Ezra and Nehemiah are accounts complementary to one another. Both books of the Hebrew Bible speak of men who serve God as leaders of fellow men. Ezra, “a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6) is concerned primarily with the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple and following the prescriptions found in the Mosaic covenant and Nehemiah, is concerned with the rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall as expressed in a portion of Nehemiah 2:17-20, “‘You see the evil plight in which we stand… Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer be an object of derision!’” (Nehemiah 2:17). Both Ezra and Nehemiah abide by the laws of the LORD. Ezra and Nehemiah alike are fearless in honoring their LORD with their lives and respective ministries. The Book of Tobit, however, completes the story of these men’s faith in the LORD by providing glimpses of their faith challenges not expressed in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Through all three books, we see the rebuilding of the city walls and of the temple to effectively honor and worship the God of Israel, as prescribed by the Mosaic covenant and promulgated by Ezra’s proclamations.
The Book of Ezra begins with a concise Jerusalem history, which leads to Ezra’s ministry. It begins with Jeshua in the third chapter. Jeshua “[rebuilds] the altar of the God of Israel in order to offer on it the holocausts prescribed in the law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2). The people who were inhabiting the land were those who had destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Because of the previous destruction, Jeshua and his people were in fear of them (Ezra 3:3). Despite this fear, Jeshua commenced with holocaust offerings to the LORD. Ezra 5 depicts the prophets beginning to rebuild the temple, which was instructed in Ezra 1 by “the LORD, the God of heaven…[who] charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2). All this works in a successful attempt to follow the prescriptions from God to honor Him.
However, the current king, King Darius, attempts to disrupt such a rebuilding, until he got word that the instructions for rebuilding were not only from God but also from a previous king, King Cyrus. Imagine, being questioned for rebuilding a place of worship. Imagine being exiled from the land and having to returning among strangers who had since inhabited your homeland. People capable of inhabiting the land promised to your kinsmen by God Almighty would incite terror. However, knowing the promises of God, fear would evade. The Israelites continued to build that for which God asked.
The rebuilding of the temple is halted, and possibly for the fear of further destruction in Jerusalem. Thus, John J. Collins, author of A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, indicates an account of Nehemiah’s ministry was inserted into the Book of Ezra. Collins explains, “The city walls are the great preoccupation of Nehemiah, who was active in Jerusalem in the reign of Artaxerxes. This document is inserted...