Book summary

1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah remind God’s people — who are returning from exile — of their ancestry and inspire them with a more positive view of history than the previous books tell.

After the collapse of both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah and their exile, God begins to fulfil the covenant he made to restore his people to the Promised Land. The book of Ezra documents the 1st, 2nd and 3rd waves of the return to Zion, as well as the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra himself was a priest that was devoted to God’s word and personally led the 3rd wave.

Chapter 1 — First wave, led by Sheshbazzar

Cyrus helps the exiles to return
  • This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’” (Ezra 1:2-4)

  • In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:11)

Chapters 2-6 — Second wave, led by Zerubbabel and Joshua

Ch 2 — Around 50,000 exiles return

  • Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua …) (Ezra 2:1-2)

Ch 3-6 — Rebuilding the temple

Ch 3 — Construction starts
  • In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. (Ezra 3:8)

Ch 4-5 — Construction halts due to opposition
  • Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:4-5)

Ch 6:1-11 — Construction resumes after Darius’ decree
  • Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. (Ezra 6:7-8)

Ch 6:13-22 — Construction completed
  • So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. (Ezra 6:14)

Chapters 7-10 — Third wave, led by Ezra

Ch 7 — Letter of King Artaxerxes to Ezra

  • Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. (Ezra 7:13-14)

Ch 8 — Around 5,000 exiles return

  • These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me [Ezra] from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes… (Ezra 8:1)

  • The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days. (Ezra 8:31-32)

Ch 9-10 — Ezra’s reforms

Ch 9 — Ezra’s prayer about intermarriage
  • After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. (Ezra 9:1-3)

Ch 10 — The people’s confession of sin
  • While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites — men, women and children — gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. (Ezra 10:1)