Survey of Ezra
Book Type: Book of History; the fifteenth book of the Old Testament; the fifteenth book of the Bible.
Author: Ezra, a Jewish priest, teacher, and scribe.
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.
Date: Between 457 and 444 BC.
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.
Key Verses (ESV):
Ezra 3:11: "And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, 'For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.' And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."
Ezra 7:6: "This Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that 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."