Ezra

These are all of the chapters of the book of Ezra. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of Ezra in the Bible (New International Version).

Bible open to the Book of Ezra, Ezra summary

Who Wrote the Book of Ezra?

Although he is not specifically stated as the author, the Book of Ezra is generally attributed to Ezra himself. This is based on Jewish tradition and several first-person references from chapter 8 forward. It is clear that the person writing has a strong firsthand knowledge of the events in chapters 1-7 and is a personal eyewitness account of the events taking place in chapters 8-10. Ezra, as the leader of the returning exiles in chapter 8, would have been an eyewitness and participant in these events. As a priest and educated scribe (Ezra 7:6), he would have had access to the documentation of the first group of returning exiles. This makes Ezra the obvious and most likely author.

Context and Background of Ezra

The Book of Ezra is written against a worldwide backdrop of change and search for meaning. During this time period, Gautama Buddha (c. 560-480 B.C.) was in India, Confucius (531-479 B.C) was in China, and Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was in Greece. Throughout the world, these new philosophies and ways of thinking began to appear that continue to influence the world to this day.

While all this change was happening in the world, Ezra follows the story of God’s people who have been in exile and picks up exactly where II Chronicles ends. Ezra documents two waves of Jewish people returning to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile in Babylon. This return is prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid”’ (Isaiah 44:28). The fulfillment of this prophecy is exactly what is documented by Ezra.  

Ezra is neatly divided into two halves: Chapters 1-6 documents the first wave of return under Zerubbabel, and chapters 7-10 document events that occur more than 60 years later with the second wave of return led by Ezra. As a note of interest, the events of the biblical book of Esther occur between chapters 6 and 7.

Main Theme and Purpose of Ezra

The main theme of Ezra is one of restoration: the restoration of the people to God and to their land, and the restoration of the Temple and proper worship of God. There is also a theme of faithfulness throughout the book. As God’s promise of return is being faithfully fulfilled, there are those among the people who quickly turn away, yet many more who are faithful through struggles.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are so closely related that for many years they were considered in the Hebrew Bible to be one book, as an extension of 1 and 2 Chronicles. This is because while Ezra works to re-establish the temple and the moral fabric of the people, Nehemiah arrives later to rebuild the city wall around Jerusalem.

Ezra calls the people back to covenant loyalty and obedience to the Mosaic Law. The book rejoices in God’s provision in returning His people to the promised land, rebuilding the temple, and calling His people back to himself. The book also warns against falling away again through sin and against serving other gods. The remnant of Israel should persevere in hope, repent in humility, and live in obedience.

What Can We Learn from Ezra Today?

The Faithfulness of God
It is important to remember that it has been 70 years since the people were taken away from Israel into exile. Many of these returning to the land have never actually been in the land at all. Many of these who are ‘returning’ were born in exile and had spent their entire lives in a completely foreign society. Their return to Israel was, for so many, their first time going there. Yet while many chose to stay in Babylon, which is what they knew are what was familiar. these who chose to return embarked on this difficult journey based on what they knew of God, what they knew of His faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 119:90), and based on what they had heard from their parents and grandparents. It is also a reminder that God is working in a big picture that we may or may not see fulfilled in our lifetime.

Perseverance
Packing up all of their belongings and saying farewell to life in Babylon, the journey to Jerusalem was nearly four months over difficult terrain. This return was not for the faint of heart, and once they arrived there was much work to be done. It is important to note that even when doing the work they had been called by God to do (rebuild the temple, rebuild the city wall) they faced strong opposition and setbacks: “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill” Ezra 4:24.

As we go about the work God has called us to do, we can expect the same kind of setbacks and opposition. It is for us to remain faithful in prayer, and trust in God that He will accomplish His purposes in His time.

Pursuit of Holiness
Upon returning to the land, Ezra’s first priority was to re-establish the culture of holiness, Temple worship, and observance of God’s law among the people in their daily activities. Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Although the Jews suffered greatly and faced powerful cultural pressures in a foreign land, they maintained their national spirit and religious identity. Elders supervised the Jewish communities, and Ezekiel was one of several prophets who kept alive the hope of one day returning home. This was possibly also the period when synagogues were first established, for the Jews observed the Sabbath and religious holidays, practiced circumcision, and substituted prayers for former ritual sacrifices in the Temple.”

Today we face the same cultural pressures, and our society is not always welcoming of our faith. Yet we must be steadfast, following God daily, staying in his word, in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers to keep one another accountable to do the difficult tasks that we are called to.

God’s Work through Leadership
Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah are men chosen of God to lead His people politically, spiritually, and physically. This came through the rebuilding of their culture, their temple, their city wall, and their perseverance and pursuit of righteousness. May we strive to be these kinds of leaders, holding tight to God’s Word, and may we be supportive of those who lead us in our faith.

Our Favorite Verses from Ezra

Ezra 1:2 [This is what Cyrus king of Persia says]: "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.”

Ezra 3:11 – “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

Ezra 6:10 – “...so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.”

Ezra 7:10 – “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

Ezra 7:13 – “Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go.”

Sources

  • Insight.org. Book of Ezra Overview.
  • The New Open Bible. (1990). Nashville: T. Nelson, p.1468.
  • The Ryrie Study Bible. (1978). Chicago: Moody, p.693.
  • ESV Bible. Introduction to Ezra | ESV.org.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. Babylonian Captivity | Definition, History, & Significance.

Photo credit: ©Sparrowstock

Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on TwitterInstagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.