The Book of Ezra is one of the books of the Old Testament that is generally classified as one of the books of history. The book is only 10 chapters long; and the first 6 chapters are written about events that occurred before Ezra came on the scene, beginning in 539 B.C. (Ezra did not arrive until 458 B.C.). Although Ezra 7:27 – 9:15 is written in the first person, indicating that Ezra wrote them, the first six chapters (as well as chapter 10) are written in the third person, leaving open the possibility of a different author for those chapters.
Ezra 7:27 – 9:15 is often called the Ezra Memoir. It hardly matters, but the reader should keep in mind the possibility that Ezra wrote that portion in that voice to differentiate the time periods, pointing out that the first six chapters predated him. Chapter 10 is largely a historical record. It documented those who had “broken faith,” taking foreign wives and having children with them. It is thought by some that the author of Ezra wrote the book of Nehemiah. Early rabbinical writings indicate that the two books were counted together as one book. Ezra’s arrival in 458 B.C., over 80 years after the book began, preceded the arrival of Nehemiah (445 B.C.) by 13 years.
As the first verse of the book tells us, “that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled,” the book begins with the time of captivity coming to an end. Ezra begins the story of the small remnant of Jews that returned to their ravaged land, including the building and dedication of the second temple . Ezra 2:64, following a more detailed account, tells us that their number “together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720.” The book tells of the remnant’s struggle to regain and retain their identity as a chosen people.
For more information on the Proclamation of Cyrus and a link to the archaeological artifact known as the Cyrus Cylinder, which was found in the ruins of Babylon in 1879, see this previous post.
- Cyrus king of Persia captures Babylon (539 B.C.) Dan. 5:30–31
- King Cyrus issues a decree freeing Jewish exiles to return (538–537 B.C.) Ezra 1–2
- The remnant of Jewish exiles, led by Sheshbazzar, return Jerusalem (~537 B.C.) Ezra 1:11
- The rebuilding of the altar (537 B.C.) Ezra 3:1–2
- The remnant rebuilds the Temple at its original location (536 B.C. – 516 B. C.) Ezra 3:8–6:22
- Ezra the Priest leaves Babylon and comes to Jerusalem to teach the people and establish Mosaic Law (arrives in the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes) (Ezra 7–8)
- Ezra confronts the issue of Intermarriage / marriage to idolaters Ezra 9–10
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.