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 visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Ezra. But before we get to Ezra 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Ezra. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.
And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Ezra, as we prepare to behold and discern Ezra, beginning with Ezra 1 in our next installment of this series.
Book Type: Book of History; the fifteenth book of the Old Testament
Date of Writing: Between 457 and 444 BC.
Original Language: Hebrew; Aramaic
Timeline: Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I (458 BC).
Authors: Most accounts list Ezra, a Jewish priest, teacher, and scribe. Ezra was a direct descendant of Aaron the chief priest (7:1-5). His zeal for God and God’s Law spurred Ezra to lead a group of Jews back to Israel during King Artaxerxes’s reign over the Persian Empire (which had since replaced the Babylonian Empire that originally exiled the people of Judah). Note that once Ezra appears on the scene in chapter 7, the author of the Book of Ezra switches from writing in the third person to first person.
Audience: The books of Ezra and Nehemiah may have originally been written as a single text. This was written to the Jewish people who had recently returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding area following seventy years of exile in Babylonian captivity. These Jews would have been encouraged at God's recent blessings upon their people, yet also needed both clear teaching and encouragement to live faithfully according to God's ways within a surrounding pagan culture.
Theme: A remnant of the Israelites, who had been exiled to Babylonia, return to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild the temple under God's direction.
Purpose of Writing: The Book of Ezra is devoted to events occurring in the land of Israel at the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity and subsequent years, covering a period of approximately one century, beginning in 538 B.C. The emphasis in Ezra is on the rebuilding of the Temple. The book contains extensive genealogical records, principally for the purpose of establishing the claims to the priesthood on the part of the descendants of Aaron.
Summary: The book of Ezra provides a much-needed link in the historical record of the Israelite people. When their king was dethroned and captured and the people exiled to Babylon, Judah as an independent nation ceased to exist. The book of Ezra provides an account of the Jews’ regathering, of their struggle to survive and to rebuild what had been destroyed. Through his narrative, Ezra declared that they were still God’s people and that God had not forgotten them.
Ezra also covers the return from captivity to rebuild the Temple up to the decree of Artaxerxes, the event covered at the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah. Haggai was the main prophet in the day of Ezra, and Zechariah was the prophet in the day of Nehemiah. Later, after the original remnant had stopped work on the city walls and spiritual apathy ruled, Ezra arrived with another two thousand people and sparked a spiritual revival. By the end of the book, Israel had renewed its covenant with God and had begun acting in obedience to Him.
Overview: This book consists of 10 chapters and includes two main sections. The first section records the first return of the Jews to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-6). This began with the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4) and included many treasures being returned to the Jewish temple (Ezra 1:5-11). Chapter 2 includes a lengthy list of those who returned.
Chapter 3 begins the account of the construction of the rebuilt temple (Ezra 3-6). Chapter 3 marks the beginning of the project, while chapter 4 introduces opposition of enemies. In Ezra 4:24-5:2, construction begins again after a period of interruption. The section ends with the temple completed and dedicated to the Lord (Ezra 6:13-22).
The second major section records the second return of the Jewish exiles in Babylon to Jerusalem under Ezra (chapters 7-10). Ezra's background is noted as a scribe, priest, and teacher of the law. He brings many people back under his leadership to help people begin living according to the Mosaic law in Jerusalem. In chapters 9 and 10, a time of renewal and revival is recorded. The closing chapter addresses the problem of spiritually intermarriage, in which Jews had married non-Jewish people who did not follow the Lord.
Foreshadowing: We see in the Book of Ezra a continuation of the biblical theme of the remnant. Whenever disaster or judgment falls, God always saves a tiny remnant for Himself. Noah and his family from the destruction of the flood; Lot's family from Sodom and Gomorrah; the 7,000 prophets reserved in Israel despite the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel. When the Israelites were taken into captivity in Egypt, God delivered His remnant and took them to the Promised Land. Some fifty thousand people return to the land of Judea in Ezra 2:64-67, and yet, as they compare themselves with the numbers in Israel during its prosperous days under King David, their comment is, We are left this day as a remnant. The remnant theme is carried into the New Testament where Paul tells us that at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace (Romans 11:5). Although most people of Jesus' day rejected Him, there remained a set of people whom God had reserved and preserved in his Son, and in the covenant of His grace. Throughout all generations since Christ, there is the remnant of the faithful whose feet are on the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). This remnant will be preserved through the power of the Holy Spirit who has sealed them and who will deliver them safely at the last day (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).
Application: The Book of Ezra is a chronicle of hope and restoration. For the Christian whose life is scarred by sin and rebellion against God, there is great hope that ours is a God of forgiveness, a God who will not turn His back on us when we seek Him in repentance and brokenness (1 John 1:9). The return of the Israelites to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple are repeated in the life of every Christian who returns from the captivity of sin and rebellion against God and finds in Him a loving welcome home. No matter how long we have been away, He is ready to forgive us and receive us back into His family. He is willing to show us how to rebuild our lives and resurrect our hearts, wherein is the temple of the Holy Spirit. As with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, God superintends the work of renovating and rededicating our lives to His service. The opposition of the adversaries of God to the rebuilding of the temple displays a pattern that is typical of that of the enemy of our souls. Satan uses those who would appear to be in sync with God's purposes to deceive us and attempt to thwart God's plans. Ezra 4:2 describes the deceptive speech of those who claim to worship Christ but whose real intent is to tear down, not to build up. We are to be on guard against such deceivers, respond to them as the Israelites did, and refuse to be fooled by their smooth words and false professions of faith.
Key Verses (ESV):
Ezra 3:11 "With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."
Ezra 7:6, "this 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."
Ezra 7:10: "For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel."
Ezra’s narrative reveals two main issues faced by the returning exiles: the struggle to restore the temple (Ezra 1:1–6:22) and the need for spiritual reformation (7:1-10:44).
It records two separate time periods directly following the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Ezra 1-6 covers the first return of Jews from captivity, led by Zerubbabel-a period of twenty-three years beginning with the edict of Cyrus of Persia and ending at the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (538-515 BC). Ezra 7-10 picks up the story more than sixty years later, when Ezra led the second group of exiles to Israel (458 BC).
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!
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.