Ezra’s ministry begins in the latter part of Daniel’s life.
Chronologically, the book of Ezra follows the ending of 2 Chronicles, with 2 Chronicles 36:23 repeated in Ezra 1:2–3. Given this, as well as other clues, some Bible scholars attribute the authorship of 1 and 2 Chronicles to Ezra.
Ezra is a priest and scribe who returns from exile with Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The first six chapters of Ezra give the history behind this momentous development, with Ezra switching to a first-person narrative in Ezra chapters 7–9 when he arrives in Jerusalem to assess the situation.
Ezra is distressed to see that some of the Jews living there have intermarried with those of other religious beliefs, contrary to the Law of Moses. This command isn’t to keep the Jewish bloodline pure but to avoid distracting them from God and watering down their faith with contrary religious practices.
Ezra takes his concern to God.
Like Daniel, and later Nehemiah, Ezra prays collectively for the people, confessing their mistakes as a group. He carries their offenses on his shoulders, offering a brief glimpse of what Jesus will later do when he carries all sins, for all people, throughout all time, upon his shoulders, when he dies as the ultimate sacrifice.
Ezra prays, confesses, and weeps. This isn’t a private effort, but one done in the open for all to see. In doing so, he attracts attention, and many of the people align with him to address those who disregarded God’s commands by marrying outside of their faith.
This brings about repentance, followed by correction. The actions Ezra dictates to fix this problem, however, seem extreme.
The men who married foreign women must send their wives away, along with their children. But these women may not be without fault. Implicitly they have done exactly what God warned against by turning their husbands’ attention from the one true God and introducing their foreign religious practices and ideals into their family life.
Although this must be a painful decision for the men who disobeyed God, the effect on their wives and children is much more disturbing. The husbands summarily send these women and their children away to fend for themselves in a society that dismisses single moms, often forcing them to struggle in poverty.
Though this doesn’t seem fair, remember that sin carries consequences. Sometimes these consequences affect others.
Which of God’s commands are we ignoring? How might our sins hurt others?
[Read Ezra’s story in Ezra 7 and 10, along with Nehemiah 8.]
Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.