The book of Ezra is the continuation of the second book of Chronicles, although there are seventy years in between. This is shown by the fact that the first three verses of Ezra are almost identical to the last verses of 2 Chronicles (Ezra 1:1-31Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also [put it] in writing, saying:2“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.3Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.; 2Chr 36:22-2322Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah—the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also [put it] in writing, saying,23“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!’”). However, the intervening period of seventy years is skipped because Israel is in exile outside the promised land at that time. With the transportation into exile “the times of the Gentiles” have begun (Lk 21:2424and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.). For Israel, since that time, the people are “Lo-Ammi”, which means “not My people” (Hos 1:99And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
). Since that time, God has handed over the throne of the earth to the nations (Dan 2:3737You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory;).
In the history of God with His people and the earth we see a new point of view in Ezra. There we see the intervention of grace for a remnant that God brings back from captivity to the land. The return from Babylon is not accompanied by signs and miracles, as was the case with the exodus from Egypt. We see no staff to perform miracles, no cloud guide, no mediator, no provisions from the storehouses of heaven from which the manna is raining.
In the book of Ezra, God does not act visibly, but in providence, behind the scenes. He acknowledges the new state of affairs and uses heathen rulers to carry out His plans. The remnant does not go to work in view of God’s dominion over the earth. That is still the future. What is there is the power of faith. What they do, they do in faith, in trust in God, whatever the circumstances.
That is why this book is full of instruction for us who live in circumstances that are in many ways similar to those of the remnant then. They use what they have and they do what they can, but they don’t moderate what they don’t have and can’t do. They have the Word and they use it. They have the genealogies and they use them. They do not do what only the use of Urim and Thummim enables them to do (Num 27:2121Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, [both] he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.”), because they do not have them. They don’t refuse to do what they can because they can’t do everything they want. They wait for others who have what they don’t have.
That Ezra is the continuation of the second book of Chronicles is also shown in the main subject of the book. It is about the house of God in this Bible book, just like in 2 Chronicles. God desires to dwell with a redeemed people. This is already evident at the exodus from Egypt, when He gives the tabernacle. This also becomes clear when the people enter the land, when He gives the temple. His desire has not changed now that the people have forfeited everything. When He works a return to His land, it is to dwell in the midst of His people again and that His people come to Him with sacrifices.
This is still true in the time in which we live. The house of God is now “the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.). God still works the desire to come to the place where He dwells. He now dwells among believers, even if only two or three come together in the Name of the Lord Jesus (Mt 18:2020For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”).
The book of Ezra consists of two parts:
1. The story of the return of the exiles, the foundation of the altar and the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1-6).
2. The return of Ezra himself and his service among the people (Ezra 7-10).
Between the two parts there are about sixty years. It is during this period that the events of the book of Esther take place. The first part of Ezra also includes the performance of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:11When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them,), while we can place the prophet Malachi in the time of Nehemiah.
Introduction to Ezra 1
What happens in this chapter shows a real work of God. It is not a work of man with preparatory meetings and discussions. The hearts of all are controlled by Him.