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Forward: Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther

March 24, 2010

I have decided to write one forward/introduction to all three books because they are so closely tied together. Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book. In fact, there is some evidence that I and II Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were one book and that Ezra was the author because he was a Levitical priest, educated in reading and writing. In fact, Ezra was the grandson of Hilkiah, Israel’s priest who was responsible for influencing King Josiah to make reforms and turn the people from the worship of idols back to worshiping the Lord God Almighty. Ezra, as we shall learn, was also a reformer who came to Jerusalem in 457 BC between the time of the temple rebuilding and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall to direct the Israelites back to God and His Law.

These three books cover approximately 100 years from 536 BC to 432 BC. There are three main characters/governors; Zerubbabel who rebuilt the Temple, Ezra who rebuilds their faith, and Nehemiah who rebuilds Jerusalem’s’ wall. The fourth person is Esther who was called to prevent Israel from annihilation. Three prophets were also instrumental in restoring Israel’s faith during this time period; Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some scholars would also include Joel. Refer to the timeline of Kings and prophets at the beginning of my commentary on the Books of the Prophets. Also consider the following table for the historical perspective of these books.

Date* Persian King Date* Activity
538-529 BC Cyrus
537-536 BC Zerubbabel arrives to rebuild
the Temple [altar and foundation]
529-522 BC Cambyses/Artaxerxes 536-520BC Work on the temple was stopped.
522-485 BC Darius I 520-515 BC Temple rebuilding completed.
485-465 BC Xerxes Esther become Queen of Persia.
465-425 BC Artaxerxes I 458 BC Ezra arrives in Jerusalem.
445 BC Nehemiah arrives to work on the wall.
432 BC Nehemiah is recalled to Persia.
425-405 BC Xerxes II

*Depending on the calendar or the scholar, these dates will vary + or – 1 year.

This chart was gleaned from bits and pieces of various commentaries but mostly taken from Halley’s Bible Handbook and the NIV Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

Finally, there is strong evidence that the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written by one author in that the outline of each is similar and can be categorized as follows:

A. Returning to Jerusalem

B. Rebuilding Project

C. Opposition to the Project

D. Completion of the Project

E. Problem Discovered

F. Solution Provided

Basically, the simple outlines I will use in commenting on these two books will follow this pattern. In fact, Esther follows a similar pattern.

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