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Ezra the Scribe

Ezra the Scribe

Led the return to Israel in 3413 (348 BCE)


The story of Ezra the Scribe takes us back about 23 centuries, to the time when the Jews had returned from the Babylonian exile, had rebuilt the Beth Hamikdosh, and had begun to live a free life on their own native soil. In the year 3408, the construction of the Second Beth Hamikdosh in Jerusalem was under way. Jerusalem again became the center of Jewish life. But the era of the prophets was about to end. Hagai, Zechariah and Malachi were the last of the prophets. There were no more prophets after them, though there never ceased to appear men of wisdom and vision in Israel who were leaders and sages, and inspired their brethren with the spirit of the Torah and of the prophets.

One of the first of these great men who followed on the very heels of the last prophets was Ezra the Scribe. He was born in Babylon, like many of the other great leaders, patriots and sages which the Jewish community in exile had produced. By profession he was a scribe; he used to write scrolls of the Torah, which he knew so well. Ezra was also a priest, a member of the priestly family of Aaron. He was a great scholar and teacher, and all his qualities combined to make him an outstanding figure not merely among his brethren, but also in the court of Artachshashta. A great and secure future lay ahead of him in his land of exile, but Ezra's heart was with his brethren in Jerusalem. It was no easy task for so prominent a man to leave Babylon in order to make his home in the Land of Israel. But eventually king Artachshashta fulfilled Ezra's cherished dream. Not only did he permit him to return to his homeland, but even ordered his representatives and governors everywhere to assist Ezra on his way, and expedite his journey. The Persian king appointed Ezra as a high-ranking officer in the Land of Israel, with powers to appoint judges and officers of the law, and to levy monetary fines, impose banishment and even to impose the death penalty, if necessary.

Ezra left Babylon in the spring, in the month of Nissan, his heart full of excitement and joyous expectancy. He took with him a great deal of gold and silver for the Beth Hamikdosh. The journey lasted about four months, for Ezra did not arrive in Jerusalem before the month of Ab, at summer's end.

Ezra was accompanied by thousands of enthusiastic patriots who gave up the comforts of their life in exile to begin life anew in their own homeland, ready to face whatever dangers and uncertainties awaited them there.

Upon arrival in the Land of Israel, Ezra was shocked and grieved to find that the spiritual standards of his brethren had sunk to a dangerous low. They had fallen under the influence of the powerful Samaritans and other native tribes, had intermarried with them freely, and a young generation was growing up which was unaware of the great spiritual heritage of Israel. The children did not even know their own Hebrew tongue.

Ezra rent his clothes and grieved bitterly, but he did not give way to despair. He gathered around him the few loyal priests and Levites, the few teachers and patriots among his brethren, in an attempt to restore Jewish life in the Holy Land. A heavy cloud hung on the assembly, for the picture looked dismal and bleak. The hearts of the assembled were full of anxiety and grief, and their eyes were full of tears. Suddenly a man rose and called out: "We have committed a crime against G‑d and against our people by marrying non-Jewish women. But we are ready to give them up and part with them and with their children. Arise, Ezra, call upon the people to send away their strange wives! Be strong, firm and fearless!"

The name of this man was Shecheniah ben Jehiel, and his words spurred Ezra to immediate action. He called a great assembly in Jerusalem and proclaimed an order calling upon his brethren to part from their non-Jewish wives. A wave of "Teshuvah" swept the small Jewish community in the holy land; Ezra's leadership began to show real and far-reaching results.

But this drastic action roused the anger of the Samaritans, and awakened their old hatred of the Jewish people. Like enraged beasts they swooped down from their hills and attacked the peaceful inhabitants of Jerusalem. They fell upon the protective walls of the city, smashed and razed them to the ground, and also burned, destroyed and ransacked many homes. The inhabitants of Jerusalem fled in terror, and the Jewish community of the holy city began to dwindle. Once again, many Jews began to seek the friendship of the powerful Samaritans, and Ezra's strenuous efforts to stem the tide of assimilation seemed all but fruitless. For about twelve years the situation grew from bad to worse, for the Jews had no respite from the cruel Samaritans. The situation became very critical. But at the height of the crisis, timely help arrived which saved the day for the Jews in the Land of Israel. This help came through Nehemiah, Ezra's contemporary and great co-worker.

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David Gottfried New York August 2, 2017

Two things: 1) I doubt the morality of the notion that we should leave not only our non jewish wives but also "Their children." Those children are also their Fathers' children. This sounds like abandonment of one's child. I can understand the injunction to marrry Jews, but once one has marrried a non Jewish woman, and given her a child, one has "crossed the Rubicon" and has duties that cannot be negated.
2) Recently, I read a little about Arnold Toynbee, a British Thinker, long since dead, who was probably anti-Semetic. He said that we were a fossilized faith, that our greatness was in the time of the prophets, and that we have traded in sprituality and divine transcedence for nothing but a tawdry nationalism. He said that many Jews were polytheistic before Ezra (he might be right; think of the golden calf) and that Ezra made us fully monotheisitic. Where did he get the idea that Ezra magnified our Monotheism. What did Ezra say about G-d Reply

Yehuda Shurpin September 9, 2016

Re: Date of the Second Temple With regards to the question of the dating of the Second Temple, please see my comments on The Second Temple is Built Reply

Fabián Chile September 8, 2016

Morgan is right. The Second Temple was in existence from 516 BCE to 70 C.E., i.e, 586 and not 420 years as some Jews claim based on the mistaken chronology exposed in the Seder Olam Rabbah. Btw, here it´s claimed "n the year 3408, the construction of the Second Beth Hamikdosh in Jerusalem was under way." It's 352 BC.E ansd not 348. Even so, the dates provided here don't have any accademical support and aren't realiable. Reply

Anonymous kentucky, USA May 21, 2016

Why G-d, not God? I do not understand. Reply

Joe Chaikel October 4, 2013

"He took with him a great deal of gold and silver for the Beth Hamikdosh." - why does God need gold and silver? Reply

Morgan Sorensen Spring Hill, TN. January 1, 2013

Pinhas Erez That is just Not true ! The dates I have given in my comment are accurate, so which of the several years that I mention, are you referring to. please be more specific. Reply

Pinhas Erez January 1, 2013

Morgan The Second Temple was in existence for 420 years.
In the year you mention, the First Temple was still in existence. Reply

Sandra Johnson Demotte, IN January 12, 2011

Accuracy When we have so many experts , how is truth reached? Reply

Morgan Sorensen Spring Hill, Tennessee June 27, 2009

Ezra the scribe I read the above post on Ezra, in which is asserted that he led the jews back to Jerusalem in 348 bce.
How is it possible to proclaim such historic and biblical inaccuracies on a Jewish site ?
The passage in Ezra 7:6-7 which discusses the 7th year of "Artaxerxes" (not a real name, but an appelative used by several kings at that time) concerns Darius Hystaspes,(or Darius the 1st) who reigned for 35 years, from Our Sept.522 B.C to Our Nov. 486 B.C. , and the above scripture passage concerns the year 515 B.C.
This differs from your presentation with 167/168 years.
the Temple was completed in Darius's 6th year,516 B.C. and the very next year, in Darius's 7th year we read about Ezra's journey back to Jerusalem, (Ezra 7:6-7)

Why are you deliberately distorting the truth , by claiming it was in 348 BCE ? Reply

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