Ezra and Nehemiah are combined into one book titled "2 Esdras" in the Greek Bible.
Ezra was a priest in exile in Babylon, who Cyrus permitted to return to Jerusalem to re-establish the worship. Unfortunately he ordered the returning exiles to banish their foreign wives, which must have caused much suffering. This painful episode is part of the story that must be told, but it is said that the books Ruth and Esther are included in the Bible to show that women with foreign heritage, titles and ways are fully part of God's world.
Ezra's politically incorrect approach is consistent with that of Joshua 23:11–16; both show the limitations of Old Testament religion. At that time, evil could only be destroyed by destroying the evildoer; but since Christ has come, we seek to convert the evildoer.
The book of Ezra is unusual in that it does not claim that God approved of anything that happened in it. It is a book about people trying to do God's will, but it is left to the reader to decide whether they succeeded. Some say that holiness is emphasized too much over mercy, and that the book actually describes the birth of Pharisaism.
© David Billin 2002–2021