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Ezra and Nehemiah

The Second Temple (Solomon's Temple being the first) was completed in 516 BC and it took twenty years to build. A reason for this late completion date was the opposition to the rebuilding by the Samaritans. They were the majority in the land at the time, wanted to keep it that way and would do anything to keep Jewish observances to a minimum.

Sixty years later Ezra the priest, accompanied by around two thousand other Jews, was sent from Babylonia to Judah. The reason was to whip the Jewish population into shape, religiously speaking, as a decline had set in since the days of Zerubbabel. Ezra seemed to have been given the responsibility of spiritual advisor to the nation and he had a real job on his hands getting the people right with God, particularly as there had been much intermarriage with the other nations. He instigated a spiritual revival among a people who were in dire need of some "old fashioned religion". The Kingdom of Priests were reminded of who they were meant to be.

He was helped later by Nehemiah, who was a Jew living in Susa, employed as the cup-bearer to the Persian King of the day. Nehemiah heard that the Jewish community in Jerusalem was in great distress and was given a commission to rebuild the walls of the city. He became governor of the land, a post that he held for 12 years - a marked contrast to his earlier career and an encouragement to us all with talents so hidden that only God can coax them out of us. Nehemiah's story is told in the Biblical book of his name.

A decade later Nehemiah was recalled to Babylon and, in his absence, the people fell into their old ways - intermarriage, corruption and the like. Malachi was the latest prophet sent by God to warn and chastise His people. He was to be the last prophet of the Old Testament.

We may have reached the end of the Old Testament, but we have certainly not escaped from its influence and reach. As well as the history, poetry and teachings, we must not forget that much of the Old Testament was prophecy. Some of it was fulfilled during Old Testament times, particularly the warnings concerning the exile and the subsequent return from Babylon. Yet much of it remained unfulfilled. Three major themes dominate this unfulfilled prophecy; the coming of Jesus, the restoration of Israel and the end times.

The first of these to be (partly) fulfilled was when Jesus arrived on the scene some four centuries later. The rest of the prophecies - concerned with Jesus's second coming, the restoration of Israel and the end times - had many more centuries to wait for before coming to pass.

Of these prophecies the most currently contentious are those regarding the restoration of Israel. Is the modern State of Israel a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy or just a historical oddity and a political embarrassment?

Therefore the way we approach these particular prophecies is crucial to our honest dealings with the Word of God. We are not talking of a few ambiguous prophetic utterances. We are talking of scores of prophecies from the mouths of most of the Old Testament prophets.

As a taster of a fuller discussion later in these articles, here are a few Biblical references to whet your appetite: Amos 9:14-15, Deuteronomy 30:3-5, Ezekiel 20:34, Ezekiel 34:13, Ezekiel 36:24, Genesis 28:10-15, Isaiah 27:12-13, Isaiah 43:5-6, Jeremiah 23:3-6, Jeremiah 32:36-37, Jeremiah 32:37-41, Zechariah 8:7-8, Amos 9:14-15, Ezekiel 4:3-6, Ezekiel 11:17, Ezekiel 37:10-14, Micah 7:8-11, Jeremiah 32:44, Jeremiah 16:14-15, Isaiah 66:7-8, Jeremiah 31:35-36.

We have now come to the end of our Old Testament review of the Jews in their land, first Canaan at the time of the Exodus, then Israel and Judah, then finally as a remote outpost of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires. But at no point was this not God's land. In Leviticus 25:23 we are again reminded, '... the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.' Even the mighty Cyrus knew this when he stated that God was 'in Jerusalem'. It is God's land then, as now, but it is also covenant land and although the tenants may have occasionally been forced to sub-let, everyone who lives in His land does so only by permission from the 'Author of History', for His purposes.

Steve Maltz
January 2014

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)

You may also find the following interesting

Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Hebrew Roots - Bondage or freedom?".

Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Jesus from a Hebraic Perspective".

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