STUDY GUIDE AND STUDY QUESTIONS FOR EZRA

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1 STUDY GUIDE AND STUDY QUESTIONS FOR EZRA Historical Time and Background for Ezra This historical book of Ezra covers the beginning of what is called the Post-Exillic period of Israel s history. It is also linked with Nehemiah, which is considered the 2 nd book of Ezra in the Jewish Scriptures. Those who had been living in Babylon and Persia during the 70 year Captivity that began approximately 605 BC were allowed to return to their homeland. This captivity was a judgement upon Israel s Southern Kingdom (tribes of Judah and Benjamin) for not giving the land its Sabbath rest. See the following Scriptures for some basic insight into the Captivity Leviticus 25:1-7 / 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 / Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14; 30:3 / Daniel 9:1-3. It was written somewhat concurrently with the ministries of Haggai and Zechariah, and begins with the proclamation of Cyrus, king of the Persian empire, giving the Jews the provision to rebuild the Temple. Haggai and Zechariah were called by God to exhort the returned exiles to rebuild the Temple. There are many of the same problems spoken of in Nehemiah and in Malachi about a hundred years later (see Neh 13:1-28 & Malachi). Reading the last chapter of 2 Chronicles, along with Haggai and Zechariah, should help provide a better understanding of the historical context of Ezra (and Nehemiah). Familiarity with the Old Covenant Law and history of Israel is also very helpful. The book of Ezra covers the years BC and covers the longest time period of three books related to Israel s post-exillic history (overlapping with Esther). The book of Esther covers the years BC, and Nehemiah covers the years BC (all dates are approximate).these three books are the history that covers the time when Israel was able to return to its homeland after the period of Captivity in Babylon and Persia, paralleling the prophetic ministries of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Important Contemporary People of Ezra The influential leaders of Israel were Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Zerubbabel was the leader of the first wave of exiles returning from Captivity (about 537 BC). Ezra was a scribe (and teacher) who returned with a second wave of returning exiles in 458 BC). Nehemiah came to Jerusalem as a governor in about 444 BC with another wave of returning exiles. These three waves of returning exiles roughly correspond this way the 1 st captives were exiled in 605 BC and included the prophet Daniel and his three faithful companions. These were mostly the royal and noble classes. The 1 st return of exiles (roughly 70 years later) begins in 537/536 BC. There was a 2 nd wave of captives taken in 597 BC. The 3 rd wave of captivity took place in 586 BC when both the Temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed. This is recorded by and during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. This corresponds to the completion of the temple in 516 BC, which was begun under Zerubbabel s leadership in 520 BC, and corresponds to Haggai s prophecies. The kings of Persia who ruled over the Jews (in a worldwide empire) would be Cyrus ( BC), Cambyses ( BC), Darius I ( BC), Xerxes I also called Ahasuerus ( BC), Artaxerxes I ( BC), Possibly Xerxes II (424 BC), and Darius II ( BC). [See the NIV Study Bible time-line chart within the book of Ezra and see the following website Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 1

2 Chapter 1 1. How does the book of Ezra begin what special proclamation is made? a. Who makes this proclamation and why is this significant? b. Who else is mentioned and why do you think they are mentioned? 2. What is the primary purpose for this proclamation? Why is this so important? a. Who is this proclamation especially addressed to? 3. Where are these people (to whom it is especially addressed) when this proclamation is given? a. Why are they in these places? b. What are they invited or exhorted to do? 4. Is there anything in vs 1 that gives a sense of the timing of this proclamation? a. Why do you think this Jewish prophet would be mentioned? 5. Who is stirred and moved to go up to Jerusalem? a. What is significant about who is mentioned here? 6. What are they given to take with them? a. Who gives these things to them and why? 7. Is there anything God has stirred up in your heart? a. Have you responded to this stirring in some way? If not, what holds you back from responding? b. If so, what have you seen as a result of responding to God s stirring in your heart? Chapter 2 1. Who are included among the people who return to Jerusalem and Judah from captivity? a. Who was the leader of this first group of returning exiles? b. What is the purpose and value of this listing and numbering of the various people? 2. Why would this genealogical list be so important? a. What does it reveal about all these returning from captivity? 3. Were all of the people returning to Jerusalem and Judah clearly shown as descendants of the exiles? a. If not, why not? What would prevent them from being included? 4. What was one important consequence of not being able to show themselves as being descended from the exiled families? a. What did this exclude them from and why (for what reasons) would this be important? 5. How many returning exiles were there? Who else came with these returning Jews? a. Where did all the exiles and returning peoples live? 6. Who contributed freely for the Temple to be rebuilt? What does it say about how they gave? a. How could this be an illustration and example for us as believers today? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 2

3 7. What application can be drawn from this chapter and part of the story of Ezra? a. How could the idea of the genealogy and inclusion into Israel be related to us as believers now? Chapter 3 1. What time reference is given in verse 1? a. In what way is this time reference relevant? b. Is it related to King Cyrus reign or something else? What helps us know this from the context? 2. What significant thing happens in verse 1? a. Why is this significant? What does this express about these exiles who had returned? 3. What significant event takes place in verse 2? a. Who is involved with this event? Why is it so important? 4. What could have prevented them from doing this event (in vs 2), but did not? a. What does this illustrate for us today as believers? b. How does it apply as something we can put into practice? 5. What important event happens in verse 4? a. Again, why is this so important or significant? b. When was the last time this event was celebrated? 6. What else does it say the people did at this time, in verse 7? a. What does it say had not taken place? 7. What does this tell us about their situation? a. Considering church services nowadays How might this be relatable to the church? 8. What other time reference is given in Chapter 3? a. What is the significance of this time reference? b. What takes place at this time and who is involved? 9. How is the next important event described, in verse 10? a. What happens? Who gets involved? 10. What is the result or response of the people to this great event? a. How is their response described? b. How is the response of some different than others? Who has which response and why? 11. What picture does this paint for you? How would you describe this situation IYOW? a. How could this be something to be applied to a worship service nowadays? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 3

4 Chapter 4 1. What new situation develops in Chapter 4? a. What seems to bring this situation on? 2. Who comes and speaks to Zerubbabel and the other Jewish leaders? a. How are these people described? b. How are the Jews described? 3. What do they ask of Zerubbabel and the other Jewish leaders? a. What is the basis for their response to these leaders? 4. What is the response of Zerubbabel and Joshua to these men? a. On what do they base their response? 5. Why do you think these other men were not allowed to build the Temple with the Jews? a. Do you think this was justified or wise? If yes or no why or why not? 6. What takes place after this first encounter? a. How does it say this took place? How long does it appear to go on? 7. What is the outcome of all this as stated in verse 24? a. How long does it say this later situation lasted? 8. What lesson can be drawn from all of this? a. How can this be instructive for us as believers? 9. What kind of opposition have you faced in your own relationship with the Lord? a. How have you learned to handle opposition and spiritual warfare? b. How can you be more successful in handling these areas of personal and spiritual conflict? Chapter 5 1. Who are the key people mentioned in verses 1-2 of Chapter 5? a. What is their role and importance to this part of the story? b. How are each of them described? 2. What takes place in verse 1 that seems to bring action in verse 2? a. What begins to happen? How is it described? 3. Why is this so significant in relation to what happens in Chapter 4? a. What do you think causes this to happen and why would it have this effect? b. What else are we told in verse 2 about the men of verse 1? 4. Who else is mentioned in the beginning of this chapter? a. Who are they and what is their role or place within the story? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 4

5 5. What do the men of verse 3 ask of the Jewish people? a. What is their response to these men? 6. What is said in verse 5 about this situation? a. How is this different than what is seen in chapter 4? b. Why do you think it goes differently this time? 7. What action do the men of verse 3 take in response to the commitment of the elders of Israel? a. What do these men say in their letter recorded in verses 6-17? 8. Does what they say seem accurate? a. How does it appear Chapter 5 is linked to Chapter 6? 9. What stands out to you about what the Jewish leaders say in verses 11-13? a. What characteristics of attitude do you see in these verses and in what they say? 10. How does this reflect important elements of true spiritual leadership? a. What seems to be the origin of this within this part of the story of this chapter? b. How might this apply in your own life within the Body of Christ, the church? Chapter 6 1. How is verse 1 of this chapter directly connected to the previous chapter (5)? a. What action is taken because of the letter of Tattenai? What is the result of this action? 2. What is contained in the scroll that was found? a. How is this account, in verses 3-5, similar or different to Chapter 1:1-4? 3. What is the answer given to Tattenai in response to his letter to King Darius? a. Do you think this is the response he was expecting? Why or why not? 4. How is verse 7 a confirmation of what is said by the Jewish leaders in Chapter 4:3? a. How is this also an encouragement and confirmation of Chapter 5:1-5? 5. How are verses 8-9 a continuation and confirmation of what was in Cyrus original decree (1:1-4)? a. What is the warning and possible consequence given to Tattenai? 6. How do Tattenai and his companions respond to the King s instructions? a. How much of a change or reversal is this compared to the situations of Chapters 4 and 5? 7. Along with the letter from King Darius What is the strongest motivation for them to build the Temple? a. When was it completed and under who s command? 8. What takes place following the completion of the Temple (see verses 16-18)? a. Who is involved and what specific things take place? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 5

6 9. What feast is celebrated for the first time since the days of King Josiah? a. When is it celebrated? How is it celebrated and who is included? b. What other feast is also celebrated? How is this celebration described? 10. Especially considering the Jews situation from start to finish, the opposition they faced and the impact of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah a. What has God spoken to you about your relationship with Him and His purpose for your life? 11. Considering it took over 20 years (from Chap 1:1 to 6:15) a. What are some simple, yet practical and valuable applications that can be made from the whole process of the rebuilding of the Temple? Chapter 7 1. How does Chapter 7 begin? What is the time frame given? a. Who is spoken of and what is his ancestry? 2. What else is said about this man? a. What is said that indicates God s calling upon this man? 3. Why do you think both his ancestry (genealogy) and calling are given in such detail? a. How is this both important and relevant to what this man is called to do? 4. What is given to this man that is similar to what is seen in Ezra 1-6? a. Who are the two primary people involved and for what purpose? 5. What specific command is given to Ezra by the king in verse 23? a. Is this surprising to you? Does it seem unusual or unexpected? 6. What is Ezra s response to all of this? a. What does it give him confidence to do? 7. If you knew God had shown you favor like He did Ezra how would it give you confidence and motivate you? a. Have you ever sensed the Lord giving you favor in a situation, or with people in authority over you? b. If so, how did you handle it, and what was the result? 8. What specific application can you make, personally, from what is seen in Chapter 7? a. Has God given you favor, gifts, skills, or even opportunity to do something for Him with your life? Chapter 8 1. How does Chapter 8 begin? Why do you think this is included or necessary? 2. What does Ezra notice about all the people he had gathered at the river? a. What does he do in response to this situation? How are these men described? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 6

7 3. What is the result of Ezra s command to these men? Why does this take place? a. What application(s) can you draw from this? 4. Once all the people are in place, what does Ezra do? a. What is the intended purpose for this action? 5. What in particular seems to be a motivation for this? a. What does Ezra say happened after this? How would he know this? 6. Have you personally done something similar to what these exiles were directed to do? a. What was your experience like? Did God seem to honor it and answer your prayer? 7. What is the next thing Ezra does before they leave for their travel to Jerusalem? a. What does Ezra say to these men and who are they? b. What is their responsibility in all of this? 8. How is verse 31 a clear answer to the prayer of verse 21? a. What do they all do once they arrive in Jerusalem? b. What takes place on the 4 th day? What else follows all of this? 9. What specifically stands out to you in this chapter? a. In what way can this be applied in your own life? Chapter 9 1. What challenging and unexpected situation develops in Chapter 9? a. How is this a great reversal from what is seen in Chapter 8? 2. Who is involved in this situation which makes it much worse? a. What have they done and why is this so wrong? b. How could this be related to present-day Christian issues? 3. What is Ezra s reaction to this? Who else seem to be in agreement with him? a. How does Ezra address the Lord in response to this situation? 4. How would you describe Ezra s response to God in verses 6-15? a. How does he pray about this situation? Who does he hold responsible for it? 5. What stands out to you about verses 7-10? a. What key words would you associate with each verse? 6. How does Ezra complete his prayer? a. What seems to be the conclusion he comes to at the end of his prayer? 7. Have you ever experienced God s grace and mercy, then later found yourself involved, trapped, or stuck in things God has set you free from before? a. How did (or have) you responded to God since then? How did you resolve the situation? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 7

8 8. How can an application be made from this chapter regarding moral behavior? a. In what way could this be applied in regards to spiritual growth or spiritual warfare? Chapter 10 [Chapter 10 is a continuation of Chapter 9] 1. How is Ezra described in verse 1? What specific things is he doing? a. What takes place in response to his actions? 2. Who speaks to Ezra? What does he say? a. What encouraging thing is spoken? Why do you think this man is confident of this? 3. What suggestion is made to resolve the present crisis? a. What would this action be based upon? 4. What exhortation does this man give to Ezra? a. Why do you think he says this to Ezra? Why do you think he would need to say this? 5. What is Ezra s response as detailed in verses 5-6? a. What 2 very specific things does he do which seem unrelated? b. Why do you think he continues mourning? 6. What do the leaders of Israel do, beginning in verse 7? a. What is required of the people and what are the consequences for not doing this? 7. How do the people respond to this? What is the situation as described in verse 9? a. How are the people described as they gather? 8. How does Ezra address the people? What does he say to them? What are the people to do? 9. How do the people respond to Ezra s exhortation and instruction? a. What do they say about how this should be done? What is their request? 10. Do all the returned exiles of Israel agree to this? a. How does it say this situation was resolved? How long does it take? 11. Who does it say are involved? (look for groups of people) a. What promise do they make? How is this expressed to the Lord? 12. What does the last verse (44) tell us about this whole process? a. What do you think about this whole process? Does it seem right or fair? Why or why not? 13. What do you think this experience would be like for yourself? a. How difficult do you think it would be to go through with this? 14. Have you ever had to do something difficult out of obedience to the Lord? a. Is there anything going on in your life that you may need to separate yourself from? Ezra Study Guide & Questions Copyright Nov 2009 TK page 8

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