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Old Testament Summary: Books of Ezra & Nehemiah

By Yona Williams    6/1/12

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When Nehemiah heard of the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, he was a Hebrew in Persia. Upon learning that there was no wall protecting the city, Nehemiah grew anxious and asked God to use him as a way to save the city. God answered his prayer. In this article, you will learn more about the Book of Nehemiah, as well as the one before it – the Book of Ezra.

Book of Ezra

The Book of Ezra is named after a significant priest of the same name, which tells the tale of the two returns of the people of Judah following captivity in Babylon. Zerubbabel led the first of the returns. In chapters 1 to 6, the rebuilding of the Temple takes place. Ezra leads the second return to start a spiritual awakening or the revival of the people. These events are told in chapters 7 to 10.

Although the specific author of the Book of Ezra is not mentioned, it is thought that the prophet Ezra is responsible for writing the text Interestingly, Ezra appears in chapter 7, which means that the writing style shifts from third person to first person at one point. This is one of the arguments used to prove that Ezra was the author of this book.

The Book of Ezra is thought written between 460 and 440 BC, and is meant to highlight the events that took place in the land of Israel during the time period marked by the return of the Babylonian captives. The following years are also detailed and tell of the next century – starting in 538 BC. The main point made in the book focuses on the rebuilding of the Temple. There are many genealogical records mentioned in the writing that establishes the claims to the priesthood regarding the descendants of Aaron.

Book of Nehemiah

At first, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were initially presented as one, but were later separated into two. The author of the book is not specifically revealed, but both Jews and Christians identify the author as Ezra. The book was most likely written between 445 and 420 BC with the intent to present historical information in the Bible. The tale of Israel's return from Babylonian captivity is highlighted, as well as the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Some people see the book as an autobiography of Nehemiah, and is often seen as a continuation of the book of Ezra. From chapter 1 to 7, the rebuilding of Jerusalem unfolds. To learn about the spirituality of the Jewish people during this time is told from chapters 8 to 10. In chapters 12 and 13, other events are discussed, such as the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah also carries out a host of spiritual reforms that appear in the book.

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