Ezra 7-10
(Second Group of Returnees)
May 17th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.

- Ezra 8:31-32 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

In this last set of chapters we finally meet the author of the book that bears his name: Ezra is the author of this eponymous book as well as the author of the pair of Chronicles books that we had been reading for the last several weeks.

In chapter 7, Ezra reports that he received formal permission from King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem. He also recorded for posterity the contents of the letter from Artaxerxes that he had carried as proof of the permission. In the original scripture, this letter is in Aramaic, which is in contrast to the Hebrew language used in nearly all of the other text in these Old Testament books. Perhaps it was presented in this manner to emphasize the authenticity of the letter. Another style shift occurs in the last paragraph of chapter 7, after the letter from Artaxerxes, when Ezra switches from writing in a third-person perspective to a first-person perspective. From this point forward, he is referring to himself whenever he writes “I,” for example in the following statement:

Ezra and a group of exiles from many families completed the 900 mile journey on foot, but had first stopped to fast and pray for protection. This was a much smaller group than the first group of exiles, probably only about 2,000 people altogether. Ezra does not provide a lot of details about the journey itself, but notes in chapter 8 that they travelled for four months and then rested for three days after arriving in Jerusalem. After the rest period they offered many sacrifices at the temple.

The leaders who had been in Jerusalem consulted with Ezra regarding the problem of intermarriage. This was a problem because the foreign women were the ones who had led previous generations towards pagan worship. Therefore, Ezra tore his clothes and prayed to God for mercy, as recorded in chapter 9.

Chapter 10 provides an account of Ezra and the people making a covenant to dissolve the intermarriages. The couples in question were listed, including some of the Levites, and then were dealt with on an individual basis. Presumably, these men were allowed to divorce those women and seek a new wife from their own nation.

Reflection and Application

Ezra is a good role model for us regarding dedication to the word of the LORD and the courage to influence those around us – both believers and non-believers. He studied the law of Moses and the history of Israel, wrote an account of history in 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, and had a significant influence on king Artaxerxes, who granted safe passage and provided resources for a modest group of returnees.

Ezra was serious about prayer. The pause in his journey and the time spent fasting helped them to focus on God as a priority and emphasize their dependence on him. This can be an appropriate process for us to follow when we begin a journey or a significant project. He also recognized that there are situations where rest takes precedence over worship. After a long journey on foot the people needed time to recuperate before they could properly focus on worship. We too need to recognize the limitations of our bodies and set aside time for rest so that we can worship and serve God with an alert mind and rested body.

Ezra’s prayer for mercy in chapter 9 recognized that our sins would require severe judgment, but we know that God’s mercy can be given no matter how far we have strayed. He knew that it was better to admit sins then to try to cover them up, even though he was ashamed:

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What is longest journey you have taken by foot?
    2. What are the different ways that you approach God in prayer?
    3. What is God asking you to confess today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you are always ready to listen to our prayers. Please help us to take the time to stop, rest, worship, prayer, and listen to your response.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Map Makers and Trail Guides

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of Nehemiah and study of Nehemiah 1-3 (Rebuilding the Wall)

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