What does Ezra, Book Of mean in the Bible?

Dictionary

Easton's Bible Dictionary - Ezra, Book of
The history of the first return of exiles, in the first year of Cyrus (B.C. 536), till the completion and dedication of the new temple, in the sixth year of Darius Hystapes (B.C. 515), ch. 1-6. From the close of the sixth to the opening of the seventh chapter there is a blank in the history of about sixty years.
The history of the second return under Ezra, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and of the events that took place at Jerusalem after Ezra's arrival there (7-10). The book thus contains memorabilia connected with the Jews, from the decree of Cyrus (B.C. 536) to the reformation by Ezra (B.C. 456), extending over a period of about eighty years.
There is no quotation from this book in the New Testament, but there never has been any doubt about its being canonical. Ezra was probably the author of this book, at least of the greater part of it (comp 7:27,28; 8:1, etc.), as he was also of the Books of Chronicles, the close of which forms the opening passage of Ezra.
Holman Bible Dictionary - Ezra, Book of
(ehz' ruh) The name Ezra means “Yahweh helps.” Several had the name: a family head in Judah (1 Chronicles 4:17 ), a priest in the return with Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:1-2674 ,Nehemiah 12:1,12:13 ), and a prince at the dedication of Jerusalem's walls built by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:32-33 ). The most famous is the chief character in the Book of Ezra. The Book of Ezra is intimately connected with Chronicles and Nehemiah. The connection is so obvious that possibly one person wrote and compiled all three. This unknown person is referred to as the Chronicler.
Ezra and Nehemiah were actually one book in the ancient Hebrew and Greek Old Testament. Each book contains materials found in the other (e.g., the list in Ezra 2:1 is also in Nehemiah 7:1 ). Each book completes the other; Ezra's story is continued in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8-10 ). Both are necessary to the history of Israel. A whole century would be unknown (538-432 B.C.), historically, apart from Ezra and Nehemiah. They are the next chapter of the history recorded in Chronicles.
Ezra lived during the reign of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1 ), king of Persia, but which one? Artaxerxes I (Longimanus), 465-425 B.C., or Artaxerxes II (Mnemon) 404-359 B.C.? If it is Longimanus, then “the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king” (Ezra 7:7 ) was 458 B.C.; but if Mnemon, it was 398 B.C. Scripture possibly intimates that Nehemiah preceded Ezra to Jerusalem. For example, Ezra prayed as though walls were already in place in Jerusalem (Ezra 9:9 ), yet they were built by Nehemiah. Also Nehemiah's reforms (Nehemiah 13:1 ) seem to have preceded Ezra's teaching the law and his reforms. There are real problems either way, but it seems logical to stay with the biblical order and date Ezra's journey to Jerusalem in 458 B.C.
Ezra was a priest and a scribe. He descended from Aaron through Phinehas and later Zadok (Ezra 7:1-5 ; 1 Chronicles 6:4-14 ).
Ezra's purpose for going to Jerusalem was “to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 NRSV). He was well equipped for this task as a priest and scribe. Jerusalem needed the law of God. The permanence of the Jews was threatened by opposition from non-Jews and by the Jews' careless disregard for the things of God. Ezra's teaching was needed to give solidity and strength to the Jewish community struggling against pressures to surrender its ethnic and theological identity.
Ezra was written from this kind of perspective. A variety of sources was used, either by Ezra or by another who gave the book its present form. Jewish tradition is strong that Ezra was the actual author of the entire book, as well as Chronicles and Nehemiah. Vivid details and the use of the first person pronoun permit scholars to speak of the Ezra Memoirs (Ezra 7:27-9:15 ).
The book has two major stories, that of Zerubbabel and the group of returnees who rebuilt the Temple (Ezra 1-6 ), and that of Ezra (Ezra 7-10 , completed in Nehemiah 8-10 ). Peculiarities in the book include the naming of Sheshbazzar (Ezra 9:6-15 ) as the leader of the first group to return and not Zerubbabel. Two approaches are possible. One is that Sheshbazzar was a real historical person who actually led a small group of anxious Jews to Jerusalem. The other is that Sheshbazzar might have been another name for Zerubbabel. But it seems unlikely that a Jew would have two Babylonian names.
Another peculiarity, found in both Ezra and Nehemiah, is the use of lists. The list in Ezra 2:1 of those who returned with Zerubbabel is in Nehemiah 7:1 . Other lists include those who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-14 ); “the sons of the priests there were found who had taken strange wives” (Ezra 10:18-43 ); those who helped rebuild Jerusalem's walls (Nehemiah 3:1 ); signers of the covenant (Nehemiah 10:1 ); residents in Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:1 ); and another list of “the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel” (1619108671_2 ).
Another peculiarity is the Aramaic in Ezra. This was a widely used language of Ezra's era, related to Hebrew, used by Jews and Gentiles alike. Most of the book is written in Hebrew, but there are two large sections of Aramaic (Ezra 4:7-6:18 ; Ezra 7:12-26 ). The Aramaic generally deals with official correspondence between Palestine and Persia.
The lists and the Aramiac show that the author was determined to use official documents where possible. Establishing the legitimacy of the Jews was an important objective, and these helped do that.
Ezra begins with the story of Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel and the first Jews to return to Jerusalem from captivity in 538 B.C. Their main objective was to rebuild the Temple. Its foundation was laid in 536 B.C. Then there was a long delay. Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1 ) in 520 B.C. had encouraged the people to finish the project, which they did in 515 B.C. (Ezra 6:14-15 ), and they “celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy” (Ezra 6:16 NRSV).
Almost sixty years passed before Ezra went to Jerusalem (458 B.C.), six decades of silence. He left Persia with “the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe” (Ezra 7:11 ), giving him unusual power and authority (Ezra 7:12-26 ). As he “viewed the people, and the priests, and [1] found there none of the sons of Levi” (Ezra 8:15 ). These were essential for his teaching program to implement the law of God in Jerusalem. During a three-day delay more than 200 “ministers for the house of our God” (Ezra 8:17 ) were enlisted. Four months later the group, probably less than 2,000, arrived in the Holy City.
Soon Ezra was informed of the most glaring sin of the Jews, intermarriage with non-Jews, those not in covenant relation with Yahweh (Ezra 9:2 ). Ezra was greatly upset (Ezra 9:3-4 ). He prayed (Ezra 9:6-15 ). In assembly people reached what must have been a heartrending decision: “Let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them” (Ezra 10:3 ). The book concludes with the carrying out of this decision (Ezra 10:1 ). Ezra's story reaches its climax in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8-10 ). There he read from “the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1 ). A great revival resulted. Ezra is not heard of again.
Ezra's greatest contribution was his teaching, establishing, and implementing “the book of the law of the Lord” (Nehemiah 9:3 ) among the Jews. Other things have been attributed to him. Jewish tradition says he authored Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. Ancient rabbis said that if Moses had not received the law from God, Ezra would have. Ezra is often called “the father of Judaism,” though others offer a different opinion. This is because he did most to codify, emphasize, and sent up the law of Moses. Also, he is credited with initiating what became Jewish isolationism and separatism, seen graphically in the New Testament. He led Jews to divorce their foreign wives and send them and their children away.
Ezra evidenced strong theology. He believed in the sovereignty of God, who could use a Cyrus, an Artaxerxes, and a Darius to accomplish His purposes. He believed in the faithfulness of God, who brought home as many exiles as He could. He believed in the sacredness and practicality of the Scriptures; he read them to his people and insisted that their teachings be carried out. He was a person of prayer; note his long confessional prayers (Ezra 9:5-15 ; Nehemiah 9:6-37 ). He was a preacher: he used a pulpit (Nehemiah 8:4 ); he publicly read the Scriptures; and he helped to interpret them to his congregation (Nehemiah 8:8 ).
The value of the contributions of Ezra to the Jews is immeasurable. What he did probably saved them from disintegration. His efforts helped guarantee the ethnic and theological continuance of descendants of Abraham. He might not have been the father of Judaism, but he contributed greatly to saving the Jews' identity as a people of God.
Outline
I. God's Worship Must Be Restored (Ezra 1:1-6:22 )
A. God can use a pagan “to fulfill the word of the Lord.” (Ezra 1:1-4 )
B. God's people respond to God's ways. (Ezra 1:5-6 )
C. God will recover and reclaim His possessions. (Ezra 1:7-11 )
D. God's people, by name and as individuals, are important. (Ezra 2:1-67 )
E. God's people are generous givers for a good cause. (Ezra 2:68-70 )
F. God's people worship, regardless of the circumstances. (Ezra 3:1-6 )
G. God's people will give and organize to get a job done. (Ezra 3:7-9 )
H. God's people praise Him in success or in disappointment. (Ezra 3:10-13 )
I. God's people must reject some offers of help. (Ezra 4:1-3 )
J. God's work can be opposed and stopped. (Ezra 4:4-24 )
K. God's work and workers must be encouraged. (Ezra 5:1-2 )
L. God's work and workers are in His watchcare. (Ezra 5:3-5 )
M. God's work may get pagan authorization and support. (Ezra 5:6-6:12 )
N. God's work must ultimately be completed. (Ezra 6:13-15 )
O. God's work must be dedicated publicly with joyful celebration. (Ezra 6:16-22 )
II. God's Word Must Be Followed. (Ezra 7:1-10:44 )
A. God's Word needs skilled teachers and helpers. (Ezra 7:1-7 )
B. God's Word elicits commitment. (Ezra 7:8-10 )
C. God's work accepts all the help it can get from many different sources. (Ezra 7:11-26 )
D. God blesses His workers and expects to be praised. (Ezra 7:27-28 )
E. God's work warrants good records. (Ezra 8:1-14 )
F. God's work must enlist trained workers. (Ezra 8:15-20 )
G. God's work calls for faith, prayer, and humility. (Ezra 8:21-23 )
H. God's work warrants division of responsibility. (Ezra 8:24-30 )
I. God's work necessitates good stewardship and generous sacrifice. (Ezra 8:31-36 )
J. Gross violations of God's Word must be acknowledged. (Ezra 9:1-5 )
K. Acknowledged sin leads to prayer and confession with deep theological insights. (Nehemiah 1:1 )
L. God's grace and human confession call for active commitment. (Ezra 10:1-4 )
M. God's people must act unitedly. (Ezra 10:5-9 )
N. God's call for the separated life must be made clear by God's leaders to God's people. (Ezra 10:10-11 )
O. God's way utilizes practical solutions for difficult problems. (Ezra 10:12-17 )
P. God's way expects “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8 ) from all who are guilty. (Ezra 10:18-44 )
D. C. Martin
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ezra, Book of
EZRA, BOOK OF . Our present Book of Ezra, which consists of 10 chapters, is really part of a composite work, Ezra-Nehemiah, which, again, is the continuation of Chronicles. The entire work Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah is a compilation made by the Chronicler. See, further, Nehemiah [1], § 1 .
1. Analysis of the book . The Book of Ezra falls into two main divisions: ( a ) chs. 1 6; ( b ) chs. 7 10.
( a ) Chs. 1 6 give an account of the Return and the re-building of the Temple. Ch. 1 tells how Cyrus, after the capture of Babylon in b.c. 538, issued an edict permitting the exiles to return; of the latter about 40,000 availed themselves of the opportunity and returned to Judæa under Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, a member of the royal Davidic family, who was appointed governor ( pechah ) by Cyrus (b.c. 538 537). Ch. 2 contains a list of those who returned and their offerings for the building of the Temple. Ch. 3 describes how in October 537 the altar of burnt-offering was re-erected on its ancient site, the foundation-stone of the Temple laid (May 536), and the work of re-building begun. Ch. 4 tells that, owing to the unfriendly action of neighbouring populations, the building of the Temple was suspended during the rest of the reigns of Cyrus and Cambyses. It contains the correspondence between Rehum, Shimshai, and their companions, and king Artaxerxes. In Ezra 5:6-12 we are informed that, as a consequence of the earnest exhortations of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the building of the Temple was energetically resumed in the second year of Darius I. (b.c. 520). In Ezra 5:6 to Ezra 6:12 we have the correspondence between the satrap Tattenai and Darius. We read in Ezra 6:13-22 of how the Temple was successfully completed on the 3rd March 515 b.c. [2]
( b ) Chs. 7 10 deal with Ezra’s personal work. In ch. 7 the silence of nearly sixty years is broken in the year b.c. 458, when Ezra, the teacher of the Law , at the head of a fresh band of exiles, leaves Babylonia bearing a commission from Artaxerxes I. to bring about a settlement in the religious condition of the Judæan community. Ch. 8 gives a list of the heads of families who journeyed with him, and tells of their arrival in Jerusalem. Ch. 9 describes the proceedings against the foreign wives, and contains Ezra’s penitential prayer. In ch. 10 we read that an assembly of the whole people, in December 458, appointed a commission to deal with the mixed marriages. The narrative abruptly breaks off with an enumeration of the men who had married strange women .
2. Sources of the book . In its present form the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah is, as has been pointed out, the work of the Chronicler. The compilation, however, embraces older material. The most important parts of this latter are undoubtedly the autobiographical sections, which have been taken partly from Ezra’s, partly from Nehemiah’s, personal memoirs.
( a ) Extracts from Ezra’s memoirs embodied in the Book of Ezra . The long passage Ezra 7:27 to Ezra 9:15 (except Ezra 8:35-36 ) is generally admitted to be an authentic extract from Ezra’s memoirs. The abrupt break which takes place at Ezra 9:15 must be due to a compiler. ‘The events of the next thirteen years were clearly of too dismal a character to make it desirable to perpetuate the memory of them’ (Cornill). [3]
It seems probable that these memoirs were not used by the Chronicler in their original form, but in a form adapted and arranged by a later hand, to which Ezra 10:1-44 is due. This latter narrative is of first-rate importance and rests upon extremely good information. It was probably written by the same hand that composed the main part of Nehemiah 8:1-18 ; Nehemiah 9:1-38 ; Nehemiah 10:1-39 (see Nehemiah [1], § 2 ).
The Imperial firman an Aramaic document (Ezra 7:12-26 ) the essential authenticity of which has now been made certain is an extract from the memoirs preserved in the same compiler’s work, from which Ezra 2:1-70 (= Nehemiah 7:6-73 ) was also derived. The introductory verses ( Ezra 7:1-11 ) are apparently the work of the Chronicler.
( b ) Other sources of the book . The other most important source used by the Chronicler was an Aramaic one, written, perhaps, about b.c. 450, which contained a history of the building of the Temple, the city walls, etc., and cited original documents. From this authority come Ezra 4:8-22 ; Ezra 5:1 to Ezra 6:16 (cited verbally).
The Chronicler, however, partly misunderstood his Aramaic source. He has misconceived Ezra 4:6 , and assigned a false position to the document embodied in Ezra 4:7-23 .
( c ) Passages written by the Chronicler . The following passages bear clear marks of being the actual composition of the Chronicler: Ezra 1:1-11 ; Ezra 3:2 to Ezra 4:7 ; Ezra 4:24 ; Ezra 6:16 to Ezra 7:11 ; Ezra 8:35-36 .
3. Separation of Ezra from Chronicles . It would appear that after the great work of the Chronicler had been completed (1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah), the part which contained narratives of otherwise unrecorded events was first received into the Canon. Hence, in the Jewish Canon, Ezra-Nehemiah precedes the Books of Chronicles. In the process of separation certain verses are repeated ( Ezra 1:1-3 a = 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ); 2 Chronicles 36:23 seems to have been added in 2 Chronicles 36:1-23 to avoid a dismal ending ( 2 Chronicles 36:21 ).
For the historical value of the book cf. what is said under Nehemiah [1], § 3 .
G. H. Box.

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Ezra, Book of - Ezra, Book of