Scholars say the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were one book originally and that Ezra was the scribe that wrote them both, along with 1 and 2 Chronicles. In the book that bears his name, it is most poetic and symbolic. For Ezra translates to, “Jehovah Helps.”
One of the unique aspects of the book of Ezra is that it is one of the only Old Testament books not quoted in the New Testament. Another interesting piece of information, after seventy years of captivity, the Jews finally were released to return from exile. Ezra was one of the people that led them back. Until the point where Ezra arrived to Jerusalem around 450BC, the book of Ezra is written in the third person. Once in Jerusalem, he changes to the first person.
Across the millennia, the Israelites have been noted for being the best record keepers in history. Not only was Ezra a priest and direct descendant of Aaron, he was a scribe. And a very privileged one.
Very, very few scribes would have had access to the administrative and royal records in the Persian Empire; Ezra did. Along with this, Ezra gets credited for founding the Great Synagogue. The significance of this is obvious. And in this synagogue, the entire Old Testament was first officially recognized.
We must keep in mind that after the first exodus, God warned His people if they strayed from Him again, He would allow foreign nations to oppress and bind them once more. During the time of Ezra, the nation was divided into two, Israel and Judah, and both nations were guilty of idolatry and gross abominations.
Around 700BC God allowed the Assyrians to scatter the l0 tribes that abandoned Him. And less than two hundred years later, the Babylonians practically depopulated them. Soon after Cyrus, the Persian ruler, defeated the Babylonians, he issued a decree that any Jew wishing to return to Jerusalem would be allowed. There they could reestablish their traditions, festivals, celebrations, although they would never regain total autonomy.
The deportation happened in three waves with the first being led by Zerubbabel, then Ezra and finally Nehemiah. There is a similar theme to that of the first exodus. Those on both exoduses were given a fresh chance to rebuild their lives outside of oppression. Both times they faced enemies who tried to stop them. And in both exoduses, they had a Moses-type deliverer, symbolic of Christ.
The exiles also were set free from captivity through a pagan ruler. There is so much documentation, too, supporting this through recorded genealogies, letters, paraphernalia, lists, decrees and proclamations all giving written evidence of the greatness of the God of Israel. Through the administration of the Persian government, the hand of God designed the restoration of His chosen people.
The attempted sabotage of the Samaritan Assyrians during this time did not prevail. The temple was restored and was once again in service to YHWH. Ezra is further proof to the nations that God’s sovereignty is supreme.
Watch this space for Part 2
Written by Jori Sams