Bible Query from
Q: Who wrote this book?
A: Ezra was a learned scribe, and he likely wrote the book between 456 B.C. and 444 B.C.. However, the book of Ezra actually does not say. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.651 says that the style of Chronicles and Ezra are similar, so perhaps Ezra wrote both.
Q: In Ezr, what manuscripts do we have preserved today from this period?
A: Besides the Bible, there are a number of Greek and other writings, but this answer only addresses physical writing archaeologists have actually found preserved today. Here are some of them from 850 B.C. up to about 400 B.C..
The Moabite Stone. (850 B.C.) A photograph is in A General Introduction to the Bible p.335. See The Bible As History p.237 for the text, and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1145-1146 for more info.
At Beir Allah in the Jordan Valley, a schoolboy's writing practice mentions Balaam son of Beor three times. It was radiocarbon dated to 800/760 B.C. Listen to the John Ankerberg tape on Exploding the J.E.P.D Theory by Walter Kaiser, Jr., or read The NIV Study Bible p.223 for more info.
Shalmaneser III texts (836 B.C.) in Assyria. Mention of the Medes and Tubal peoples.
Sargon texts (732 B.C.) in Assyria. Mentions the Tubal people.
Sargon II texts (722-705 B.C.)
The Assyrian Words of Ahiqar (700-400 B.C. Aramaic, and possibly Akkadian) (An English translation of this is in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.494-507).
Many other Assyrian records
Many Babylonian Records
Persian Behistun Rock
Aramaic copy of the Behistun rock in Elephantine Island in southern Egypt
The Babylonian column copy of the Behistun rock
The Cyrus Cylinder (c.438 B.C.) You can see a picture of it in the Rose Book of Charts, Maps & Time Lines p.78.
In the Elephantine papyri (Cowley #21), Darius commands the Jews there to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary p.649.
Elephantine papyrii Cowley #30 (407 B.C.) The letter dictated by Jedaniah to Bagohi, the governor of Judha asking for help in rebuilding the temple of "YHW" in Elephantine. This letter mentions the sons of Sanballat [sn'blt], called the governor of Samaria. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.570, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.677, and Persia and the Bible p.242 for more info. The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea scrolls vol.2 p.824 says this letter was dated by the writer as November 25, 407 B.C. Eerdmans' Bible Dictionary p.817 says that the Egyptians and the Persian governor Vidranga destroyed the temple at Elephantine in 419 B.C.
The Samarian Papyri from Wadi ed-Daliyeh (WDSP 11 front 13) mentions Sanballat [sn'blt]. See The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls vol.2 p.824 for more info.
Ostraca on Elephantine Island. See Persia and the Bible p.245-246.
Murashu banking documents in Nippur. These texts have the names of 2,500 individuals, 70 of which are Jewish. See The Bible Almanac p.396 and Persia and the Bible p.243 for more info.
A memorandum by Bagoas, the Persian governor of Judah.
Over 30 tablets in Susa, and 1 tablet in Borsippa mention up to four Persian officials named "Marduku" or "Marduka".
Two hall inscriptions in caves 11 miles west of Amman, Jordan mention "Tobiah" in Aramaic. (From 590 B.C. to as late as 200 B.C.)
Q: In Ezr, what is an outline of this book?
A: Here is a high-level outline.
1-6 Return and rebuilding the Temple
..1-2 The return under Zerubbabel (538 B.C.)
....1 Cyrus' decree and preparations
....2 The roll of 50K returnees
..3-6 Rebuilding the Temple
....3 Building the altar and temple foundation
....4 Opposition under Cyrus, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes
...5 Further opposition under Darius
...6 Temple completion under Darius
7-10 Return and rebuilding the community
..7-8 The return under Ezra (458 B.C.)
....7 The decree of Artaxerxes I
....8 List of 4-5K returnees and their trip
..9-10 Rebuilding the community
....9 Mixed marriages and Ezra's prayer
....10 The peoples' confession and covenant
Q: In Ezr 1:1, why was this called the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, since he had been king prior to the conquest of Babylonia as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.435 mentions?
A: Cyrus became king of Anshan in 559 B.C. and king of the Medes as well as the Persians in 550 B.C. However, this was the first year of his reign over this vast Empire of Babylon and Persia. According to Persia and the Bible p.89, William H. Shea studied the over 400 places where Cyrus was given a title, and in 90 percent of the cases he was called "King of Babylon, King of lands." The Cyrus Cylinder calls Cyrus, "King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, King of the Four Quarters (of the Earth)." Shea also found that Cyrus was first called "King of Lands" at the beginning of 538 B.C., but he was not called "King of Babylon, King of Lands" until the end of 538 B.C. He thinks the reason is that the governor, Gubaru, bore the title King of Babylon, until his death that year.
Just as a duke who becomes king lists his first year as his being king, not being duke, Cyrus' first year is counted from the time he was Emperor of the Empire. "The Empire" included Babylon as one of its capital cities. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.654 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 1:1, could the 70 years refer to the length of the Babylonian Empire, or the Temple, as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.436-437,449 suggests?
A: It refers to the length of time Judah served Babylon. First let's see precisely what the Bible claims, and then what history confirms.
Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10,16 claims:
1) The country of Judah would become a wasteland, and they would serve Babylon for seventy years
2) After 70 years, Babylonia would be punished (Jeremiah 25:12)
3) Jeremiah 29:10 adds that after 70 years, the exiles would return.
4) Jeremiah 29:16 adds that not everyone would go into exile
While it does not say Jerusalem would be totally destroyed, one could imply that. However, it does not specify how long Jerusalem was destroyed. It is the serving of Babylon, not the destruction of Jerusalem, that was prophesied to be 70 years.
Historically, Judah served Babylon from 605 B.C. to 538 B.C.. This is about 68 of our years. However, prophecies were given in terms of the religious, lunar year, which was 360 days.
Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.449 also speculates that it might refer to the time the Temple was destroyed, since it was destroyed in 587/586 B.C. and not rebuilt until 516 B.C., which is exactly 70 365-day years. While this is 70 years, this is a coincidence.
Q: In Ezr 1:1, was the actual exile only 49 years, from 587/586-538 B.C., as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.436 says?
A: Many people were exiled in 605 B.C. for the full 70 years. Complicating this is the fact that others were exiled for only 49 years. Regardless, the prophecy was for Judah serving Babylon for 70 years.
Q: In Ezr 1:1-4, why would the Persian king decide to help the Jews here?
A: The ultimate reasons is that God moved Cyrus to do this. Also, not only did the Persian king allow the Jews to return, but the archaeologist Rassam unearthed what is called "The Cyrus Cylinder", where Cyrus recorded his capturing Babylon and decree that other peoples could return home too. There is no evidence that Cyrus believed in the true God; rather He used the divine name when speaking about the Jews as he used the names of other gods in speaking about the other peoples.
According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.654, the Cyrus Cylinder says in part: "May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities daily ask Bel and Nebo for a long life for me." (Bel and Nebo were Babylonian gods.) See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.248 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 1:1-4 what else does the Cyrus Cylinder say?
A: Persia and the Bible p.90 mentions that the nineteenth century Bible critic Julius Wellhausen and many others doubted there ever was a decree for the Jews to return home. However, according to Persia and the Bible p.87, the Cyrus Cylinder was discovered by Rassam in 1879; the same page has a photograph of it. The Cyrus Cylinder primarily was a propaganda tool by Cyrus to show the Babylonians he was their friend, and not just a conqueror to be opposed. Cyrus called himself "King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, King of the Four Quarters [of the Earth] (p.89). It also says, "When I, well-disposed, entered Babylon, I set up the seat of dominion in the royal palace amidst jubilation and rejoicing. Marduk the great god caused the big-hearted inhabitants of Babylon to ... me. I sought daily to worship him. My numerous troops moved about undisturbed in the midst of Babylon. I did not allow any to terrorize the land of [Sumer] and Akkad. I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their wellbeing." (p.87) It also claims that Cyrus entered the city "without fighting or battle". This is true, as Cyrus entered the city 17 days after the Persians made a surprise attack and captured the city.
The Cyrus Cylinder also says about the exiled peoples, "I (also) gathered their former inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations." (p.91)
The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.246 says the Cyrus Cylinder was made c.536 B.C.
Q: In Ezr 1:8, what do the names of these Jews mean?
A: According to Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.438, Mithredath means "given by Mithra". Mithra was a major Persian god on the side of good.
Sheshbazzar is a non-Hebrew name of uncertain meaning. Asimov speculates that perhaps it was another name for Shenazar, and Shenazar was the fourth son of Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:18) the former king of Judah. That would make sense that Sheshbazzar was called the prince of Judah.
Some say that Shezbazzar was another name for Zerubbabel. However, When Critics Ask p.213-214 points out that it would not make sense to have two non-Hebrew names. It also says Shezbazzar might be another name for Shealtiel, who apparently died shortly after the laying of the foundation.
Q: In Ezr 1:9-10, why does the total of the mentioned articles, 2,499, not equal the total number of gold and silver items, 5,400 in 1:11?
A: The list consists only of dishes pans(?), bowls, and other major articles. The grand total, perhaps including some broken pieces, includes things not listed. The difference in numbers is too large to be just a typographical error. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.655 for essentially the same answer.
Q: In Ezr 2, did the Jews prosper under the Persians?
A: Yes. Apart from the Bible we have extra-Biblical evidence that they did quite well.
There are numerous clay tablets of wealthy bankers in Nippur called "Murashu and Sons" who loaned money. Their texts have the names of 2,500 individuals, and 70 names are Jewish. Also, Jews were found in 28 of 200 settlements around Nippur. Photographs of two of these tables are in The Bible Almanac p.396. Also see Persia and the Bible p.243 for more info.
There was a Jewish military garrison near Aswan in southern Egypt, and they built a temple/synagogue to "Yaho", according to Persia and the Bible p.244.
Many Jews lived on Elephantine Island in southern Egypt, according to Aramaic papyri and ostraca that mention the Sabbath and Passover, according to Persia and the Bible p.245-246. The Expositor's Bible Commentary p.649 says that in the Cowley Papyrii #21, Darius II commanded the Jewish colony on Elephantine Island to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Q: In Ezr 2, what was the estimated population of the Israelites prior to their exile?
A: According to The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.566 and ANET p.491, in the eighth century it is estimated there were 500,000 to 700,000 Israelites in the northern kingdom and 220,000 to 300,000 Israelites in Judah.
Q: In Ezr 2, since an estimated 1.5 to 3 million Israelites and Jews scattered in the Persian Empire, why did only 49,000 plus people return to Jerusalem?
A: While some might have been slaves and had no choice, most were disobedient and did not want to return. The Israelites were exiled over 200 years earlier, and almost all of them were assimilated and lost their national identity. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.437 astutely points out that "The fact that they donated objects of value to help those who were planning to make the trip indicates that they were reasonably well-to-do and might have seen no point in leaving a place where they were prosperous and secure and where by now they felt at home."
Of course it is generous that they donated money for those who returned home. However, God did not want their donations; God wanted them to return home themselves.
Q: In Ezr 2, how long would it take for a people to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem?
A: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.658 says it would take about four months. However, it points out that Ezra did not mention this because the emphasis was on rebuilding, not on the hardships returning.
Q: In Ezr 2:1-70, what are the differences in numbers with Neh 7:7-72?
A: Here are the two lists and the differences. The next question discusses reasons for the differences.
|Pahath-Moab||2,812||2,818||2 to 8|
|Zattu||945||845||9 to 8|
|Binnui/Bani||642||648||2 to 6|
|Bebai||623||628||3 to 8|
|Adonikam||666||667||6 to 7|
|Bigvai||2,056||2,067||56 to 67|
|Adin||454||655||4x4 to 6x5|
|Bezai||323||324||3 to 4|
|Gibeon / Gibbar||95||95||-|
|Bethlehem and Netophah||123+56||188||Addition +7|
|Keareath Jearim, Kephilah, Beeroth||743||743||0|
|Ramah and Geba||621||621||0|
|Bethel and Ai||223||123||2 to 1|
|Lod, Hadid, Ono||725||721||5 to 1|
|Senaah||3,630||3,930||6 to 9|
|Asaph||128||148||2 to 4|
|Gatekeepers||139||138||9 to 8|
|Unproven origin||652||642||5 to 4|
Q: In Ezr 2:1-70 and Neh 7:7-72, just how accurately did ancient scribes transmit lists of numbers?
A: Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.230-231 gives us two good examples for comparison in ancient documents.
The army of Frada: The Persian Behistun Rock inscription says the army of Frada had 55,243 dead and 6,572 prisoners in the Babylonian column. An Aramaic translation found on Elephantine Island in Egypt says the number of prisoners was 6,972, one digit off from the Behistun Rock inscription. In a duplicate copy of the Babylonian column found at Babylon, the number of prisoners was 6,973, one digit difference from the Aramaic translation.
The rebel army of Frawartish: The Persian Behistun Rock says 2,045 were killed and 1,558 taken prisoner in the rebel army of Frawartish. The Aramaic copy has over 1,575 as the number of prisoners.
These examples originally came from F.W. Konig, Relief and Inschrift des Konigs Dareios I am Felsen von Bagistan [Leiden: Brill, 1938) p.48,45).
Q: In Ezr 2:1-70, why do the numbers of returned people differ from Neh 7:7-72?
A: It probably is due to a combination of a number of reasons.
Simple copyist errors: In the manuscripts today, there have been some copyist errors. Many copyist errors would be changing or leaving out a digit. In the Hebrew vs. Septuagint there are 2 differences in Ezra (both single-digit) and 10 differences in Nehemiah (5 are single-digit). Thus one would expect simple copyist errors to explain around 2 to 5, or possibly up to 10 of the 22 differences. Since The number of times Nehemiah is larger in 7 out of 12 single-digit differences, there is no statistically significant trend of one being larger.
Change in the way numbers were written: The way Hebrews wrote numbers changed about this time. Formerly the Hebrews used old "round letters", and changed to "square" letters. This would cause more copyist errors. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.667 mentions that the Moabites spoke a dialect of Hebrew and still used the old round letters in the ninth century B.C.. The Encyclopedia Britannica volume 1 (1956) p.684 says, "the earliest records of Aramaic go back to about 800 B.C.... The alphabet at this time differs little from that of the Moabite Stone." It says there were two tendencies, which were completed during the time of the Persians
1) the opening of the heads of letters beth, daleth, and resh. And angles became more rounded and ligatures developed. This might be expected to explain more errors.
Cipher lists: The NIV Study Bible p.674 says that the differences might be due to using "cipher lists", where a vertical stroke represented "1" and a horizontal stroke represented "10", and this would lead to greater copying errors.
The lists were made at different times: Of the 10 multi-digit differences, Nehemiah is larger in 7 of them. On one hand, the differences probably are not due to more exiles returning, as the totals match exactly. On the other hand, or the returnees, more people might have been found in the listed clans and villages. 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.139-140 and the Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown volume 1 p.289 mention that Ezra 2:1 says this is the list was made of those who left for Babylon, apparently prior to them arriving at Jerusalem. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.229 also adds that there might have been some last minute decisions to join with a clan or village.
Different lists: How did these lists come about? It is not that God dictated these numbers to a scribe, but rather two or more people counted and made these lists. They were probably originally separate lists because: Ezra separates the men of Bethlehem and Netophah while Nehemiah combines them. Magbish is absent in Nehemiah. They exchange the order of Lod etc. and Jericho. Nehemiah divides the numbers more than Ezra.
Nehemiah's list was a copy. Note carefully that Nehemiah 7:5 does not say these were the exactly correct number of people who returned. Rather, Nehemiah simply says he found a list, and this is what the list said. The list might be incorrect, but Nehemiah is correctly relating what the list said. See the next question for the implications of this.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.166-167, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.229-231, When Critics Ask p.214, and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.139-140 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 2:1-70 and Neh 7:7-72, how does this relate to inerrancy?
A: Some critics of inerrancy see the discrepancies between these lists as one of the most serious challenges to the inerrancy of the Bible. Actually it does no such thing. First a "red herring" that is an incorrect answer, then a common Christian answer, and finally the most probable answer.
Incorrect answer: Both lists are correct, but the lists are different because they were made at slightly different times. By the time the later list was compiled, a few more people had come, some had left, and the offerings were different.
However, the total number of additional people coming and people leaving had to match exactly, since the overall totals are identical. This would be highly unlikely if the lists were both completely correct but at different times.
Common answer: While we do not possess the original manuscripts, inerrancy [allegedly] means the two lists had to be identical in the original manuscripts. However, a combination of simple copyist errors, and a change in the alphabet around that time, which produced more copyist errors, is responsible for the differences in numbers that should have been common between the two lists. (Nothing prevents one list from having details the other list does not have.)
However, 22 differences out of 50 numbers is a large number of differences, even with the writing change that occurred about that time.
Most probable answer: Nehemiah inerrantly copied the list that was available to him (and that list had errors). It was accurate enough to give a representation of how many returned, but Nehemiah's qualification cautions us that this list is not guaranteed to be without error. This is analogous to the Bible inerrantly recording the Pharisee's errors, Jephthah's rashness, and Abraham's foolishness, without explicitly telling us whether or not we are to believe and do those things too.
Why did the Bible not tell us the precise numbers of everyone in Nehemiah's time? Probably because it is not important. 1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 2:9 tell us we are not to devote ourselves to endless genealogies.
Q: In Ezr 2:1-70 and Neh 7:7-72, which list is more correct?
A: While we cannot be certain, Ezra is probably more correct for the following reasons:
1. The Apocryphal book of 1 Esdras also lists the returnees, and it is closer to Ezra. One of the differences between Hebrew and Septuagint versions in Nehemiah would make two of Nehemiah's numbers agree with Ezra. Thus, at least the Septuagint translators thought Ezra was more correct.
2. Nehemiah himself said this was the list he found, without saying everything on it was correct.
However, there are individual scribal errors in both. Here is an analysis of some of the individual differences, with the number in Ezra being given first.
200 vs. 245 singers (Nehemiah 7:68). The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.658,687 suggests that Ezra is correct, because a scribe might have accidentally picked up the number 245 Nehemiah 7:67. Then he might have omitted Nehemiah 7:68.
61,000 drachmas vs. a sum of 41,000 Bible Difficulties & Seeming Contradictions p.167 indicates that 61,000 in Ezra is a typo and should be 41,000.
Q: In Ezr 2:69, just how much wealth is this?
A: 61,000 drachmas of gold would be about 1,000 pounds (500 kilograms), and 5,000 minas of silver would be about 3 tons (2.9 metric tons) according to footnotes in the NIV.
Q: In Ezr 3:1-12, how did this revival differ from the revival of Josiah in 2 Chr 34?
A: In Josiah's revival, the people were still in disobedience just prior to the revival, they had to find a copy of the Law, and they were under a great threat at that time (Assyria). This was a revival of repentance under threat of punishment.
In Ezra's revival they had already repented of idolatry, they had already read the law, and they were there to build the Temple and city. This was a revival of dedication and building.
In summary, the first revival was a turning back from evil, and Ezra's revival was moving forward to build. There is a proper place for both kinds of revivals.
Q: In Ezr 3:8, why were Levites 20 years and older appointed to service, since Num 4:3,47 and 1 Chr 23:3,24,27 show only Levites 30 years and older could minister, and Num 8:24 says that only Levite 25 years and older could work in the Tent of Meeting?
A: Ezra 2:40 and Neh 7:43 both say that only 74 Levites returned. They probably felt they had to use younger Levites because there were so few. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.153-154 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 3:10 and Hag 1:15, did the building occur in 520 B.C. while Darius I reigned, or did it start under Cyrus I around 537 B.C. as Ezr 3:8-13 says?
A: Both are true. It started in 537 B.C. under Cyrus I, was stopped due to opposition for 16 years, and re-started under Darius I in 520 B.C. It was completed in 516 B.C.. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.231, When Critics Ask p.214-215, and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.140 for more info
Q: In Ezr 4, what is the chronology?
A: Here is a chronology of the different sections of Ezra 4. Note that Xerxes and Artaxerxes I are different people.
Ezra 4:1-5 (559-530 B.C.)
Ezra 4:6 Xerxes (480-465 B.C.)
Ezra 4:7-23 Artaxerxes I (465-12/424 B.C.)
Ezra 4:24 Darius I (533-486 B.C.)
See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.141 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 4:2, were the Samaritans sincere in offering to help the Jews?
A: They probably were not sincere. The Samaritans forcibly stopped the rebuilding, for Mt. Gerazim in Samaria was a "competitor" as a worship center.
Contrary to this, Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.441 thinks the Samaritans were sincere here.
Q: In Ezr 4:3, why did the Jews refuse outside help?
A: If you need food or necessities, help from non-believers generally is fine. But if you are doing something for God's work, it is better to have believers volunteer than unbelievers. 3 John 7 also mentions not receiving help from pagans. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.248-249 and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.140-141 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 4:8-6:18 and Ezr 7:12-26, why was this written in Aramaic?
A: Nothing says that Ezra or his secretaries had to write in the same language. Perhaps different secretaries wrote down different parts. Also, Daniel 2:4b-7:28 was also written in Aramaic, as well as Jeremiah 10:11.
As Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.446 points out, the Samaritan's letter to the king was in Aramaic, and thus it makes sense to quote the letter in Aramaic.
Q: In Ezr 4:9 (KJV), should the word be "Dinaites" (i.e. the Dai-ia-e-ni people), or the Aramaic word "judges"?
A: It is the latter according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4 p.630.
Q: In Ezr 4:9, who are the Dehavites?
A: It used to be thought they were the Daoi of Herodotus and the Dahae of Pliny and Virgil. These people lived east of the Caspian Sea. However, it is now thought the Hebrew is not the name of a people, but the word di-hu which means "that is". Then Ezra 4:9 reads "Susians, that is, the Elamites". See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4 p.630 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.447 for more info.
Q: In Ezra 4:13, just how much tax did the Persian kings collect?
A: Across the empire, the Persian king collected an estimated 25 million to 35 million U.S. dollars per year, according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4 p.631-632. Palestine was a part of the fifth satrapy, which according to Herodotus book 3 ch.89-97 was only assessed 350 silver talents, or $680,000 U.S. Other places had to also make non-monetary contributions in kind, and they often exceeded the monetary contributions. Palestine did not have to make any contributions in kind, so the Persians taxed Palestine rather lightly. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4 p.631-632 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 4:15,19, how should believers react when they wrongly are accused of sedition and insurrection?
A: Sedition means treason against the government, and insurrection means revolt. Assuming they in fact are not treasonous, believers should deny the charges. However, do not let your denial be so poorly phrased that it adds suspicion to the accusation. As a very rough measure, perhaps a denial should be about a lengthy as the accusation.
Q: In Ezr 4:23, did rebuilding the temple cease because of foreign armies, or the indifference of the people as Hag 1:2 says?
A: An army might have caused it to stop temporarily, but once it stopped, the indifference of the people kept it from restarting, even after it was OK to do so in 522 B.C.. See When Critics Ask p.215 and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.231-232 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 5:1, were these prophets the same ones who wrote books of the Bible?
A: Yes, Haggai and Zechariah were the same.
Q: In Ezr 5:1 and 6:14;was Zechariah the Son of Iddo, or the son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo, in Zech 1:1?
A: Zechariah was the son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo. According to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.607, in Semitic languages the word for "son" can mean descendant.
Q: In Ezr 6:1, why would the Persians search the archives in Babylon, since Susa was a Persian capital?
A: The Persian Empire had four capitals: Susa (or Shushan), Persepolis, Ecbatana, and Babylon. 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.141 mentions that Ezra 6:2 is the only reference in the Bible to Ecbatana.
Q: In Ezr 6:8, why would a Persian king pay a great amount of money to rebuild the Jews' temple in Jerusalem?
A: Many times kings built temples, which also served the "practical" purpose of making loyal subjects. 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.141 says that Cyrus also repaired temples at Uruk and Ur. Persia and the Bible p.91 says that Cyrus repaired the temple at Uruk, the Enunmakh temple at Ur, and temples in Babylon. Archaeologists have found a memorandum about the Jewish Temple that was written by Bagoas, the Persian governor of Judah and Delaiah. It says, "to build it on its site as it was before, and the meal-offering and incense to be made on the altar as it used to be."
Q: In Ezr 6:20 (KJV), what does "kill the Passover" mean?
A: The King James Version accurately translated this phrase, which sounds strange to modern ears. This expression means to kill the Passover lamb as a sacrifice.
Q: In Ezr 7:6, could Ezra have arrived either in 458 B.C. or 398 B.C.?
A: No. However, the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.450,451 claims it could be either one, because there is no clear way to know whether the reigning Persian king was Artaxerxes I or Artaxerxes II.
While Ezra does not explicitly say "I" or "II', it must be "I", because 398 B.C. is too late a time period for the Temple not being completed. Furthermore, people often distinguish between two kings of the same name once the second reigns, but they do not distinguish when only 1 of the kings has lived.
However, the time of Ezra and Nehemiah had to be under Artaxerxes I, because an Elephantine papyrus (Cowley #30) dated by the scribe as November 25, 407 B.C., mentions Sanballat [sn'blt], the governor of Samaria who is mentioned in Nehemiah. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.570, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.677, and Persia and the Bible p.242 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 7:6 (KJV), what does a "ready scribe" mean?
A: This means he was skillful or well-versed.
Q: In Ezr 7:17, is there any precedent of a Persian king allowing a non-Persian priest to re-establish his sacrifices?
A: Yes. According to Persia and the Bible p.256, there is a very close parallel in the decree of Darius I to Udjahorresnet, an Egyptian priest who restored the Egyptian religion at Sais in Egypt.
Q: In Ezr 8:21-22, why did they fast here and not ask the Persians for protection?
A: The Jews had already made a request of the king once. Ezra 8:22-23 says that it would seem strange to ask again for troops, since they had already said that God would protect them. Of course, one means God could have used to protect the Jews could have been Persian troops. However, as 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.315 points out, it is one thing to accept help that is freely volunteered, and another to ask for help.
Q: In Ezr 8:27, 1 Chr 29:7, and Neh 7:70, are these coins Persian darics or Greek drachmas?
A: It is either a Persian daric or a locally minted silver coin in the style of the Greek drachma.
Archaeologists have found several "drachmas" from Persian times in Beth Zur (Khirbet et-Tubeiquah), south of Jerusalem and 4 1/2 miles (7 km) north of Hebron. These drachmas were not minted in Greece, but in Judah in the "drachma style". It mentions an article that says that the Jews were permitted to mint their own silver coins with the name of the province "Yehud" in archaic Hebrew script. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1799 also mentions there was a local mint in Palestine in Persian times.
However, The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.620-621 also mentions a second theory. The Hebrew word here, darkemonim, and a similar word in Ezra 8:27 and 1 Chronicles 29:7, adarkonim, might refers to the Persian daric, which was a gold coin named after the Persian word for gold: dari. A soldier would be paid one of these per month for his wages.
See The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.620-621 and Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? p.44 for more info.
Q: In Ezr 9:4 (KJV), what does "astonied" mean?
A: This King James Version word means "astonished" as the NKJV translates, or "appalled" as the NIV translates. The NET Bible says more colloquially, "quite devastated".
Q: In Ezr 10:1 (KJV), what does "weep very sore" mean?
A: This means they wept a lot. The NIV says "wept bitterly" and NKJV says "wept very bitterly".
Q: In Ezr 10:11,19,44, was Ezra wrong to force the Jewish men to divorce their non-Jewish wives, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.452 says?
A: No. They knew they were wrong to marry these pagan wives, and divorce was permitted in the Old Testament. At this time, the Jews were in the "fight of their life" to preserve their religion and culture from being lost to assimilation.
Also, while this contradicts Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:12, Paul had not been born yet, and marriage rules for everyone after Jesus came differ from the rules for Jews during Old Testament times. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.249-250, 735 Bible Questions Answered p.142, and When Critics Ask p.215-216 for more info.
Q: In Ezr, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls: (c.1 B.C.) 1 copy of Ezra-Nehemiah (4Q117), according to The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.30 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438. It is combined with Ecclesiastes and is called 4Q110, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.481. Dead Sea scroll researcher Nathan Jastrum says this was a small fragment. (Issues etc. radio program April 17, 1999)
4Q117 is three fragments of Ezra 4:2-6 (Hebrew); 4:9-11 (Aramaic); 5:17-6:5 (Aramaic). All or parts of 50 words
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls are the following verses from Ezra: 4:2-6,9-11; 5:17; 6:1-5. See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls p.423 for more details.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Ezra.
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) has preserved all of Ezra.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) has preserved all of Ezra from Ezra 9:9 on.
Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) has preserved all of Ezra.
Q: Which early writers referred to Ezra?
A: The only Pre-Nicene Christian writer who referenced or alluded to verses in Ezra was Origen (225-254 A.D.), who alluded to it. He said, "But some one else will say that the temple spoken of was not that built by Solomon, for that it was destroyed at the period of captivity, but the temple built at the time of Ezra, with regard to which the forty-six years can be shown to be quite accurate." Origen's Commentary on John book 10 ch.22 p.403
Eusebius of Caesarea (318-339/340 A.D.)
Athanasius (367, 325-373 A.D.)
Ambrose of Milan (370-390 A.D.)
Gregory Nanzianus (330-391 A.D.) mentions Ezra in his poem of scripture. Gregory's poem is (in Greek) in Gregory vol.37 of Migne's Patrologia Graeca, cols. 471-474 (Carmina Dogmatica, Book 1, section 1, Carmen XII) See http://www.bible-researcher.com/gregory.html for more info.
Pacian of Barcelona (342-379/392 A.D.) alludes to Ezra.
Sulpitius Severus (363-420 A.D.)
Rufinus (374-406 A.D.)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Council of Carthage (219 bishops) (393-419 A.D.)
Epiphanius of Salamis (Implied) (360-403 A.D.)
John Chrysostom (-407 A.D.) quotes from Ezra
Pope Leo I of Rome (440-460 A.D.) alludes to Ezra.
Q: In Ezr, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek Septuagint?
A: Here are a few of the translation differences, primarily focusing on Ezra 2, with the Hebrew/Aramaic given first, followed by the Greek.
Ezr 2:1 "sons of the province who went up out of captivity, of those who had been exiled." vs. "people of the land that went up, of the number of prisoners were removed"
Ezr 2:2 "of the men of the people" vs. "of the people"
The 52 numbers (167 digits in English) from Ezra 2:3-69 in Hebrew and Greek Septuagint match exactly except for:
Ezr 2:24 "42" vs. "43"
Ezr 2:39 "1,017" vs. "1,007"
(Two typos out of 52 numbers is about 4% difference, or two digits out of 167 digits is 1% difference.)
Ezr 2:25 "Kiriath Arim" vs. "Kiriath Jearim" (We know of a Kiriath Jearim, but not a Kiriath Arim, so Arim is probably a typo)
Ezr 4:23 "force to stop" vs. "force to stop with horses and an [armed] force." The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4 p.634
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
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