An Introduction to The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah & Esther

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For these reasons and others, some scholars believe Ezra came to Jerusalem much later, either in the 37 th year of Artaxerxes I or in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II see discussion in Klein. In the seventh year of his reign , Artaxerxes I — issued a royal edict granting permission for Jews to go to Jerusalem with Ezra. Ezra was permitted to bring with him gold and silver donations from other Jews. Regular maintenance expenses of the Temple were to be provided from the royal treasury and there was to be release of taxes for Temple personnel. Ezra's mission was "to expound the law of the Lord" and "to teach laws and rules to Israel" v.

For this purpose he was granted, not only a royal subsidy, but he was also empowered to appoint judges, enforce religious law, and even to apply the death penalty. Nevertheless, the question of imperial authorization of Jewish law by the Persian Empire continues to be a subject of debate Watts. Ezra's four-month journey to Jerusalem is described by Ezra in a first-person memoir.

Another problem was security. Because Ezra had originally made a declaration of trust in God before the king, he felt it inappropriate to request from him the customary escort. Thus he accounted the party's safe arrival in Jerusalem with all its treasure intact as a mark of divine benevolence. When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he was informed that some people, including members of the clergy and aristocracy, had contracted foreign marriages. Immediately upon hearing this news Ezra engaged in mourning rites, tore his garments and fasted, and, on behalf of the people, confessed their sins and uttered a prayer of contrition.

He is joined by a group of supporters who are also disturbed by this news. At the initiative of a certain Shecaniah son of Jehiel, Ezra was urged to take immediate action. An emergency national assembly was convened, and Ezra addressed the crowd in a winter rainstorm calling upon the people to divorce their foreign wives. The assembled crowd agreed to Ezra's plea, but because of the heavy rains and the complexity of the matter Ezra's extension of legal prohibitions of marriages that had previously been permitted , they requested that a commission of investigation be set up.

After three months the commission reported back with a list of priests, Levites, and Israelites who had intermarried.


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Seemingly out of order, Ezra reappears in chapter 8 of the Book of Nehemiah where it is recounted that he publicly read the Torah on the first day of the seventh month Rosh Ha-Shanah. He stood upon a platform with dignitaries standing on his right and left.

The ceremony began with an invocation by Ezra and a response by the people saying "Amen, Amen. The people were emotionally overcome by the occasion and wept. However, they were enjoined not to be sad, rather to celebrate the day joyously with eating, drinking, and gift giving.

The day after the public reading, a group of priests and Levites continued to study the Torah with Ezra and came across the regulations for observing the feast of Tabernacles on that very month. A proclamation was issued to celebrate the festival which was done with great joy, and the Torah was again read publicly during the entire eight days of the festival.

It has often been pointed out that the feast of Tabernacles which is described as being discovered anew from the Torah reading and had not been observed since the days of Joshua, had already been observed not too much earlier by the first return-ees Ezra On the 24 th day of the month, immediately after the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles, a fast day was announced. The identification and purpose of this fast day is unknown. Most commentators believe that this fast and following prayer of the Levites should come after the events described in Ezra 10, which was concerned with problems of intermarriage.

12. Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther - Spotlight on the Word: Old Testament

The long prayer of the Levites v. The hymn contains stereotypical Psalm language, and contains references to the creation, the covenant with Abraham, the acts of God in Egypt, the wanderings in the desert, Sinai, the conquest, the Judges, and to later periods. The hymn is noteworthy in not mentioning David and Solomon, two of Judah's glorious rulers, nor is there any mention of the exile and the current restoration, events central to Ezra and Nehemiah.

The third period encompasses 12 years from the 20 th year of the reign of Artaxerxes I until his 32nd year , and deals with the work of Nehemiah, who had held an important office termed a "cupbearer" in the royal household of the Persian king Artaxerxes I — The work of Nehemiah described in the form of a first-person memoir includes his rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and his economic and religious reforms. In particular, this period deals with 1 Nehemiah's response to the news from Jerusalem; 2 Nehemiah's efforts at reconstructing and fortifying Jerusalem; 3 intrigues against Nehemiah; 4 the dedication of the wall; 5 Nehemiah's resolution of economic problems; 6 Nehemiah's religious reforms.

In the 20 th year of the Persian king Artaxerxes I , a delegation of Jews arrived from Jerusalem at Susa, the king's winter residence, and informed Nehemiah of the deteriorating conditions back in Judah. The walls of Jerusalem were in a precarious state and repairs could not be undertaken since they were specifically forbidden by an earlier decree of the same Artaxerxes Ezra The news about Jerusalem upset Nehemiah, and he sought and was granted permission from the king to go to Jerusalem as governor and rebuild the city. This change in Persian policy is thought to have come after the Egyptian revolt of when it was believed that a relatively strong and friendly Judah could better serve Persia's strategic interests Myers.

An Introduction to the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther by A H Sayce -

Nehemiah was also granted much material assistance including supplies of wood for the rebuilding effort. However, unlike Ezra, Nehemiah requested a military escort for safe conduct throughout the provinces of the western satrapies. A short time after his arrival in Jerusalem Nehemiah made a nocturnal inspection tour of the city walls riding on a donkey. He relates that he could not continue riding, but had to dismount, because of the massive stones left by the overthrow of the city by the Babylonians.

After his tour of inspection, Nehemiah disclosed to the local Jewish officials his mission to rebuild the walls.


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Nehemiah set to the task of rebuilding the wall by dividing the work into some 40 sections. Nearly all social classes priests, Levites, Temple functionaries, and laypeople participated in the building effort. Sanballat resorted to mockery and ridicule, stating: "that stone wall they are building — if a fox climbed it he would breach it" — To counter the opposition, Nehemiah provided a guard for the workmen, and the masons and their helpers also carried swords. Because of the magnitude of the project, the workmen were separated from each other by large distances, so a trumpeter was provided ready to sound the alarm, the idea being that should one group be attacked the others would come to their aid.

Nehemiah ordered the workers to remain in Jerusalem partly for self-protection and partly to assist in guarding the city. After the wall was rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed Hanani his brother and a similar-named individual, Hananiah, to be in charge of security. He also gave an order that the gates to the city should be closed before the guards went off duty and that they should be opened only when the sun was high at midmorning.


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In addition to the security police, there was a citizen patrol whose duty it was to keep watch around their own houses. The central problem was the small population of Jerusalem: the city was extensive and spacious, but the people it in were few, and the houses were not yet built. Nehemiah decided to bring one of ten people from the surrounding population into Jerusalem —2. One of Nehemiah's enemies, Tobiah, an Ammonite, had intermarried with a prominent family in Judah. He had tried unsuccessfully to subvert Nehemiah's work by enlisting their aid, but without success.

Since Nehemiah's enemies could not prevent the rebuilding and fortification of the city they made desperate attempts to capture him. One plan was to lure him away from Jerusalem to some unspecified place. Four times they attempted to invite him to "meetings," and each time Nehemiah, knowing their harmful intentions, refused their invitation.

When these attempts failed, a fifth attempt was made to hurt Nehemiah by framing him before the Persian authorities with a false report that he planned to have himself proclaimed king in Judah. A sixth attempt to damage Nehemiah was to pay a false prophet, Shemaiah, to lure Nehemiah into the Temple, but Nehemiah, realizing that this was a plot, refused to go. Despite these threats, Nehemiah reports that the wall was completed in just 52 days, which seems to be an incredibly short time for such a monumental task.

According to Josephus, the project took two years and four months. A large gathering of priests, Levites, musicians, and notables assembled from all over Judah for the dedication of the wall in Jerusalem. Nehemiah divided the participants into two processions each commencing from the same point; one procession marched south towards the Dung Gate and then around the right side of the wall, the other marched north along the top of the left side, and both groups joined up together at the Temple square.

Each procession was led by a choir, and musicians with trumpets, cymbals, harps, and lyres brought up the rear. Persian Kings in the 3 Books. Key People in the 3 Books. So the wall was finished … in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. Yet who know whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the jews fell upon them. Israel, Assyria and Babylonia. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among them. They restored the altar and worship.

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Toggle navigation. Skip this Video. People must work together and share their resources for the Church to flourish. Selfishness has no place in the lives of God's followers. Nehemiah reminded rich people and nobles not to take advantage of the poor. Despite overwhelming odds and the enemy's opposition, God's will prevails. God is omnipotent. He gives protection and freedom from fear.

God never forgets his people when they wander away from him. He seeks to draw them back and to rebuild their broken down lives. Nehemiah I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.

An Introduction to the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther

Nehemiah So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence , because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Nehemiah So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.