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ezra Summary and Overview

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ezra in Easton's Bible Dictionary

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).

ezra in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(help), called ESDRAS in the Apocrypha, the famous scribe and priest. He was a learned and pious priest residing at Babylon in the time of Artaxerxes Longimanus. The origin of his influence with the king does not appear, but in the seventh year of his reign he obtained leave to go to Jerusalem, and to take with him a company of Israelites. (B.C. 457.) The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took just four months; and the company brought with them a large freewill offering of gold and silver, and silver vessels. It appears that Ezra's great design was to effect a religious reformation among the Israel Jews. His first step was to enforce separation upon all who had married foreign wives. #Ezr 10:1| ... This was effected in little more than six months after his arrival at Jerusalem. With the detailed account of this important transaction Ezra's autobiography ends abruptly, and we hear nothing more of him till, thirteen years afterwards, in the twentieth of Artaxerxes, we find him again at Jerusalem with Nehemiah. It seems probable that after effecting the above reformations he returned to the king of Persia. The functions he executed under Nehemiah's government were purely of a priestly and ecclesiastical character. The date of his death is uncertain. There was a Jewish tradition that he was buried in Persia. The principal works ascribed to him by the Jews are-- 1. The instruction of the great synagogue; 2. The settling the canon of Scripture, and restoring, correcting and editing the whole sacred volume; 3. The introduction of the Chaldee character instead of the old Hebrew or Samaritan; 4. The authorship of the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and, some add, Esther; and, many of the Jews say, also of the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve prophets; 5. The establishment of synagogues.

ezra in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

EZ'RA (help). 1. A descendant of Judah. 1 Chr 4:17. 2. A Jewish priest and scholar who lived in Babylon during the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, over whom he had such influence that in his seventh year he obtained permission to head a large company of persons and go to Jerusalem, b.c. 457. Ezr 7. The journey was completed in four months. In addition to the treasure brought, Ezra had other supplies, for he had permission to draw on the king's treasures. In Jerusalem he carried through the reforms he had intended, particularly the separation of the "strange wives." Ezr 10. With an account of this important measure the book of Ezra ends. The next notice is in Nehemiah 8:1, thirteen years after this. It is in every way likely that his first residence in Jerusalem was temporary, and that after effecting the various reforms and appointing proper persons to maintain them he returned to Babylon. Nehemiah was governor when Ezra entered Jerusalem the second time; accordingly, he attended only to priestly duties, such as teaching. Neh 8:1. It is unknown when he died. Jewish tradition elevates him to a level with Moses and Elijah, and makes him the founder of the great synagogue, the collector of the books of the Bible, the introducer of the Chaldee character instead of the old Hebrew, the author of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and lastly, the originator of synagogue-worship. And it is very likely that he was the author of these changes, or at all events that they occurred in his time. Ezra, the Book of, covers about 79 years, and should be read in connection with the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. It contains, (1) chs. 1-6, an account of the return of 50,000 Jews under Zerubbabel in the first year of Cyrus, the rebuilding of the temple, and the interference of the Samaritans; (2) chs. 7-10, the history of Ezra's immigration and his reforms, particularly in regard to the strange wives. The book of Ezra is written in Chaldee from ch. 4:8 to 6:19, narrating the attempt of the Samaritans to hinder the building of the temple, and from the beginning of ch. 7 to the twenty-seventh verse. The people recently returned from the Captivity were more conversant with the Chaldee than even with the Hebrew tongue. Ezra is the author of at least the greater part of the book. The date may be given as b.c. 456.

ezra in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

("the helper," as Nehemiah means "the comforter".) 1. A "ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:11-12); "a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and of His statutes to Israel"; "a scribe of the law of the God of heaven"; "priest"; a worthy descendant of Hilkiah the priest under Josiah, who "found the book of the law in the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 34:14-15); son or descendant of Seraiah (not the high priest. Seraiah, Ezra 7:1). See Ezra 7-10; also Nehemiah 8; Nehemiah 12:26. Resided in Babylon under Artaxerxes Longimanus. His qualification for his work was "he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." By the king's leave, in the seventh year of his reign, he took to Jerusalem 1,754 persons, including Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, porters, and Nethinim (Ezra 7:7; Ezra 8). The journey occupied four months. They brought free will offerings, gold, silver, and vessels, from the king and his counselors, as well as from the Jews abroad. Artaxerxes empowered him also to draw upon the royal treasurers beyond the river for further supplies if necessary; also the decree added. "thou Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not." He committed for safety the charge of the gold and silver to 12 priests and 12 Levites (Ezra 8:24 translated "I separated 12 of the chief priests in addition to Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them": compare Ezra 8:18-19). These delivered them up "to the chief of the priests, Levites. and fathers at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord." His Guard was God, sought and found at the river Ahava, by fasting and prayer, that He might give "a right way for us, and for our little ones. and for all our substance" (Ezra 8:21). So jealous was he for the honor of God that he declares, "I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers ... to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken unto the king, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him, but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him." At the same time he uses all worldly prudence and firmness, while faith in God was his main stay. His great aim, as Malachi, his and Nehemiah's helper, expresses it, was "Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." In six months after his arrival he effected the purification of the holy nation from foreign admixture by causing 17 priests, 10 Levites, and 86 of other tribes, to put away alien wives. The largeness of the number proves the wide extent of the evil, and the depth of spiritual earnestness which prompted such a severe sacrifice. Ezra's book closes abruptly here, as probably the odium connected with this self denying ordinance made him judge it expedient to withdraw to Babylon for the present. The relapse of the Jews into their former disorders, such as Nehemiah describes, could not have occurred had Ezra been there continually. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra "the priest, the scribe," 13 years later reappears in charge of the spiritual interests of the people, as Nehemiah, the tirshatha or governor, of their political interests, the two acting in harmonious cooperation (Nehemiah 12:26). He probably did not return with Nehemiah, but a little later, to Jerusalem; for he is not mentioned until after the completion of the wall. Ezra read and interpreted Moses' law to the people during the eight days of the feast of tabernacles, prayed, and assisted at the dedication of the wall. As Ezra is not mentioned after Nehemiah's departure for Babylon in Artaxerxes' 32nd year, and the Jews relapsed into irregularity during Nehemiah's absence (Nehemiah 13), it is likely Ezra died or returned to Babylon shortly after Nehemiah's departure. Benjamin of Tudela says that Ezra died at Nehar-Samorah on the lower Tigris on the Persian frontier, when going from Jerusalem to Artaxerxes, and that his sepulchre was there. The institution of the great synagogue is attributed to him, and he certainly left the pattern of synagogue worship, with its "pulpit" and reading and expounding the law. He and Malachi probably settled the inspired canon of Scripture, comprising the three, "the law, the prophets, and the hagiographa"; the division of verses, the vowel pointings, and the keri or margin readings, and the Chaldee characters instead of the old Hebrew or Samaritan, are also attributed to him. He probably compiled Chronicles. frontCHRONICLES.) Psalm 119, of which the theme throughout is the law or word of God, as the palladium of Israel's national and individual salvation, is in its present form probably the production of Ezra, "the priest, and ready scribe in the law of Moses." The features of the psalm suit the Jews' position on their return from Babylon. Israel is the speaker throughout whom the psalmist represents, and whose calling it was to testify for the word of truth before the pagan world powers (compare Psalm 119:23-46). 2. Nehemiah 12:2. One of the priests who returned with Zerubbabel. 3. A man of Judah (1 Chronicles 4:17).