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Ezra is the writer of this book. He is one of the characters who has not received proper recognition. He was a descendant of Hilkiah, the high priest (Ezra 7:1), who found a copy of the Law during the reign of Josiah (2 Chron. 34:14).
Ezra, as a priest, was unable to serve during the Captivity. There was no temple. It had been destroyed. He did, however, give his time to a study of the Word of God. Ezra 7:6 tells us that he was “a ready scribe in the law of Moses.”
Ezra was also a great revivalist and reformer. The revival began with the reading of the Word of God by Ezra. We will see that in Nehemiah 8. Also, Ezra was probably the writer of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible).
Ezra organized the synagogue. He was the founder of the order of scribes. He helped settle the canon of Scripture and arranged the Psalms. Let us pay tribute to Ezra who was the first to begin a revival of Bible study. Is this not God’s program for revival?
We have had no real revival in our day. Dwight L. Moody made this statement (and he saw a revival), “The next revival will be a revival of Bible study.” Those who have tried to whip up revivals by organization, by methods, and by gimmicks have failed. Revival will come only as people come back to the Word of God.
The theme of the Book of Ezra is The Word of the Lord. There are ten direct references to God’s Word in this little book: Ezra 1:1; 3:2; 6:14, 18; 7:6, 10, 14; 9:4; 10:3, 5. The place of the Word of God is seen in the total lives of these people: religious, social, business, and political.
The key to this book is found in Ezra 9:4 and 10:3: they “trembled at the words of the God of Israel.”
Dr. James M. Gray made this statement concerning the Book of Ezra: “We already have seen that the Babylonian captivity did not bring the Jews to national repentance and so lead to national restoration. As the reading of Ezra will disclose, when Cyrus, king of Persia, gave permission to the captives to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, scarcely fifty thousand Jews availed themselves of the privilege, a considerable portion of whom were priests and Levites of the humbler and poorer class.”
The Book of Ezra is the last of the historical books, but they do not follow ad seriatum (one right after the other).
When we conclude 2 Chronicles, we see that the southern kingdom of Judah went into captivity for seventy years. We do not hear a word from them after they were captured until Ezra picks up their history. There are three historical books that are called “postcaptivity” books: Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Also there are three prophetical “postcaptivity” books: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Now Ezra and Nehemiah belong together. Ezra was a priest and Nehemiah was a layman. They worked together in such a way that God’s will was accomplished in Jerusalem. Together they were instrumental in seeing that the walls, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple were rebuilt.
Haggai and Zechariah also worked together. They encouraged the people to build the temple. Haggai was a practical man, as we shall see when we get to his book. The reconstruction and refurbishing of the temple were his supreme passion. He was as simple and factual as 2+2=4. He was neither romantic nor poetic, but he sure was practical. Zechariah, on the other hand, was a dreamer. Haggai had his feet on the ground and Zechariah had his head in the clouds. For example, Zechariah saw a woman going through the air in a bushel basket. My friend, that is poetical! Haggai would never have seen that. But the interesting thing is that Zechariah would never have concerned himself about the measurements of the temple and that you must have doors in it and a foundation under it. Haggai and Zechariah went together just like Ezra and Nehemiah. The practical man and the poet must walk together; God arranged it that way.
The Books of Haggai and Zechariah should be read and studied with the Book of Ezra, for all three books were written in the shadow of the rebuilt temple, and were given to encourage the people in building. “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of God of Israel, even unto them” (Ezra 5:1).
In the Book of Ezra there are two major divisions. There is the return of the captives from Babylon led by Zerubbabel in the first six chapters. About fifty thousand returned. Then there is the return led by Ezra in chapters 7–10, and about two thousand people followed Ezra.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 15: Ezra, Nehemiah & Esther. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)