- A descendent of Israel’s high priest, Aaron (7:1-5) and a scribe (7:6), an expert instructor in the Law.
- The Talmud (Jewish tradition) says that he was the president of a council of 120 men who formed the Old Testament Canon.
- Tradition tells us that he was the founder of synagogue worship that began during the days of captivity…it continued when they returned to the land.
- He probably wrote portions of 1 & 2 Chronicles, and Psalm 119.
- He was a deeply devout man (7:10; 9:5-15; 10:1).
- He was committed to the teaching of God’s Word.
A Jewish commentary demonstrates the vital role that Ezra played in the history of Israel…
Two individuals played a critical role in the re-establishment of the Jewish community in Israel. One was Ezra.
A scribe and scholar and a Jewish community leader in Persia, Ezra, a cohen, hears that the Jewish community in the Holy Land is floundering with neither king nor prophet. So, he takes with him 1,496 well-chosen men with leadership abilities and comes to the rescue.
Ezra is so well thought of in the Talmud that it is written of him that "the Torah could have been given to Israel through Ezra, if not that Moses preceded him" (Sanhedrin 21b).
This high praise goes to Ezra for the spiritual rebuilding of the Jewish people and his efforts to reinstate Torah law in the land.
Ezra was probably between 456-444 B.C. (10:17-44)
A suggested chronology of Ezra:
537 BC The Proclamation of Cyrus
537 BC The Exiles Return
535 BC Temple Work Begins
534 BC Adversaries Hinder Temple Work
534 BC Artaxerxes Orders Work Stopped
520 BC Tattenai's Letter to Darius
520 BC Temple Work Resumed by Darius' Decree
515 BC Completion and Dedication of the Temple
458 BC Ezra Journeys to Jerusalem
458 BC Ezra Commissioned by Artaxerxes
457 BC Families Return to Jerusalem with Ezra
457 BC Ezra's reforms
456 BC Ezra's Prayer About Intermarriage
The Biblical Timeline Book by Book:
Genesis…history from Creation through entry into Egypt
Exodus…history from Exodus through Sinai
Leviticus…one year after the Exodus
Numbers…history, starting one month after the close of the book of Exodus and continuing through 39 years of wandering in the wilderness…concluding at the border to the Promised Land (Canaan)
Deuteronomy…the addresses given by Moses during the final months of his life while Israel was camped across from the Promised Land
Joshua…The conquest of the land of Canaan around 1400 B.C.
Judges…The events of Judges take place between 1380 & 1050 B.C. The period of history ends with the last Judge, Samson.
Ruth…The events of this book occurred during the time period of the Judges (the latter half of the twelfth century B.C.)
1 Samuel…begins with the life of Samuel (the last of the Judges) and ends with the death of Israel’s first King, Saul…a time frame of about 115 years.
2 Samuel…records the history of King David’s reign.
1 Kings…covers the time from the reign of Solomon (971-931 B.C.) till the death of Elijah, the reign of Jehoshapat in Judah and Ahaziah in Israel.
2 Kings…picks up where 1 Kings left off…both countries are eventually taken into captivity and their populations deported. 1 & 2 Kings cover a period of about 400 years.
1 Chronicles...Creation to Solomon
2 Chronicles…Solomon through the Divided Kingdom
Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible. These books tell of the return of God’s chosen people from Babylon to their own land after the exile. The time period covered by these two books is about 100 years. The Book of Esther deals with the people who stayed in Babylon instead of returning to Judah…and takes place between chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-8 of Ezra.
Isaiah (44:28-45:13) had prophesied 200 years before about the exile and return of the people from captivity. He was so specific that he even gave the name of the king who was not even yet born…Cyrus!
During the time while the people were in Babylon the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel told the Jews that they would eventually return to their own land and would rebuild Jerusalem. Jeremiah (25:11-12; 29:10-13) said that it would happen after 70 years.
The Books of Kings ended with the captivity/exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (never to return…2 Kings 17) by Assyria…followed by the captivity/exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 25) by Babylon. Daniel was carried into exile to Babylon with Judah. The last incident in this line of history was the story of Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:16-24). This took place about 10 years before Cyrus overthrew Babylon. Daniel was an old man at this time.
Cyrus (king of Persia) overthrew Babylon in 539 B.C. He then issued a decree to allow the Jews to return to Judah in 538 B.C. About 50,000 Jews returned to Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel. The foundation of the Temple was laid, but was not completed until 515 B.C. under the reign of King Dairus. Ezra 1-6 records these events. Ezra 7-10 describes Ezra's return to Jerusalem under the favor of King Artaxerxes...to bring spiritual renewal to the people.
There were several kings in Persia during this period of Judah’s history:
King dates Chapters in Ezra Relation to other OT books
Cyrus 538-530 1-6
Cambyses 530-522 not mentioned Haggai (520)
Smerdis 522 not mentioned Zechariah (520-515)
Darius I 521-486 1-6
Xerxes I 486-465 4:6 Esther (474)
*also known as Ahasuerus
Artaxerxes I 464-423 4:7-23; 7-10 Malachi (450-400)
Darius II 423-404 Nehemiah (445-425)
1st Return of the Jews to Judah & the Rebuilding of the Temple Ezra 1-6
Ezra 1:1-11 The Decree of Cyrus for the People to Return to Judah
This took place in 537 B.C. Cyrus's actions fulfilled a prophecy made 200 years earlier by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:12).
1:2 This acknowledgement (cf. vv. 3,4) of Yahweh provides no clear proof that Cyrus was a believer…but is evidence of his policy to conciliate captive peoples and their religions, as described in the Cyrus Cylinder. This decree was discovered by Dairus I some 20 years later (6:2).
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote on Ezra 1:2, p. 694
Ezra 1:8-“Sheshbazzar” is Zerubbabel’s Babylonian name (cf. 5:16 with Zechariah 4:9). He was the godly grandson of the wicked King Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:17-19; cf. Haggai 2:23).
Ezra 2:1-70 The Numbering of the People Who Would Return
This is a list of the people who returned to Jerusalem.
- 537C.-the first group of Jews (there were 49,897, cf. 2:64-65) were allowed to return to Jerusalem from Babylon (granted by King Cyrus of Persia…Babylon had been conquered by the Medes and Persians-October, 539 B.C.)…under Zerubbabel (governor, cf. Matthew 1:12) and Joshua (priest)…(cf. Ezra 1-6; 1 Chronicles 1-9; Psalms 126, 137; Isaiah 44:23, 45:8).
- Many of the Jews chose to stay in Babylon and not return.
- Only 74 Levites chose to return. 4,289 Priests returned (cf. 36-39).
Prayer: Lord, the very first words of Ezra remind me that You are sovereign…”the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia”. You are in control of everything and everyone. You knew far ahead of time exactly what was going to take place. There is nothing that catches You by surprise. Please help me to remember that fact when I am going through difficult times. Let it give me faith and trust in You.