AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZRA
The Book of Ezra was formerly associated with the Book of Nehemiah. Both books were treated as one book. They give an account of the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylonia to Jerusalem. They tell of the re-establishment of the Temple, their worship, and national life in their original homeland. Ezra, whose name means "help" (HSN5828; HSN5830), was a wonderful priest who led the people home. He wrote a very simple history and did not give much direct teaching. He made no effort to tell a continuous story. In fact, between Ezr.6 and Ezr.7 almost sixty years passed.
One should read the contemporaneous Book of Esther to discover what was happening elsewhere during this general time period. It would also be helpful to read the Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who lived and preached during this restoration age. The two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were closely connected with the first return of Zerubbabel in 536 B.C. God encouraged the Jews to complete His temple through these men, despite much opposition. Actually, there were three groups which returned to Palestine. They were led respectively by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Ezra's group went in 457 B.C., taking four months for travel. It is not known whether any women or children made the trip. Nehemiah came later as governor in 444 B.C. The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover about 100 years (536-432 B.C.).
The main message of Ezra is that God uses whomever suits His purpose, whether Cyrus and Artaxerxes, or Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah. God empowered His chosen people to overcome all opposition, even against impossible odds.
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