The Book of Ezra begins where 2 Chronicles ended, by showing how God fulfills His promise to return His people to the Land of Promise after seventy years of exile. Israel’s “second exodus,” this one from Babylon, is far less impressive than the return from Egypt because only a remnant chose to leave Babylon.
The Book of Ezra relates the story of two returns from Babylon—the first led by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple (1–6), and the second under the leadership of Ezra to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people (7–10). Between these two accounts stretches a gap of nearly six decades, during which Esther lives and rules as queen of Persia.
Ezra tells a wonderful story of redemption and deliverance. But it also shows us that we can count on the Word of God in all circumstances, no matter how dire they may seem. God, speaking 150 years earlier through the prophet Isaiah (44:28–45:7), had foretold the arrival of one who would free the Jews from captivity. That man was King Cyrus of Persia, who, shortly after defeating the Babylonians, decreed that the Jews would be allowed to return to their homeland.
More than 2,500 years ago, God’s people saw firsthand that they could count on their Lord to keep His promises. We can count on Him to do the same. If God said it, we can count on it!
Theme: Ezra highlights the power and reliability of the Word of God. In the very first verse of the book, the author tells us that the events then occurring happened in fulfillment of God’s promise: “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah .… ”
Author: Unknown. It is generally accepted that while Ezra did not author the entire book, he may have had a hand in writing and compiling parts of it.
Time: Ezra begins with the proclamation of King Cyrus of Persia that sets in motion the homeward journey of the first wave of Jewish captives (around 538–537 B.C.). Fifty-eight years later, after the reconstruction of the temple, a second wave of Jewish captives, under the leadership of Ezra, leaves Babylon and heads for home.
Structure: The Book of Ezra is divided into three main parts: Cyrus’s edict and the return of the first wave of Jews to their homeland (1–2); the long-delayed endeavor to rebuild the holy temple (3–6); the exodus of the second wave of Jews from Babylon and the spiritual reforms that took place under the leadership of Ezra (7–10).
Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Ezr.