Ezra

help. (1.) A priest among those that returned to Jerusalem under
Zerubabel (Neh. 12:1).

(2.) The "scribe" who led the second body of exiles that
returned from Babylon to Jerusalem B.C. 459, and author of the
book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or
perhaps grandson, of Seraiah (2 Kings 25:18-21), and a lineal
descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). All we
know of his personal history is contained in the last four
chapters of his book, and in Neh. 8 and 12:26.

In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see
DARIUS T0000975), he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and
to take with him a company of Israelites (Ezra 8). Artaxerxes
manifested great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him
"all his request," and loading him with gifts for the house of
God. Ezra assembled the band of exiles, probably about 5,000 in
all, who were prepared to go up with him to Jerusalem, on the
banks of the Ahava, where they rested for three days, and were
put into order for their march across the desert, which was
completed in four months. His proceedings at Jerusalem on his
arrival there are recorded in his book.

He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared
his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach
in Israel statutes and judgments." "He is," says Professor
Binnie, "the first well-defined example of an order of men who
have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition,
who devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in
order that they may be in a condition to interpret them for the
instruction and edification of the church. It is significant
that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history of
Ezra's ministry (Neh. 8:4). He was much more of a teacher than a
priest. We learn from the account of his labors in the book of
Nehemiah that he was careful to have the whole people instructed
in the law of Moses; and there is no reason to reject the
constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the
collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final
completion of the canon may have been, and probably was, the
work of a later generation; but Ezra seems to have put it much
into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew Bible.
When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue
dates from this period, it will be seen that the age was
emphatically one of Biblical study" (The Psalms: their History,
etc.).

For about fourteen years, i.e., till B.C. 445, we have no
record of what went on in Jerusalem after Ezra had set in order
the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the nation. In that year
another distinguished personage, Nehemiah, appears on the scene.
After the ruined wall of the city had been built by Nehemiah,
there was a great gathering of the people at Jerusalem
preparatory to the dedication of the wall. On the appointed day
the whole population assembled, and the law was read aloud to
them by Ezra and his assistants (Neh. 8:3). The remarkable scene
is described in detail. There was a great religious awakening.
For successive days they held solemn assemblies, confessing
their sins and offering up solemn sacrifices. They kept also the
feast of Tabernacles with great solemnity and joyous enthusiasm,
and then renewed their national covenant to be the Lord's.
Abuses were rectified, and arrangements for the temple service
completed, and now nothing remained but the dedication of the
walls of the city (Neh. 12).