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An Argument of the Books of Ezra-Nehemiah

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MESSAGE STATEMENT:1

The re-establishment of the exiles as God’s people in jerusalem and judea gradually developed as they returned in waves under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, as God providentially made provision for them through the Persian rulers, as the Lord enabled them to rebuild Jerusalem, and as the people continually repented of their evil in order to follow God’s law

I. THE FIRST RETURN UNDER SHESHBAZZAR & ZERUBBABEL AND REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE: After the exiles returned to Jerusalem under the provision of Cyrus to rebuild the house of the Lord, they began the project, but were interrupted through the oppression of the Samaritans, nevertheless, they ultimately realized the rebuilding and dedication of the Temple during the sixth year of Darius’ reign as well as a celebration of the first Passover in the Temple (Ezra 1:1--6:22)

A. The First Return of the Exiles--Cyrus, Sheshbazzar & Zerubbabel: When the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus the king of Persia, he inaugurated the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy by decreeing that the inhabitants of Judah return to Jerusalem and build a house for their God, and by providing for their return through Persian support as well as a return of their temple items, whereupon, the people returned under Zerubbabel, contributed to the rebuilding of the temple and settled in the land 1:1--2:70

1. Edict--Cyrus’ Decree: When the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to fulfill the word of Jeremiah, Cyrus issued a decree permitting and urging all of the people from Judah to return to Jerusalem with support from the people of Persia and to rebuild the house of their God 1:1-4

a. The Lord’s Stirring of Cyrus: 1:1

b. Exhortation/Permission to Return and Build the House of the Lord: 1:2-4

2. Preparations for the Journey under Sheshbazzar to Rebuild the Temple: The people were enabled to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of the Lord through provisions given by the Persian people and through Cyrus’ return of their temple vessels to Sheshbazzar from the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods 1:5-11

a. The Response of the People: 1:5-6

b. The Return of the Temple Vessels: 1:7-11

3. The Return under Zerubbabel--An Enthusiastic Remnant: After a list is provided of all those who returned to Jerusalem, their commitment to the task is manifested through their offerings for the reconstruction of the temple and through their re-settlement in the land of Israel 2:1-70

a. Introduction--Leaders of the Return: 2:1--2a

b. A List of Returnees: 2:2b-67

1) Laity by Family Relationship: 2:2b-20

2) Laity by Place Names: 2:21-35

3) Priests: 2:36-39

4) Levites and Temple Personnel--Singers and Gatekeepers: 2:40-42

5) Temple Servants: 2:43-58

6) Individuals Who Cannot Prove Ancestry: 2:59-63

7) Totals: 2:64-67

c. Voluntary Contributions (Offerings) to the Temple: 2:68-69

d. Settlement of the Returnees: 2:70

B. The Rebuilding of the Temple: After the work of rebuilding the temple was begun with mixed emotions, it was suspended through the oppression of the Samaritans, but under the inspiration of the prophets Haggai & Zachariah, and a renewed decree through Darius, the Temple project was renewed, completed in the sixth year of Darius, dedicated, and the first Passover was celebrated 3:1--6:22

1. The Work Begun--The Revival of Temple Worship: Temple worship was revived through the reinstitution of sacrifice and through laying the foundation of the temple so the people rejoiced except for those who compared it to the former temple and wept 3:1-13

a. The Re-Institution of Sacrifice: 3:1-6

1) Rebuilding the Altar and Sacrifice: 3:1-3

2) The Feast of Booths and Sacrifice: 3:4-5

3) Summary of Sacrifice: 3:6

b. The Beginning of Temple Reconstruction: 3:7-13

1) Acquiring Supplies: 3:7

2) Building in the Second Year through Levites: 3:8-9

3) Responses of Joy and Sorrow over the Foundation of the Temple: 3:10-13

2. The Work Opposed--Suspension of Temple Construction by Samaritans: Through internal and external attacks on the Jews the Samaritans managed to finally have Artaxerxes decree that they must stop the rebuilding of the temple and city until further permission was granted by the king during the second year of the reign of Darius the king of Persia 4:1-24

a. Samaritan Tactics Under Cyrus--Discouraging Counselors: 4:1-5

b. Samaritan Tactics under Xerxes (Ahasuerus)--A Letter to the King: 4:6

c. Samaritan Tactics under Artaxerxes--Another Letter to the King: 4:7-23

1) The Letter to the King Proclaiming a Judean Threat: 4:7-16

2) The Letter from the King Proclaiming a Stop to Building: 4:17-23

d. Conclusion: The work of temple construction ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius the king of Persia 4:24

3. The Work Resumed and Completed: Under the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zachariah, the permission of King Darius and with the mandatory help of the Samaritans, the Jews completed the temple in the sixth year of Darius, dedicated it and celebrated the first Passover in it after the exile praising God for His deliverance of them 5:1--6:22

a. Resumption of Building Inspired by Haggai and Zechariah (520-28 B.C.): 5:1-2

b. Attempted Opposition through the Samaritans: 5:3-17

1) The Intervention of the Samaritan Governor Tattenai: 5:3-5

2) Tattenai’s Letter to Darius: 5:6-17

c. Resumption of the Building Under Darius’ Decree: 6:1-12

1) The Search and Discovery of Cyrus’ Decree: 6:1-5

2) Replay of Darius to Tattenai’s Letter--Order to Permit and Aid the Jews in their Rebuilding of the Temple: 6:6-12

d. Completion, Dedication and Celebration of the Temple: 6:13-22

1) The Completion of the Temple in the Sixth Year of the Reign of Darius (515 B.C.): 6:13-15

2) The Dedication of the Temple: 6:16-18

3) The First Celebration of the Passover & The Feast of Unleavened Bread in the New Temple: 6:19-22

II. THE SECOND RETURN UNDER EZRA AND SPIRITUAL REFORMS: After Ezra arrived in the Jerusalem with a group of exiles under the permission and provision of king Artaxerxes, they worshiped the Lord and Ezra taught the people the law of God by applying it to their sin of foreign marriages, whereupon the people responded with repentance and the process of divorcing their foreign wives (Ezra 7:1--10:44)

A. Ezra’s Return to the Land of Palestine: With a decree from King Artaxerxes which not only permitted Ezra to return but supported him in his return, Ezra, as a priest intent upon teaching people the law of God, led a safe return of exiles from captivity with precious objects to be deposited in the temple, sacrifices to be offered to the Lord, and a protective decree from the king for the rulers of the provinces around the Jerusalem 7:1--8:36

1. Summary--Background and Return: 7:1-10

a. Ezra’s Background: 7:1-6

b. Ezra’s (and Others’) Return to the Land of Palestine 7:7-9

c. Ezra’s Intent--to Teach God’s Law In Israel: 7:10

2. Artaxerxes’ Letter of Authorization and Support for Ezra in His Return to the Land of Palestine and Ezra’s Thanksgiving: 7:11-26

a. Authorization: 7:11-13

b. Support: 7:14-26

1) Financial 7:14-19

2) From Enemies in the Land: 7:20-26

c. Ezra’s Thanksgiving for the Lord’s Movement of the King: 7:27-28

3. Preparation to Return to the Land of Palestine: 8:1-30

a. List of the Family Heads Who Returned to Jerusalem: 8:1-14

b. The Enlistment of Levites to Serve in the Temple: 8:15-20

c. Supplication through Prayer and Fasting to God for a Safe Journey: 8:21-23

d. The Assignment of the Precious Temple Objects to the Priests and Levites to Take to Jerusalem 8:24-30

4. The Journey and Arrival in Jerusalem: 8:31-36

a. The Journey: 8:31-32

b. Giving the Precious Objects to the Priests and Levites in the Temple: 8:33-34

c. Offerings Given to the Lord by the Exiles: 8:35

d. Deliverance of the King’s Edicts to the Leaders in the Provinces 8:36

B. Ezra’s Religious Reforms--Divorce of Mixed Marriages: When Ezra learned that the people had taken on wives of unbelievers in the land against the exhortations of Scripture he mourned, confessed the nation’s sin before the Lord and organized a meeting with all of the people to expose them to their sin, whereupon, they too confessed their sin and agreed to divorce their foreign wives resulting in an outworking of the purification 9:1--10:44

1. The Offense of Mixed Marriages with the People of the Land: 9:1-2

2. Ezra’s Responses to the Report of Mixed Marriages: 9:3-15

a. Ezra’s Physical Response: 9:3-5

b. Ezra’s Spiritual Response--A Prayer of Confession: 9:6-15

3. The People’s Response to Ezra and His Prayer--A Repentant Covenant to Divorce their Foreign Women: 10:1-15

a. The Leaders’ Covenant: 10:1-5

b. The People’s Covenant in a Public Assembly: 10:6-15

1) Proclamation for the People of Judah and Jerusalem to Come to Jerusalem: 10:6-8

2) Ezra’s Exhortation to the People: 10:9-11

3) The Agreement and Plan of the People: 10:12-14

4) The Minority Disagreement2 10:15

4. The Outworking of the Community’s Divorce of Foreign Wives: 10:16-44

a. Investigation of the Offenders: 10:16-17

b. A List of the Offenders: 10:18-43

1) Those among the Priests: 10:18-22

2) Those among the Levites: 10:23

3) Those among the Singers: 10:24-43

c. The Summary of the Mixed Marriages: All of the above had foreign wives and some of them had children by these wives 10:44

III. THIRD RETURN UNDER NEHEMIAH AND REBUILDING THE WALL: The Nation is Physically Separated from the Gentiles: When Nehemiah learned about the distress of the Jews in Jerusalem he prayed to the Lord, sought permission from King Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and managed to spur on the people in Jerusalem to accomplish the task in spite of opposition from the people surrounding the city and the problems within the city because he was a man who trusted God and was wise in leadership (Nehemiah 1:1--7:4)

A. Nehemiah’s Initial Response to the Situation in Jerusalem: After Nehemiah received information about the distress of the Jews, he prayed to the Lord and then received permission from Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem 1:1--2:8

1. News of the Plight of Jerusalem: While Nehemiah was in Susa he learned from Hanani and other from Judah of the Jews’ distress 1:1-3

2. Nehemiah’s Prayer: In response to the new of the Jews’ distress Nehemiah interceded in prayer to the Lord for the nation by confessing their sin and calling on God to deliver them through him with the king 1:4-11

3. The Kings Response: When he showed his sorrow before the king and was asked about it, Nehemiah requested permission from Artaxerxes permission to rebuild Judah and received it with letters of help as well 2:1-8

B. Nehemiah’s Developed Response to the Situation in Jerusalem: In spite of opposition Nehemiah and the people trusted the Lord to enable them to rebuild the walls 2:9-20

1. The Journey to Jerusalem: Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem with the king’s escort stirring Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s anger 2:9-10

2. Inspection of the Walls: Nehemiah secretly inspected the walls at night: 2:11-16

3. Exhortation & Reaction of the People: When Nehemiah revealed to the people his plan to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem with God’s and the king’s approval, they agreed to do it 2:17-18

4. Samaritan Reaction: Sanballat and Tobiah objected to the people building the wall as being against the king, but Nehemiah replied that God would give them success 2:19-20

C. Partial Building of the Walls: The walls were half built by all of Israel 3:1-32

1. The Northern Section: The Sheep Gate and the Fish Gate were repaired but the nobles of the Tekoites did not support the work 3:1-5

2. The Western, Southern, and Eastern Sections: The rest of the wall including each specific gate back to the Sheep Gate was repaired by people from all walks of Jewish life 3:6-32

a. The Western Section: 3:6-13

b. The Southern Section: 3:14

c. The Eastern Section: 3:15-32

D. Opposition and Completion: In spite of opposition without and within Nehemiah remained faithful to the work of the Lord and thus the people completed the rebuilding of the walls 4:1--7:4

1. Opposition Without--Samaritan Opposition: Even though the surrounding neighbors of Jerusalem attempted to stop the building of the wall by humiliating the people and even planning an attack against the city, Nehemiah encouraged the people to remain faithful by praying to the Lord for help and by wisely advising them to continue their building prepared all the time for fighting their enemies 4:1-23

a. Reaction of the Enemies: Sanballat and Tobiah mocked the work of restoration which the Jews were doing to the wall among their own people 4:1-3

b. Nehemiah’s Prayer & Continuation of the Work: Nehemiah prayed that the Lord would work talionic justice upon Sanballat and Tobiah for demoralizing God’s workers half way through the project, whereupon they built the wall to half its height 4:4-6

c. Action Planned by the Enemies and Measures Taken by Nehemiah: Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Amonites and the Ashdodites planned to attack Jerusalem, but the people armed themselves trusting God and foiled the attempt whereupon, they continued to be ready for battle as they built 4:7-23

2. Opposition Within--Economic and Social Problems: When Nehemiah learned that the people were exploiting one another, he directly confronted the rulers who then agreed to make restitution, and then used his power when appointed governor to be generous at his own expense with the people and to work with them so that the building of the walls could continue 5:1-19

a. Usury: When Nehemiah discovered the usury of the people to each other, he confronted the rulers and they agreed to give back what they had and were taking 5:1-13

b. Governor: When Nehemiah is appointed governor, he does not exploit the people, but is generous at his own expense and works with them 5:14-19

3. Opposition Without--Attempted Plots against Nehemiah: Sanballat sent letters to meet with Nehemiah, but Nehemiah would not stop building the wall, so Sanballat tried to scare Nehemiah, but Nehemiah would not sin, thus the walls were completed and all were frightened and Tobiah tried to frighten Nehemiah 6:1-19

a. Attempted Entrapment: 6:1-4

b. Threat and Accusation: 6:5-9

c. Plot Using False Prophets: 6:10-14

d. Completion of the Wall: 6:15-16

e. Correspondence with Tobiah: 6:17-19

4. Completion of the Wall--Transition: Nehemiah had the doors hung and ordered those appointed to guard the gates and the city due to its internal vulnerability--no people 7:1-4

a. Provision for the Protection of Jerusalem--Nehemiah Secures the City from without: 7:1-3

1) Walls: The Walls had been rebuilt 7:1a

2) Gates: The Gates were put in place: 7:1b

3) Servants: Gate keepers, singes, and Levites were appointed: 7:1c

4) Hanani and Hananiah were Put in charge: 7:2

a) Hanani Can be trusted as Nehemiah’s brother and as one who was concerned for the city 1:2a

b) Hananiah could be trusted as a godly man 7:2b

5) Commands were given to Hanani and Hananiah by Nehemiah 7:3

a) Concerning the Gates:

(1) The gates were not to be opened until the sun was hot

(2) The Gates were to be shut and barred while the keepers were on duty

b) People: The residents of Jerusalem were to be appointed as guards

(1) Some at their posts

(2) Some near their houses

b. Vulnerable Description of the City: The reason Nehemiah needed to secure the city from within was because it was uninhabited 7:4

IV. THE RELIGIOUS REFORMS OF EZRA AND NEHEMIAH: The Nation is Spiritually Separated from the Gentiles Nehemiah: After the people became identified as a new society under the Law of God with the walls of their capital city established, Nehemiah restored them from their falls back into disobedience so that they might obey God’s Law (7:5--13:31)

A. Setting Up the Society: Through ordering the citizenship, establishing a treasury, settling the people in the land, reading the Law so that the people repent and agree to obey God’s Law, identifying those people who came to live in Judah and Benjamin, and finally dedicating the wall, Nehemiah and the leaders established the society of the new remnant 7:5--13:3

1. Transition3--Ordering the People: The affairs of the people were ordered through a genealogy which established the citizenry of Jerusalem, the giving of the people to establish the treasury, and the settlement of all of Israel in their cities by the seventh month 7:5-73

a. Genealogy of the Sparse Population--Establishment of Its Citizenship: A census was taken of the returned exiles by the number of men of the people, the priests, the Levites, the singers, the temple servants, the gatekeepers, and those without proof of identity 7:5-69

1) Nehemiah assembled the nobles, officials and common people to be registered by families 7:5a

2) The basis of Nehemiah’s registration was a genealogical record of the first Jews to return 7:5-b

a) Twelve Leaders: These were the people who returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel 7:6-7

b) People:

(1) Men: The list of the men of Israel by family name: 7:8-38

(2) Priests: The list of Priests by family: 7:39-42

b. Treasury: The city’s treasury was established: The treasury was set up by gifts from the governor, the heads of households, and the people 7:70-72

1) By the Governor: The governor gave to the treasury: 7:70

2) By Families: The heads of families gave to the treasury: 7:71

3) By People: The people gave to the treasury: 7:71

c. Settlement: All Israel was living in their cities by the seventh month: 7:73a

1) The Priests

2) The Levites

3) The Gatekeepers

4) The Singers

5) The Temple Servants

6) Certain of the People

7) The Rest of the Israelites

8) The Sons of Israel

2. Reading the Law & Its Effect: The Reading of the Law had a positive affect upon the people as they repented, celebrated the Feast of Booths, separated themselves from foreigners, and made an oath to obey God’s Law and pay attention to His temple 7:73b--10:39

a. Reading of the Law: Ezra read the book of the Law to the people and the Levites explained it to them bringing about God’s blessing 7:73--8:8

b. Comforting Weeping People Wept: When the people wept over the reading of the Law, Nehemiah and other comforted them and set aside the day for rejoicing not weeping: 8:9-12

c. Feast of Booths: The festival Booths was celebrated for the first time since Joshua the son of Nun, and they read the Law daily with a celebration on the eighth day before a solemn assembly 8:13-18

d. Separation: On the 24th day of the month the Israelites separated themselves from the foreigners, confessed their sin, worshipped God and prayed remembering God’s past work 9:1-37

e. Covenant Confirmed: Because of God’s gracious display of His character in the past, the leaders and people placed themselves under an oath to keep the Law and not to neglect the temple 9:38--10:39

1) The Covenant: 9:38

2) Singers of the Pledge: 10:1-27

3) Oath to Keep the Covenant: 10:28-29

4) Stipulations of the Covenant: 10:30-39

a) Mixed Marriages: 10:30

b) Commerce on the Sabbath: 10:31a

c) The Sabbatical Year: 10:31b

d) Offerings for the Temple and Its Staff: 10:32-39

3. New Residents of Jerusalem and Judah: The people were listed who came to live in Jerusalem as well as in the rest of Judah and Benjamin 11:1-36

a. People Who Settled in Jerusalem: Those who came to live in Jerusalem were enumerated by the heads of provinces, sons of Benjamin, priests, and gatekeepers 11:1-19

1) Selection of the New Residence--The Repopulation of Jerusalem: 11:1-2

2) Laity Living in Jerusalem: 11:3-9

a) A Topical Statement: 11:3-4a

b) From Judah: 11:4b-6

c) From Benjamin: 11:7-9

3) Priests Living in Jerusalem: 11:10-14

4) Levites Living in Jerusalem: 11:15-19

b. People Who Settled in Judah and Benjamin: 11:20-36

1) The rest of the people lived in Judah on their own inheritance with temple servants in specific lands 11:20-21

2) The specific dwelling places of those outside of Jerusalem were enumerated 11:22-36

4. Lists of Priests & The Dedication of the Wall: After the priests were listed, on the day of the dedication of the wall God was praised, food was gathered, and the foreigners were separated from Israel 12:1--13:3

a. Priests from the First Return: The priests and Levites who came to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel were listed 12:1-9

b. High Priests & Priests Since Joiakim: 12:10-26

1) Genealogy of High Priests: 12:10-11

2) Priests and Levites Since the Time of Joiakim: 12:12-26

a) List of Priests: 12:12-21

b) List of Levites: 12:22-26

c. The Dedication of the Wall of Jerusalem: 12:27--13:3

1) Dedication Festivities: The festivities involved in the dedication of the wall were recounted showing the involvement of the Levites and the people in praising God 12:27-43

a) Preparation of the Levites and Priests: 12:27-30

b) People Going to the Right: 12:31-37

c) People Going to the Left: 12:38-39

d) Dedication Ceremony at the Temple: 12:40-43

2) Honor of Priests and Levites: On the day of dedication the food which was to be gathered for the priests and Levites was gathered in appreciation for them 12:44-47

d. Exclusion of Foreigners: On the of dedication upon the reading of he Law the people realized the Ammonites and Moabites were forbidden from the assembly and they excluded them 13:1-3

B. Restoring the People: Upon Nehemiah’s return he had to purify the people from their fall back into disobedience 13:4-31

1. The Temple Reforms: Upon Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem he cleansed the temple by throwing out Tobiah from the room provided by Eliashib, restored the rooms for storage of temple utensils and offerings, restored the Levites to their service in the temple and thus the people began bring their tithe to the temple 13:4-14

a. Expulsion of Tobiah: Upon Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem he threw Tobiah out of the temple room provided by Eliashib and restored it and other rooms for storage of temple utensils and offerings 13:4-9

b. Restoration of Temples Staff and Offerings: Upon finding the Levites gone because they had received no pay, Nehemiah restored them and Judah brought them their tithe 13:10-14

2. Sabbath Reforms: When Nehemiah found that the Sabbath was not being observed, he restored the people’s observance of it so that God would not be angry 13:15-22

3. Marriages Reforms: Nehemiah rebuked the Israelites for marrying foreign women and thus sinning against the Lord 13:23-29

4. Summary of Reforms: In summary fashion Nehemiah stated that he purified the people and got them to begin to live correctly in accordance with the Law 13:30-31


1 This outline is adapted through my own study from the analyses of Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 419; F. Charles. Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982); Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 232; J. Carl. Laney, Ezra/Nehemiah, Everyman's Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982); Edwin M. Yamauchi, Ezra-Nehemiah, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 563-771. Vol. 4. (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, Zondervan, 1988);

2 See F. Charles. Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, NICOT, 141.

3 This section connects the two halves of the book: (1) it connects the rebuilding of the walls to the reviving of people; (2) it connects the gap between a material task and a spiritual task (e.g., the walls of the city cannot stand if the people do not stand, (3) it moves from walls to people, from the end of one to the beginning of another, from the work to worship, from physical separation to spiritual separation, from rebuilding to reforming!

Any errors in this section are probably due to scribal transmission.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines