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Books of Ezra and Nehemiah

(ez' - ruh, nee - uh - my' - uh)

General Information

Ezra and Nehemiah are two books of the Old Testament of the Bible, originally one work in the Hebrew canon. Written between 450 and 250 BC and named for two political and religious reformers in the postexilic Jewish community, they relate aspects of Jewish history from 538 BC to about 420 BC. Because of the confused organization of the books, the chronology of the two reformers and their work is uncertain.

With some rearrangement of contents, the purposes of scribe Ezra's mission to Jerusalem from the Persian court in 458 BC may be seen to have been to introduce stricter observance of the Law and to dissolve marriages with foreigners; the purposes of Governor Nehemiah's two missions to Jerusalem in 445 BC and 432 BC may be seen to have been to fortify and resettle the city, reform temple organization, oppose mixed marriages, and secure loyalty to these reforms by a covenant. To many scholars, however, the accounts of the reforms seem intelligible only on the assumption that Nehemiah preceded Ezra, whose arrival they date 428 or 397 BC. Some scholars believe Ezra and Nehemiah were prepared as a supplement to 1 and 2 Chronicles and written by the same hand. This view is challenged by others.

Norman K Gottwald

J Blenkensop, Ezra - Nehemia: A Commentary (1988); J M Myers, ed., The Anchor Bible: Ezra and Nehemiah (1965).

Books of Ezra and Nehemiah

Brief Outline

Book of Ezra

  1. Narrative of the return of the Jews from Babylonia under Zerubbabel and the restoration of worship in the rebuilt temple (1-6)
  2. Second group of exiles return with Ezra, and Ezra's religious reforms. (7-10)

Book of Nehemiah

  1. Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem (1-2)
  2. Building despite opposition (3:1-7:4)
  3. Genealogy of the first returning exiles (7:5-73)
  4. Revival and Covenant sealing (8:1-10:39)
  5. Dwellers at Jerusalem and genealogies (11:1-12:26)
  6. Dedication of the walls (12:27-47)
  7. Final reforms (13:1-31)


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