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Online Text for Ezra

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James King West writes: "As we have seen, the books [I and II Chronicles; Ezra and Nehemiah] are but parts of a single work, for convenience referred to as the Chronicler's History. A uniformity of language, style, and outlook is evident throughout, and the concluding verses of II Chronicles (36:22-23) are repeated verbatim as the opening verses of Ezra (1:1-3). The division apparently resulted from the admission of the latter portion of teh work (Ezra-Nehemiah) into the Canon prior to the acceptance of the first part (Chronicles). Ezra-Nehemiah was admitted first because it records a phase of Hebrew history provided by none of the other canonical books, whereas Chronicles repeats in large part the history contained in the older works. When at a later time Chronicles became a part of the Canon, Ezra-Nehemiah retained its prior position. It remained for the Greek version to restore the proper sequence as we find it in our English Bibles." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 424)

Ralph W. Klein writes: "The book of Ezra is concerned about the purity of the community in Jerusalem and gives the impression that this community was made up primarily of those who returned from exile. Continuity with pre-exilic Israel is based on the return of the Temple vessels through Sheshbazzar and on the restoration of both the altar and the Temple on their former sites. The delay in the building of the Temple is not blamed on the people's concern for their own comforts (as in Hag. 1:4) but on the actions of the enemies of Judah and Benjamin, who persistently opposed the work in Jerusalem and disheartened the people. The celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles after the completion of the altar (Ezra 3:4-5) anticipates the joyful dedication of the Temple (6:16-18) and the equally joyful observance of the Passover a few months thereafter (6:19-22). The Temple was completed by Zerubbabel, the governor, and Jeshua, the high priest, with the hearty endorsement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 372)

Robert North writes: "In his lectures at Louvain from 1880, and especially in a series of publications since 1890 (RB 33 [1924] 33-64), A. van Hoonacker dropped a bombshell into the staid fixity of exegetical preconceptions by claiming that Ezra first appeared under Artaxerxes II in 398 [instead of Artaxerxes I in 458 BC]. His arguments are reduced to eight points: (1) The wall for which Nehemiah is chiefly renowned already exists when Ezra reaches Jerusalem (9:9; gader). (2) Ezra (10:1) finds Jerusalem already repopulated (by Nehemiah, 11:1). (3) Nehemiah is put before Ezra in Neh 12:26; 8:1. (3) Nehemiah is put before Ezra in Neh 12:26; 8:1. (4) Eliashib, contemporary of Nehemiah (13:4), is (grand-?)father of Jehohanan, Ezra's contemporary (Ezr 10:6 = Neh 12:23?). (5) The silence of Nehemiah's memoirs about Ezra's allegedly earlier Torah promulgation is inexplicable. (6) Nehemiah (11:3) enumerates repatriates led by Sheshbazzar and/or Zerubbabel, but not those led by Ezra (8:2). (7) Ezra (8:33) makes use of a committee of four resembling that instituted by Nehemiah (13:13). (8) Nehemiah's handling of mixed marriage, delayed until his second tour of duty (13:23), could not suppose Ezra (9:14) to have preceded." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 426-427)

James King West writes: "As for Nehemiah's dates, there is little doubt that he was sent by Artaxerxes I in 445 B.C. and then after a twelve-year administration returned to Persia and receive reappointment for a second term (c. 433 B.C.). The more difficult question concerns the dating of Ezra. It is entirely possible that 'the seventh year of Artaxerxes' should be taken in reference not to Artaxerxes I but to Artaxerxes II (404-360 B.C.), in which case Ezra would have arrived in Jerusalem in 398 B.C. If so, however, we should have to discount those passages which make Ezra and Nehemiah contemporaries, since by no stretch of the imagination could the latter's second term have lasted so long. There are other and perhaps more serious objections as well. The Elephantine correspondence (i.e., the Passover Papyrus), for example, reveals that by 419 B.C. the Persian authorities were dispatching directives via Jerusalem which regulated the cultic life of Egyptian Jews in accordance with Pentateuchal law. That this could have happened prior to Ezra's reforms, which established Torah in Jerusalem itself, is difficult to conceive. For such reasons, an alternate position which accepts the year 428 B.C. for the beginning of Ezra's mission appears to be growing in acceptance among scholars and provides the most plausible theory yet proposed. This date is premised on the likelihood of a scribal omission of a single letter in Ezra 7:7 )a case of haplography due to the consecutive occurence of three words with the same initial letter) so that the 'seventh year of Artaxerxes' initially read 'thirty-seventh year' (428 B.C.)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 358-359)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "scholars are still divided: G. Ricciotti, J. Pedersen, H. H. Rowley, N. H. Snaith, M. Noth and W. Rudolph favour the arrival of Ezra after Nehemiah (and the seventh year of Artaxerxes would then refer not to Artaxerxes I but to Artaxerxes II, which would bring us down to the beginning of the fourth century); a few, including Y. Aharoni and U. Kellermann, are in favour of the traditional sequence, finding the alternative date assigned to Ezra too low. A third solution has been proposed and has some elements in its favour. The celebrations mentioned in Neh. 1-7 seem to be an integral part of a sabbatical year and its liturgy. We know the dates of at least two of these, 164-3 (cf. I Macc. 6.49) and 38-7 (cf. Josephus, Antiquities XII, 9.5 = §378; XV, 1.1 = §7). It is thus relatively easy, by calculating backwards, to arrive at a sabbatical year celebrated in the time of Artaxerxes I Longimanus; this date falls in 430-29, that is, in the thirty-seventh year of the monarch's reign. It is then necessary to suppose an error in the dating: instead of reading 'In the seventh year of Artaxerxes' we should read 'In the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes'. In this case Ezra would indeed have come after Nehemiah, but not so late as a connection with Artaxerxes II might suggest. The greatest defect of this theory is obviously the fact that it not only requires a textual emendation at a vital point, but also is based on the celebration of the sabbatical year, a festival the origins and celebrations of which are still shrouded in mystery. In fact we have no proof that it was ever celebrated before the time of the Maccabees." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 423-424)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "If, however, the Chronicler is simply schematizing, and if the Aramaic documents are forgeries, and if the 'memoirs' are frauds, then the view may be correct which denies that there ever was an Ezra, and which asserts that he was a fictitious person invented by the Chronicler as the embodiment of those accomplishments the Chronicler wished to trace. This view, however, seems to me preposterous. It is much more reasonable to suppose that the Chronicler had sources, documents, and traditions about a Nehemiah and an Ezra. We can understand him once we regard him as a schematizer rather than a historian. He was less interested in being accurate about history than he was in completing his chosen task of showing that the Temple and its officials represented an ancient tradition, bent but never broken, and surviving in its authentic form to the Chronicler's own day. In Chronicles, he finds a threat to the authenticity to be the evil toleration by the monarchs, in spite of prophetic warning, of non-Yahvistic practices and peoples. For the postexilic period he has no monarchs to blame. His strictures against intermarriage are only an adaptation of his previous strictures against non-Yahvistic religion." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 487)

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