The book of Ezra deals with the period when the Jews returned
from exile in Babylon (where they had been captives for 70 years
following the overthrow of Jerusalem in 586BC).
The Persian monarch, Cyrus I, recorded his exploits on a clay
cylinder, which is now in the British Museum, London. The inscriptions
on the cylinder include his decree made in 536BC, which allowed
the Jews who were in exile in Babylonia and Persia to return
This fulfilled God's promise, made through the prophet Jeremiah,
that the Jews would be able to come back from Babylon after
70 years of captivity (see Jeremiah 29:10).
A small number of Jews, led by Zerubbabel (a prince of the
royal tribe of Judah) and Joshua (the High Priest), returned
to Israel under the initial decree of Cyrus.
Enemies of the Jews tried to stop them rebuilding the Temple
but God's prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them to resume
the work and the next Persian king, Darius I, supported them.
Ezra was a priest descended from Aaron, and a scribe (a writer
and teacher) skilled in the Law of Moses. He led a second return
of exiles to the land and, from chapter 7 onwards, we read of
this and of his efforts to reform the nation. He taught them
the word of God and showed them their need for total separation
from the false worship and ways of the nations around them.
Contents of the book of Ezra: