Author and Date
The Ezra memoirs (see may be dated c. 440 b.c.
and the Nehemiah memoirs c. 430. These were then combined with other materials somewhat later.
See Introduction to 1 Chronicles: Author, Date and Sources.
Theme and Message
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah relate how God's covenant people were restored from Babylonian exile to the covenant
land as a theocratic (kingdom of God) community even while continuing under Gentile rule.
The major theological themes of this account are:
The restoration of Israel from exile was God's doing. He moved the hearts
of Persian emperors; he moved the hearts of the repatriates and those who
supported them; he raised up prophets to prod and support the repatriates;
he protected them on the way and delivered them from their opponents; he
stirred up Ezra and Nehemiah to perform their separate ministries; he prospered
the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.
The restoration of the covenant community was complete -- even though political
independence was not attained. "All Israel" was repatriated through a representative
remnant; the temple was rebuilt and its services (daily sacrifices, priestly
ministries, Levitical praise, annual feasts) revived in accordance with
the Law of Moses and the regulations instituted by David; the Law was reestablished
as regulative for the life of the community; the "holy city" (Jerusalem)
was rebuilt and inhabited; the people were purged; the covenant was renewed.
Just as God used the world powers to judge his people, so he used them
to restore his people to their land; imperial action and authority directly
and indirectly initiated, protected and sustained every aspect of the restoration.
Israel's restoration evoked fierce opposition, but that opposition was
thwarted at every turn.
The restored community was a chastened people, yet they were also in
need of frequent rebuke and reformation. Israel remained a wayward people.
They still awaited the "new covenant" of which Jeremiah had spoken ()
and the renewal to be effected by God's Spirit as announced by Joel
() and ).