Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Introduction to Ezra—A Returning Remnant

The book of Ezra contains an account of a most important epoch in the history of the people of God. After seventy years of captivity, through the decree of a Gentile king, a return was made possible. This book gives us the story of that return, and of the rebuilding of the temple. There are two main divisions.

I. Zerubbabel.—The story which centres around Zerubbabel is that of the return of a remnant of the people to Jerusalem, and their reorganization. The list of those returning is principally remarkable from the small number of the Levites it contains. Another point of interest is that of Nethinim. They seem to have been prominent in these times, for they are only once mentioned elsewhere. It is almost impossible to determine their origin. Directly the leaders in this return were settled in their cities, the altar of God was established at Jerusalem, and they immediately commenced the work of rebuilding the temple. This work stirred up the opposition of the Samaritans, and at last they were successful in obtaining letters from the reigning monarch which interdicted the work. Zerubbabel and Jeshua commenced the work again, but opposition was raised. To this they gave no heed, and Tattenai sent a letter to Darius concerning the edict of Cyrus. There can be no doubt that Tattenai felt that the finding of such a decree was unlikely, if not impossible. It was at Achmetha, in the royal palace, that it was discovered. In consequence of this the edict of Darius not only gave them permission to carry forward their work, but compelled Tattenai to help them with great gifts. At last the temple was finished and solemnly dedicated to God.

II. Ezra.—Between chapters VI. and VII. there was an interval of at least sixty years, uneventful in the history of the people settled in Jerusalem. They had largely failed in the purpose of Zerubbabel. Again the wonderful overruling of God is seen in the working of the minds of two men in Babylon. Ezra was stirred with desire to help his people. Artaxerxes was moved with fear lest there should be 'wrath against the realm of the king and his sons'. Ezra gathered together members of the priestly and royal houses, and a further contingent of the people at Ahava to prepare for the journey. Finding that there were no Levites in the company he sent to Iddo, and certain of their number joined him. After a long journey they arrived safely in Jerusalem. Ezra found a condition of affairs in Jerusalem which was a sad revelation of the deterioration of the people. The sincerity of Ezra's vicarious repentance produced immediate result. The people who had gathered about him came to a consciousness of the enormity of their sin as they saw how he was affected thereby. At last one of their number spoke to him, acknowledging the sin, and suggesting a remedy. He at once became a man of action, first calling them to a sacred covenant, that they would put away the evil thing from amongst them, and then leading them in the carrying out of their covenant.

—G. Campbell Morgan, The Analysed Bible, p. 227.

Nicoll - Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

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