Step 8 - Return
Most of the story of the return in Ezra and Nehemiah is set in Jerusalem and parts of Judea. However there are other important happenings in this time, in Babylon, which affect what happens in Jerusalem.
The country side surrounding Jerusalem (Judea) is populated by foreigners, transplanted there by the Assyrian’s, Babylonians and possibly the Medes. This is not a restoration of the land, this is the restoration of Jerusalem.
- Disrepair : Jerusalem is in a sad state of repair and neglect from the wars.
- Temple : Rebuilding the temple
- People : A spiritual rebuilding of the people - a return of the law and worship.
- Walls : Restoration of Jerusalem is completed
Jerusalem is in a sad state of repair and neglect from the wars. During the 70 years of captivity the leadership has been exiled and the city neglected.
A major city needed walls. Jerusalem’s had been torn down when it fell. The local residents had a vested interest in seeing Jerusalem continue in a state of neglect so would do everything in their power to see it stay torn down and undefended.
The destruction from war and neglect leaves Jerusalem in a state of abject ruin.
Ezra 1 -6 , Zechariah
God prompts Cyrus, King of Persia, to initiate the financing and rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Under the direction of Zerubbabel, a notable Jewish figure in Persia, the rebuilding of the temple is begun. Considerable opposition from Gentiles around Jerusalem is encountered. At the urging of Haggai and Zechariah, two Jewish prophets living in Jerusalem, the restoration of the temple is completed.
The Persians allowed the captives to own land and to rise to prominent positions within the nation (i.e. Daniel and Mordecai, consolers to kings and Esther, queen of Persia) but King Cyrus went a step further in 538 BC when he allowed many groups of exiles, including the Jews, to return to their homelands. These groups probably included a faithful remnant of Israelites who returned to the Galilee
Ezra 7 – 10. Rebuilding the temple is a direct parallel to the spiritual rebuilding of the Jewish people. Temple worship has been discontinued for seventy years.
Most of the Jews have never seen or heard the Law of Moses. They have to be instructed in a national re-education program.
Ezra sets his heart to study the Law of the Lord, to practice it, and to teach God’s statutes and ordinances in Israel to rebuild the people as they return from exile.
Nehemiah / Esther.
Even though not all Jews returned when they could have (see the Book of Esther, whose events take place during this Era) many Jews are now back home in Jerusalem. The temple stands restored as the dominant structure in the city, but the walls of the city are still broken down.
This is a security threat as well as a source of national humiliation.
Nehemiah, another Jewish notable serving Artaxerxes, king of Persia, is burdened to rebuild the walls. He is given permission and financing by the king of Persia to do so.
A short time later, the walls frame the noble city of Jerusalem, home of the temple of God.
Restoration is complete as the temple is rebuilt, the people are rebuilt, and the walls are rebuilt.
The following books cover this period:
- 2 Chronicles
- 1 Maccabees
Readings for this period:
|Cyrus, King of Persia and the Decree of Return
|2 Chronicles 36:22-23;
Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-13;
|Return of the Exiles
|The Summons to Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem
|The 8 Visions of the Prophet Zechariah
|The Jerusalem Temple is Rebuilt
|Ezra Returns to Jerusalem
|The Reforms of Ezra
|Esther, Queen of Persia
Jerusalem’s Walls Are Rebuilt
|Ezra Reads the Law to the People
|The Prophecy of Malachi
|Malachi 3:1-3; 3:19-24
|Alexander the Great and
the Conquest of the Levant
|1 Maccabees 1:1-10