12/13 Reading (Ezra 1-3; Ephesians 4)

Introduction to Historical Books section in NRSV: The following quote comes from the introduction to the historical books section in the NRSV study bible:

The book of Ezra differs from these other Historical Books in its use of extensive quotations of official Persian documents (e.g., 7.12–26), which many scholars believe to be authentic. The book of Nehemiah lacks these documents but is exceptional in its own way: It is the only book in this collection to narrate history extensively from a first-person perspective, as a type of memoir, as in 13.15: “In those days I saw in Judah people treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys; and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day; and I warned them at that time against selling food.” In general, Ezra-Nehemiah is closer to the events that it narrates than any other biblical book, and thus it may reflect those events with greater accuracy than other biblical works, which are typically removed by centuries from the events being described. Nevertheless, we must also recognize the strong biases of this book, which is interested in fostering the importance of the Torah as the central document for the postexilic community (see especially Neh 8–9), and in emphasizing the grave dangers of intermarriage (Ezra 9–10; Neh 13). Thus, even Ezra-Nehemiah, which contains archival material and first-person accounts, and is among the latest of the books in this canonical division, should not be seen as straightforward, representative, and accurate history. (p. 316)

I just love it when we get that kind of background information. Very cool indeed.

Introduction to Ezra: Just based on the two introductions I read (NRSV and CEB), this book and the next (Nehemiah) are going to be pretty interesting. Here’s some background info from the NRSV introduction:

“…a group led by Ezra in 458 during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465–424) reestablished the Torah, the law of Moses, as the authority for Jews in Yehud. Finally, a group led by Nehemiah beginning in 445, later in the reign of Artaxerxes I, restored Jerusalem’s walls and repopulated Jerusalem.” (p. 667)

Pretty interesting. According to some notes in the CEB study bible,

“Ezra built a spiritual wall around the people when he taught them the Lord’s Instruction. Nehemiah focused on repairing the literal wall around Jerusalem, as well as increasing its population.” (p. 724 OT)

However, one thing I’m curious book and hope a later book addresses it is what happened immediately after the fall of Jerusalem? The time between 587 BCE and 538 BCE.

Ezra 1: The chapter (and book) starts with the time of the Persian King Cyrus, who was the one to grant the people permission to return to Judah and Jerusalem. This was done by God, who “stirred up the spirit” of King Cyrus (Ezra 1.1). He issues a proclamation making this possible. The rest of the chapter is just a quick discussion of the people preparing to return to Judah.

Ezra 2: This chapter provides a long list of people who were allowed to go back based on the lineage. Close to 50,000 people returned (this includes the slaves). A lot of people to take back.

Ezra 3: We see the first worship in 50 years in Jerusalem. They celebrated the Festival of Booths. Initially they rebuilt the altar and then put down the foundation for the temple itself.

Ephesians 4: In the first part of this chapter Paul calls on the people to live together in peace and to love one another. He wants them to live good lives. In the second part Paul tells the Gentiles to no longer live the way they used to prior to accepting Jesus as their savior. He provides specific examples like not being angry, etc.

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