Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah were one book. Together, they form the main historical record of the period when God's people, having returned from exile in Babylonia, rebuilt the temple, restored Jerusalem, and rededicated themselves to obeying God's Law. The first six chapters of Ezra describe the return of the people from exile, the rebuilding of the altar in Jerusalem, and the first sacrifices offered there to please the Lord. Cyrus, the Persian king who had allowed the Israelites to return to Judah, encourages them to rebuild the Jerusalem temple. Construction on the temple is delayed by political and social problems, and eventually halted until a new Persian king, Darius, takes power and orders the work to continue. The temple is completed and it is dedicated to the Lord with great celebration in about 515 b.c. Later the Persian king Artaxerxes sends Ezra, a priest and teacher of God's Law living in Babylonia, to Jerusalem to restore the religion of Israel and instruct the people in the Law of Moses. Ezra selects religious leaders and promises to purify the Jewish people, ordering an end to the practice of Jewish men marrying foreign women.
God's People Return from Exile and Begin Rebuilding the Temple (1.1—6.22)
Ezra Returns and Restores the People (7.1—10.44)