Ezra 1; 3-7; Nehemiah 2; 4-6; 8 – “I Am Doing a Great Work”

July 18, 2022 to July 24, 2022

After the Jews suffered through the destruction of the temple and a seventy-year captivity, they were allowed to return to Jerusalem to live and to rebuild the temple. Jeremiah’s prophecies were fulfilled in the actions of Cyrus, Ezra, and Nehemiah.


“Amos through Malachi: Major Teachings of the Twelve Prophets,” Blair G. Van Dyke and D. Kelly Ogden, Religious Educator 4, no. 3

Ezra the priest-scribe and Nehemiah the court official were among the Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah preached about the urgency of rebuilding the temple during this period. The section in this article labelled “The Exile of the Jews and Their Restoration” discusses these events.

“Consider Your Ways: The Book of Haggai and the Responsibilities and Blessings of Temple Work,” Ray L. Huntington, in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament

The central focus of Haggai’s message is certainly clear: Now is the time to build God’s holy temple! Haggai began his prophetic message by declaring: “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). Yes, the altar and parts of the foundation had been rebuilt, but the work had been set aside for sixteen years. More importantly, the people didn’t seem bothered by their inattentiveness to the Lord’s work. In fact, they rationalized it was not the time to rebuild the temple. Clearly, they had other work they felt was more important.

“The Persian Empire, the Return of the Jews, and the Diaspora,” Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings-Malachi A review of the history of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, the return of the Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah, and the reconstruction of the temple. “Despite Cyrus’s edict, most of the exiles chose to stay in Babylon because of favorable economic and agricultural conditions. Gradually, in the centuries from 400 B.C. to A.D. 200 and even later, the Jews dispersed themselves to all parts of the known world and set up enduring colonies.”

“The Exiles Return (Ezra),” Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings-Malachi

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally part of a compilation that included 1 and 2 Chronicles. Ezra 1:1–3 and 2 Chronicles 36:22–23 are almost identical. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are actually the last two historical books of the Old Testament. The book of Ezra recounts the joys and struggles of the rebuilding of the temple.

“Nehemiah: Builder of Walls and Wills,” Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings-Malachi

“‘The book of Nehemiah carries the history of the Jewish people down to a later date than any other of the avowedly historical works in the canon of the OT. Its interest is manifold, since it describes not only the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, but the reconstruction of the Jewish ecclesiastical organization; and as an authority for the events it relates, is first-rate, since it is largely based upon contemporary materials.’ J. R. Dummelow.”

“Sacred Books: The Canon of the Hebrew Bible at the End of the First Century,” Robert L. Maxwell, BYU Studies 36, no. 3

This article reviews the history of the texts that the Jews considered sacred. “When the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem, Ezra, who himself had studied and observed the law of the Lord (Ezra 7:10), had to formally initiate a covenant between Israel and the Lord to obey the law, thus recanonizing these writings (see especially Neh. 9–10). The book of Nehemiah records that Ezra brings the book of the law of Moses out to show the people and reads it to them; he then has the priests explain it to them (probably because the law itself is written in Hebrew, while by that time the people speak Aramaic). The people weep to hear the law; they study it thoroughly and as a result reinstitute the Festival of the Booths, which, though prescribed in the scriptures, has not been practiced since the time of Joshua (Neh. 8:1–17)! All this implies that before Ezra’s action there was little or no knowledge of the law among the general Israelite populace and that there had not been for a very long time.”

“Harry S. Truman as a Modern Cyrus,” by Michael T. Benson, BYU Studies, Volume 34, no. 1

Cyrus the Great made possible the return of Jews to Jerusalem (as recorded in Ezra, Isaiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles). Harry S Truman became a modern-day Cyrus for his crucial role in the creation of the state of Israel. This article describes Truman’s role.