The Book of Ezra         

A Bible Study  

 The Reason What, Why and Who     1,2
 Rebuilding Starts  31-13
 Building Opposed  41-5,24
 2nd Temple Completed  51 - 622
 Ezra Goes to Jerusalem  458 BC  71 - 836
 The Problem of Intermarriage  91 - 1044


Ezra was a priest and scribe, born in Babylon.
    His parents did not return to Jerusalem in 538.
Jesus rightly had some stern words about priests and Pharisees. Math 23
    But not all priests were bad - Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jehoiada (2 Kg 11) ... Ezra ...

Ezra 1-6 (538 - 516 BC)
Description of how 42,000 returned from Babylon in 538 BC
Rebuilding of the Temple - completed 516 BC
He cites the decree of Cyrus, an inventory, and a list of returnees.
All this history was over 50 years before Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem in 458 BC.

Ezra 7-10 (458 BC)
Ezra's journey to Jerusalem.
His confession, preaching and the painful reforms.

The Reason Why, What and Who  Ezra 1,2              

Ezra first quotes the last 2 verses from the end of 2 Chron.
He thus connects the return with the reason for the fall of Jerusalem.
    And what happened while they were in Babylon.
Judah had mocked God's messengers and despised his words.  Ch 3616
    So God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar.  Ch 3617
    And the land enjoyed its sabbath rests;
         all the time of the desolation it rested,
         until the 70 years were completed ...  2 Ch 3621
The rise of Assyria and then Babylon was no accident.
    At the end of time men will again despise and ridicule God and his Word.
         It will be all men, not just the Jewish nation.
         The Tribulation will be God's last clear warning to all men.
         The satanic, deceiving Beast and his False Prophet will arise for 3½ years.
Neither the Jews, not the Church have ever obeyed the sabbath rests;
    the 7th year Sabbath for the land, nor the 50th year Jubilee.   Lev 25
The desolation started when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 586 BC
    70 years were decreed.   Jer 2511
This desolation ended right on time in 516 when the 2nd Temple was completed.

Dan 927b says there will be an abomination that causes desolation at the end.
    Is the current blasphemous Dome on the Rock this 'desolation'? Partly.
    It is certainly blasphemous - saying "God has no Son" engraved in arabic.
    And idol-worshipping Islam certainly causes desolation wherever it goes.
         Spiritual desolation, deception and unending death.
    On the day when Christ returns the Dome and Mosques will be removed.
    In Math 2415-35 Jesus says there will be an even greater 'desolation'.
         Already partly fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC
              And again partly by Rome in 70 AD.
         The greater 'desolation' will be caused by the Beast.  2 Thes 23,4  Rev 1314,15
As we have seen in Zech 12-14, God will allow the city to be captured briefly,
    but it is God himself who will then destroy all nations who attack Jerusalem.
    Why? Unlike in Jeremiah's day, the Jews will repent and be quickly forgiven.
         How dare the nations attack those whom the Lord Almighty has chosen!

The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus to write a decree.  11  Dan 625-28  Is 4428
    The Jews had been allowed to return to build the Temple of the Lord.  13
    God knew they would heed his word from his prophets.  Hag 112  Zech 16
    Cyrus also provided all the 5,400 old Temple items taken by Nebuchadnezzar.
         Do doubt Daniel would have read Isaiah 4424-28 and 4513 to him!
         In the course of history there are not many decrees that favour the Jews.
    God also moved the hearts of the Jews to return - then and now.  15
    All their neighbours assisted them with gold and livestock.  16  Exd 1235,36

The families and livestock are listed.
    Totalled 29,818 c.f. 42,360 (probably includes children and unproven priests)
Offerings for rebuilding Temple totalled £4 million.  269
God raised up Joshua the high priest,
    Zerubbabel the governor, (see notes on Jer 2224-30 and Hag 223)
    and Haggai and Zechariah as his prophets.
Judah, once a mighty monarchy, had become just 'a province' of Persia.  21

Rebuilding Starts  31-13              

3 months after returning they assembled as one man to build the altar
    and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 31 (see notes on John 712)
Plans were made, money given and work began on the Temple foundations.
    There was great joy. 311,12
    Many of the older priests who had seen the 1st Temple wept. 1 Ch 2214-16
         Destroyed 50 years earlier. Now larger, but no Ark or Menorah or gold.
    Weeping and joy indistinguishable - there was so much noise.
         It was clearly a very emotional time.

Building Opposed  41-5,24              

The enemies of Judah were, surprisingly, the Samaritans. (see notes on John 4)
    Also other colonists from Assyria and Babylon, whose positions and livelihoods
         were threatened by the returning Jewish exiles.
They came offering help because, like you, we seek your God.  42
    Was this the real reason?
    'Your' God (not our God) shows they were not Jews but foreign colonists.
    So Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the leaders said, "You have no part with us."  43
    Many today would say this was most ungrateful and intolerant.
    But since they also worshipped other gods it would compromise its purity.
    The ecumenical, and even multi-faith, sounds good to the human ear,
         but diluting truth is always a disaster in the making.
For 16 years the opposition successfully conspired to frustrate the building.
    We are not told how they made Judah so afraid; but the building stopped.

46-23 refers to opposition to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem 80 years later.
Satan loves to 'accuse' the brethren.  46  Zech 31  Rev 1210
    The loss of tax was hypocritical. They also hated paying tax to the Persians.

Building Completed  51 - 622              

Haggai and Zechariah prophesy, the people repent and the building restarts.  51,2
Ezra had access to the governor's archives and gives details of letters:
1. Tattenai to Darius I (not Darius the Mede or Cyrus).  57-10
    The Jews are building a large Temple. We asked who authorised it.
2. Zerubbabel's answer was added to the above letter / report for Darius I.
    Many years ago we built a Temple to the great God of heaven and earth.
    But our forebears angered him and king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it.
    King Cyrus authorised us to rebuild the Temple
         and even gave us the articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken.
    Let the king search the royal archives and he will find this to be true.
3. Darius to Tattenai
    A decree was indeed found with details of the temple size,
         and authorising the royal payment for the work and the return of articles.
    Do not interfere with the work. All expenses must be paid.
    Punishment declared to anyone who dares to change this edict!
May God, who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem ... Let it be carried out with diligence. 612
Who said God does not rule even wicked world rulers?
The Lord Almighty reigns for ever in all heaven and earth.
    Righteous rulers will gladly acknowledge this; wicked rulers will not.
         But each are subject to the Sovereign Lord.
This Temple was 90' x 90', Solomon's Temple was only 90' x 30'.  63  1 Kg 62
    Jews were given money from neighbours taxes 64b,8 who had complained.  58
Darius finds the decree of Cyrus.  63-7   And adds to it.  68-12

They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel
    and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes (walls), king of Persia.  614
The temple was dedicated, offerings sacrificed and priests installed.

Then the exiles celebrated Passover.  619
    And rejoiced for the 7 day feast, especially because the king of Persia's help.
The Israelites who had returned from exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbours in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel. 621
    This is a most significant verse.
         It united the poor Jews who had remained with those exiled.
         Together they sought the Lord God.
         Passover revelation brought much joy. It always does!
         Each of the Jewish feasts is a time to seek the Lord and to worship him.

There is now a 58 years gap in Ezra's account. 516 to 458 BC

Ezra Goes to Jerusalem  458 BC  71 - 836           

The journey of about 900 miles took 118 days - most walked. 79  831
I waited 25 years to visit Israel.
    Their longing to return home must have been much greater.
Ezra was a priest. 71-5 traces his 16 forefathers back to Aaron.
Ezra was a teacher and well versed in the Law of Moses.  76a
He had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord.  710
Artaxerxes had granted him everything he asked for.  76b
    And more - see letter he gave to Ezra. 711-26 What did it authorise?
         All Jews may return to Jerusalem with you.  713
         Take with you silver and gold that the king and others have freely given
              and use it to buy sacrifices and anything else for your God.  715-20
         Treasurers of Trans-Euphrates told to provide what Ezra may ask.  721-23
         Priests and Temple servants are not to be taxed. 724
         Ezra must administer justice and teach the Laws of God.  725
         The disobedient must surely be punished.  726
    This is an amazing letter.
    Did Artaxerxes fear the God of the Jews? Probably.
         But to him, God remained one of the many gods to be feared / worshipped.
Ezra gives thanks to God for putting it into the kings heart. 727,28
He gathered leading men from Israel to go with him to Jerusalem.  728
    There were many who didn't go with Joshua and Zerubbabel 80 years earlier.
He lists the returning families. Total 1704.  81-20
He proclaimed a fast to humble themselves before God, before they left.  821-23
    And preferred to trust God for protection than ask protection from the king.
    He divided the silver (£2.5m) and gold (£25m) among leading priests,
         with instructions to guard it carefully till they arrived in Jerusalem.  824-30
They all arrived safely and sacrificed liberally to the God of Israel.  831-36

Problem of Intermarriage  91 - 1044              

This has much to teach us about the popular ecumenical / inter-faith today.
The returnees of 537 BC had not kept themselves separate from the Canaanites.
    111men / 42,000 had married foreign women.
    Ezra lists those who had mingled the holy race.  92  1018-44
He is appalled at this unfaithfulness.  92b-4
He prays as one deeply ashamed; admitting that their sins had resulted in exile.
    Now God has not deserted us in our bondage ...
         he has shown us kindness ... he has granted us new life ...
         but we have disregarded the commands ...
         O Lord, God of Israel, you are righteous ...
         we are before you in our guilt ...
         not one of us can stand in your presence.  96-15
Repentance is not "tut-tut" or "oh dear",
    but a real, sometimes costly fleeing from sin.
Shecaniah says, we have been unfaithful ...
    but in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.
    Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women.  102-4
The people admitted their guilt.  1012
    For 2 months officials investigated the listed 111 cases.  1016,17-44
    They pledged to put away their foreign wives and their children.  1019
         This was at no small cost.
How determined are we to not conform any longer to the pattern of the world,
    but be transformed by the renewing of our minds ?  Ro 122
Are we living as pilgrims and strangers on the earth ?  Heb 1113
Are we longing for a better country - a heavenly one ?  Heb 1116
The challenge to us to be separate.  Ps11  Jer 516  2 Co 616,17  Rev 184

Is the cost too high or the road too steep?  Pray that it may never be so.