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ESDRAS, FIRST (1) ĕz’ drəs (LXX ̓́Εσδρας, A, Heb. עֶזְרָא, meaning: help). First book of the OT Apoc. The Lat. Vul. designates it 3 Esdras, using 1 and 2 Esdras for the canonical Ezra and Nehemiah. Commonly known as the “Greek Ezra” to distinguish it from the canonical Ezra in Heb. and from the Apocalypse of Ezra in Lat. The author of the book is unknown.
The similarity to the canonical books of 2 Chronicles (chs. 35,
There is nothing in 1 Esdras which corresponds to
Due to the close relation of 1 Esdras to the canonical books of 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, the latter dating from the late 5th cent. b.c., and also some apparent dependence on the in the LXX (see
The historical range extends from Josiah’s passover (
(8) 8:68-90 (cf.
(9) 8:91-9:36 (cf.
(10) 9:37-55 (cf.
Attitude toward the law.
After a long period of neglect and disobedience, this prevailing attitude toward the law seems to have been due in great measure to the work and influence of Ezra. According to Albright, Ezra’s greatest importance “probably lay in the field of cultic reform than in that of political action.” The law was established as “the normative rule of Israel’s faith.”
The story of Darius and the youths.
While little background is supplied here for the story (
The three wise sayings concerning what is strongest—wine, the king, and women, but, above all, truth—supply interesting insights into differing views on life, a common theme in Jewish wisdom writings.
Wine, said the first guard, is strongest, for it distorts the mental processes of those who consume it, causing them to do foolish and harmful things. Often one will reverse his normal attitudes toward his friends and his obligations.
The king is the strongest, averred the second man. He is absolute, bearing rule over even the strongest men. Obedience to the king is described by a rare word (ἐνακούουσιν), meaning “to hear to obey” (
Zerubbabel first named women as the strongest, yet concluded that “truth is great, and stronger than all things” (
Similarly, his praise of truth followed this approach: Women, along with wine and the king, are unrighteous; but, there is no unrighteousness in truth; therefore, truth is strong and prevails for ever.
The people responded to his analysis, “Great is truth, and the strongest of all!” Based on the Lat. Vul. text of 1 Esdras this statement has become proverbial: magna est veritas et praevalet.
At this, Darius proclaimed Zerubbabel the wisest and promised him anything he wished, and that he would be called his “kinsman” (συγγενής, G5150,
F. Josephus, The Antiquities; E. C. Bissell, The Apocrypha in Lange’s Commentary (1880); R. H. Charles, ed., Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, I (1913); W. O. E. Oesterley, An Introduction to the Books of the Apocrypha (1946); R. H. Pfeiffer, History ofTimes with an Introduction to the Apocrypha (1949); W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period (1950).