10. Reforms Of Nehemiah And Ezra

   Paragraph Numbers: On | Off
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version


The Jewish Community in the Fifth Century

1. These are the times of Ezra, Nehemiah, Obadiah, and Malachi.

2. History runs along with the Jews and the Persian Empire under Darius— which reaches its zenith during this century.

3. Darius won all his wars except against Greece, where he was defeated at Marathon.

4. Jewish communities were well established throughout the Persian Empire.

5. Throughout this century groups of Jews continued to drift back to Palestine. Ezra 4:12.

6. There was no end of trouble with the governors of Persia. The southern Edomites harassed them constantly.

7. Under Artaxerxes they began to rebuild their fortifications. Ezra 4:7-23.

8. The religious life ran along fairly well. The temple services were in full operation.

9. But the general morale was not good. The Sabbath was neglected. They failed to pay tithes. Mal 3:7-10.

10. Divorce was a public scandal; the poor were oppressed. Intermarriage with the gentiles was common.

11. Nehemiah began a thoroughgoing reorganization of the Jewish community, with the help of Ezra.

12. In Greece, this was the age of Pericles, Socrates, Sophocles, and Phidias.

13. The folly of the Peloponnesian wars left Persia in a more secure position.

14. Nehemiah was attached to the Persian court—he had been the king’s cupbearer. He was appointed governor of Judah and authorized to rebuild its fortifications.

15. Nehemiah was a good organizer. In 52 days he had the walls of Jerusalem up. Neh 6:15.

16. But it was two years before all details—gates, towers, etc.—were completed.

17. He was greatly hampered by Sanballat, governor of Samaria. Tobiah, governor of Ammon, also opposed Nehemiah

18. Nehemiah divided his forces into two shifts—one to stand at arms, the other to build.

19. There were only 50,000 people in Judah. Taxes were high. Land-grabbers dispossessed the poor. Nehemiah started far-reaching reforms.

20. Nehemiah had many enemies. He was not only just—but he had a bad temper.

21. Nehemiah ruled 12 years. He then visited Babylon and the Persian court.

22. When he returned he found things in a bad way. Intermarriage, Sabbath-breaking, and all-round religious laxity were the order of the day.

23. It was about this time that Ezra arrived and joined Nehemiah in the task of cleaning up Jerusalem. Ezra 7:12-26.

24. Ezra had great help from contributions by Babylonian Jews. Ezra was a priest.

25. Ezra was accompanied by a considerable caravan of Jews. He was ashamed to ask for a military escort.

26. In a public square on an elevated platform, he read the law from daybreak to noon every day.

27. Ezra won the leaders and they brought the people together—and in a downpour of rain they received Ezra’s rebuke and admonitions.

28. It was a tough job and a long pull, but Ezra did get some results.

29. Ezra really finished up the reforms started by Nehemiah. Their efforts were effective because they were supported by royal Persian decrees.

30. And Ezra got all of this done in about one year. In some respects, Ezra was the most important person in Israel’s history since Moses.

31. The law which Ezra read to the Jerusalem Jaws was the new priestly code which had been prepared during the captivity.

32. Now the Jews made a new covenant with Yahweh and the compact was sanctioned by the Persian government.

33. Through adherence to religious law, Israel became a nation—even without statehood.

34. In a sense, this is the way Israel has existed ever since that day.

35. We are not disposed to accept the idea that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem before Nehemiah, even though such a concept may be suggested by a superficial reading of the records of our Old Testament.

Foundation Info

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Urantia Foundation, 533 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
Tel: +1-773-525-3319; Fax: +1-773-525-7739
© Urantia Foundation. All rights reserved