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Literature / Book of Ezra

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One of the books of the Old Testament that chronicles the events of God's people Israel after the period of the Babylonian exile. When King Cyrus of Persia calls for God's people to return to their own land and rebuild the Temple, the people proceed forth and start building, only to be held up for years by their enemies, then resume again when God's prophets speak to them. Ezra the priest shows up in the last third of the story to teach the people the Law of God.

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Structure of the book:

  • The proclamation of King Cyrus of Persia (Ezra chapter 1)
  • A list of the returning exiles (Ezra chapter 2)
  • The altar is rebuilt, and the Temple's foundation is laid (Ezra chapter 3)
  • Adversaries oppose and halt work on the Temple (Ezra chapter 4)
  • Rebuilding continues despite opposition from Tattenai (Ezra chapter 5)
  • The Temple is finished and the Passover is celebrated (Ezra chapter 6)
  • Ezra is sent to teach the people (Ezra chapter 7)
  • The genealogy of those who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-20)
  • Prayer of protection and the priests guard the offerings (Ezra 8:21-36)
  • Ezra prays about intermarriage (Ezra chapter 9)
  • The people confess their sins (Ezra 10:1-17)
  • The list of people guilty of intermarriage (Ezra 10:18-44)


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This book contains examples of:

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In chapter 4, when the adversaries of God's people heard that they were rebuilding the city and the Temple, they came up to Zerubabbel the governor and the chiefs of the father's households and pretended to be their friends, saying, “Let us build with you, for, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” When God's people refused to let them help, those same people decided to cause trouble and even go so far as to write to the king to get his permission to have God's people stop the rebuilding. This part succeeded, and God's people stopped the rebuilding until the time of King Darius of Persia.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After much strife and difficulty the new Temple of the Lord is finally completed... but many feel it pales in comparison to the glory of the old temple. Also, several of God's people must now divorce their foreign wives lest they incur the wrath of the Lord.
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  • Development Hell: In-universe, the new Temple was stuck in this state between when its building was halted and when the prophets Haggai and Zechariah exhorted the people to continue on, whether the king would allow it or not. The entire effort took about 20 years from start to finish, although according to the testimony of the Jews in Jesus' day in the gospel of John, it was 46 years.
  • Every Man Has His Price: In chapter 4, when Israel's enemies were denied any right to "help" them in their rebuilding of the Temple, they decided to bribe the officials to work against the Israelites and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of King Cyrus the Persian.
  • God Is Good: In Ezra's prayer to God in Chapter 9, he recalls to God His goodness in punishing them less than their sins deserve and granting them mercy so they could rebuild and restore their lives upon their return to their own homeland.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The period where God's people had to come to grips with being faithful to Him and divorce the foreign wives they had married also came during a period of heavy rain.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ezra in chapter 9 has this when he heard that the returning Jews were guilty of the sin of interracial marriage with the nations, which lasts until he prays to God about the situation and what they could do.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In King Darius' response to Tattenai the governor's letter regarding the continued rebuilding of the Temple by the Jews, he tells the governor to leave the rebuilding alone, even going so far as to saying that "if any one alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled upon it, and his house shall be made a dunghill."
  • Long List: Chapter 2 is a long list of people who have returned from the exile, while chapter 10 has one of all the men who had to divorce themselves of their foreign wives.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: In chapters 9 and 10, Ezra hears that a good deal of God's people have intermarried with the people of the nations, and this caused great distress because they were commanded not to marry people of the other nations. This resulted in a lengthy period of those people going through a ritualized divorce proceeding in order to turn away God's wrath.
  • Rebuilt Set: God's Temple is rebuilt by the Jews. However, some of the people who remember the original Temple see the rebuilt Temple as an inferior copy.
  • Sequel: To the books of Chronicles, as the narrative picks up from the point of King Cyrus' pronouncement to the people of Israel. The Book of Nehemiah is this story's sequel, as these books were originally written as one book.
  • Tears of Remorse: When the foundation of the new Temple was laid, some of God's people shouted with joy, but those who still remembered Solomon's Temple cried these tears, probably believing that the new Temple would not be as grand as the old one was, and that their national sins have caused the destruction of the old Temple.
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