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Ezra from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "
Site traditionally described by Muslims as the tomb of Ezra at Al Uzayr near Basra.

Ezra (Hebrew: עֶזְרָא, Modern ʿEzra Tiberian ʿEzrâ; Greek: Έσδράς; Latin: Esdras) was a Jewish priestly scribe who led about 5,000 Israelite exiles living in Babylon to their home city of Jerusalem in 459 BCE. Ezra reconstituted the dispersed Jewish community on the basis of the Torah and with an emphasis on the law. According to the Hebrew Bible, Ezra resolved the identity threat which arose by the intermarriage between Jews and foreigners and provided a definite reading of the Torah.[1][2] Ezra is highly respected in the Jewish tradition. His knowledge of the Torah is considered to have been equal with Moses.[3] Like Moses, Enoch, and David, Ezra is given the honorific title of "scribe" and is referred to as עזרא הסופר, or "Ezra the scribe" in the Jewish tradition.[4]

Although not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an among the Islamic prophets, he is considered as one of the prophets by some Muslim scholars, based on Islamic traditions.[5][6]


Etymology and meaning

The Hebrew term עֶזְרָא (Ezra) is probably an abbreviation of "Azaryahu" meaning "God helps".[7].


Our knowledge of Ezra comes from the Book of Ezra, the Book of Nehemiah, and the apocryphal Book of I Esdras.[2]

Hebrew Bible

According to the genealogy in Ezra 7:1-5, Ezra was the son or descendant of Seraiah, the high priest taken captive by Babylonians, a lineal descendant of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron.[8]

In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus, Ezra obtained leave to go to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites. Artaxerxes showed great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him his requests, and giving him gifts for the house of God.[9] Ezra assembled a band of approximately 5,000 exiles to go to Jerusalem.[10] They rested on the banks of the Ahava[11] for three days and organized their four-month march across the desert.[12] After observing a day of public fasting and prayer, they left the banks of the river Ahava for Jerusalem. Having rich gifts and treasures in their keeping and being without military escort, they made the due precaution for the safeguarding of the treasures.[7]

After his arrival in Jerusalem, Ezra notices that contrary to the Jewish law, even the Jews of high standing and priests, had intermarried with pagan non-Hebrew women.[7][13] Ezra took strenuous measures against such marriages and insisted upon the dismissal of such wives.[7][13] No record exists of Ezra until we find him at the reading of the Law which took place after the rebuilding of the wall of the city by Nehemiah.[13] Ezra then brought the "book of the law of Moses" for the assembly.[14] On the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei), Ezra and his assistants read the Torah aloud to the whole population from the morning until midday.[15] According to the text, a great religious awakening occurred.[13] Ezra read the entire scroll of the Torah to the people, and he, along with other scholars and Levites, explained the meaning of what was being read, so that the people could understand them.[16] These festivities culminated in an enthusiastic and joyous seven-day celebration of the Festival of Sukkot, concluding on the eighth day with the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. On the 24th day, immediately following the holidays, they held a solemn assembly, fasting and confessing their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.[17] Afterwards, they renewed their national covenant to follow the Torah and to observe and fulfill all of the Lord's commandments, laws and decrees.[18]


Besides the books of Ezra and Nehemiah accepted as a canonical part of the Hebrew Bible by Jews and Christians, the book of Esdras also preserves the Greek text of Ezra and a part of Nehemiah.[2] Some Christian groups regard Esdras as canonical, while Judaism rejects it.[19]

The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, preferred I Esdras over the canonical Ezra–Nehemiah and placed Ezra as a contemporary of Xerxes son of Darius, rather than of Artaxerxes.[20]

The apocalyptic fourth book of Ezra (also called the second book of Esdras) is thought by Western scholars to have been written AD 100 probably in Hebrew-Aramaic. It was one of the most important sources for Jewish theology at the end of the 1st century. In this book, Ezra has a seven part prophetic revelation, converses with an angel or God three times and has four visions. Ezra, while in the Babylonian Exile, prophecies the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon's Temple.[1] The central theological themes are "the question of theodicy, God's justness in the face of the triumph of the heathens over the pious, the course of world history in terms of the teaching of the four kingdoms,[21] the function of the law, the eschatological judgment, the appearance on Earth of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Messianic Period, at the end of which the Messiah will die,[22] the end of this world and the coming of the next, and the Last Judgment."[1] Ezra restores the law that was destroyed with the burning of the Temple in Jerusalem. He dictates 24 books for the public (i.e. the Hebrew Bible) and another 70 for the wise alone (70 unnamed revelatory works).[23] At the end, he is taken up to heaven like Enoch and Elijah.[1] Ezra is seen as a new Moses in this book.[1] There is also another work, thought to be influenced by this one, known as the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra.

Role in Judaism

Traditionally Judaism credits Ezra with establishing the Great Assembly of scholars and prophets, the forerunner of the Sanhedrin, as the authority on matters of religious law. The Great Assembly is credited with establishing numerous features of contemporary traditional Judaism in something like their present form, including Torah reading, the Amidah, and establishing the feast of Purim.[7]

In Rabbinic traditions, Ezra is metaphorically referred to as the "flowers that appear on the earth" signifying the springtime in the national history of Judaism. Even if the law had not been given to Moses before, Ezra was worthy of being its vehicle.[7] A disciple of Baruch ben Neriah, he favored study of the Law over the reconstruction of the Temple and thus because of his studies, he did not join the first party returning to Jerusalem in the reign of Cyrus. According to another opinion, he did not join the first party so as not to compete, even involuntarily, with Jeshua ben Jozadak for the office of chief priest.[7] According to Bamidbar Rabbah, Ezra was doubtful of the correctness of some words in the Torah and said, "Should Elijah... approve the text, the points will be disregarded; should he disapprove, the doubtful words will be removed from the text".[7][24]

According to tradition, Ezra was the writer of the Books of Chronicles.[7]


The Qur'an says:

And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
—Qur'an, Sura At-Tawba[25]

Muslim scholars such as Mutahhar al-Maqdisi and Djuwayni and notably Ibn Hazm and al-Samaw'al accused Ezra of falsification of the Scriptures.[26] Ezra lived between the times of King Solomon and the time of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist (a period of about eight centuries) .[5][6]

Ezra is usually identified by Muslim commentators with the name Uzair (Arabic: عزير). Only one Qur'anic verse (quoted above) mentions Ezra or Uzair, by name and accuses Jews therein of hailing him as "the son of God", in a similar fashion as the Christians hail Jesus as the "son of God", citing it to be a blasphemous utterance of which neither Christians nor Jews have any authority, and that in saying so they merely imitate what other peoples of more ancient cultures used to attribute to God, i.e., a progeny. There is no support for this claim in either Jewish literature or Jewish history. Judaism holds the idea of any person being God, or a part of God, or a mediator to God, to be heresy, and no branch of Judaism makes Ezra a son of God.[27][28][29] However the term 'sons of elohim' occurs in Genesis.[30] There are differing interpretations of what this means.[31] It is believed by some Shia Muslims that Ezra was buried at Al-ʻUzair on the banks of the Tigris near Basra, Iraq. The tomb is a pilgrimage site for the local Marsh Arabs.[32][33]

Academic view

Historicity and genealogy

Mary Joan Winn Leith in the The Oxford History of the Biblical World believes that the historical Ezra's life was enhanced in the scripture and was given a theological buildup, but this does not imply that Ezra did not exist.[34] Gosta W. Ahlstrom argues the inconsistencies of the biblical tradition are insufficient to say that Ezra, with his central position as the 'father of Judaism' in the Jewish tradition, has been a later literary invention.[35] Those who argue against the historicity of Ezra argue that the presentation style of Ezra as a leader and lawgiver resembles that of Moses. There are also similarities between Ezra the priest-scribe (but not high priest) and Nehemiah the secular governor on the one hand and Joshua and Zerubbabel on the other hand. The early 2nd century Jewish author Ben Sira praises Nehemiah, but makes no mention of Ezra.[34]

According to the biblical genealogy of Ezra, he is the son of Seraiah, the high priest taken captive by Babylonians.[36][8]


Scholars are divided over the chronological sequence of the activities of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra came to Jerusalem "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the King".[37] The text does not specify whether the king in the passage refers to Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE) or to Artaxerxes II (404-359 BCE).[38][39] Most scholars hold that Ezra lived during the rule of Artaxerxes I, though some have difficulties with this assumption:[2] Nehemiah and Ezra "seem to have no knowledge of each other; their mission do not overlap;[40] and no reflection of Ezra's activity appears in Jerusalem of Nehemiah."[41] These difficulties has led many scholars to assume that Ezra arrived in the seventh year of the rule of Artaxerxes II , i.e. some 50 years after Nehemiah. This assumption would imply that the biblical account is not chronological. The last group of scholars regard "the seventh year" as a scribal error and hold that the two men were contemporaries.[2][42]


  1. ^ a b c d e Liwak, Rüdiger; Schwemer, Anna Maria "Ezra." Brill's New Pauly.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ezra." Encyclopædia Britannica.2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  3. ^ The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, Ezra
  4. ^ Edward Kessler, Neil Wenborn, A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge University Press, p.398
  5. ^ a b But the Qur'an 9:30 quotes Jews as saying that he is the "son of God" Ashraf, Shahid (2005). "Prophets ’Uzair, Zakariya and Yahya (PBUT)" (Google Books). Encyclopaedia of Holy Prophet and Companions. Daryaganj, New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.. pp. 199–200. ISBN 8126119403. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  6. ^ a b Ibn Kathir; Ali As-Sayed Al- Halawani (trans.). "`Uzair (Ezra)". Stories Of The Quran. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Emil G. Hirsch, Isaac Broydé, "Ezra the Scribe", Jewish Encyclopedia (Online)
  8. ^ a b Ezra 7:1-7:5; [Ezra] styles himself "son of Saraias" (vii, 1), an expression which is by many understood in a broad sense, as purporting that Saraias, the chief priest, spoken of in 2 Kings 25:18-21, was one of Esdras's ancestors. Souvay, Charles. "Esdras." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 23 Dec. 2009, Esdras the man.
  9. ^ Ezra 7:7, Ezra 7:11-7:28
  10. ^ Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard, Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, p.285
  11. ^ Ahava
  12. ^ Ezra 8:15-8:28
  13. ^ a b c d Catholic Encyclopedia, Esdras
  14. ^ Nehemiah 8:1
  15. ^ Nehemiah 8:2
  16. ^ Nehemiah 8:7
  17. ^ Nehemiah 8:18, Nehemiah 9:1-9:3
  18. ^ Nehemiah 10:1
  19. ^ "Greek Ezra" or sometimes named I (or II or III) Esdras was considerably popular in the early Church. It was included in the canon of the Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek). In the reforming Council of Trent (1545–63), the Catholic Church removed the book from the canon and placed it as an appendix to the New Testament. (cf. "biblical literature." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, p.173; "Esdras, First Book of." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online ) The Orthodox Church however considers I Esdras as canonical, as does the Oriental Orthodox Church (cf. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p.423; R. W. Cowley, The Biblical Canon Of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Today, Ostkirchliche Studien, 1974, Volume 23, pp. 318-323.)
  20. ^ "Esdras, First Book of." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  21. ^ Daniel 2:1, Daniel 7:1, Daniel 8:1
  22. ^ 4 Ezra (Apocrypha), chapter 7, verse 29
  23. ^ Howard H. Cox, The Pentateuch: History Or Story?, p.101
  24. ^ Bamidbar Rabbah 3:13, quoted in Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, Revelation Restored, ch.1; also cited in Avot of Rabbi Natan xxxiv.
  25. ^ Qur'an 9:30 (Translated by Pickthall)
  26. ^ Uzayr, Encyclopedia of Islam
  27. ^ Emunoth ve-Deoth, II:5
  28. ^ Exod. Rabba 29
  29. ^ Pilgrimage to Tombs of Jewish Saints
  30. ^ Genesis 6:2
  31. ^ Son of God, Sons of God
  32. ^ Environmental and Cultural Terrorism --The Destruction of Iraqi Marshes and Their Revival: Some Personal Reflections
  33. ^ Ezra's Tomb
  34. ^ a b Winn Leith, Mary Joan (2001) [1998]. "Israel among the Nations: The Persian Period". in Michael David Coogan (ed.) (Google Books). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. pp. pg. 306. LCCN 98-016042. ISBN 0195139372. OCLC 44650958.,M1. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  35. ^ Gosta W. Ahlstrom, The History of Ancient Palestine, Fortress Press, p.888
  36. ^ William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, William Horbury, John Sturdy, The Cambridge History of Judaism, p.144
  37. ^ Ezra 7:7
  38. ^ Porter, J.R. (2000). The Illustrated Guide to the Bible. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-760-72278-1. 
  39. ^ The dates of Nehemiah's and Ezra's respective missions, and their chronological relation to each other, are uncertain, because each mission is dated solely by a regnal year of an Achaemenian King Artaxerxes; and in either case we do not know for certain whether the Artaxerxes in question is Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.) or Artaxerxes II (404-359 B.C.). So we do not know whether the date of Ezra's mission was 458 B.C. or 397 B.C.' Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, vol.12 (1961) Oxford University Press, 1964 pp.484-485 n.2
  40. ^ Nehemiah 8 is transposed for rhetorical reasons; Nehemiah 8:9 is almost unanimously considered to be a scribal harmonization
  41. ^ Winn Leith, Mary Joan (2001) [1998]. "Israel among the Nations: The Persian Period". in Michael David Coogan (ed.) (Google Books). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. pp. pg. 281. LCCN 98-016042. ISBN 0195139372. OCLC 44650958.,M1. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  42. ^ John Boederman, The Cambridge Ancient History, 2002, p.272

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

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Ezra is a book in the Bible. The following English translations may be available:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EZRA (from a Hebrew word meaning "help"), in the Bible, the famous scribe and priest at the time of the return of the Jews in the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes I. (458 B.C.). His book and that of Nehemiah form one work (see Ezra,And Nehemiah, Books Of), apart from which we have little trustworthy evidence as to his life. Even in the beginning of the 2nd century B.C., when Ben Sira praises notable figures of the exilic and post-exilic age (Zerubbabel, Jeshua and Nehemiah), Ezra is passed over (Ecclesiasticus xlix. 11-13), and he is not mentioned in a still later and somewhat fanciful description of Nehemiah's work (2 Macc. i. 18-36). Already well known as a scribe, Ezra's labours were magnified by subsequent tradition. He was regarded as the father of the scribes and the founder of the Great Synagogue. According to the apocryphal fourth book of Ezra (or 2 Esdras xiv.) he restored the law which had been lost, and rewrote all the sacred records (which had been destroyed) in addition to no fewer than seventy apocryphal works. The former theory recurs elsewhere in Jewish tradition, and may be associated with the representation in Ezra-Nehemiah which connects him with the law. But the story of his many literary efforts, like the more modern conjecture that he closed the canon of the Old Testament, rests upon no ancient basis.

See Bible, sect. Old Testament (Canon and Criticism); Jews (history, § 21 seq.). The apocryphal books, called 1 and 2 Esdras (the Greek form of the name) in the English Bible, are dealt with below as Ezra, Third Book Of, and Ezra, Fourth Book Of, while the canonical book of Ezra is dealt with under Ezra And Nehemiah.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Hebrew "help".

Proper noun




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Wiktionary has an Appendix listing books of the Bible

  1. (Biblical) A book of the Old Testament and the Hebrew Tanakh.
  2. (Biblical) A Jewish high priest from the fifth century.
  3. A male given name of biblical origin.




  • Anagrams of aerz
  • raze


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) The fifteenth book of the Bible.


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) The fifteenth book of the Bible.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: help

The "scribe" who led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem B.C. 459, and author of the book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah (2Kg 25:18-21), and a lineal descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ez 7:1-5). All we know of his personal history is contained in the last four chapters of his book, and in Neh. 8 and 12:26.

In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see DARIUS �T0000975), he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites (Ezra 8). Artaxerxes manifested great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him "all his request," and loading him with gifts for the house of God. Ezra assembled the band of exiles, probably about 5,000 in all, who were prepared to go up with him to Jerusalem, on the banks of the Ahava, where they rested for three days, and were put into order for their march across the desert, which was completed in four months. His proceedings at Jerusalem on his arrival there are recorded in his book.

He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." "He is," says Professor Binnie, "the first well-defined example of an order of men who have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition, who devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in order that they may be in a condition to interpret them for the instruction and edification of the church. It is significant that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history of Ezra's ministry (Neh 8:4). He was much more of a teacher than a priest. We learn from the account of his labours in the book of Nehemiah that he was careful to have the whole people instructed in the law of Moses; and there is no reason to reject the constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final completion of the canon may have been, and probably was, the work of a later generation; but Ezra seems to have put it much into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew Bible. When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue dates from this period, it will be seen that the age was emphatically one of Biblical study" (The Psalms: their History, etc.).

For about fourteen years, i.e., till B.C. 445, we have no record of what went on in Jerusalem after Ezra had set in order the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the nation. In that year another distinguished personage, Nehemiah, appears on the scene. After the ruined wall of the city had been built by Nehemiah, there was a great gathering of the people at Jerusalem preparatory to the dedication of the wall. On the appointed day the whole population assembled, and the law was read aloud to them by Ezra and his assistants (Neh 8:3). The remarkable scene is described in detail. There was a great religious awakening. For successive days they held solemn assemblies, confessing their sins and offering up solemn sacrifices. They kept also the feast of Tabernacles with great solemnity and joyous enthusiasm, and then renewed their national covenant to be the Lord's. Abuses were rectified, and arrangements for the temple service completed, and now nothing remained but the dedication of the walls of the city (Neh. 12).

There is also another Ezra: a priest among those that returned to Jerusalem under Zerubabel (Neh 12:1).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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