Ezra 1-12
Haggai 1-2
Zechariah 1-14
Nehemiah 1-13
Malachi 1-4
Psalm 85, 107, 126, 147


539-430 BC


Key Concepts (How to Read)

1.     Return from Exile but some Diaspora still
2.     Rebuilding
3.     Temple without God’s Presence
4.     David’s heir without a throne
5.     Exile over but restoration incomplete – Day of the Lord still coming


Key Sections (What it says)

539 – Cyrus the Great releases the Jews
520 – Haggai and Zechariah
516 – 2nd Temple Complete
486-465 (date uncertain) – Esther
458 – Ezra returns with more exiles
??? – Malachi?
445 – Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem for the first time
circa 433 – Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem for the second time

Ezra gives broad strokes of story – Read Ezra first!

Cyrus the Great – the Lord’s anointed – Isaiah 45:1

Zerubbabel: grandson of king Jehoiachin – Zechariah 4, Haggai 2:20-23

Joshua: the high priest – Zechariah 3

Ezra gives context for Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5)
Haggai 1
Zechariah 3:8, 4
Zechariah 9

Constant conflict with other peoples, persecutions in the land

Erza 6 – temple finished, Passover celebrated

Story of Esther – Diaspora Jews.  Why didn’t they return home?  Entire conflict of story revolves around Mordecai’s presence in Susa instead of Jerusalem. 

Esther is the only book of the Bible that never mentions or alludes to God.  Is this God using the unfaithful Jews for his purposes?

Ezra’s return, coinciding with intermarriage issues between the Jews and other peoples of the land (Ezra 9-10)

Nehemiah’s return (another Diaspora Jew), focus on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 8 – Ezra and Nehemiah read the law to the people

Restoration of priesthood and levities, re-covenanting of people

Malachi – Day of the Lord, Elijah


Silent years (No Scripture) – 400 BC – 0 BC. 

What happens between Nehemiah and Jesus?  Some Highlights:

1.     Alexander the Great in 332 BC, overthrows the Persian Empire.  Alexander dies, his empire is divided into 4 quadrants; Jerusalem falls into the Seleucid Empire quadrant.
2.     Antiochus Epiphanies IV (175-164 BC), a Selecuid ruler, launches a religious persecution of the Jews.  Rebels lead by Judas Maccabeus retake the Temple, celebrating the first Hanukkah.  See 1 and 2 Maccabees
3.     Hasmonean Dynasty – 140-63 BC.  Descendants of the Maccabees.  Semi-autonomous from the Seleucids conquered by the Roman Republic in 63 BC.
4.     Herod the Great – from Edom, not a Jew.  Comes to power through support of Rome, 37-4 BC


Conversation: Discussion Questions

1.     Have you ever come home as an adult?  What was different when you did so?  What was still the same?

2.     Is the Jewish return from exile all that the people expected it would be?  In what ways might they have been disappointed with the return?

3.     Why is the rebuilding of the Temple so critical to Yahweh and to the Jews?

4.     How are the promises of God fulfilled in this season?  What are left unfulfilled?

5.     God is always faithful in his promises, but also seems to often leave key promises unfulfilled (at least longer than we would like).  Have you experienced this in your own life?

6.     God often uses non-believers (like Cyrus, and perhaps Esther) to accomplish his purposes.  Why is this?

If you have time, read the following passage: Malachi 4:1-6

7.     What does the prophet say about the Day of the Lord?  In what ways does this reference Jesus’ first coming?  His return?

8.     Who does Jesus say is the “Elijah who was to come” in the New Testament?  Hint – Matthew 11:14