Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) A priest among those that returned to Jerusalem under Zerubabel ( Nehemiah
(2) The "scribe" who led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon
to Jerusalem B.C. 459, and author of the book of Scripture which bears his name.
He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah ( 2 Kings 25:18-21 ), and a lineal
descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron ( Ezra 7:1-5 ). All we know of his personal
history is contained in the last four chapters of his book, and in Nehemiah 8
and 12:26 .
In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see DARIUS), he obtained
leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites ( Ezra
8 ). Artaxerxes manifested great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him
"all his request," and loading him with gifts for the house of God. Ezra assembled
the band of exiles, probably about 5,000 in all, who were prepared to go up with
him to Jerusalem, on the banks of the Ahava, where they rested for three days,
and were put into order for their march across the desert, which was completed
in four months. His proceedings at Jerusalem on his arrival there are recorded
in his book.
He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared his heart to seek
the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."
"He is," says Professor Binnie, "the first well-defined example of an order of
men who have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition, who devote
their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in order that they may be in
a condition to interpret them for the instruction and edification of the church.
It is significant that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history
of Ezra's ministry ( Nehemiah 8:4 ). He was much more of a teacher than a priest.
We learn from the account of his labours in the book of Nehemiah that he was careful
to have the whole people instructed in the law of Moses; and there is no reason
to reject the constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the
collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final completion of the
canon may have been, and probably was, the work of a later generation; but Ezra
seems to have put it much into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew
Bible. When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue dates
from this period, it will be seen that the age was emphatically one of Biblical
study" (The Psalms: their History, etc.).
For about fourteen years, i.e., till B.C. 445, we have no record of what went
on in Jerusalem after Ezra had set in order the ecclesiastical and civil affairs
of the nation. In that year another distinguished personage, Nehemiah, appears
on the scene. After the ruined wall of the city had been built by Nehemiah, there
was a great gathering of the people at Jerusalem preparatory to the dedication
of the wall. On the appointed day the whole population assembled, and the law
was read aloud to them by Ezra and his assistants ( Nehemiah 8:3 ). The remarkable
scene is described in detail. There was a great religious awakening. For successive
days they held solemn assemblies, confessing their sins and offering up solemn
sacrifices. They kept also the feast of Tabernacles with great solemnity and joyous
enthusiasm, and then renewed their national covenant to be the Lord's. Abuses
were rectified, and arrangements for the temple service completed, and now nothing
remained but the dedication of the walls of the city ( Nehemiah 12 ).
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(help), called ESDRAS in the Apocrypha, the famous scribe
and priest. He was a learned and pious priest residing at Babylon in the time
of Artaxerxes Longimanus. The origin of his influence with the king does not appear,
but in the seventh year of his reign he obtained leave to go to Jerusalem, and
to take with him a company of Israelites. (B.C. 457.) The journey from Babylon
to Jerusalem took just four months; and the company brought with them a large
freewill offering of gold and silver, and silver vessels. It appears that Ezras
great design was to effect a religious reformation among the Palestine Jews. His
first step was to enforce separation upon all who had married foreign wives. (
Ezra 10:1 ) ... This was effected in little more than six months after his arrival
at Jerusalem. With the detailed account of this important transaction Ezras autobiography
ends abruptly, and we hear nothing more of him till, thirteen years afterwards,
in the twentieth of Artaxerxes, we find him again at Jerusalem with Nehemiah.
It seems probable that after effecting the above reformations he returned to the
king of Persia. The functions he executed under Nehemiahs government were purely
of a priestly and ecclesiastical character. The date of his death is uncertain.
There was a Jewish tradition that he was buried in Persia. The principal works
ascribed to him by the Jews are--
|(1) The instruction of the great synagogue;
(2) The settling the canon of Scripture, and restoring, correcting and editing
the whole sacred volume;
(3) The introduction of the Chaldee character instead of the old Hebrew or Samaritan;
(4) The authorship of the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and, some add,
Esther; and, many of the Jews say, also of the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and the
(5) The establishment of synagogues.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ez'-ra (Aramaic or Chaldee, 'ezra', "help"; a hypocoristicon,
or shortened form of Azariah, "Yahweh has helped." The Hebrew spells the name
'ezrah, as in 1 Chronicles 4:17, or uses the Aramaic spelling of the name, as
in Ezra 7:1. The Greek form is Esdras):
(1) A priest who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon (Nehemiah 12:1).
In Nehemiah 10:2, Azariah, the full form of the name, is found.
(2) A descendant of Judah and father of Jethro and other sons (1 Chronicles 4:17).
(3) The distinguished priest who is the hero of the Book of Ezra and co-worker with Nehemiah.
The genealogy of Ezra is given in Ezra 7:1 - 6, where it appears that he was the
son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the
son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the
son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son
of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the high priest. Since Seraiah,
according to the Book of Kings, was killed by Nebuchadrezzar at Riblah (2 Kings
25:18 - 21), and since he was the father of Jehozadak, the high priest who was
carried into captivity by Nebuchadrezzar (1 Chronicles 6:14 , 15 ; Hebrews 5:14),
etc. in 588 BC, and since the return under Ezra took place in 458 BC, the word
"son" must be used in Ezra 7:2 in the sense of descendant. Since, moreover, Joshua,
or Jeshua, the high priest, who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel, was the
son of Jehozadak and the grandson of Seraiah, Ezra was probably the great-grandson
or great-great-grandson of Seraiah. Inasmuch as Jehozadak is never mentioned as
one of his forefathers, Ezra was probably not descended from Jehozadak, but from
a younger brother. He would thus not be a high priest, though he was of high-priestly
descent as far as Seraiah. For the sake of shortening the list of names, six names
are omitted in Ezra 7:2 - 7 between Azariah and Meraioth, and one between Shallum
and Ahitub from the corresponding list found in 1 Chronicles 6:4 - 14 (Hebrew
5:30 - 40).
Being a priest by birth, it is to be supposed that Ezra would have performed the
ordinary functions of a member of his order, if he had been born and had lived
Jos, indeed, says that he was high priest of his brethren in Babylon, a statement
that in view of the revelation of the Elephantine papyri may not be without a
foundation in fact. According to the Scriptures and Jewish tradition, however,
Ezra was pre-eminently a scribe, and especially a scribe of the law of Moses.
He is called "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," a "scribe of the words of the
commandments of Yahweh, and of his statutes to Israel," "the scribe of the law
of the God of heaven." As early as the time of Jeremiah (compare Jeremiah 8:8),
"scribe" had already attained the meaning of one learned in the Scriptures, one
who had made the written law a subject of investigation. Ezra is the first who
is called by the title of "the scribe," the title by which Artaxerxes designates
him in his letter of instructions in Ezra 7:6 , 11.
3. His Commission:
In the 7th year of Artaxerxes I (459 - 458 BC) Ezra requested permission of the
king to go up to Jerusalem; for "Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Yahweh,
and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances." Artaxerxes granted
his request, and gave him a letter permitting as many of the people of Israel
and of the priests and Levites as so desired to accompany him to Jerusalem, and
commissioning him to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and to carry a gift
of money from the king and his counselors, and all the money to be found in the
province of Babylon, and the freewill offerings of the people and priests, with
which to buy offerings to offer upon the altar of the house of God which was in
Jerusalem. He was commissioned also to carry vessels for the service of the house
of God, and to do at the expense of the royal treasury whatever was needful for
the house of God. The king decreed, moreover, that the treasurers of the king
should assist Ezra with a tribute of wheat, wine, oil and salt, and that they
should impose no tribute, custom or toll upon any of those employed in the service
of the house of God. Moreover, Ezra was authorized to appoint judges to judge
the people according to the law of God and the law of the king, and to inflict
punishments upon all who would not obey these laws. Ascribing this marvelous letter
of the king to the lovingkindness of his God, and strengthened by this evidence
of God's power, Ezra proceeded to gather together out of Israel the chief men
and teachers and ministers of the house to go up with him to Jerusalem. He gathered
these men in camp at Casiphia, on the river Ahava. Here he proclaimed a time of
fasting and prayer, that God might prosper their journey (Ezra 8:15 - 23). Then,
having delivered the treasures into the hands of the priests, the assembled company
departed for Jerusalem, where by the help of God they arrived in safety, delivered
over the money and gifts by number and weight, offered burnt offerings and sin
offerings, delivered the king's commissions and furthered the people and the house
Shortly after Ezra's arrival at Jerusalem, the princes accused the people, the
priests, and the Levites of having intermarried with the peoples of the land,
even asserting that the princes and rulers had been leaders in the trespass. Upon
hearing this, Ezra was confounded, rent his garments, plucked off his hair, fell
upon his knees and prayed a prayer of confession, weeping and casting himself
down before the house of God. While he prayed the people assembled and wept, acknowledged
their sin and promised to do according to the law. The whole people were then
assembled in counsel, and in spite of some opposition the strange wives were put
In Nehemiah 8, Ezra appears again upon the scene at the Feast of Tabernacles as
the chief scribe of the law of Moses, the leader of the priests and Levites who
read and explained the law to the people. On his advice the people ceased from
their mourning and celebrated the festival according to the law of Moses with
joy and thanksgiving and giving of gifts, dwelling also in booths in commemoration
of the manner of their fathers' sojourning while in the wilderness.
The traditions with regard to Ezra found in Josephus and in the Talmud are so
discrepant that it is impossible to place reliance upon any of their statements
which are not found also in the. canonical Scriptures.
R. Dick Wilson
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, esdras, ezra, feast of tabernacles, law of moses, priest, scribe