Book of Ezra
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The Book of Ezra is a book of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scriptures, including the , the , and the . These texts are almost exclusively in , with a few passages in (in the books of and , the verse 10:11, and some single words). The authoritativ ...

Hebrew Bible
; which formerly included the
Book of Nehemiah The Book of Nehemiah, in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almos ...
in a single book, commonly distinguished in scholarship as
Ezra–Nehemiah Ezra–Nehemiah ( he, עזרא נחמיה , ') is a book in the Hebrew Bible found in the Ketuvim section, originally with the Hebrew title of Ezra ( he, עזרא, '). The book covers the period from the fall of Babylon in 539 BC to the seco ...
. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century, following late medieval Latin Christian tradition. Composed in Hebrew and Aramaic, its subject is the
Return to Zion The return to Zion ( he, שִׁיבָת צִיּוֹן, translit=Shivat Tzion or , ) is an event recorded in Ezra–Nehemiah of the Hebrew Bible in which the Jews of the subjugated Kingdom of Judah were freed from the Babylonian captivity followin ...
following the close of the
Babylonian captivity The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon, the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. After the Battle of Carchemish in ...
, 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 II of Persia ( peo, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš; ; ) commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group native ...

Cyrus the Great
(538 BC) and the completion and dedication of the new
Temple in Jerusalem Two ancient Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the ...
in the sixth year of
Darius I Darius I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian: ''Dāryuš''; grc, wiktionary:Δαρεῖος, Δαρεῖος ; ; c. 550 – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was the third List ...
(515 BC), the second telling of the subsequent mission of
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...

Ezra
to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the
Book of Nehemiah The Book of Nehemiah, in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almos ...
, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible. Ezra is written to fit a schematic pattern in which the God of Israel inspires a
king of Persia This article lists the monarchs of Persia (Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to t ...
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 Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah The Book of Nehemiah, in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including th ...

Nehemiah
, is not part of the Book of Ezra.) The theological program of the book explains the many problems its chronological structure presents. 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.Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Judaism, the first phase" (Eerdmans, 2009)
p.87


Summary

The Book of Ezra consists of ten chapters: chapters 1–6, covering the period from the
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia ( peo, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš; ; ) commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group native ...
to the dedication of the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Se ...

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 (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
while the surrounding text is in
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
(1:2–4, 4:8–16, 4:17–22, 5:7–17, 6:3–5, 6:6–12, 7:12–26) ;''Chapters 1–6 (documents included in the text in italics)'' *1. ''Decree of Cyrus, first version'':
Cyrus Cyrus (Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian lan ...
, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to
Sheshbazzar According to the biblical narrative, Zerubbabel, ''Zorobabel''; la, Zorobabel; Akkadian: 𒆰𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 ''Zērubābili'' was a governor of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translatio ...
, "prince of Judah", and directs the Israelites to return to Jerusalem with him and rebuild the Temple. *2. 42,360 exiles, with men servants, women servants and "singing men and women", return from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah under the leadership of
Zerubbabel According to the biblical narrative, Zerubbabel, ''Zorobabel''; la, Zorobabel; Akkadian: 𒆰𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 ''Zērubābili'' was a governor of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translatio ...

Zerubbabel
and
Jeshua the High Priest Joshua (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancest ...
. *3.
Jeshua the High Priest Joshua (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancest ...
and Zerubbabel build the altar and celebrate the
Feast of Tabernacles or ("Booths, Tabernacles") , observedby = Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2International Organization for Standardization, ISO 259 is a series of international standards for the romanization of Hebrew, romanization of Hebr ...
. 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 is being rebuilt, and the king orders the work to stop. "Thus the work on the house of God in 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 (; he, חַגַּי – ''Ḥaggay''; Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common su ...

Haggai
and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua recommence the building of the Temple. Tattenai, satrap over both Judah and Samaria, writes to Darius warning him that 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 (Artaxerxes' rescript)'': King Artaxerxes is moved by God to commission Ezra "to inquire about Judah and 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 much gold and directs all Persian officials to aid him. *8. 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 is informed that some of the Jews already in Jerusalem have married non-Jewish women. 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

In the early 6th century BC, the
Kingdom of Judah The Kingdom of Judah ( he, יְהוּדָה, ''Yəhūdā''; akk, 𒅀𒌑𒁕𒀀𒀀 ''Ya'uda'' 'ia-ú-da-a-a'' arc, 𐤁‬𐤉‬𐤕‬𐤃𐤅‬𐤃 ''Bēyt Dāwīḏ'') was an Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ' ...
rebelled against the
Neo-Babylonian Empire The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire and historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last of the Mesopotamian empires to be ruled by monarchs native to Mesopotamia. Beginning with Nabopolassar's coronation as ...

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 ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Bāḇel'' * syc, ܒܒܠ ''Bāḇel'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bavel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babili' ...

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 (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusałē ...

Jerusalem
and rebuild the
Temple in Jerusalem Two ancient Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the ...
. 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 Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histor ...

Cyrus II
, the Persian ruler, conquered Babylon. It is difficult to describe the parties and politics of
Judea Judea or Judaea ( or ; from he, יהודה, Standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology ...

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 II Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histor ...

Cyrus II
; "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 of Ezra:


Texts


Ezra–Nehemiah

The single Hebrew book
Ezra–Nehemiah Ezra–Nehemiah ( he, עזרא נחמיה , ') is a book in the Hebrew Bible found in the Ketuvim section, originally with the Hebrew title of Ezra ( he, עזרא, '). The book covers the period from the fall of Babylon in 539 BC to the seco ...
, with title "Ezra", was translated into Greek around the middle of the 2nd century BC. The
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible and deuterocanonical books. The ...
calls Esdras B to
Ezra–Nehemiah Ezra–Nehemiah ( he, עזרא נחמיה , ') is a book in the Hebrew Bible found in the Ketuvim section, originally with the Hebrew title of Ezra ( he, עזרא, '). The book covers the period from the fall of Babylon in 539 BC to the seco ...
and Esdras A to 1 Esdras respectively; and this usage is noted by the early Christian scholar
Origen Origen of Alexandria, ''Ōrigénēs''; Coptic language, Coptic: Ϩⲱⲣⲓⲕⲉⲛ Origen's Greek name ''Ōrigénēs'' () probably means "child of Horus" (from , "Horus", and , "born"). ( 184 – 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an ...

Origen
, who remarked that the Hebrew 'book of Ezra' might then be considered a 'double' book.
Jerome Jerome (; la, Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος; – 30 September 420), also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Christian priest A priest is a religious leader authorize ...

Jerome
, writing in the early 5th century, noted that this duplication had since been adopted by Greek and Latin Christians. Jerome himself rejected the duplication in his
Vulgate The Vulgate (; also called , ) is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, H ...
translation of the Bible into Latin from the Hebrew; and consequently all early
Vulgate manuscripts The Vulgate () is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Ra ...
present Ezra-Nehemiah as a single book,. However, from the 9th century onwards, Latin bibles are found that for the first time separate the Ezra and Nehemiah sections of Ezra-Nehemiah as two distinct books, then called the first and second books of Ezra; and this becomes standard in the Paris Bibles of the 13th century. It was not until 1516/17, in the first printed Rabbinic Bible of
Daniel Bomberg Daniel Bomberg ( – ) was one of the most important printers of Hebrew books. A Christian who employed rabbis, scholars and apostates in his Venice publishing house, Bomberg printed the first Mikraot Gdolot (Rabbinic Bible) and the first complete ...
that the separation was introduced generally in Hebrew Bibles.


First Esdras

1 Esdras, also known as "Esdras
α
α
", is an alternate Greek-language version of Ezra. This text has one additional section, the '
Tale of the Three Guardsmen According to the biblical narrative, Zerubbabel, ''Zorobabel''; la, Zorobabel; Akkadian: 𒆰𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 ''Zērubābili'' was a governor of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translatio ...
' in the middle of Ezra 4. 1 Esdras (3 Esdras in the Vulgate) was considered apocryphal by Jerome.


Date, structure and composition


Date

Koresh of Ezra 1:1 is called "king of Persia", which title was introduced not by Cyrus the Great but by his grandson and probable namesake
Xerxes
Xerxes
(486–465 BC). Scholars are divided over the chronological sequence of the activities of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra 7:8 says that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the seventh year of king Artaxerxes, while Nehemiah 2:1–9 has Nehemiah arriving in Artaxerxes' twentieth year. If this was
Artaxerxes I Artaxerxes I (, peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂 , "whose rule (''xšaça'' PlutarchThemistocles, 29/ref> Portrayal in the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah A King Artaxerxes ( he, אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּא, ) is described in the Bible a ...

Artaxerxes I
(465–424 BC), then Ezra arrived in 458 and Nehemiah in 445 BC. Nehemiah 8–9, in which the two (possibly by editorial error) appear together, supports this scenario.M. Patrick Graham, ''The "Chronicler's History": Ezra-Nehemiah, 1–2 Chronicles'' i
Graham, M.P, and McKenzie, Steven L., "The Hebrew Bible today: an introduction to critical issues" (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998)
pp. 204–05


Structure

The contents of 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." 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. 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). The pattern is completed with a final coda in which Nehemiah restores the belief of Yahweh. 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 and Nehemiah as historical sources.


Composition

Twentieth-century views on the composition of Ezra revolved around whether the author was
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...

Ezra
himself (and who may have also authored the
Books of Chronicles The Book of Chronicles ( he, דִּבְרֵי־הַיָּמִים ) is a Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is ...
) or was another author or authors (who also wrote the Chronicles). More recently it has been increasingly recognised that Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles all have extremely complex histories stretching over many stages of editing, and most scholars now are cautious of assuming a unified composition with a single theology and point of view. As an indication of the many layers of editing which Ezra has undergone, one recent study finds that Ezra 1–6 and Ezra 9–10 were originally separate documents, that they were spliced together at a later stage by the authors of Ezra 7–8, and that all have undergone extensive later editing.


Persian documents

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.Grabbe, L.L., "A history of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1" (T&T Clark, 2004)
p.78


See also

*
Esdras Esdras ( grc-gre, ) is a Greco-Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the po ...
* Ezra-Nehemiah


References


External links

;Commentaries
Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary" (Eerdmans, 1988)Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Judaism, the first phase" (Eerdmans, 2009)Coggins, R.J., "The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah" (Cambridge University Press, 1976)
Ecker's Biblical Web Pages, 2007.
Fensham, F. Charles, "The books of 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 the scribe: the development of Ezra 7–10 and Nehemiah 8" (Walter de Gryter, 2004)Throntveit, Mark A., "Ezra-Nehemiah" (John Knox Press, 1992)
;Translations
Ezra (Judaica Press)
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Bible_Gateway_(opens_at_NIV_version)

Ezra_–_King_James_Version
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Bible Gateway (opens at NIV version)

Ezra – King James Version
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Book Of Ezra Book of Ezra"> 4th-century BC books Ketuvim, Ezra, Book of Ezra–Nehemiah, Ezra