The Inspiration of the Scriptures: Ezra

Ezra  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 12
Divine Design 15. Ezra
This book has its own design from God, manifestly distinct from that of Kings as well as Chronicles, even if the style of the latter did not point to the same writer, “a ready scribe in the law of Moses which Jehovah, the God of Israel, had given.” In fact however the book before us was joined, not with the Chronicles, but with Nehemiah, though this was by the governor's hand, long designated together “the Book of Ezra,” and it would seem, only late in the fourth century after Christ separated as we now have them. Ezra was not the witness of the facts in chaps. 1-6, as he was of those in the remaining four; but there is no sufficient ground to doubt that he was inspired to give us all.
The overthrow of Babylon was an event of signal moment, not only in itself and its immediate consequences, but yet more as prefiguring the judgment of the Gentile dominion from the God of heaven on the actual apostasy and ruin for the time of Jehovah's people. This is made plain in Isa. 13, 14 where, as none ought to doubt that it predicts the catastrophe that befell the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride by the Medes, &c., so none should overlook that “the Burden” does not stop short of the final downfall of the power which “the golden city” began, when Jehovah will have compassion on, not on a mere remnant of Judah chiefly, but “on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land,” and “they shall take them captive whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.”
This book of Ezra was of the utmost importance to show the divine account of the intervening provisional state in which they waited for the Messiah, and the fulfillment yet further when they are completely restored, in the land, under the new covenant, and have the true David and David's Son reigning over them in power and glory. They are meanwhile Lo-ammi (not-My-people); they are (not “were”) bondmen of the Gentile power. Compare Ezra 9:99For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. (Ezra 9:9), and Neh. 9:3636Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: (Nehemiah 9:36) which makes the correction certain. Yet Cyrus had proclaimed more than liberty to return and even a charge to build Jehovah His house in Jerusalem according to prophecy. Withal he returned the captured vessels, gold and silver, by Shesh-bazzar, prince of Judah (1); and the children of the captivity went up (2), every one to his city, upwards of 42,000 genealogically reckoned, besides their servants male and female. Most appropriately they set up, not first a wall, but the altar, and offered Burnt-offerings, and kept the feast of Tabernacles (for it was the seventh month), and other dues to Jehovah according to His word, before the foundation of the house was laid. When it was laid before their eyes, greatly wept the old, loudly shouted the young (3). But the adversaries were on the alert, first pretending a friendly alliance, next accusing the returned remnant to Cambyses (=Ahasuerus), and as he evidently would not oppose his father's decree, then to Smerdis (=Artaxerxes), who lent them his ear; and the work ceased (4) But the prophets, looking to God, re-awakened their zeal by their prophesying (5); and the work went on, notwithstanding the opposition of influential antagonists, before the fresh letter to Darius Hystaspis brought out his decided confirmation of Cyrus' original proclamation. The house was finished in his sixth year, and its dedication kept with joy; and remnant though they were, shorn of their chief ornaments, they embraced all Israel in faith and subjection to the word; as in due time they kept the passover duly purified and joyfully, though owning the Gentile king in the bondage to which God had reduced them because of their departure from Himself (6).
After these things, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, Ezra the priest went up from Babylon, and with him other Israelites of all grades by the king's favor, and with free-will offerings, and authority for all Ezra wanted for the house of his God, and instruction and judging of the Jews: a witness alike of divine mercy through the Gentile, and of the abnormal position of Israel (7). The genealogy follows in chap. 8 of Ezra's companions, their fears, yet faith, and safe arrival. But this faithful servant of God, when he learned the affinity of those already in the land with the Gentiles, sat down grieved and overwhelmed until the evening oblation; then he poured out with tears his humiliation to Jehovah (chap. 9). There Shechaniah confessed for the rest; and they agreed to put away the evil at a solemn assembly of all by proclamation. And so it was done, though not without resistance; for the sin was widespread, even among the priests.