Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 31

Ezra and Nehemiah

Exploring Ezra and Nehemiah provides insight into the historical and theological significance of Israel's post-exilic restoration. This lesson unveils the challenges and triumphs of rebuilding Jerusalem's temple and walls, reflecting the intricate relationship between faith, governance, and cultural renewal. Through the characters of Ezra and Nehemiah, readers witness the intersection of religious devotion and civic duty, offering a glimpse into the complexities of post-exilic Jewish identity. Ultimately, these narratives point towards a deeper longing for a true and lasting restoration, echoing themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 31
Watching Now
Ezra and Nehemiah

I. Background and Context

A. Placement in the Old Testament Canon

B. Authorship and Composition

C. Historical Context: Post-Exilic Era

II. Content Overview

A. Ezra-Nehemiah Corpus

1. Purpose and Relationship with Chronicles

2. Concerns and Themes

3. Important Dates

III. Analysis of Ezra

A. Language and Style

B. Character of Ezra

1. Priestly Lineage and Qualifications

2. Role in Reinstating Sacrificial System

3. Influence in Post-Biblical Judaism

IV. Analysis of Nehemiah

A. Historical Context and Role

1. Civil Commission from the Persian King

2. Contributions to Rebuilding Jerusalem

3. Establishment of Library

V. Macro Outline of Ezra-Nehemiah

A. Ezra's Sections

1. Israel's Return and Temple Rebuilding

2. Ezra's Return, Reforms, and Covenant Renewal

B. Nehemiah's Sections

1. Nehemiah's Return and Wall Rebuilding

2. Internal and External Challenges

3. Nehemiah's Reforms and Conclusion

VI. Redemptive-Historical Context

A. Attempt to Rebuild the Kingdom of God

1. Comparison with Pre-Exilic and Exilic Eras

2. Symbolism of Gates, Walls, Foundations, and City

B. Anticipation of Ultimate Exile and Restoration

1. Connection with Book of Revelation

2. Hope in Future Redemption

  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Ezra and Nehemiah 
Lesson Transcript

We've now come to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the last events chronologically in the Old Testament period. That is, it takes us down as far as we can until the time of Jesus or any other book in the Old Testament. We perhaps understand that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were the last books written for the Old Testament, even though Chronicles comes later because Ezra and Nehemiah refer to the book of Chronicles. They say in Nehemiah 12:3, "As for the sons of Levi, the heads of father's houses were written in the book of Chronicles until the days of Jonathan, the son of Eliashab." So here we've got Ezra and Nehemiah referring to Chronicles. So even though Chronicles is last, it's written before that. 

These two books, Ezra and Nehemiah, always appear together, with Ezra preceding Nehemiah in all lists and manuscript traditions. Originally, however, Ezra and Nehemiah were considered to be one book, and that's how we're treating them here, the Ezra-Nehemiah corpus. It's like Samuel, or like 1 and 2 Samuel was Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings was Kings. Well, Ezra-Nehemiah was just Ezra-Nehemiah together. The division into two books appears to have come from Christian tradition. Perhaps Origen seems to have been the first one to do it. But Jerome, in his fourth-century translation of the Bible into Latin, made these two books, and that's the earliest time that we have them. So the Hebrew manuscripts and all the ancient sources treat these two folks as one book. 

What you have in terms of content here is Ezra and Nehemiah are coming back and helping rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. And so that's what they're doing together as they come in two different positions. In the present, in your English versions, Ezra and Nehemiah immediately follow 1 and 2 Chronicles as part of the historical section of the canon, and it reflects a chronological sequencing of the events since Ezra and Nehemiah follow 1 and 2 Chronicles in history. In the Hebrew canon, however, these are switched. So in the English Bible, you have Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah, and that's because at the end of Chronicles, you have the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC that Ezra can go home. And right at the beginning of Ezra-Nehemiah, you have that same decree that Ezra can go home. So you're just like picking up where you left off in the last book. Just like, for example, the book of Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses, and the book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses, just picking up where you left off. And that certainly is a valid chronological orientation.  In the Hebrew canon, however, they're exactly the opposite. And so the corpus begins with, in Ezra, the decree of Cyrus to go home, and then you have Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, and it ends with the decree of Cyrus to go home. It's like an inclusio, meaning, haven't they gone home yet. And that's going to play into the theology of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. 

In terms of authorship and date of composition, according to the Babylonian Talmud, we've talked about before, some early Jewish commentary in the Bible, I think about 200 to 400 AD, Ezra was considered the author of both the First and Second Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. And this view still has many adherents today. And it's perhaps the most viable and logical. We know that Nehemiah made a provision for a library and collected books and that Ezra was the scribe of that time. He was the gifted scribe at the time. And so he's certainly the best qualified for the job. In fact, in my particular weird view, I conceive of Ezra as the final author of the Hebrew canon, and he's the one who puts it in its final form. So he's kind of an inspired author, but an inspired arranger of the vast majority of the materials in the Old Testament. Other scholars hold that the author of First and Second Chronicles also wrote Ezra-Nehemiah, but Ezra was not the person. And then there's a view for every two scholars under the sun at this point. You can hear more of those in the fuller lectures, the Institute lectures that I've done. 

But more important than trying to figure out the date and authorship is this. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles are related in the following ways. We're coming to the end of the Hebrew canon here. And we know that Ezra and Nehemiah are related by way of inclusio with Chronicles. So here are the following ways in which they're related. They're both concerned with genealogies. They're both concerned with lists of people who have come home, lists of people who are in Jerusalem, and Chronicles in the same way. The first nine chapters of Chronicles, you'll find out, are genealogies. Both exhibit a tremendous amount of concern for the building of the temple. In Ezra and Nehemiah, it's the rebuilding of the temple. In Chronicles, it's the Solomonic temple. Both Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles are very concerned about the priesthood, who is going to serve in the temple, and who is the right priest. Both are concerned for the city of Jerusalem in a very special way, especially its foundations and walls, which will become very important for understanding the purpose and function of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. They're both concerned about the remnant of the people of God, obedience to the law of God, and the decree of Cyrus. They share all these things in common. So they've got Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles need to be considered like three books functioning as one together in our kind of English minds. Important dates.

Important dates. I've given you a listing of important dates, but it's kind of important now as we consider Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles some of the dates at the bottom of the list. We've talked a lot about 722 and 586 when Israel went into exile, but if you look at your screens now, you'll see the last few dates from 538 to 445, and these are the dates that are all contained within the book of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. So in 538 BC, Cyrus makes a decree that Israel can go home, and you can see Ezra 1 and 2 Chronicles 36, the inclusio of our passages here.

In 536 BC, the first return of exiles went home with Zerubbabel, and that's recorded in Ezra 1 through 6. In 520 BC, 16 years later, they began to rebuild the temple. That's recorded in Ezra 3, and it's also referred to in the prophet Haggai. In 516, four years later, the temple was dedicated, and that's found in Ezra 6. Then in 458 BC, you have a second return under Ezra, Ezra 7 to 10, and then in 455 BC, just a few years later, a third return under Nehemiah, and that's recorded in Nehemiah 1 through 10. So you can see how Ezra and Nehemiah record the period from 538 BC to 455 BC and following. That's these books. This is called the post-exilic era.

Oftentimes, scholars will talk about three different eras, the pre-exilic era, before the exile, the exilic era, the exile, and the post-exilic era, after the exile. And the only reason I mentioned that to you is so that you have kind of some sense of what the scholarship out there is saying so that when you read about it, you're not caught off guard. But again, just like the earlier dates, like when Abraham was around and when were the kings of Israel ruined, it's good to have a basic historical grid in your mind that allows you to place these events in time in history to know what's going on.

These last events occurred during the Persian empire. Esther would have occurred in this time as well, and so we have this thing going on. Nehemiah and Esther may have known each other at some point, but we just don't have that known.

What about the language of the book of Ezra? Well, like Daniel, the book of Ezra also employs two sections written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. The Aramaic in the book of Ezra is found in chapters 4 verses 8 through 6:18, and chapter 7 verses 12 through 26. The transition in Aramaic in 4-7 is marked by the statement, the letter was written in the Aramaic script and the Aramaic language. The important reason is twofold. Number one, Hebrew at the time or before the time of Ezra had a slightly different script. It's called the Paleo-Hebrew script, the old Hebrew script, and the Aramaic language is slightly different as well. It's maybe like the difference between, let's say, Spanish and Portuguese or German and Dutch. They're close, but they're different languages, but they're related. And so that's what's going on there. The Aramaic sections in Ezra consist largely of official documents. Of the 67 verses of Aramaic, 52 of them are records of letters, and only 15 verses are narrated about those letters.

So you'll read as you read the book of Ezra that there's some tension between what's going on in Jerusalem and the leaders back in Persia and there's some back-and-forth letters. And so those letters are written, of course, in Aramaic, the international language of the time. And so they don't translate them, they just plop them right there in the text.So you get this real kind of historical gritty feel about the nature of the language like it's just real time and space to have that Aramaic there. There are if you want to know, 269 verses in the Hebrew Bible that appear in Aramaic. 

So one of the things I do as a teacher is teach people both Hebrew and Aramaic so they can read all of the Bible in the original languages. It's important to be able to do that. It appears that the author copied the Aramaic documents, and then linked them with corresponding material of his own, also in Aramaic. The dialect of Aramaic here is known as Imperial Aramaic, which is the same as the book of Daniel, and it was around from about 700 to 200 BC. So right smack dab in this time. It's a real-time and space kind of feel to this book. 

Now who was the person Ezra? He got kind of this judicial feel to him. Number one, his priestly lineage is traced back through 16 generations to Aaron the High Priest. This genealogy serves to show him genuinely qualified for the task at hand. That's what he's trying to do here establish his qualifications. In our world, when we want to establish our qualifications, I may give my education or my work history. In the ancient world, you gave your lineage. That's how it works. So think of it that way. He's not just talking about who's father, grandfather, and stuff like that. He's talking about why he is qualified to perform this function in the life of Israel. 

Ezra returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, not Persia. He came with the royal authorization to teach the law of the Jews and to take all necessary steps to reinstate the sacrificial system. We get that in Ezra 7:11 through 26. Now the king at that time was not so concerned about being generous. But his policy was, I want all the peoples in all the lands to be worshiping their gods correctly so none of those gods get mad at me and come after me. So it was his polytheism at work here rather than being generous. He was trying to, you know, save his can from potential overthrow by appeasing all the gods of the nations. And so he would send the priests and the scribes back to their lands and say, make sure that the god of that region is happy. That's what's happening there. But it works for the good of God's people.

Besides being a priest, Ezra was also a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses. It says, "Furthermore, he had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord and to teaching his decrees and law in Israel." An evaluative summary of Ezra calls him the priest and the teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord of Israel. 

Ezra was a great figure in post-biblical Judaism where he was placed on par with Moses and credited, along with the men of the great synagogue, with the origins of the synagogue. Now what is a synagogue? The synagogue is a place where Jewish people would gather to study the word of God. And this began because of the nature of the exile. God's people had been exiled, there was no temple, and so what do you do? You've got to set up schools. And so that's what these schools were.They would house Torah scrolls, they would read from the law of God, they would study, they would meet, they would pray. There's nothing necessarily biblical about them, that is, there's no command in the law of God to do this. It was just a pragmatic thing, just like we set up public schools or private schools, something like that, to promote education. Ezra is, in some sense, credited with this, these other men, with setting up these schools to promote knowledge and fidelity to the Torah. And we see that popping up in the life of Jesus. He went to the synagogues. That's what he was. So he had this priestly slash scribal slash educational function. So he kind of represented the judicial branch of the return there.

What about the historical person, Nehemiah? He represents, for us, kind of the executive branch of the return. Ezra was the judicial branch, and Nehemiah was the executive branch, in terms of maybe the way we think about it contextually. Like Ezra, Nehemiah also returned to Judah with a commission from the Persian king, but his commission was civil, not religious. He was the king's cupbearer, which afforded him access to the king and many privileges. The king authorized him to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. So the temple had been rebuilt, and now they're going to rebuild the city, especially the walls and the foundations. A late intertestamental Jewish tradition mentions a library founded by Nehemiah, which, given the chaotic conditions after the exile, he may very well have done. Second Maccabees 2:13 reads this way. Second Maccabees is one of those books of the intertestamental period that are not inspired, but they're like historical books. It'd be like reading a John Piper, or Tim Keller book, or going to Amazon and buying a book, that kind of book.It wasn't inspired. It perspired. Two Maccabees 2:13. It says, "The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and the prophets, and the writings of David, and the letters of kings about votive offerings." So what's very interesting is here you have Nehemiah, this great official, back in Jerusalem, working on the walls and the foundations, and the temple's been rebuilt, and he's making a library, and he's collecting all of the covenantal documents of the people of God there, this library. And of course, Ezra was the, quote, "swift scribe," which means a gifted scribe in that particular context as well.

Let's take a look now at the macro outline of Ezra and Nehemiah. There are just nine sections here between the two, and I've divided them out between Ezra and Nehemiah, and this will give you a sense of the content as you work through it. And you can see some of the things, there's rebuilding, reforms, and renewal, and all kinds of business in there.

So let's begin at the top with Ezra 1 through 2. You see Israel's return from exile under Zerubbabel. Then you see in chapters 3 through 6, temple rebuilding. Then, and the dedication, of course.

Then, in Ezra 7 through 8, Ezra's return to Jerusalem, followed by 9 through 10, Ezra's reforms, using the law of God to organize and represent the people well. He will read the law, and he will teach the law, and interpret the law for the people of God there. 

Then, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem in chapters 1 and 2. And instead of temple rebuilding, there's wall rebuilding in Nehemiah 3 through 6, followed by the dedication of the wall, which is a very interesting thing to see.

Then there are the internal and external problems of the kingdom about running the Tabernacle and placing the foods, and people trying to live in the temple and all kinds of crazy stuff like that. And then there's covenant renewal in chapters 8 through 10, because the temple and the walls are back. And then you have Nehemiah's reforms at the end, about marriage, and tithing, and keeping of the Sabbath, and stuff like that. Remember, at this time, God's people are very careful with following the laws of God, about Sabbath keeping, marriage, purity rites, and stuff like that, because it's what got them kicked out. You're not going to hear of any idolatry. You're going to hear great concern for Sabbath observance, so all that kind of business. They're trying to return and to get it right a second time.

So in terms of the conclusion to the matter, in chapter 13, the conclusion is concerned with purification, establishment, and provision. For example, in chapter 13 of Nehemiah, verses 30 and 31, says this, verse 30, "Thus I cleansed from them everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and the Levites, each in his work.And I provided for the wood offerings at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good." That's how the book ends. Remember me, O my God, for good. Nehemiah spent a lot of his own money to get this work done, and to provide for the tabernacle and temple. He was working to get the, in some sense, get the church back up and running. Make sure there were good hymnals, good pews, good bulletins, all that kind of business, that the pastor was getting paid. That's what he was trying to do in this particular instance. 

Conclusion. The redemptive-historical context of Ezra and Nehemiah is very important because it's about rebuilding the kingdom of God on this earth. Rebuilding the kingdom of God on this earth meaning this. In the book of Genesis chapters 1 and 2, God ruled with Adam in this world. There was no difference between the cult and the culture. Worship and life, they were together. Once the fall came. Culture was separated from the cult, and worship. The culture was secular, and those who followed Yahweh were a small group. When God re-established his people as Israel under the Mosaic covenant, cult and culture were once again the same. That is, there was no difference between the sacred and the secular. Everything was sacred. And so it was a little bit like heaven on earth, and humanity couldn't bear it because they were still sinful. Now God is giving them a second chance to have his temple and his walls and his city among his people, and the glory of this time does not outstrip the previous time as the prophets anticipated.

You can in some sense say Ezra and Nehemiah are trying to build heaven on earth once again. It was lost in Eden, it was lost in Israel, and now they've got this one last-ditch effort to rebuild it again here at this time, and it is just, it's not what it should be. The spirit of Yahweh does not fill the temple. The Davidic king is not on the throne. They are not their own sovereign country. They're having trouble providing for the sacrificial system, but what's interesting is that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are particularly obsessed with gates and walls and foundations and cities. Those are all the things that constitute, you know, the construction of God's place, where God's people live with him.

What I have found interesting is that in terms of kind of redemptive-historical context and connection is that you only get the same concentration of emphasis on gates, walls, foundations, and city in the book of Revelation. In the book of Revelation, for example, the Hebrew word for gate occurs 39 times in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the word for it in Greek occurs 11 times in the book of Revelation. Walls 32 times in Ezra and Nehemiah, 6 times in Revelation. Foundations 7 times in Ezra and Nehemiah, and 12 times in Revelation. The city 28 times in Ezra and Nehemiah, and the city 12 times in the apocalypse, which means that what's happening here is that Ezra and Nehemiah have the right idea. They're looking for a city where God can dwell with his people. And that's good. That's what they were born to do.

That's what our hearts are meant to do, to long to be with God and live in his presence, but that's not going to be until the new heavens and new earth. And what's great is that we don't have to lament the failure of the return from exile, but it causes us to hope in the one that's coming. And we know that it's coming in the very same way that Ezra and Nehemiah anticipated it because it's sharing the same vocabulary.

So Ezra and Nehemiah go together. They talk about the return from exile, but they also show us that the return from exile that they experienced was not the ultimate exile, but there's a true and better exile that's coming in the book of Revelation.