FIRST KINGS – (David’s Death; Disruption of the Kingdom)
The author is unknown, though the Jews credit its writing to Jeremiah. As Ryrie points out: Whoever the author or compiler of these books was, he used historical sources (11:41; 14:19, 29). He likely was one of the exiles who lived in Babylon, perhaps an unknown one, or Ezra or Ezekiel or Jeremiah (though someone other than Jeremiah would have had to write the last chapter of 2 Kings, since Jeremiah apparently died in Egypt, not Babylon; Jer. 43:6-7).8
About 550 B.C. The release of Jehoiachin from prison is the last event recorded in 2 Kings. This took place in the 37th year of his imprisonment (560 B.C.). Therefore 1 and 2 Kings could not have been written before that event. It seems unlikely that the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. had taken place when 1 and 2 Kings were written; had it occurred, the author would probably have referred to it. Probably 1 and 2 Kings were completed in their final form between 560 and 538 B.C.9
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
First and Second Kings, originally one book (like 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Chronicles) and simply called “Kings” in the Hebrew tradition (Melechim), are appropriately titled since they trace the history of the kings of Israel and Judah from the time of Solomon to the Babylonian captivity. First Kings abruptly ends with the beginning of the reign of Ahaziah in 853 B.C.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
After David’s death (chaps. 1-2), his son Solomon became king. Chapters 1-11 trace the life and reign of Solomon, including Israel’s rise to the peak of her glory, the spread of the nation’s kingdom, and the construction of the temple and palace in Jerusalem. But in Solomon’s later years, he drifted from the Lord because of his pagan wives who wrongly influenced him and turned his heart away from the worship of God in the temple.
As a result, the king with the divided heart leaves behind a divided kingdom. For the next century, the book of First Kings traces the twin histories of two sets of kings and two nations of disobedient people who are growing indifferent to God’s prophets and precepts.10
The next king was Rehoboam, who lost the northern part of the kingdom. After this the Northern Kingdom, which included 10 tribes, was known as Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, which included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, was called Judah. In the last chapters of 1 Kings, the focus is on the evil of King Ahab and righteous prophet Elijah who condemned Ahab’s wickedness and Israel’s disobedience.
The central theme, therefore, is to show how disobedience led to the disruption of the kingdom. The welfare of the nation depended on the faithfulness of its leadership and people to the covenants of God with Israel. First Kings not only gives a record of the history of these kings, but it demonstrates the success of any king (and of the nation as a whole) depends on the measure of the king’s allegiance to God’s law or truth. The book truly illustrates how “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). Unfaithfulness to God’s covenant resulted in decline and captivity.
While the key word is “kingdom,” which occurs some 357 times (NASB), the key concept is the division of the kingdom.
1 Kings 9:3-7 NKJV (3) And the LORD said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. (4) Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, (5) then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ (6) But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, (7) then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
1 Kings 11:11 NKJV (11) Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
Chapters 11 and 12: The key chapters are 11 and 12 which describe the demise of Solomon and the division of the kingdom.
Other significant chapters that have key roles are 3 and 4 dealing with Solomon’s choice of wisdom and wise rule, chapter 8 the dedication of the temple, chapters 17 through 19 recording the great ministry of Elijah.
Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Elijah and Elisha, Ahab and Jezebel.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 1 KINGS:
Like David, Solomon is one of the greatest types in the Old Testament of Christ, portraying Messiah in His future reign on earth. Solomon especially does this as his fame, glory, wealth, and honor all speak of Christ in His earthly kingdom. Solomon also portrays Christ in the great wisdom he demonstrated.
First Kings naturally falls into two sections: the united kingdom (1-11) and the divided kingdom (12-22).
- The United Kingdom: The Forty Year Reign of Solomon (1:1-11)
- Solomon’s Accession (1:1-3:1)
- Solomon’s Wisdom (3:2-4:34 )
- Solomon’s Temple (5:1-8:66; cf. 2 Chron. 2:1-7:22)
- Solomon’s Fame (9:1-10:29; cf. 2 Chron. 8:1-9:28)
- Solomon’s Decline and Downfall (11:1-43)
- The Divided Kingdom: The First Eighty Years of the Two Kingdoms (12-22)
- The Cause of Division (12:1-24)
- The Reign of Jeroboam in Israel(12:25-14:20)
- The Reign of Rehoboam inJudah(14:21-31)
- The Reign of Abijam in Judah(15:1-8)
- The Reign of Asa in Judah(15:9-24)
- The Reign of Nadab in Israel(15:25-31)
- The Reign of Baasha in Israel(15:32-16:7)
- The Reign of Elah in Israel(16:8-14)
- The Reign of Zimri in Israel(16:15-20)
- The Reign of Omri in Israel(16:21-28)
- The Reign of Ahab in Israel(16:29-22:40)
- The Reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah(22:41-50)
- The Reign of Ahaziah in Israel(22:51-53)
SECOND KINGS – (Dispersion—Willful Sin Has a Woeful End)
Since 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book and were artificially divided, see the previous discussion regarding the author in the 1 Kings overview.
About 550 B.C. Again, since 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book, see the discussion on the date in 1 Kings.
TITLE OF THE BOOK: See 1 Kings.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Second Kings continues the history of Elijah and his successor, Elisha, but it also continues what might be termed, the “Tale of the Two Kingdoms.” As such, it continues to trace the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah until they are finally conquered and taken into captivity. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 B.C. and Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. In both kingdoms the prophets continued to warn the people that God would punish them unless they repented. Second Kings teaches that willful sin in a nation has a woeful end. In 1 and 2 Samuel, the nation is born, in 1 Kings it is divided, and in 2 Kings it is dispersed. After years of pleading with His people through the prophets, God’s patience finally turns to discipline just as He promised. Because both books were originally one, 1 and 2 Kings share the same theme and goal. They teach us how unfaithfulness (disobedience to God’s law and rebellion) must lead to God’s discipline and the overthrow of the monarchy. The two kingdoms collapsed because of the failure of the kings to rule righteously and give heed to God’s truth.
Two key words are the word, “king,” occurring over 400 times (NASB), and the word “prophet,” which occurs some 34 times (NASB). But the key term that describes the content would be dispersion or captivities since this book describes the historical demise that lead to the loss of the monarchies and the dispersion of the two kingdoms.
2 Kings 17:18-23 NKJV (18) Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. (19) Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. (20) And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. (21) For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. (22) For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, (23) until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.
2 Kings 23:27 NKJV (27) And the LORD said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’ ”
A number of chapters fall into this category: chapter 2, Elijah taken to heaven; chapter 4, Elisha’s miracle for the widow; chapter 5, the healing of Naaman and Gehazi’s greed; chapter 6, Elisha’s prayer for his servant and the capture of Syria; chapter 17, Israel’s fall and the Assyrian Captivity (722 B.C.); chapters 18-19, Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah and Hezekiah’s prayer; chapters 22-23, Josiah’s revival, reforms, and renewal; chapters 24-25, the fall of Judah to Babylon (586 B.C.)
Elijah, Elisha, Josiah, Naaman, Hezekiah.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 KINGS:
Elijah naturally anticipates the forerunner of Christ in John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12; Luke 1:17) and Elisha in many ways reminds us of Jesus Christ in His ministry. Jensen compares and summarizes their ministry: Elijah is noted for great public acts, while Elisha is distinguished by the large number of miracles he performed, many of them for individual needs. Elijah’s ministry emphasized God’s law, judgment, and severity. Elisha supplemented this by demonstrating God’s grace, love and tenderness. Elijah was like John the Baptist, thundering the message of repentance for sin. Elisha followed this up by going about, as Christ did, doing deeds of kindness, and by doing miracles attesting that the words of the prophets were from God.11
Second Kings also naturally falls into two section. The first section, The Divided Kingdom (1:1-17:41), selectively traces the reign of the kings of both nations until the dispersion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The second section, The Surviving Kingdom of Judah (18:1-25:30), then traces the reign of the surviving kings of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
- The Divided Kingdom (1:1-17:41)
- The Reign of Ahaziah in Israel (1:1-18 )
- The Reign of Jehoram (Joram) in Israel(2:1-8:15)
- The translation of Elijah (2:1-11)
- The beginning of Elisha’s ministry (2:12-25)
- Jehoram’s expedition against Moab (3:1-27)
- Elisha’s ministry (4:1-8:15)
- The Reign of Joram (Jehoram) in Judah(8:16-24)
- The Reign of Ahaziah in Judah(8:25-29)
- The Reign of Jehu in Israel(9:1-10:36)
- The Reign of Athaliah in Judah(11:1-16)
- The Reign of Jehoash (Joash) in Judah(11:17-12:21)
- The Reign of Jehoahaz in Israel(13:1-9)
- The Reign of Jehoash (Joash) in Israel(13:10-25)
- The Reign of Amaziah inJudah(14:1-22)
- The Reign of Jeroboam II in Israel(14:23-29)
- The Reign of Azariah (Uzziah) in Judah(15:1-7)
- The Reign of Zechariah in Israel(15:8-12)
- The Reign of Shallum in Israel(15:13-15)
- The Reign of Menahem in Israel(15:16-22)
- The Reign of Pekahiah in Israel(15:23-26)
- The Reign of Pekah in Israel(15:27-31)
- The Reign of Jotham in Judah(15:32-38)
- The Reign of Ahaz in Judah(16:1-20)
- The Reign of Hoshea in Israel(17:1-41)
- Israel’s Defeat (17:1-6 )
- Israel’s Sins (17:7-23)
- Israel’s Dispersion (17:24-41)
- The Surviving Kingdom of Judah (18:1-25:30)
- The Reign of Hezekiah (18:1-20:21)
- The Reign of Manasseh (21:1-18)
- The Reign of Amon (21:19-26)
- The Reign of Josiah (22:1-23:30)
- The Reign of Jehoahaz (2 Chron. 36:1-4) (23:31-33)
- The Reign of Jehoiakim (23:34-24:7)
- The Reign of Jehoiachin (24:8-16)
- The Reign of Zedekiah (24:17-25:21)
- Rebellion against Babylon and destruction of the Temple (24:17-25:10)
- Third deportation to Babylon (25:11-21)
- The Governorship of Gedaliah, a Puppet Governor (25:22-26)
- The Release of Jehoiachin in Babylon (25:27-30)
Note carefully the instructive contrasts Ryrie demonstrates for us in the content of 1 and 2 Kings.12 These contrasts clearly demonstrate the truth that Willful Sin has a Woeful End.
FIRST CHRONICLES – (Preparation of the Temple)
Chronicles (originally both 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book) does not identify the author, but Jewish tradition has traditionally ascribed the book to Ezra. The consistency of style throughout the book indicates that though several sources were used in compiling the book, one editor shaped the final product. The various sources include the prophetic records by Samuel (1 Chron. 29:29), Isaiah (2 Chron. 32:32), and others (2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15; 20:34; 33:19); but particularly a source called “the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel” (2 Chron. 16:11; 25:26). The content suggests a priestly authorship because of the strong focus on the temple, the priesthood, and the theocratic line of David and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. That Ezra is the compiler of the book is also supported by the common themes of Ezra and Chronicles as the building and dedication of the temple.
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
Though the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles cover the same period of Jewish history, the perspective is very different. So while the content is similar, it is not a mere repetition, but more of a spiritual editorial of the history of the people of Israel. The Kings give man’s viewpoint while the Chronicles give God’s perspective.
Originally one book with 2 Chronicles (until 180 B.C.), the book’s Hebrew title means “the words (affairs) of the days,” i.e., the annals of Israel from Adam to the Babylonian captivity and Cyrus’s decree allowing the exiled Jews to return. In a sense it is a “miniature Old Testament,” tracing in capsule form the flow of Old Testament history.13
When producing the Septuagint, the translators divided Chronicles into two sections. At that time it was given the title, “Of Things Omitted,” referring to the things omitted from Samuel and Kings. The name “Chronicles” comes from Jerome in his Latin Vulgate Bible (A.D. 385-405): Chronicorum Liber. He meant his title in the sense of “The Chronicles of the Whole of Sacred History.”14
THEME AND PURPOSE:
First Chronicles begins with an outline of history from Adam through the death of King Saul. The rest of the book is about the reign of King David. The books of Chronicles seem like a repeat of Samuel and Kings, but they were written for the returned exiles to remind them that they came from the royal line of David and that they were God’s chosen people. The genealogies point out that the Davidic promises had their source in those pledged to Abraham that He would make him the father of a great nation, one through which He would bless the nations. The main theme is that God is faithful to His covenant.
Chronicles emphasizes the role of the Law, the priesthood, and the temple. Although Solomon’s temple was gone, the second temple could be regarded as the Remnant’s link to the first. This book also taught that the past was pregnant with lessons for their present. Apostasy, idolatry, intermarriage with Gentiles, and lack of unity were the reasons for their recent ruin. It is significant that after the Exile, Israel never again worshiped foreign gods.15
The key words are David (183 times) and the Davidic Covenant.
11:1-3 Then all Israel gathered to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. 2 In times past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who led out and brought in Israel; and the Lord your God said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and you shall be prince over My people Israel.’” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord through Samuel.
17:11-14 “And it shall come about when your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who shall be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. 14 But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”
29:11-12 Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.
Chapter 17. Because of the importance of God’s covenant with David to all of Scripture and its fulfillment in the person of Christ, this chapter is the pivotal and key chapter since it unfolds the Davidic Covenant as does 1 Samuel 7.
As mentioned, it is a book about David, though others that were prominent in 1 Samuel are also important here like Nathan, Bathsheba, and Uriah.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 1 CHRONICLES:
What was said in 1 and 2 Samuel regarding David as a type of Christ would naturally be prominent here also.
First Chronicles naturally divides into four sections: (1) The Genealogies or the Royal Line of David (1:1-9:44); (2) the Rise of David or His Anointing (10:1-12:40), (3) The Reign of David (13:1-29:21), and (4) The Assession of Solomon and the Death of David (29:22-30).
- Genealogies from Adam to David (1:1-9:44)
- Adam to Abraham (1:1-27)
- Abraham to Jacob (1:28-54)
- Jacob to David (2:1-55)
- David to the Captivity (3:1-24)
- Genealogies of the Twelve Tribes (4:1-8:40)
- Jerusalem’s Inhabitants (9:1-34)
- The Family of Saul (9:35-44)
- The Rise and Anointing of David (10:1-12:40)
- The Death of Saul (10:1-14)
- The Accession of David (11:1-3)
- The Capture of Jerusalem (11:4-9)
- The Heroes of David (11:10-12:40)
- David’s Reign (13:1-29:21)
- David and the Ark (13:1-17:27)
- David brings the Ark to Chidon: Uzza’s death (13:1-14)
- David’s fame and victory over the Philistines (14:1-17)
- David brings the ark to Jerusalem (15:1-29)
- David’s celebration and arrangements for the ark (16:1-43)
- David’s desire to build a Temple: the Davidic covenant (17:1-27)
- David’s Wars (18:1-20:8)
- David’s Sinful Census (21:1-30)
- David’s Preparations for the Temple (22:1-23:1)
- David’s Organization of the Levites (23:2-26:32)
- Numbering of and duties of the Levites (23:2-32)
- Dividing the Levites into twenty-four groups (24:1-31)
- Assigning the musicians (25:1-31)
- Appointing gatekeepers (26:1-19)
- Assigning the treasures (26:20-28)
- Delegating magistrates (26:29-32)
- David’s Civil Leaders (27:1-34)
- David’s Last Instructions to the People and to Solomon (28:1-21)
- David’s Offerings and Worship (29:1-21)
- David and the Ark (13:1-17:27)
- The Accession of Solomon and Death of David (29:22-30)
SECOND CHRONICLES (Destruction of the Temple)
As previously mentioned, 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book. As with 1 Chronicles, it does not state who wrote it, but Jewish tradition, which identifies the author as Ezra, and the consistency of viewpoint and style suggest it was probably the work of one person sometimes referred to by writers as the chronicler. In support of Ezra as the author are certain commonalties like the extensive lists, the Levites, and the temple. Whoever he was, he had access to a number of official sources like: (1) the book of the kings of Israel and Judah (27:7; 35:27; 36:8); (2) the book of the kings of Judah and Israel (16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32); (3) the book of the kings of Israel (20:34; 33:18); (4) the annals of the book of the kings (24:27); (5) the book Nathan, the prophecy of Ahijah, and the visions of Iddo (9:29); (6) the history of Shemaiah (12:15); (7) the annals of Iddo (13:22); (8) the writings of the prophet Isaiah (26:22); (9) the sayings of Hozai (33:19); (10) the Laments (35:25); and (11) the writings of David and his son Solomon (35:4).
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
See under 1 Chronicles.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
While 1 Chronicles parallels 1 and 2 Samuel, 2 Chronicles continues the history of David’s line and parallels 1 and 2 Kings. But for all practical purposes, it ignores the Northern Kingdom because of apostasy and total absence of any godly kings who patterned their life after David. By contrast, 2 Chronicles focuses on those kings who did walk after the lifestyle of David. Chapters 1-9 describe the building of the temple during Solomon’s reign. Chapters 10-36 trace the history of the Southern Kingdom of Judah to the final destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people to Babylon. Therefore, it devotes extended sections to the lives of those kings who brought revival and reform to the nation like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
As mentioned, Chronicles goes over some of the same history as Samuel and Kings, but from a different perspective in order to emphasize certain things: In 1 Chronicles, David is the subject while in 2 Chronicles the house of David is central. In Kings the history of the nation is given from the throne whereas in Chronicles it is given from the altar (the temple). In Kings the palace is central, but in Chronicles the temple is prominent. In Kings the focus is on the political history while in Chronicles the focus is on the religious or spiritual element of Israel’s history.
Chronicles is more than simply an historical record. It is God’s commentary on the spiritual characteristics of David’s dynasty. Because of this, the focus is on the kingdom of Judah, the Southern Kingdom where there were revival and godly kings in David’s line and why the Northern Kingdom, with no godly kings, is basically ignored.
References to the House of God and the priest(s) occur often. For this reason, the key word conceptually is “the priestly perspective of Judah.”
7:14 … and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
16:9 For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.
See also 1:1; 5:1; 36:14, 17-18.
The chapters covering the reforms of godly kings are key chapters in the way they illustrate the promise of 7:14. See especially chapter 34 and the reforms under Josiah when the book of the Law was found, read, and obeyed.
Josiah, Rehoboam, Solomon.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 CHRONICLES:
The throne of David has been destroyed, but the line of David remains. Murders, treachery, battles, and captivity all threaten the messianic line; but it remains clear and unbroken from Adam to Zerubbabel. The fulfillment in Christ can be seen in the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3.16
The temple which is so prominent in 2 Chronicles is a beautiful portrait of Christ (see Matt. 12:6; John 2:19; and Revelation 21:22).
- The Reign of Solomon (1:1-9:31)
- Solomon’s Inauguration (1:1-17)
- Solomon’s Temple (2:1-7:22)
- Solomon’s Fame (8:1-9:28)
- Solomon’s Death (9:29-31)
- The Kings of Judah (10:1-36:21)
- Rehoboam (10:1-12:16)
- Abijah (13:1-22)
- Asa (14:1-16:14)
- Jehoshaphat (17:1-20:37)
- Jehoram (21:1-20)
- Ahaziah (22:1-9)
- Athaliah (22:10-23:15)
- Joash (23:16-24:27)
- Smaziah (25:1-28)
- Uzziah (26:1-23)
- Jotham (27:1-9)
- Ahaz (28:1-27)
- Hezekiah (29:1-32:33)
- Manasseh (33:1-20)
- Amon (33:21-25)
- Josiah (34:1-35:27)
- Joahaz (36:1-4)
- Jehoiakim (36:5-8)
- Jehoiachin (36:9-10)
- Zedekiah (36:11-21)
- The Decree of Cyrus (36:22-23)
EZRA – (Reconstruction of the Temple and Restoration of the People)
Though the book of Ezra does not name its author, Jewish tradition (the Talmud) ascribes it to Ezra along with Chronicles and Nehemiah. Modern scholarship often agrees that Ezra is the author and that he wrote these using various documents (e.g., 4:7-16), genealogies (e.g., 2:1-70), and personal memoirs (e.g., 7:27-9:15) as his sources. In the Vulgate (Latin Bible), Ezra and Nehemiah are titled 1 and 2 Esdras, while the apocryphal book called 1 Esdras in the English text is 3 Esdras in the Vulgate.
The fact that Ezra is the principal character of the major sections of Ezra lends further support to his authorship. He takes part in the events described in chapters 1-10 and also in chapters 8-10 of Nehemiah. In both cases, the passages are written in the first person.
Tradition holds that Ezra was the founder of the Great Synagogue where the canon of Old Testament scripture was settled. Another tradition says that he collected the biblical books into a unit and that he originated the synagogue form of worship.17
Ezra wrote between 457 B.C. and 444 B.C.
Although some date the book around 330 B.C., its linguistic
similarities with the fifth-century Aramaic papyri from the Jewish community at Elephantine, Egypt, argue for an earlier date during the lifetime of Ezra (who lived to the time of Nehemiah, Neh. 8:1-9; 12:36). Ezra probably finished the book between 456 (when the events of 10:17-44 took place) and 444, when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem.18
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
In the ancient Hebrew Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah were treated as one book and called “The Book of Ezra.” Modern Hebrew Bibles designate the two-fold arrangement of Ezra and Nehemiah as in our English versions. Further, Josephus (Against Apion 1. 8) and Jerome (Preface to the Commentary on Galatians) also considered the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one. But not all agree.
… there is evidence that the two books were originally separate. The lists in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 are basically the same. This would militate against the idea that the two books were originally one, for it would seem strange to repeat the same list in one volume. The name Ezra for the title of the first work comes from the major person in the second half of the book, who also appears in chapters 8 and 12 of the Book of Nehemiah.19
THEME AND PURPOSE:
From an historical standpoint, Ezra continues the narrative where 2 Chronicles ends and traces the history of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple. From a spiritual and doctrinal standpoint, Ezra demonstrates how God fulfilled His promise to return His people to the land of promise after seventy years of exile as announced by the prophets. As in Chronicles, Ezra, as a priest, shows the centrality of the temple and its worship to the life of the nation as God’s people. It begins with the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, which allowed a remnant of the people to return. The people enthusiastically began rebuilding the temple, but were delayed for 18 years by enemies from the north. Finally a decree from Darius let them finish (see Ezra 1-6). Chapters 7-10 tell about the return of the priest Ezra who taught the people the law and reformed the nation’s spiritual life.
The theme can be summarized as the spiritual, moral, and social restoration of the Remnant who returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra.
Fitting with the concepts to return to the land and the temple in Jerusalem, two key words are “Jerusalem,” which occurs 48 times, and “temple,” which occurs 25 times.
1:3 Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.
2:1 Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city.
6:21-22 And the sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek the Lord God of Israel, ate the Passover. 22 And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
Key chapters would include (1) the decree of Cyrus allowing the remnant to return, chapter 1, (2) the foundation of the temple completed, chapter 3, (3) the completion and dedication of the temple and the keeping of the Passover, chapter 6, (4) the return under Ezra and his prayer, chapters 7-9.
Cyrus (Persian king who decreed to allow the return), Ezra (priest and scribe), Jeshua (the high priest), and Zerubbabel.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN EZRA:
In keeping with the Davidic covenant and God’s promises to keep the line of descendants alive for Messiah, Son of David, Ezra and Nehemiah show how God continued to keep His promises by restoring His people to their land.
Ezra divides into two sections: the earlier return under Zerubbabel, the restoration of the temple (1-6) and the later return under Ezra, the reformation of the people (7-10). Or it may be divided:
- The Restoration; The First Return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel (1-6)
- The Decree of Cyrus (1:1-11)
- The Census of the People (2:1-70)
- The Construction of the Temple Begun (3:1-13)
- The Opposition (4:1-24)
- The Construction Renewed (5:1-6:12)
- The Temple Completed (6:13-22)
- The Reformation of the People; the Return Under Ezra (7:1-10:44)
- The Return to Jerusalem (7:1-8:36)
- The Revival of Jerusalem (9:1-10:44)