Ezra and Nehemiah are considered some of the "historical" books of the Bible, for in them we get a glimpse of life in Israel after the exile in Babylon. Dr. Schoville identifies these as the Ezra Memoirs and the Nehemiah Memoirs. It is his belief that the first-person materials in these books was probably written around 400 B.C., while an editor compiled these memoirs with other sources around 300 B.C., after the conquest of Alexander the Great. The final author/editor of Ezra-Nehemiah did not choose to focus on a strict sequence of events, rather he chose to focus on the accomplishments of the two men: the return and reconstruction (Part One, Ezra 1:1-Neh 7:3) and renewal and reform (Part Two, Neh 7:4-13:31). The book of Ezra is named for its main author and character, who reminds the people of Jerusalem of the sin of assimilation and calls them to live under the direction of the Law once again. The book of Nehemiah, also named for the main character, records the actions of Nehemiah, cupbearer to the Babylonian king Artaxerxes, who helped rebuild the city of Jerusalem, beginning with the walls.
Prominent sub themes are present throughout the two books. These themes bear a striking resemblance to the exodus of the Israelites into the Promised Land: the returnees experience a second exodus to the Promised Land in the face of opposition, the Law of God lays the foundation for Israelite life and worship, and God's people receive a call to ethnic and ritual purity. And throughout its entirety we see the theme of gratitude for the hand of God working to accomplish his will. While Schoville holds that Ezra-Nehemiah was edited during the oppression of the Greeks, the editor's compilation would no doubt lift the spirits of those in any generation. Ezra-Nehemiah would call its audience to walk in faith in the ways of God rather than the dominant culture. The story of those first returnees from Babylonian exile would benefit not only the subjects of Greek rule, but all who would follow.
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