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The Books of Ezra and of Nehemiah

In 539 BC King Cyrus of Babylon allowed the Judaeans to return to Jerusalem. He returned to them the objects taken from the Temple of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezar and ordered them to be restored to the Temple. Forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty people returned from the exile in Babylon. The temple of Jerusalem was rebuilt (520-515 BC). The heads of the Israelian families were Zerubbabel and Jeshua. Their prophets were Zechariah and Haggai. The Jews rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel on its old site. They rebuilt the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem and the sacrificial liturgy was re-instated. During the reign of Artaxerces the work on the Temple ceased and was discontinued until Darius became King of Persia. Darius honoured the word of Cyrus and he protected the Jews from their neighbours. The governors of the Transeuphrates region followed Darius’ orders so that under the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah the work in the Temple resumed. Passover was feasted in 515 BC.

During these times, Ezra son of Shaiah, a scribe that knew Moses’ law, came back from Babylon. Ezra knew the Law and he was a priest. He was allowed to come back by Artaxerces, so several waves of Israelites returned to Jerusalem. Ezra dissolved marriage with foreigners. The Israelites sent away all the foreign wives and children, in obedience to the law of God. Ezra thus became responsible for the religious reform after the return from Babylon.

Nehemiah presided over the people from 445 BC to 433 BC. Nehemiah son of Hacaliah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerces. The king allowed him also to return to Jerusalem and Nehemiah asked for the king’s permission to supply the Israelites with timber form the king’s forest for the beams of the gates of the citadel of the Temple and for the city walls. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, with the help of Eliashib the high priest. The Jews worked with a sword at their side because their enemies did not dare to attack. Nehemiah was the governor for the King of Persia in Judah. The Jews grunted over so much work but the walls were finished and not a single gap was left.

Many other exiles then returned from Babylon and Jerusalem was re-populated. The scribe Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses in full view of the people, and Judaism was restored. Ezra blessed Yahweh. The people then held a ceremony of expiation and they confessed their sins and worshipped Yahweh. All the people, with Nehemiah and Ezra, promised again to adhere to the Law and to observe and practice the commandments of Yahweh.

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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