Book of the Week 15: Ezra

Hebrew Name: Ezra

Human Author: Unknown (Possibly Ezra)                         

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 10

Basic Facts

  1. Ezra is the fifteenth book of the Bible.
  2. It is possible that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, sometimes called the book of Esdras.
  3. The book of Ezra is named after the man named Ezra. Ezra was a teacher of the law and a Levite priest who was descended from Aaron.
  4. The Hebrew name for Ezra is Ezra, meaning “help” or “helper.”
  5. The old Greek name for Ezra is Esdras, which is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Ezra.

Story of the Book

At the beginning of the book of Ezra, the Babylonian empire has recently been conquered by the Persians. The book of Ezra opens as Cyrus the first, the king of Persia, declares that God has instructed him to allow the Jewish people to return to their homeland to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The book lists many Temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple which were returned to the Jews, along with a list of the returned exiles by family. The exiles include priests, Levites, and other Temple attendants. The exiles then return to the promised land and begin the reconstruction of the Temple.

The rest of the book tells the following stories: local inhabitants of the land halt the rebuilding of the Temple, a second wave of exiles returns to the land, the Jews appeal to the king of Persia who allows the rebuilding to continue, the people finish rebuilding the Temple and dedicate it to God, and Ezra strictly prohibits any of the exiles to intermarry with gentiles in order to keep the Isrealites' bloodline pure. The book ends with the exiles confessing their sin and putting away foreign wives from the midst of the people.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Ezra

The message of the book of Ezra is one of hope in the midst of hardship. God promised through Jeremiah that Judah would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years, and then God would gather up a remnant of His people and return them to the promised land (Ezra: 1:1; Jeremiah 25:12-13; Jeremiah 29:10-14). Included in the returning exiles to the land was a man named Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:8). Zerubbabel was the heir of the royal line of David being returned to the promised land and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. The book of Ezra ends with the story of how Ezra had the people put away foreign wives (Ezra 9:1-10:44). This practice was to preserve the purity of the Levite descendants of Aaron as lawful priests and David’s descendants as lawful heirs to the throne of David who would one day be restored in their reign through the kingship of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). This partial fulfillment of Zerubbabel returning to the land and Ezra putting away foreign wives from the people kept Israelite bloodlines pure until Jesus would be born. Without a pure descendant of David, God’s promise to establish David’s royal line forever in II Samuel 7:16 could not be fulfilled. Thus, Ezra’s practice of putting away foreign wives was a necessary preservation of the royal line of David which ultimately led to the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah.