1. Structure and outline

An overview of Ezra 1–6

Ezra 1:1–6:22 (ESV)

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

The Jewish exiles were rescued from exile in Babylon in order to rebuild the temple of the Lord (Ezra 1:2). In small groups they came back to the land of Judah under the leadership of different men (Ezra 2:2). Once everyone had arrived, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, they began the work of rebuilding the temple. First they ensured the altar was built on the right place (Ezra 3:1–6), and then they laid the foundation stones of the temple (Ezra 3:7–13). However, the people living around them did not like what they were doing and they opposed the people of Israel, causing them to stop their work of rebuilding (Ezra 4:1–5, Ezra 4:24). For a long while (maybe fifteen years), no building work took place. (Cyrus' decree allowing the exiles to return from Babylon was issued in 539 BC and the work on the rebuilding of the temple, after a delay, was only restarted in 520 BC.) Then the Lord intervened. He sent two prophets to speak to his people (Ezra 5:1) and the work on the temple was restarted (Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:15; Ezra 5:2). Even though an alliance of local people led by Tattenai tried to stop the Israelites (Ezra 5:3) by writing a letter to the Persian king Darius (Ezra 5:6–17), God’s people continued the work of rebuilding and eventually the temple was finished on March 12, 515 BC (Ezra 6:15). Following the completion of the temple, the Israelites celebrated Passover and they were filled with joy (Ezra 6:19–22; cf. Psalm 126:1–6).