Date: 5th century BC
After the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, its inhabitants were scattered throughout the ancient world. The land was allotted to strangers by the Assyrians. These are the ancestors of the Samaritans from the time of Christ Jesus. After the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah in 587 BC, the exiles were deported to the Babylonian Empire virtually as one group. This allowed them to retain their national identity. Though life in exile was tough, the memory of the city of Jerusalem kept them going for years. Finally, they received permission from the king of Persia, Cyrus (Kores) to return to their homeland. Psalm 137 expresses these feelings of the exiles.
The book of Ezra begins with Cyrus' decree to return the people of Judah. Ezra was the leader of a group of returnees.
The first wave of returnees (ca. 540-533 BC) faced a difficult task. Cities, houses and defenses had to be built or repaired. A new life had to be built from scratch. And all this under the eyes of enemy powers. The temple was also rebuilt and rededicated in 516 BC. Ezra led a second group back to the land and was astonished at how demoralized he found the people. But there was a revival and for a while life became more bearable.
This book shows that life, although difficult at times, is livable, thanks to the help of God. The challenges of the people seemed insurmountable, yet they managed to endure from day to day. Their power came from God. With this lesson in mind, we too can learn to persevere. No one knows what trouble the day will bring, but when we think of Ezra and his time, we regain confidence. For the way God carries out His plans is different, but GOD Himself never changes.
1. The decree of Cyrus (1:1-11),
2. List of Returnees (2:1-70),
3. The rebuilding of the temple (3:1-6:22),
4. The Return of Ezra (7:1-10:44).