Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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The books of Ezra and Nehemiah focus on the return of the deported Judaeans (or their descendants) to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city, and the building of the second temple. So they continue on naturally from the ending of 2 Chronicles: they represent the outworking of Cyrus's imperial command to build the temple (2 Chr. 36: 23). Some, but by no means all, scholars believe the Chronicler to be also the writer of Ezra–Nehemiah. Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah should be read together (in the Hebrew Bible the canonical order is Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles) because of the linkages between them in subject-matter. They contain the main biblical narratives about the reconstruction of Jerusalem during the Persian period—though it does not follow from that description of their subject-matter that they were necessarily written in the Persian period. All the stories about the reconstruction of Jerusalem and its temple are assigned to the (distant) past when the Persian emperors held power: ‘And they builded, and finished it [the temple], according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.’ (Ezra 6: 14). Such a claim to the support not merely of God, but of three Persian emperors for a building that had originally needed only God and David may seem like a case of gilding the lily. But a careful reading of Ezra 3–6 reveals a deep anxiety about the legitimacy of the project, and the focus is more on its legitimation than on any account of the actual construction work. Even the details of the dimensions of the projected building are defective: ‘Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits’ (6: 3)—a blueprint apparently for a two-dimensional building!45

Chapter.  524 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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