Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I

EzraDuring the 2nd temple period, few Old Testament characters hold a more prominent position than Ezra. The Bible identifies him as a Priest and Scribe. It is believed that he was the author of both the book of Ezra as well as Chronicles. Both of these accounts provide a vivid record of the triumphs and tragedies of the Judean captives’ efforts in rebuilding the 2nd temple and Jerusalem. After the completion of the temple in the 6th year of Darius, Ezra, who still resided in Persia, saw the need to return to Jerusalem and teach the people the law of YHWH.

Today, the chronology of Ezra is an important cornerstone for most of today’s teachings on Daniel 9, the greatest Messianic prophecy in the Bible.  Daniel 9, also known as the prophecy of “seventy weeks,” is the only prophecy in the Bible that specifically links a dateable secular event with the coming of the Messiah. Daniel 9:25 states the following:

Daniel 9:25  25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks,

Without the chronology of Ezra, there would be no way to determine the starting point for “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.”  (For more on the subject see my articles The Fifth Command and The “Artaxerxes Assumption”.) Considering the importance of Ezra’s writings to our understanding of the Seventy Weeks prophecy you might assume this Old Testament chronology would be well established upon a reasonable Biblical basis. For those who have taken the time to look, you will find instead it is one of the best kept secrets of Old Testament chronology.

Do you find that hard to believe?  I encourage you to see for yourself. Choose any of today’s most respected teachers on the prophecy of Seventy Weeks and see what reasonable Biblical evidence they provide to show Ezra was a contemporary of “Artaxerxes” Longimanus. To be sure you will find their “Artaxerxes Assumption” but what you will not find is any reasonable Biblical evidence to support it.
So what does the Bible say about Ezra?

It may surprise you to learn there is substantial Biblical evidence to determine Ezra’s place in 2nd temple era chronology. Probably the best place to start is in the beginning.

Ezra 7:1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,

Lineage of Ezra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the verse above, it says that Ezra was the son of Seraiah. What’s fascinating about this statement is Seraiah, son of Azariah, was the last high priest of Solomon’s temple. 2 Kings 25:8-21 tells us that Seraiah was taken by Nebuzaradan to Riblah in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar and there he was killed.


2 Kings 25:1-21 8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:  9 And he burnt the house of YHWH, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.  10 And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.  11 Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away………..18 And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door………….  20 And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah:  21 And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.

I think most everyone would agree, it is  reasonable to assume that Ezra could not have been conceived after the death of his father, Seraiah. Let’s further assume, for the sake of argument, that Ezra was born the year his father was killed. (Not really a reasonable assumption considering the events that took place in Jerusalem but it’s the earliest he could have been born so let’s go with it) The 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar by many accounts was 584 BC.

Ezra 7:1-8  Now after these things……… This Ezra went up from Babylon;……. unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.  8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.

In order to establish Ezra’s place in the chronology of the 2nd Temple era all we now need to do is determine the date for the 7th year of “Artaxerxes”. If you’ve read my articles The Fifth Command and The “Artaxerxes Assumption you know that the term “Artaxerxes” is simply a title which was applied to several Persian kings. For the sake of brevity, I will not list all the possible Persian Artaxerxes, only those whose reign lasted at least 32 years as required by Nehemiah 5:14. Those Persian kings are Darius “the Great” Artaxerxes, Artaxerxes Longimanus, and Artaxerxes Memnon. With the above information, it is a simple matter to calculate Ezra’s minimum age during the reign of “Artaxerxes”. In the table below you will see the youngest Ezra could have been in the 7th year of each “Artaxerxes”. Please keep in mind that Ezra was also alive 14 year later at the dedication of the wall in Jerusalem and took an active part in those ceremonies.

Ezra 7th Year Artaxerxes

The question is simple: Which of the above Persian Kings most reasonably qualifies as a contemporary of Ezra? Keep in mind the words of king David:

 Psalm 90:9-10   9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.  10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

 

In my next article, Ezra the Priest and Scribe – Part II we will look at the chronology of Ezra 6 &7. What does the Bible say about the 7th year of “Artaxerxes” and who does it identify as this “Artaxerxes”? Why is this relevant to the prophecy of Seventy Weeks?

 

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More Articles related to the prophecy of 70 Weeks and 2nd temple era chronology:
The “Artaxerxes” Assumption – The best kept secret of Old Testament chronology.
The Fifth Command – Why do prophecy teachers ignore it?
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I – Defining “Artaxerxes” in the context of Ezra.
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part II – Ezra, Darius even “Artaxerxes”.
Nehemiah: The Governor– Nehemiah’s place in the 2nd temple chronology
Queen of Persia – Part I – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
Queen of Persia – Part II – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
A New Testament Cipher – The key to unlocking the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks.
Ezekiel’s 13th Month– Key to understanding Biblical “time” in the 2nd Temple era
6 milestones – Seventy Weeks – Defining the purpose of the Messiah within Daniel’s 70 “weeks”.
The Messiah Factors (Part I): Decoding 13 & 14 – Symbolism of the Messiah
The Messiah Factors (Part II): The Countdown – Proving Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah promised in Daniel 9.

Editing for this article was provided by Bradley Rohr at:
PES

14 thoughts on “Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I

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  7. Amram Shapiro

    Azariah is a familiar name to Jews as father of of Eliezer ben Azariah, one of best known Mishnaic scholar (about 200 BC, I think) — The story I love and tell at the seder is that as a young man he is named to be “Nasi” or Rosh Yeshivah, head of the school. Since age is venerated and he would be leading a school of scholars much older than he feared not being taken seriously. In the Hagaddah the tale is alluded to by the phrase in his words: “Here I am as a man 70 years old…and I did not know etc. ” “As a man, alludes to story that on the day before his ascension to leadership he goes to sleep, deeply worried. When he awakens, his hair is white.” All is contained in the simile-work “as”

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  8. Amram Shapiro

    Since 70 weeks is your central calendrical mystery, it is interesting that his suitability as leader was based on “apparent 70-weekedness” I know too little to say, but what if the timing you seek is built on a mixture of actual time’s passage and some “as the passing of time?”

    Reply
    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi Amram,

      Interesting story! I’ve found it fascinating that during the 2nd temple era there were several 70 years cycles running at the same time, though staggered.

      70 years of captivity. (spoken about by Jeremiah)
      70 years of Divine anger. (spoken about by Zachariah)
      70 years between the destruction of Solomon’s temple and the completion/dedication of the 2nd temple.

      I have found that each of these 70 year cycles had origins in the 70th Jubilee from Adam. (based upon MT text) Taken in a larger context one could say:

      70 Jubilees > 70 years of Divine anger > 70 “weeks” until the coming of the Messiah.

      Reply
  9. Amram Shapiro

    A famous aphorism of Eliezer ben Azariah was “Without religion there is no true wisdom; without wisdom there is no religion. Where there is no wisdom there is no fear of God; where there is no fear of God there is no wisdom. Where there is no discernment there is no learning; without learning there is no discernment. Where there is a want of bread, study of the Torah can not thrive; without study of the Torah there is a lack of bread.”

    This is the liberal wing of ancient scholarship and unique in my knowledge to Judiasm, though I wish it were learned more broadly. So much is given to religion and attainment of wisdom, but none of it is more important than bread. Can you imagine Khomeini saying this? Or Luther? Or even the better of the Popes?

    The most succinct saying and it is applied in mishna and talmud etc over and over is “Pikuach nefesh kodem l’Torah” The saving of a life precedes the Torah. For example, one may not work on the Sabbath, but if one comes on a burning house one MUST violate this sanction and fight the fire, and drive the injured to hospital etc.

    You recall when the Muslims in Saudi let a schoolful of girls die rather than break in. That is not wisdom.

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  10. Amram Shapiro

    Of course there were Jewish scholars who were unyielding. One such school was Bet Shammai. The other was Bet Hillel. The Mishnah and Talmud record the positions but now who was right. The rule of thumb was that in matters between Man and God, one went ith Shammai. In matter between Man and Man one goes with Hillel.

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  13. Lawrence

    “Chapter 10 establishes date of Exodus. 1421 BC -480 of 1 Kings 6.1=941 BC”

    Chronology can be complicated, but is self-correcting in Bible.

    Should be 1461-480=981 is 4th year Solomon.

    6 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month,(B) he began to build the temple of the Lord.(C

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