This book takes its name from the writer, who was a holy priest and doctor of the Law.
1. King Cyrus of Persia has conquered the Babylonians. It is
Persias policy to repatriate the exiled people and to encourage them to rebuild
their temple. Ezra 1:1-5.
2. As when they left Egypt they do not return empty handed. Their neighbours give them articles of silver and gold and King Cyrus returns to them items belonging to the temple which had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Ezra 1:6-11.
3. List of Exiles who were returned. Among these were some who did not know their tribe. They were excluded from serving as priests. Ezra 2:1-70.
4. Rebuilding the altar. Lebanon again supplies choice cedar wood for the building. The priests and other leaders, who had seen the former temple, weep for the glories of the Temple that had been destroyed. Ezra 3:1-13.
5. Work is halted. Samaritans ask to join in the work but are rejected. They retaliate by frustrating the building work. For fifteen years no progress is made. Ezra 4:1-5.
6. Darius, the king of Persia, revokes Cyruss permission for the temple to be rebuilt. He is afraid of the people of Judah becoming too powerful and rebellious. Ezra 4:6-24.
7. Urged on by the prophets Haggai and Zercharia, the people again start building. This time an attempt to stop the building fails when Darius finds the scroll containing Cyruss command that the temple should be rebuilt. In four years it is completed and the Passover is celebrated. (Ezra 6:11 describes the punishment for anyone failing to honour king Cyrus decree "a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it." Is this the first Biblical mention of crucifixion?) Ezra 5 & 6. B.C.
8. Sixty years after the rebuilding, Ezra returns to Jerusalem. During those years Esther is able to avert a massacre of the Jewish people (See Esther 8.) and indirectly to save the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra is given official sanction to teach the law, appoint magistrates, offer sacrifices and beautify the temple. Ezra 7:1-28.
9. List of families who accompanied Ezra on his return and details of the journey. Ezra 8:1-36.
10. Since their return, priests and Levites, rulers and people alike have intermarried with heathen peoples, a thing forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 7:1-5), not out of racial prejudice, but because it led to idolatry. Ezra prays and laments. Ezra 9:1-15.
11. The people react to Ezras prayer and agree that the women and children of these marriages must be sent away. Family heads were chosen to investigate the cases of men who had married foreign women. Ezra 10:1-44.