Brief Introduction to the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah (with Bibliography)

Ezra begins his record in 538 BC just after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus king of Persia (cf. Ezra 1:1) and describes some of the events leading to his own work in Jerusalem some eighty years later (458 BC) where Nehemiah takes up his primary work some twenty more years later (430-424 BC; cf. Ezra 7:7-8; Neh.13:6).  Ezra may have returned to Susa sometime after his initial visit in 458 BC.  Nehemiah arrived in 458 BC as governor of Judah and stayed for approximately twelve years during which time Ezra seems to have returned to Jerusalem.  Nehemiah returned again in 430 BC for further reforms.  It appears that the temple had been initially begun under the governor of Judah Sheshbazzar prior to Ezra’s arrival, but began again following the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah in about 520BC.  The completion and rededication of the temple occurred about 515 BC (Ezra 6:16-18). 

The nature of Ezra-Nehemiah shows essentially that they are compilations of edicts, lists, letters and the “memoirs” of Ezra and Nehemiah respectively.  The Hebrew text treats the two books of the English Bible as a single work (cf. Babylonian Talmud: Baba Bathra 15a; Jos.Con.Ap.3:8; Melito of Sardis according to Eusebius’ Ecc.Hist.IV.26 ; Jerome Prologue to the Galatians).  They were likely completed sometime ca. 400-300 BC though the earlier, rather than the later date, seems preferable (Williamson xxxvi).  It is likely the books were not originally written as a unity in part because of the repetition of lists (Ezra 2; Neh.7:6-70).  They were, however, early on joined together as a single volume and so should be regarded as such.
Archer, Gleason.  A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.  Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994. pp.395-401.  Arnold, Bill T., and H. G. M. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.  Birch, Bruce C., Walter Brueggemann, Terence Fretheim, and David L. Peterson.  A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999. pp. 424-428.  Breneman, Mervin.  Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.  The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Vol. 10.  Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1993.  Brueggemann, Walter.  An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. pp. 363-374.  Childs, Brevard S.  “Ezra and Nehemiah,” An Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.     Philadelphia, PA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1979.  pp. 624-638.  Fensham, F. Charles.  The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.  Harrison, Ronald K.  “The Book of Ezra-Nehemiah,” Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1969. pp. 1135-1151.  Kaiser, Jr., Walter C.  Toward an Old Testament Theology.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.  pp.258-261.  Kidner, Derek.  Ezra and Nehemiah.  Vol. 12, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.  VanGemeren, Willem A., Gen.Ed.  New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.  5 Volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.  Waltke, Bruce K.  An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. pp.771-802.  Williamson, H. G. M.  Ezra, Nehemiah.  Vol. 16, Word Biblical Commentary.  Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1985.  Young, Edward J.  “Ezra-Nehemiah,” An Introduction to the Old Testament.  London: The Tyndale Press, 1956.  pp. 369-379.
List of Abbreviations
1 Macc      = First Maccabees
1 Esd         = First Esdras
2 Macc      = Second Maccabees
AD             = Anno Domini (the Year of our Lord)
Aram.        = Aramaic
BC             = Before Christ
ca.              = approximately
cf.              = cross reference
Ecc.Hist.   = Eusebius’ Church History
Heb.           = Hebrew
Ant.           = Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews
Con.Ap.     = Josephus’ Against Apion
KJV           = King James Version of the Bible
LXX          = Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible
NASB       = New American Standard Bible (1995)
NET          = New English Translation
NIDOTTE = New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis
NIV           = New International Version (1984)                                          
NRS          = New Revised Standard Version (1989)
NT             = New Testament
OT             = Old Testament
RSV           = Revised Standard Version
The books of the Bible are as follows: Gen. Exo. Lev. Num. Deut. Josh. Jud. 1-2 Sam. 1-2 Kings 1-2 Chron. Ezra Neh. Esther Job Ps. Prov. Ecc. Song Isa. Jer. Lam. Eze. Dan. Hos. Joel Amos Oba. Jonah Mic. Nah. Hab. Zeph. Hag. Zech. Mal. Mt. Mk. Lk. Jn. Acts Rom. 1-2 Cor. Gal. Eph. Phil. Col. 1-2 Thess. 1-2 Tim. Tit. Phile. Heb. James 1-2 Pet. 1-3 Jn. Jude Rev.
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