Ezra’s Love for God’s Word

Keeper and probably the final Holy Spirit-inspired editor of the Old Testament’s writings. By the Spirit’s leading, Ezra used historical records to compile 1 and 2 Chronicles, as well as Ezra 1–6. By the Spirit’s leading, Ezra wrote Ezra 7–10, edited the Psalms, and wrote Psalm 119.

David Sanford
open book with pages folded into heart shape at sunset healing

Ezra’s great grandfather was Hilkiah, who ensured the preservation of the earliest books of the Old Testament during Judah’s darkest years and later led a national revival (2 Kings 22:3–23:25; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33). Hilkiah’s stellar example even in old age appears to have greatly influenced his great-grandson, Ezra.

Ezra’s Highlights

Claims to fame: Priest (by birth). Scribe (by training). The good hand of God was on him (Ezra 7:6,9,28; 8:18; 8:22). A mighty prayer (Ezra 9:5–10:1).

He led two revivals in Jerusalem and may have finalized the Hebrew alphabet. Keeper (Ezra 7:14) and probably the final Holy Spirit-inspired editor of the Old Testament’s writings.

By the Spirit’s leading, Ezra used historical records to compile 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, as well as Ezra 1–6. By the Spirit’s leading, Ezra wrote Ezra 7–10, edited the Psalms, and wrote Psalm 119.

Ezra Loved God’s Word

The more you love someone or something, the more you talk about them. To say the least, Ezra had a lot of wonderful things to say about his greatest love.

When Ezra writes the book named after him, he talks about the Lord God’s word, law, commandments, ways, statutes, and judgments (or ordinances).

These terms and two others — precepts and testimonies — are used in 171 of the 176 verses in Psalm 119. Yes, that easily makes Psalm 119 the longest chapter in the whole Bible.

In comparison, Ezra 1–6 (before his lifetime) has 157 verses and Ezra 7–10 (during Ezra’s lifetime) has only 123 verses.

The Book of Ezra

Ezra is the tenth book of Israelite history. It’s written decades after the 70-year Babylonian captivity. It begins the story of rebuilding (continued in the next book).

So, what happens in Ezra’s book? Let’s start with Ezra 1–6.

Over the course of two centuries, three empires have ruled the regions east of the Mediterranean Sea. The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel.

The Babylonians crushed the southern kingdom of Judah. The Persians, however, do the unexpected: they grant permission for the exiled Jews and their descendants to return to the Promised Land and rebuild the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-11).

Nearly fifty thousand Jewish exiles — mostly from the kingdom of Judah — return to the

Promised Land (Ezra 2:1-70). They rebuild the altar of the Lord, then begin rebuilding the Temple, only to face opposition and stop working (Ezra 3:1–4:5).

Such opposition is not unique. Later generations will face even worse opposition (Ezra 4:6-23). In this situation, however, two prophets of the Lord rise up to spur the people back into action.

Almost immediately, enemies challenge the Jews and send an official complaint to King Darius. Surprisingly, Darius commands the enemies to help the Jewish people posthaste!

The Temple is finished by late winter, and the Passover is celebrated with great joy a few weeks later (Ezra 4:24–6:22).

All of this takes place before Ezra’s birth. Nearly six decades later, Ezra, the scribe leads another group of Jewish exiles back to the Promised Land. This is a dangerous undertaking, especially considering the immense wealth they took with them. Like the earlier group, these exiles enjoy official support from the king of Persia (Ezra 7:1–8:36).

Some months after arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra learns that many of the Jews have begun intermarrying with pagan neighbors.

In front of the Temple, Ezra cries out to the Lord and confesses the nation’s sins. His public mourning through prayer sparks a national religious revival (Ezra 9:1–10:44).

Again, the story of rebuilding continues in the next book, Nehemiah, which among other things features the revival Ezra and Nehemiah led together.

Ezra’s Relevance

Many travelers say a hurried prayer for safety as they head down the road. Ezra’s earnest prayers for a safe journey (Ezra 8:11), however, were anything but hurried or half-hearted. Ahead of Ezra and his band of returning refugees lay a desert fraught with danger.

Behind them stood the king to whom Ezra desperately wanted to prove the power of God. With prayer and fasting, the entire community asked God to keep them safe on their journey to Jerusalem.

Ezra was no flippant fellow. He knew the trip would be no picnic and he seriously considered the risks to both limb and luggage. It was not because he was naïve or proud that he refused the king’s soldiers as escorts.

He simply didn’t want to be ashamed of proclaiming trust in the Lord while appearing to hide behind the king’s protection. Ezra wanted God to be glorified, and in this case, it would be far too easy for the king to take credit for their safety.

Neither did Ezra make assumptions. By setting aside time to fast and ask God to protect them, the people focused their minds on him. They knew from the beginning whom to thank when they got to the end of the road with their children and belongings still safe and sound.

Ezra was not the only leader to make this trip to Jerusalem. To read how Nehemiah accepted the king’s guard as God’s provision, see Nehemiah 2:7-9. Like Ezra, Nehemiah knew all that was accomplished for Israel was because of the good hand of God upon him.

Two different choices for two different journeys — but both men called on God and trusted him for safety (Nehemiah 1:4–2:6).

Whether we go by plane or train, and whether or not we purchase travel insurance, in the end, it’s the Lord to whom we pray and on whom we depend for protection every day.

Scriptures about Ezra

If you’re going to read only four Bible chapters about Ezra, take 10 minutes and read Ezra 7–10. Or take three minutes and read about a second revival that Ezra led with Judea’s governor in Nehemiah 8.

Did You Know?

Ezra wrote in two languages. He wrote Ezra 4:8–6:18 and Ezra 7:12-26 in Aramaic, and the rest in Hebrew. The first language relates to the content of those particular sections.

For further reading: 

How Can Jesus and the Bible Both be the Word of God?

Why Should We Study the Old Testament?

Why Do We Need the Old Testament?

Book of Ezra Summary

What Is the Importance of ‘As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord’?

How to Live Out Faith Found in Hebrews 11

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kieferpix

headshot of David Sanford new 2020 David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His newest book is Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s new book, Life Map Devotional for Women.

Originally published April 26, 2021.