Exploring the Bible // Ezra
The Book of Ezra takes place at the end of Israel’s 70-year captivity. It’s written by Ezra; a scribe who is used to point the people back to God and His commandments during a time when the nation seeks to rebuild the house of God. This book is closely related to the book of Nehemiah—both focusing on Israel’s return from captivity and the rebuilding that takes place.
Rebuilding the Temple (Ch. 1-6)
The Exiles Return to Jerusalem
In chapters 1 and 2, God’s people returned home. It began with a change of heart God made in the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia. He stirred up the king’s spirit, after 70 years of exile, to allow the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. All of God’s people were allowed to return if they desired. And furthermore, they were allowed to take back treasures captured from Jerusalem. God was moving on their behalf in a mighty way!
Rebuilding the Temple
Tens of thousands of people have returned, and work begins with first rebuilding the altar, then the temple. A man named Jeshua, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel with his kinsmen, built the altar of the God first and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
The two men then led the people to start rebuilding the temple. However, not everything went as planned. Men rose up in opposition to the work being done in Jerusalem. They initially tried to thwart the rebuilding by spreading discouragement of the tribes. But then they eventually sent a letter to the king of Persia that the people in Jerusalem were wicked and would not serve Persia. So, orders were sent by the king for work to stop.
A prophetic word was given to the Jews, and they began rebuilding. Word reached the king in Persia, but because he had found the decree given by Cyrus years prior, work was allowed to continue. The temple was then finished, and the Passover was celebrated. This return and the rebuilding covered roughly twenty years of history.
Returning to the Law (Ch. 7-10)
About sixty years after the temple was finished, a scribe named Ezra—skilled in the Law of Moses—who was living in Persia was granted by the king the ability to return to Jerusalem. Ezra returned with a second wave of Jews and then became a priest (as he was an heir of Aaron the Priest), leading the way in reminding the people the laws of God. He set out to point Israel back to God, and renewal among the Jews took place.
What We Can Learn
The book of Ezra shows up a key bridge in Israel’s history from exile to unification. But it also serves as a beautiful reminder that God does not forget or abandon His people, and that includes you! We are also able to see through this account that God can move the hearts of unbelievers for His people’s benefit and ultimate purpose. God is faithful to those who love Him!
“For we were slaves, but in his unfailing love our God did not abandon us in our slavery.” Ezra 9:9