LESSON 16 THE BOOK OF EZRA
A. Ezra continues the Old Testament narrative of II Chronicles by showing how God fulfills his promise to return His people to the Land of Promise after seventy years of exile. As strange as it might seem, only a remnant choose to leave Babylon.
B. In this book two returns from Babylon are related - the first led by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple (1-6), and the second under the leadership of Ezra to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people (7-10). Sandwiched between these two accounts is a gap of nearly six decades, during which time Esther lives and rules as queen in Persia. The book of Esther deals with those who stayed on in the land after captivity.
C. Although Ezra is not specifically mentioned as the author, he is certainly the best candidate. Some think that Ezra composed Nehemiah as well by making use of Nehemiah's personal diary.
D. In conjunction with the study of these books, we should read the prophetical books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, for these were the three prophets who God raised up among His people in the period after the captivity. The following table shows the chronological relationship of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
538-515 B.C. (Ezra 1-6)
Zerubabbel First Return
483-473 B.C. Book of Esther
457 B.C. Second Return
Ezra Second Return
444-425 B.C. Book of Nehemiah
Nehemiah Third Return
NOTE: There were three waves of deportation to Babylon (606, 597 & 586 B.C.) and three returns from Babylon; 538 B.C. (Zerubbabel), 457 B.C. (Ezra) and 444 B.C. (Nehemiah). These returns are a result of Cyrus the Persian overthrowing Babylon in October 539 B.C. and issuing his decree allowing the Jews to return in 538 B.C. Isaiah prophesied two centuries before that the temple would be rebuilt and actually named Cyrus as the one who would bring it about (Isaiah 44:28; 45:4) Foreknowledge of God.
E. God keeps his promise with respect to the Davidic Covenant despite the Babylonian captivity, for Zerubbabel himself is part of the Messianic line. Matt. 1:12-13__________________
No doubt deep within the hearts of these three men a spark of hope prevailed as a result of the Prophesy of Jesus being born in Bethlehem rather that Babylon. Mic. 5:2_______
The Key Word: Temple
The Basic theme of Ezra is the restoration of the Temple and spiritual, moral, and social restoration of the returned remnant in Jerusalem.
Survey of Ezra
The Restoration on the Temple 1-6
The Restoration of the People 7-10
Note the promise God made to his people in Jer. 29:10
I. The Restoration of the Temple 1-6
The First return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel
Out of a total Jewish population of perhaps 2 or 3 million, only 49,897 chose to take advantage of this offer. Only the most committed are willing to leave a life of relative
comfort in Babylon, endure a trip of nine hundred miles, and face further hardship by rebuilding a destroyed Temple and City.
The decree of Cyrus is remarkable in that a heathen King recognized the existence of the God of the Hebrews. He in writing, allows them to return and also provides the financial means to rebuild the Temple, and returns all of the vessels of the Lord, taken by Nebuchadnezzar.
This chapter gives only the heads of various tribes, or representatives of them. This company of returning pilgrims is the "remnant" so frequently spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. There is also historical divisions of the Kingdom, and before the captivity of Israel, there were four defections from Israel to Judah.
II. The Construction of the Temple (3-6)
They first prepared themselves spiritually by erecting an alter and by keeping the feast of Tabernacles. In the next
year, under the direction of the leaders (Joshua & Zerubbabel) they laid the foundation of the Temple.
We find the first hindrance to the work in Chapter 4. This
is by the Samaritans, the people to the north of Judah.
As a result of a letter sent to Artaxerxes, the work was
ordered to be stopped. 4:23_________________________________
NOTE: Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes are royal titles and are
applied to various monarchs of Persia.
The work stopped for approximately seventeen or eighteen years. At this time two prophets appeared on the scene,
Haggai, an older prophet, and Zechariah, a younger one.
Read Haggai 7:14
At the end of Chapter 6 the Temple was finished, dedicated
and the Passover Feast celebrated.
The Reformation of the People (7-10)
In this section of study we make a leap of nearly sixty years. In the meantime the work had lagged. The people
had become lax. Numbers of foreign marriages had been contracted. Many moral delinquencies had crept in.
Ezra traces his lineage back directly to Aaron. His business was that of scribe, writer, recorder, and a
codifier of the laws. 7:10_________________________________
Ezra secured a remarkable decree from Artaxerxes the King.
Read Ezra's response 7:27-28________________________________
Upon safely returning from Babylon with less than 2,000 men, he turns over the money, offers sacrifices and delivers the
In Chapter 9 the news of inter-marriages dumb founded Ezra,
and his actions are described in 9:3________________________
Ezra then rose up and issued a proclamation. He commands that they make confession of their guilt and separate
themselves from the strange women that they have married. And they did so.
1. Who led the returns back to Jerusalem?
2. Who gave permission for the first return?
3. Name the two prophets in Ezra and explain their mission.
4. Who was Ezra and what did he do for Jerusalem?
5. What did the people do wrong?