Ezra, Ezrah [Ĕz'ră]—help or my helper.
Ezra or 1 Esdras, as he is called in the Vulgate, was the son or grandson of Seraiah, the high priest who was slain after the taking of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18, 21). As a priest, he was descended from Zadok and from Phinehas (Ezra 7:1-6). He was also a ready scribe (Ezra 7:6, 11, 12, 20), which occupation implied three things:
He was a student and as such had a duty to himself to study the will of God as revealed in His Word, that he might hide it in his own heart (Ezra 7:10).
He was an interpreter with a duty to his own generation in teaching his fellow exiles what he had learned. In this way he gave the “sense” of the Word (Neh. 8:2-8).
He was a copyist, which meant that this learned man had a duty to his own race in multiplying and preserving intact the very words of God (Ezra 7:10, 11).
Ezra was also an able administrator. He conducted the Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem in peace and safety, and establishing himself as their leader, reformed them with a vigorous hand. Summarizing his life and labors, we can say that this Old Testament reformer was:
I. A man of deep humility and self-denial (Ezra 7:10-15; 10:6).
II. A man of great learning with a fervent zeal for God’s honor (Ezra 7:10; 8:21-23).
III. A man of great trustworthiness (Ezra 7:13, 26).
IV. A man anxious to commend his cause to others (Ezra 8:2-20).
V. A man who knew how to pray (Ezra 8:21; 10:1).
VI. A man deeply grieved over the sins of the people (Ezra 9:3; 10:6).
VII. A man who spared no pains to bring the people to repentance.
Traditional history says that it was Ezra who instituted the Great Synagogue, became its first President, settled the Canon of Jewish Scripture and began the building of synagogues in Jewish provincial towns. Ezra lived to a good old age, dying like Moses at the age of 120 years.
Ezra was a studious, prayerful ecclesiastic who set his heart to realize definite ideals:
To know the Law of Jehovah. What a passion was his to ascertain, explain and administer that Law!
To will to do the Law. Ezra not only taught the Law but urged the people to serve the Lord with heart, mouth and mind.
The key words of the Book of Ezra are Restoration, Reorganization, Reformation. The emphasis is upon the preservation of the national and religious life of the people. The leading ideas of the book are:
The Purity of Worship
The Sanctity of the Sabbath
The Power of Prayer
The Faithfulness of God
Order in Religion and Delight in Praise
Mutual help in Service
The Purity of Common life.