1. Name. 2. Object 3. Plan 4. Unity 5. Sources 6. Literary Character 7. Languages 8. Historicity 9. Text
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, by whomsoever written, are properly so named according to analogy from the principal persons mentioned in them. In the Hebrew Bibles, the former is headed simply, Ezra, and the latter, Nehemiah. The two books are counted in the Talmud, in Josephus, and in the Canon of Melito, 171 AD, as one, and are so treated also in the subscription of the Massoretic Text, which reads: "The totality of the verses of Ezra and Nehemiah is 688, and its sign is `Remember, Yahweh, the reproach of thy servants,’ and its two parts (are at the sentence) `unto the ascent of the corner’ (
The object of the books is to show that God fulfilled His promise, or prophecy, to restore His exiled people to their inheritance, through the instrumentality on the one hand of the great heathen monarchs, Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, and on the other hand by stirring up the spirit of such great men among the chosen people as Joshua and Zerubbabel, Haggai and Zechariah, and Ezra and Nehemiah, through whom the altar, the temple, the houses and walls of Jerusalem, and finally the worship and ceremony of the Jewish people were reestablished, the people being separated from foreign admixtures, customs and idolatry, and their religious observances purified and fixed for all time.
The object of the work justifies the selection and arrangement of the material and the plan pursued by the composer, or composers; all matter being stringently excluded which does not bear directly upon the purpose in view. However much we may wish that other historical records had been included, it is not proper to criticize the work because of these omissions, nor is it fair to argue that the writer was ignorant of what he has not seen fit to record.
The unity of the combined work is shown by the fact that they have the same common object, the same plan, and a similarity of language and style; that they treat, for the most part, of the same period of time; and that Ezra is one of the most prominent persons in both. It is not fair to deny the essential unity on the ground that the list of priests and others found in
The Books of Ezr and Ne are a compilation of genealogical lists, letters and edicts, memoirs and chronicles. We cannot be certain as to who was the composer of either or both books. Many think that Ezra compiled both the books out of preexisting materials, adding parts of his own composition. Others, suppose that Ezra wrote the book named after him, while Nehemiah composed the. Others, again, are of the opinion that neither Ezra nor Nehemiah, but some other unknown editor, most probably the compiler of the , put together the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, using largely the memoirs of the two great men who are the principal persons in the records. While there is still much difference of opinion as to who was the final redactor, there is a general agreement as to the composite character of the whole, and that the person who wrote the parts that bind together the original sources was the same as he who wrote the canonical books of Chronicles.
6. Literary Character:
The diversified character of the style, languages and other literary peculiarities of the books is accounted for by the large number and the variety of sources. From the style and contents of the first chapter it has been argued with great plausibility that it was written by Daniel; for similar reasons it has been argued that the portion of Ezra from 3:2 to 4:22 inclusive was written by Haggai the prophet. All admit that the parts of Ezra and Nehemiah in which the 1st person is employed were written by Ezra and Nehemiah respectively. As to who it was who added the other connecting portions there is and must always be great doubt arising from the fact that the author is not mentioned. The style points to the same hand as that which composed the Book of Chronicles. Those who believe that Ezra compiled the Book of Chronicles will believe that he most probably composed also the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The principal objection to his authorship arises from the inexplicable change from the 1st to the 3rd person occurring in both Ezr and Neh. Inasmuch as the 3rd person is the proper form to use in the best style of Biblical historical composition; inasmuch as Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon often employ it in their histories; inasmuch as some of the Bah monuments mingle the 1st and 3rd persons in the same document; and finally, inasmuch as the prophets and psalmists of Israel likewise interchange the persons in what is for us often an unaccountable manner: this characteristic of the style of Ezra-Nehemiah seems an insufficient reason upon which to base the denial of the claim that Ezra may have been the author.
The facts that there is unevenness in the treatment of the history, and that there are long periods on which the narrator is silent, do not militate against the authorship of Ezra nor do they imply a date long after his age; for the author is perfectly consistent in his purpose to stick to the object and plan which he had in view for himself, that is, to give an account of the reestablishment of the Israelite people and of their Divinely given institutions. That he has omitted other matters-does not imply that he was ignorant of them.
The language of the books is Hebrew, except
Neither language nor style can be assigned as a ground for asserting a date later than the 5th century BC as the time of the composition of the book. A much stronger reason against placing the final redaction of the books at so early a time is the mention of a Jaddua among the high priests in
The objection against the books having been composed in the Persian period, based upon the use of the titles of the kings of Persia, is fully answered by the fact that the same titles as those used in these books are found to have been used by the Persian kings themselves. (See the articles of the present writer in the Presbyterian Reformed Review for 1905-6.) The "Darius the Persian" of
The phrase "the days of Nehemiah" (
In conclusion, we Would say in the words of Professor Cornill, that since Ed. Meyer’s demonstration of the authenticity of the documents in
The most thorough investigation of the text of Ezra-Nehemiah has been made by Professor A. Klostermann, his results being published in the 3rd German edition of RE. After an examination of the Arabic, Syriac, Greek and Latin versions and a comparison of them with the Hebrew Massoretic Text, he comes to the conclusion that our Hebrew text as a whole is of more value than that represented by the versions. The writer of this article has noted a wonderful accuracy in the transmission of the Aramaic part of Ezra, the spelling or writing of the words resembling in many of the smallest particulars that of the Aramaic papyri of Elephantine, which date from the 5th century BC.
Commentaries and Introductions: A, Introductions: Sayce, Introduction to Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Angus-Suen, The Cyclopedic Hand-Book to the Bible; Rarnu, Introduction to the Old Testament; Keil, Old Testament Intro. B, Commentaries: Keil, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; Rawlinson, in the Speaker’s Comm., and in the Pulpit Commentary; and in Ezra and Nehemiah ("Men of the Bible" series); Lange’s Comm.; Meyer, Entstehung des Judenthums; OTJC2; RE2.
R. Dick Wilson