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by Wayne Blank
The book of Ezra covers a period of nearly 80 years, from about 536 B.C., when the first Jews returned from the Babylonian exile (see Why Babylon?), to about 458 B.C., when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem. It marks the transition time from the fall of the Babylonians (who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the first Temple, and took the Jews, including the prophet Daniel, away into exile), to the rise of the Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia) who in turn conquered the Babylonian empire and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland.
Chronology Of The Return
536-516 B.C. - Zerubbabel the governor oversaw the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra chapters 3 to 6).
"In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers, the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of The Lord." (Ezra 3:8)
458-432 B.C. - Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest oversaw the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and its restoration as a fortified city (Nehemiah chapters 2 to 7).
"Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?" I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We His servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:17-20)
"So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God." (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
"When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses [see Moses and The Pentateuch. Also The Ten Commandments and The Bible], which The Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law." (Nehemiah 8:1-3)
Fact Finder: Was the return of the Jews prophesied by Jeremiah?