The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, treated here as one larger work, continue the story of Israel's experience begun in the biblical books of I and II Chronicles. In the wake of Persia replacing Babylon as the ruling empire in the ancient Near East, the Judahites exiled in Babylon find reason to hope again. Their hope is rooted in the fulfillment of prophetic promises that they would one day return to their homeland. Not only do the exiles return from Babylon with the support of the Persian ruler, but they renew their commitment to God.
Two remarkable personalities - with strikingly different approaches to the same objective - are the architects of this rebuilding of a people so long without roots. Ezra, "the second Moses," bases the renewal on the Torah and spiritual reform. Nehemiah, the accomplished politician and diplomat, keeps the renewal alive with his deft administrative hand.
For all its usefulness in painting the historical picture, Ezra-Nehemiah presents an exceedingly complex textual jigsaw puzzle. The heart of the matter lies not in reconciling all the parallel lists, quotes, and different accounts of the same story, but in coming to a better understanding of how and when the bible came to be written. The factors of spiritual renewal, national reconstruction, and biblical composition make Ezra-Nehemiah a key to biblical interpretation then and now.
"Ezra and Nememiah" (Volume 14 in the acclaimed Anchor Bible series) continue the spiritual history of Jerusalem begun in "II Chronicles"; they relate the retum of the Jewish people to their home from exile in Babylonia and the revitalization of the Jewish religion. Two remarkable personalities--with strikingly different approaches to the same objective--played dominant roles in this rebuilding of a nation. Ezra, the learned, pious, scribal priest, known among his contemporaries as "the second Moses," was the architect of spiritual reform. Nehemiah, the forceful, shrewd, resourceful administrator, was the master international politician.
The importance of Ezra and Nememiah is, however, not only historical. With I and II Chronicles, believed to be written by the same author, Ezra and Nememiah comprise of an exceedingly complex jigsaw puzzle of parallels, direct quotes, and retellings, in some cases, of the same stories--all of which is, perhaps, more absorbing for the scholar than for the layman. But a study of Ezra and Nememiah--and the conclusions to which it leads--is crucial to an understanding of who wrote which portions of the Bible, how and when they came to be written, and what that understanding tells us ultimately about how the Bible, bit by bit over a period of almost a thousand years, came into being.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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