was a chastened people, yet they were also in need of frequent rebuke and reformation. Israel remained a wayward people. They still awaited the new covenant of which Jeremiah had spoken (chapter. 31) and the renewal to be effected by God's Spirit as announced by Joel (chapter 1) and Ezekiel (chapter 36).


May we establish, nurture, and grow a sincere love for the word of God, and study it lovingly & faithfully.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.


May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation


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