What happens in the book?
- The Jews in captivity in Babylon were given permission to return to the land of Israel by Cyrus, King of Persia.
- The first wave of people was led back by Zerubabbel the prince, and Joshua the High Priest.
- They rebuilt the temple, but suffered opposition whilst so doing.
- The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to finish building the temple.
- Ezra brings a second wave of Jews back to the land, some years later.
- He brings spiritual reform, and sorts out problems that had arisen in respect of inter-marriage.
Who was Ezra?
- Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron.
- He was also a scribe – a writer and teacher.
- As he could not be an active priest in Babylon he spent his time learning the Law of Moses.
- He is credited with writing the books of 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, the next book in the Bible.
- He helped the people to institute the Law correctly on their return to the land.
What was the opposition rebuilding of the temple?
- The enemies of the Jews from the nations round about did not want the temple rebuilt.
- They appealed to Artaxerxes, the current Persian king, saying that the Jews would no longer pay taxes to him once the building was finished.
- Artaxerxes forbade the building to continue as he knew the Jews had a long history of revolt against foreign kings.
- Later, when Darius was king of Persia, a governor called Tattenai tried once more to halt the work which had begun again.
- However Darius found the original decree from Cyrus, which gave the Jews permission to build the temple, and the attempt to stop the work was unsuccessful.
Why is this book important?
- It fulfills the prophecy in the book of Jeremiah that the Jews would return to the land after 70 years captivity – Jeremiah 29 vs 10.
- It reinstates once more the true worship of God by the Jews in accordance with his Laws.
Next time – Bitesize Book of Nehemiah!