Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read:
Ezra 1: King Cyrus urges the exiles to return to Jerusalem
Ezra 3: 7-13 Rebuilding Solomon's temple
Ezra 9: Ezra preaches against intermarriage
Orientation Ezra is book #15 of 39 in the Old Testament. It is considered a book of History. Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah were one book. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis After the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews have been in exile for 50 years. Now Persia has defeated Babylon, and King Cyrus of Persia encourages the Jews (1:2) to return to their land. He even encourages them to rebuild Solomon's temple, by returning the fixtures (1:7) the Babylonians had plundered from it before destroying it.
The rebuild starts with the altar (3:2). The foundation work causes regret among the older people when they realize it will not be as large as the original temple (3:12). Work on the temple slows due to local opposition, documented in a series of legal actions, including a stop work order (4:21). Prophets Haggai and Zechariah arrive (5:1) and urge its completion, which resumes with the discovery of the original building permit (6:2). The rebuild is completed (6:15). Now the Jews have their second temple, 70 years after the first was destroyed.
Prophet Ezra arrives (7:8) and teaches the laws of Moses - generally successfully, although his hardline stand against intermarriage (9:12, 10:3) causes many marriages of Jewish men/gentile women to be dissolved.
Major Characters Cyrus, Persian king who frees Jewish exiles
Ezra, priest who preaches against Jew marrying non-Jews
Major Events The Jews return from exile (1-2)
Rebuilding Solomon's temple (3: 7-13, 6: 13-18)
Ezra condemns intermarriage (9:1 - 10:17)
Discussion questions In 3:12 the older folks regret the rebuild, longing for the good old days instead. Do we look backwards in regret? Is it productive?
How does Ezra's stance again intermarriage hold today - between a marriage of a believer and a non-believer?
Ezra's stance on intermarriage, rather than changing future behavior, seeks to undo past behavior. See Deuteronomy 7:4 for the cause. How far do we go when discovering a sin - do we undo the past? Is it worthwhile?
Connections The exiles who return are counted in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Each account totals 42,360. But Ezra's list adds up to 29,818 and Nehemiah's list adds up to 31,089. Some think the discepancy comes from different methods of counting the women.
The rebuilding of the temple in 3: 7-13 is also described in Haggai 2.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 14 2014
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