Summary: Introducting the book of Ezra
BOOK OF EZRA
I. The Author of the Book.
(Aramaic or Chaldee, עֶזְרָא, ʿezrāʾ, "help"; a hypocoristicon, or shortened form of Azariah, "Yahweh has helped." The Hebrew spells the name עֶזְרָה, ʿezrāh, as in 1 Chron. 4:17, or uses the Aramaic spelling of the name, as in Ezra 7:1. The Greek form is Esdras):
(1) A priest who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon (Neh. 12:1). In Neh. 10:2, Azariah, the full form of the name, is found.
(2) A descendant of Judah and father of Jethro and other sons (1 Chron. 4:17).
(3) The distinguished priest who is the hero of the Book of Ezra and co-worker with Nehemiah.
The genealogy of Ezra is given in Ezra 7:1-6, where it appears that he was the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the high priest. Since Seraiah, according to the Book of Kings, was killed by Nebuchadrezzar at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18-21), and since he was the father of Jehozadak, the high priest who was carried into captivity by Nebuchadrezzar (1 Chron. 6:14-15 (Hebrew 5 40), etc.) in 588 BC, and since the return under Ezra took place in 458 BC, the word "son" must be used in Ezra 7:2 in the sense of descendant. Since, moreover, Joshua, or Jeshua, the high priest, who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel, was the son of Jehozadak and the grandson of Seraiah, Ezra was probably the great-grandson or great-great-grandson of Seraiah. Inasmuch as Jehozadak is never mentioned as one of his forefathers, Ezra was probably not descended from Jehozadak, but from a younger brother. He would thus not be a high priest, though he was of high-priestly descent as far as Seraiah. For the sake of shortening the list of names, six names are omitted in Ezra 7:2-7 between Azariah and Meraioth, and one between Shallum and Ahitub from the corresponding list found in 1 Chron. 6:4-14 (Hebrew 5 30-40).
Being a priest by birth, it is to be supposed that Ezra would have performed the ordinary functions of a member of his order, if he had been born and had lived in Palestine.
Josephus, indeed, says that he was high priest of his brethren in Babylon, a statement that in view of the revelation of the Elephantine papyri may not be without a foundation in fact. According to the Scriptures and Jewish tradition, however, Ezra was pre-eminently a scribe, and especially a scribe of the law of Moses. He is called "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," a "scribe of the words of the commandments of Yahweh, and of his statutes to Israel," "the scribe of the law of the God of heaven." As early as the time of Jeremiah (compare Jeremiah 8:8), "scribe" had already attained the meaning of one learned in the Scriptures, one who had made the written law a subject of investigation. Ezra is the first who is called by the title of "the scribe," the title by which Artaxerxes designates him in his letter of instructions in Ezra 7:6, 11.