About this book
This book is named after the main character of its second part.
The book of 2 Chronicles ended with an official message that King Cyrus of Persia sent in 538 bc, which allowed the Jews to return to their land and to rebuild the Lord's temple. The first part of the book of Ezra (1—6) begins with that same message and then tells how many of the Jews returned to Jerusalem and began work on the temple. But the people in nearby areas caused a lot of trouble for them, and so the work went slowly and even stopped for several years. But the temple was finally finished in 515 bc.
The first part of the book also tells about problems at a later time, when the Jews had to stop rebuilding the city walls during the rule of Artaxerxes (4.6–23).
The second part of the book (7—10) begins with Ezra arriving in Jerusalem to teach God's laws to the people of Judah. Ezra was horrified to learn that the people of Israel were committing the same sins as other nations. Israel was in serious danger of being punished or even destroyed by the Lord. So Ezra prayed and confessed Israel's sins, and the people agreed to begin obeying God's laws. The book of Nehemiah reports other things that Ezra did.
God's people were no longer an independent nation, but Ezra realized that God was in control, no matter what empire ruled over them. And so Ezra said:
Praise the Lord God of our ancestors! He made sure that the king honoured the Lord's temple in Jerusalem. God has told the king, his advisers, and his powerful officials to treat me with kindness. The Lord God has helped me, and I have been able to bring many Jewish leaders back to Jerusalem.
A quick look at this book
1. The Jews return home from exile (1.1—2.70)
2. The altar is rebuilt, and work on the temple begins (3.1—4.5)
3. Later trouble rebuilding Jerusalem (4.6–23)
4. The temple is rebuilt (4.24—6.22)
5. Ezra leads many Jews back to Jerusalem (7.1—8.36)
6. Ezra forces men to divorce their Gentile wives (9.1—10.44)