15: Ezra: The Book of Rebuilding

Penned in the postexilic period, Ezra is named for its priestly author and central figure. The overthrow of the Babylonian Empire by the Persians took place in 539 B.C. As the book opens, Kings Cyrus of Persia is issuing a decree allowing the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. Ezra begins his narrative where Second Chronicles ends by describing the fulfillment of God’s promise to reestablish the Jews in the Promised Land after their captivity in Babylon.

The book relates the story of two groups of Jews who return from Babylon. The first six chapters deal with the arrival of the first wave of exiles under the leadership of Zerubbabel in 525 B.C. The remaining chapters describe the return of a second wave of returnees under Ezra about sixty years after the Temple is rebuilt. Ezra leads the people in repentance and recommitment in order to restore worship as prescribed by the Levitical Law. Although they had been captives for decades, God was faithful to preserve His people and their spiritual heritage.

Essay Questions

1. Consult Bible resources to answer the following questions:
Who was Zerubbabel?
What was his nationality?
What authority did he have?
Who appointed him to lead a group back to the Promised Land? (Ch. 1-2)

2. Create a portfolio on Ezra the priest. Summarize his involvement with the group he leads back to Palestine. What spiritual guidance and instructions does he give them?

Consult Bible resources and describe the roles each of the following Persian Kings played in returning the Jews to Palestine:

3. Cyrus (538-530 B.C.)

4. Darius (521-486 B.C.)

5. Artaxerxes (464-423 B.C.)

6. What groups opposed the construction of the Temple and why? Name the prophets who exhort the people to continue the work. What document does King Darius find and what is its significance? (Ch. 4-6)

7. Summarize the construction, completion, and dedication of the Temple (Ch. 6).

8. Describe the problem concerning those who married pagan wives. What is Ezra’s solution to this problem?
Why is this situation dealt with so severely (Ch. 9-10)? 
What are Paul’s instructions on this subject in Second Corinthians chapter six?
What are some of the consequences of disobeying God’s Word regarding the sanctity of marriage?


Maxim of the Moment

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. - Will Rogers