THE BOOK OF EZRA.
EZRA, or ESDRAS, was a person of high esteem among the Jews. He was of the sacerdotal family, and bore a principal part in the restoration from Babylon. Some have asserted that he was chiefly concerned in revising and compiling most of the books of Scripture. Two, however, of those books go under his name; for, among the Hebrews, this and the book of Nehemiah were formerly reckoned but one, and are both inscribed in the Latin and Greek Bibles by the name of Ezra. The first of these was certainly his work; the second is commonly attributed to Nehemiah. It must, however, be acknowledged, that some few particulars have been added to it which could not have been written by Nehemiah. This book of Ezra is a continuation of the history of the Jews, from the time wherein that of the Chronicles ends to near the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus; and contains a history of eighty-two years, from the first year of the reign of Cyrus in Babylon, A.M. 3468, to the nineteenth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, who sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem, A.M. 3550. It contains, chiefly, an account of the restoration of the Jewish nation from the Babylonish captivity, their settlement in Judea, and the rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem. It therefore attests the accomplishment of the famous prophecy of Jeremiah concerning their return, which took place at the end of seventy years, exactly as he had foretold. See Jeremiah 25:8-13; Jeremiah 29:10. For, whether we begin to compute from the beginning of the captivity to the beginning of the restoration, (that is, from the fourth year of Jehoiakim to the first of Cyrus,) or from the completing of the captivity to the completing of the restoration, (that is, from the eleventh of Zedekiah to the fourth of Darius,) both ways the time is exactly seventy years. Thus punctually did God fulfil his own word, in the course of his wise providence, according to the history of this book; and, by this and such like evidences, hath demonstrated and confirmed to us the truth and importance of those Scriptures which bear so decided and incontrovertible a testimony to the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For nothing can be more convincing to an unprejudiced mind than such an exact accomplishment of prophecies, uttered so long before the events predicted in them took place.
The principal parts of this book were originally written in Hebrew: but the letter of Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4:8) to the king, and the king’s answer, were written first in the Chaldee language, as were the fifth and sixth chapters, and also the seventh, to Ezra 7:27. We have, in this book, an account of the return of the Jews from captivity, chap. 1., 2.; of the building of the temple, notwithstanding the opposition it met with, chap. 3.-6.; of Ezra’s coming to Jerusalem, chap. 7., 8.; of his obliging those that had married strange wives to put them away, chap. 9., 10.