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The Book
Book
of Ezra
Ezra
is a book of the Hebrew Bible; which formerly included the Book of Nehemiah
Book of Nehemiah
in a single book, commonly distinguished in scholarship as Ezra–Nehemiah. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century, following late medieval Latin Christian tradition.[1] Its subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity, and it is divided into two parts, the first telling the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
(538 BC) and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
in the sixth year of Darius I
Darius I
(515 BC), the second telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra
Ezra
to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book
Book
of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.[2] Ezra
Ezra
is written to fit a schematic pattern in which the God of Israel inspires a king of Persia to commission a leader from the Jewish community to carry out a mission; three successive leaders carry out three such missions, the first rebuilding the Temple, the second purifying the Jewish community, and the third sealing the holy city itself behind a wall. (This last mission, that of Nehemiah, is not part of the Book
Book
of Ezra.) The theological program of the book explains the many problems its chronological structure presents.[3] It probably appeared in its earliest version around 399 BC, and continued to be revised and edited for several centuries before being accepted as scriptural in the early Christian era.[4]

Contents

1 Summary 2 Historical background 3 Texts

3.1 Ezra–Nehemiah 3.2 First Esdras

4 Date, structure and composition

4.1 Date 4.2 Structure 4.3 Composition

5 Persian documents 6 See also 7 References 8 External links

Summary[edit] The Book
Book
of Ezra
Ezra
consists of ten chapters: chapters 1–6, covering the period from the Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
to the dedication of the Second Temple, are told in the third person; chapters 7–10, dealing with the mission of Ezra, are told largely in the first person. The book contains several documents presented as historical inclusions, written in Aramaic
Aramaic
while the surrounding text is in Hebrew (1:2-4, 4:8-16, 4:17-22, 5:7-17, 6:3-5, 6:6-12, 7:12-26) [5]

Chapters 1–6 (documents included in the text in italics)

1. Decree of Cyrus, first version: Cyrus, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah", and directs the Israelites to return to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
with him and rebuild the Temple. 2. 42,360 exiles, with men servants, women servants and "singing men and women", return from Babylon
Babylon
to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
and Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel
and Jeshua the High Priest. 3. Jeshua the High Priest
Jeshua the High Priest
and Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel
build the altar and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. In the second year the foundations of the Temple are laid and the dedication takes place with great rejoicing. 4. Letter of the Samaritans to Artaxerxes, and reply of Artaxerxes: The "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" offer to help with the rebuilding, but are rebuffed; they then work to frustrate the builders "down to the reign of Darius." The officials of Samaria write to king Artaxerxes warning him that Jerusalem
Jerusalem
is being rebuilt, and the king orders the work to stop. "Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem
Jerusalem
came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." 5. Tattenai's letter to Darius: Through the exhortations of the prophets Haggai
Haggai
and Zechariah, Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel
and Joshua recommence the building of the Temple. Tattenai, satrap over both Judah and Samaria, writes to Darius warning him that Jerusalem
Jerusalem
is being rebuilt and advising that the archives be searched to discover the decree of Cyrus. 6. Decree of Cyrus, second version, and decree of Darius: Darius finds the decree, directs Tattenai not to disturb the Jews in their work, and exempts them from tribute and supplies everything necessary for the offerings. The Temple is finished in the month of Adar in the sixth year of Darius, and the Israelites assemble to celebrate its completion.

Chapters 7–10

7. Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra
Ezra
(Artaxerxes' rescript): King Artaxerxes is moved by God to commission Ezra
Ezra
"to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem
Jerusalem
with regard to the Law of your God" and to "appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God." Artaxerxes gives Ezra
Ezra
much gold and directs all Persian officials to aid him. 8. Ezra
Ezra
gathers a large body of returnees and much gold and silver and precious vessels for the Temple and camps by a canal outside Babylon. There he discovers he has no Levites, and so sends messengers to gather some. The exiles then return to Jerusalem, where they distribute the gold and silver and offer sacrifices to God. 9. Ezra
Ezra
is informed that some of the Jews already in Jerusalem
Jerusalem
have married non-Jewish women. Ezra
Ezra
is appalled at this proof of sin, and prays to God: "O God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence." 10. Despite the opposition of some of their number, the Israelites assemble and send away their foreign wives and children.

Historical background[edit] In the early 6th century BC, the Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
rebelled against the Neo-Babylonian Empire
Neo-Babylonian Empire
and was destroyed. As a result, the royal court, the priests, the prophets and scribes were taken into captivity in the city of Babylon. There a profound intellectual revolution took place, the exiles blaming their fate on disobedience to their God and looking forward to a future when he would allow a purified people to return to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The same period saw the rapid rise of Persia, previously an unimportant kingdom in present-day southern Iran, to a position of great power, and in 539 BC Cyrus II, the Persian ruler, conquered Babylon.[6] It is difficult to describe the parties and politics of Judea
Judea
in this period because of the lack of historical sources, but there seem to have been three important groups involved: the returnees from the exile who claimed the reconstruction with the support of Cyrus I; "the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin"; and a third group, "people of the land", who seem to be local opposition against the returnees building the Temple in Jerusalem. The following table is a guide to major events in the region during the period covered by the Book
Book
of Ezra:

King of Persia[7] Reign (BC) Main events[8] Correlation with Ezra–Nehemiah[9]

Cyrus II 550[?]–530 539 BC Fall of Babylon Directive to the Jews to rebuild the Temple and first return of the exiles to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
(taken as occurring in 538, since Babylon
Babylon
fell in October 539)

Cambyses 530–522 525 Conquest of Egypt

Darius I 522–486 Secures the throne in 520/519 after fighting off various rivals; failed punitive invasion of Greece 515 Temple rebuilt. In the book of Daniel, Darius has the old title of Darius I
Darius I
(king of the Chaldeans = Babylonians), while Koresh has the new one of Xerxes (king of the Persians).[10]

Xerxes 486–465 Failed attempt to conquer Greece; beginning of struggle with Greeks for control of the eastern Mediterranean (Alternative) directive by Koresh to the Jews to rebuild the Temple and first return of the exiles to Jerusalem.

Artaxerxes I 465–424 460–456 Successful suppression of Greek-supported revolt in Egypt 449 Revolt by Megabyzus, governor of the territory which included Judah Currently most widely accepted period for arrival of Ezra
Ezra
"in the seventh year of Artaxerxes" Second return of the exiles to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
(in 458 if the king is Artaxerxes I, or 428 if the year is read as his thirty-seventh instead of his seventh) 445–433 Nehemiah's mission (returns before the death of Artaxerxes)

Darius II 423–404

(Alternative) Temple rebuilt.

Artaxerxes II 404–358 401 Egypt regains independence (Alternative) period for arrival of Ezra
Ezra
and second return of exiles to Jerusalem
Jerusalem
(in 398 if the king is Artaxerxes II)

Artaxerxes III 358–338 Egypt reconquered In his Historia Scholastica Petrus Comestor
Petrus Comestor
identified Artaxerxes III as king Ahasuerus
Ahasuerus
in the book of Esther (Esther 1:1/10:1-2).[11]

Darius III 336–330 The Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
conquered by Alexander the Great

Texts[edit] Ezra–Nehemiah[edit]

Books of the Ketuvim

 

Three poetic books

Psalms Proverbs Job

Five Megillot
Five Megillot
(Scrolls)

Song of Songs Ruth Lamentations Ecclesiastes Esther

Other books

Daniel

Ezra–Nehemiah (Ezra Nehemiah)

Chronicles

Hebrew Bible

v t e

The single Hebrew book Ezra–Nehemiah, with title "Ezra", was translated into Greek around the middle of the 2nd century BC.[12] It was first proposed to be divided into separate books ( I Ezra
Ezra
and II Ezra) by the early Christian scholar Origen
Origen
in the 3rd century AD; and Jerome, writing in the early 5th century, noted that this division had since been adopted by Greek and Latin Christian commentators; although in all surviving Greek and Old Latin manuscripts Ezra- Nehemiah
Nehemiah
is one book denoted as ' Esdras β'. Jerome
Jerome
himself rejected the division in his Vulgate
Vulgate
translation of the Bible
Bible
into Latin from the Hebrew; and consequently no early Vulgate
Vulgate
manuscripts separate the two books, [13] and they remained undivided as a single book in the 8th century commentary of Bede, and in the 9th century bibles of Alcuin
Alcuin
and Theodulf of Orleans. However, from the 9th century onwards, Latin bibles are found that reintroduce Origen's division; and this becomes standard in the Paris Bibles of the 13th century. It was not until 1516/17, in the first printed Rabbinic Bible
Bible
of Daniel Bomberg
Daniel Bomberg
that the separation was introduced generally in Hebrew Bibles. First Esdras[edit] 1 Esdras, also known as " Esdras α", is an alternate Greek-language version of Ezra. This text has one additional section, the 'Tale of the Three Guardsmen' in the middle of Ezra
Ezra
4. The addition arranges the text around a chiastic structure and relieves a textual problem surrounding the identity of King Ahasuerus
Ahasuerus
in Ezra
Ezra
4:6. Although the content is substantially the same, the verses are numbered differently from Ezra. Almost all early Christian references to the ' Book
Book
of Ezra' are citations of 1 Esdras; while the 'Ezra' portions of ' Esdras β' are never cited in patristic writings, and appear never to have been read in church. Date, structure and composition[edit] Date[edit] Koresh of Ezra
Ezra
1:1 is called "king of Persia", which title was introduced not by Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
but by his grandson and probable namesake Xerxes (486–465 BC).[14] Scholars are divided over the chronological sequence of the activities of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah. Ezra
Ezra
7:8 says that Ezra
Ezra
arrived in Jerusalem
Jerusalem
in the seventh year of king Artaxerxes, while Nehemiah
Nehemiah
2:1–9 has Nehemiah
Nehemiah
arriving in Artaxerxes' twentieth year. If this was Artaxerxes I
Artaxerxes I
(465–424 BC), then Ezra
Ezra
arrived in 458 and Nehemiah
Nehemiah
in 445 BC. Nehemiah
Nehemiah
8–9, in which the two (possibly by editorial error) appear together, supports this scenario.[15] It was proposed that Ezra's Artaxerxes was Artaxerxes II
Artaxerxes II
(404–359 BC), and that the sequence should be reversed, with Nehemiah
Nehemiah
arriving in 445 and Ezra
Ezra
in 398 BC. The argument has some persuasive evidence; for example:

The Elephantine papyri mention the high priest Johanan as a contemporary of Darius II
Darius II
(423–404 BC) at the 17th year of his reign (407 BC).[16][17] Furthermore in the book of Ezra, Artaxerxes follows king Darius ( Ezra
Ezra
6:1), while Johanan ( Ezra
Ezra
10:6) is mentioned as (grand)son ( Nehemiah
Nehemiah
12:22) of the high priest at the time of Nehemiah, Eliashib ( Nehemiah
Nehemiah
3:1).

Nehemiah's mission is to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and Ezra
Ezra
9:9 notes that Ezra
Ezra
found the walls in place when he arrived, and while Nehemiah
Nehemiah
lists the returnees who came back with Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel
he seems to know nothing about the 5,000 or so who accompanied Ezra.

In Ezra
Ezra
4:8 the text changes from Hebrew to Aramaic, therefore the king's name in Ezra
Ezra
4:7, also used in the following letter, possibly is the Aramaic
Aramaic
version of the king's name AhaSuerus mentioned in Ezra 4:6. The above suggests the following identifications:

Koresh in Ezra
Ezra
1:1 = Xerxes I
Xerxes I
((486)/5–465 BC) Artachsasta (Aramaic) in Nehemia 2:1 - 13:6 = Artaxerxes I
Artaxerxes I
(465–424 BC) Darius in Ezra
Ezra
4:24 = Darius II
Darius II
(423–404 BC) Ahasuerus
Ahasuerus
(Hebrew) in Ezra
Ezra
4:6 and Artachsasta in Ezra
Ezra
4:7 - 8.1 = Artaxerxes II
Artaxerxes II
(404–358 BC)

Structure[edit] The contents of Ezra–Nehemiah
Ezra–Nehemiah
are structured in a theological rather than chronological order: "The Temple must come first, then the purifying of the community, then the building of the outer walls of the city, and so finally all could reach a grand climax in the reading of the law."[18] The narrative follows a repeating pattern in which the God of Israel "stirs up" the king of Persia to commission a Jewish leader (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah) to undertake a mission; the leader completes his mission in the face of opposition; and success is marked by a great assembly.[19] The tasks of the three leaders are progressive: first the Temple is restored (Zerubabbel), then the community of Israel (Ezra), and finally the walls which will separate the purified community and Temple from the outside world (Nehemiah).[20] The pattern is completed with a final coda in which Nehemiah
Nehemiah
restores the belief of Yahweh.[21] This concern with a schematic pattern-making, rather than with history in the modern sense of a factual account of events in the order in which they occurred, explains the origin of the many problems which surround both Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah
Nehemiah
as historical sources.[22] Composition[edit] Twentieth-century views on the composition of Ezra
Ezra
revolved around whether the author was Ezra
Ezra
himself (and who may have also authored the Books of Chronicles) or was another author or authors (who also wrote the Chronicles).[23] More recently it has been increasingly recognised that Ezra, Nehemiah
Nehemiah
and Chronicles all have extremely complex histories stretching over many stages of editing,[24] and most scholars now are cautious of assuming a unified composition with a single theology and point of view.[25] As an indication of the many layers of editing which Ezra
Ezra
has undergone, one recent study finds that Ezra
Ezra
1–6 and Ezra
Ezra
9–10 were originally separate documents, that they were spliced together at a later stage by the authors of Ezra
Ezra
7–8, and that all have undergone extensive later editing.[26] Persian documents[edit] Seven purported Persian decrees of kings or letters to and from high officials are quoted in Ezra. Their authenticity has been contentious; while some scholars accept them in their current form, most accept only part of them as genuine, while still others reject them entirely. L.L. Grabbe surveys six tests against which the documents can be measured (comparative known Persian material, linguistic details, contents, presence of Jewish theology, the Persian attitude to local religions, and Persian letter-writing formulas) and concludes that all the documents are late post-Persian works and probable forgeries, but that some features suggest a genuine Persian correspondence behind some of them.[27] See also[edit]

Esdras

References[edit]

^ Bogaert, Pierre-Maurice (2000). "Les livres d' Esdras et leur numérotation dans l'histoire du canon de la Bible
Bible
latin". Revue Benedictine. 110: 5–26.  ^ Albright, William (1963). The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra: An Historical Survey. Harpercollins College Div. ISBN 0-06-130102-7.  ^ Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) pp.1–3 ^ Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Judaism, the first phase" (Eerdmans, 2009) p.87 ^ Torrey, C. C. (April 1908). "The Aramaic
Aramaic
Portions of Ezra". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. 24 (3): 209–281. JSTOR 527607.  ^ Fensham, F. Charles, "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Eerdmans, 1982) p. 10 ^ Coggins, R.J., "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Cambridge University Press, 1976) p. xi ^ Fensham, F. Charles, "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Eerdmans, 1982) pp. 10–16 ^ Min, Kyung-Jin, "The Levitical authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah" (T&T Clark, 2004) pp. 31–32 ^ Roman Ghirshman, Iran (1954), Penguin Books, p 191. ^ https://la.wikisource.org/wiki/Historia_Scholastica/Esther#De_Ocho_seu_Artaxerxe. ^ Graham, M.P, and McKenzie, Steven L., "The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
today: an introduction to critical issues" (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) p. 202 ^ Bogaert, Pierre-Maurice (2000). "Les livres d' Esdras et leur numérotation dans l'histoire du canon de la Bible
Bible
latin". Revue Benedictine. 110: 5–26.  ^ Roman Ghirshman, Iran (1954), Penguin Books, p 191. ^ M. Patrick Graham, The "Chronicler's History": Ezra-Nehemiah, 1–2 Chronicles in Graham, M.P, and McKenzie, Steven L., "The Hebrew Bible today: an introduction to critical issues" (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), pp. 204–05 ^ Pritchard, James B. ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, third edition with supplement 1969, p. 492 ^ Bezalel Porten (Author), J. J. Farber (Author), C. J. F. Martin (Author), G. Vittmann (Author), The Elephantine Papyri in English (Documenta Et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui, book 22), Koninklijke Brill NV, The Netherlands, 1996, p 125-153. ^ R.J. Coggins, "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Cambridge University Press, 1976)p.107, quoted in Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) p.3 ^ Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) pp.2–4 ^ Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) p.3 ^ Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) p.2 ^ Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992) pp1-3 ^ Fensham, F. Charles, "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Eerdmans, 1982) pp.1–2 ff. ^ Pakkala, Juha, " Ezra
Ezra
the scribe: the development of Ezra
Ezra
7–10 and Nehemiah
Nehemiah
8" (Walter de Gryter, 2004) p.16 ^ Grabbe, L.L., "A history of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1" (T&T Clark, 2004) p.71 ^ Ezra
Ezra
the Scribe.  ^ Grabbe, L.L., "A history of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1" (T&T Clark, 2004) p.78

External links[edit]

Wikisource
Wikisource
has original text related to this article: The Book
Book
of Ezra

Commentaries

Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary" (Eerdmans, 1988) Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Judaism, the first phase" (Eerdmans, 2009) Coggins, R.J., "The Books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Cambridge University Press, 1976) Ecker, Ronald L., " Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah", Ecker's Biblical Web Pages, 2007. Fensham, F. Charles, "The books of Ezra
Ezra
and Nehemiah" (Eerdmans, 1982) Grabbe, L.L., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (Routledge, 1998) Grabbe, L.L., "A history of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1" (T&T Clark, 2004) Pakkala, Juha, " Ezra
Ezra
the scribe: the development of Ezra
Ezra
7–10 and Nehemiah
Nehemiah
8" (Walter de Gryter, 2004) Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992)

Translations

Ezra
Ezra
(Judaica Press) – translation [with Rashi's commentary] at Chabad.org Bible
Bible
Gateway (opens at NIV version) Ezra
Ezra
– King James Version Bible: Ezra
Ezra
public domain audiobook at LibriVox

Book
Book
of Ezra History books

Preceded by Daniel Hebrew Bible Succeeded by Nehemiah

Preceded by 1–2 Chronicles Western Old Testament

Preceded by 1 Esdras Eastern Old Testament

v t e

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