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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 to Israel.

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:

  • Chapter 1 - Decree of Cyrus the Persian allowing the Jews to return.
  • Chapter 2 - List of those who first returned led by Zerubbabel.
  • Chapter 3 - Foundations of a new Temple are laid.
  • Chapter 4 - Work on the Temple is stopped due to opposition.
  • Chapter 5 - The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encourage the Jews to begin to rebuild the ruined city.
  • Chapter 6 - King Darius supports rebuilding of Temple - Temple finished.
  • Chapter 7 - Second return of exiles led by Ezra helped by King Artaxerxes.
  • Chapter 8 - List of returning exiles.
  • Chapter 9 - Problem of mixed marriages among Jews.
  • Chapter 10 - Solution to problem.




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