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The Book of Ezra is a natural continuation of those of
Chronicles, and has apparently been put together by the same compiler.
Hebrew tradition ascribes its authorship to Ezra himself, "a ready
scribe." While this can not be correct as applied to the entire book,
yet in some passages Ezra's words are given in the first person, as
though spoken directly. Evidently the editor or chronicler has
incorporated the personal memoirs of Ezra, which constitute a source of
first-class historical information. This is especially important, since
the chronicler himself lived at a later time. In addition to these
memoirs he used a series of documents containing the correspondence of
the Persian Kings, which were written in Aramaic, which was the
diplomatic language of the Persian court for its official business in
Syria. Palestine and Egypt.
The book is divided into two parts. The six opening chapters tell of the
first return of some portion of the Jews from their Babylonian
captivity. This migration occurred in 537-6 B.C. under the direction of
Sheshbazzar. Whether he was the same as Zerubbabel, who is afterward
mentioned as the active leader, or whether Zurubbabel was his nephew, at
any rate he was a descendant of the former kings of Judah. Cyrus had
made him Persian governor of the province Judea. The return of these
exiles seems to have been actuated largely by religious motives; and the
chief effort of the colonist was devoted at first to the rebuilding of
the Temple. But untoward circumstances and the opposition of hostile
neighbors delayed this work for many years. Under the influence of the
prophets Haggai and Zechariah it was taken up again- and the temple was
completed in 516 B.C.
After this there is in the book an unnoted gap of time during which
sixty years elapse: and chapter seven begins the personal experiences of
Ezra. Eighty years after the first migration, Ezra led a second host of
the Jews back to their native land. Under his guidance a vigorous
religious reformation was inaugurated.
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Ezra Chapter 1
The proclamation of Cyrus for the
rebuilding of the temple 1-4. The people provide for their return
Ezra Chapter 2
The numbers that returned 1-35.
The numbers of the priests and Levites 36-63. The offerings for the
Ezra Chapter 3
The altar and festivals 1-7. The
foundations of the temple laid 8-13.
Ezra Chapter 4
The adversaries of the temple
1-5. The building of the temple is hindered 6-24.
Ezra Chapter 5
The leaders forward the building
of the temple 1-2, letter against the Jews 3-17.
Ezra Chapter 6
The decree for completing the
temple 1-12. The temple is finished 13-22.
Ezra Chapter 7
Ezra goes up to Jerusalem 1-10.
The commission to Ezra 11-26. Ezra blesses God for his favor 27-28.
Ezra Chapter 8
The companions of Ezra 1-20. Ezra
implores God's blessing 21-23. Treasures committed to the priests
24-30. Ezra arrives at Jerusalem 31-36.
Ezra Chapter 9
Ezra mourns for the Jews' conduct
1-4. Ezra's confession of sins 5-15.
Ezra Chapter 10
Ezra encourages to reformation
1-5. He assembles the people 6-14. Reformation effected 15-44.
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