Ezra takes us into Bible history territory that is often unfamiliar to us. These are stories that don’t often get told.
Though the people of Judah were taken captive by the Babylonians, in 539 B.C., the Babylonians were defeated by Cyrus, king of Persia. Cyrus allowed all the Babylonian captives to return to their ancestral homes, and that included God’s people.
Ezra 1-3 recounted the story of Judah’s return. The first thing they want to do is rebuild the temple. They begin, but find themselves opposed by people of the land.
Some of the people of the land are descendants of the Northern Kingdom. As relatives, they asked to join Judah in rebuilding, but Judah refused. They correctly felt their captivity in Babylon was because of compromise, and these native people had gone even further in compromise. They would not allow their participation. So . . . the remnants of Israel opposed them.
But just here there’s a chronological problem. Chapter four begins with the rebuilding of the temple and the opposition that was endured. The writer then, in verse 6, moves nearly a hundred years later when there was further opposition to rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall. It is as if to say: “This isn’t the only opposition God’s people faced.” Then, the writer returns to the story of the temple and says it was frustrated until the days of Darius, king of Persia. – some twenty years later. Chapter 5 picks up the story during the days of Darius. The relevant Kings of Persia are as follows:
Cyrus (539-530 B.C.)
Cambyses (unmentioned in Ezra – 530-522 B.C.)
Darius I (521-486 B.C.)
Xerxes (486-465 B.C.)
Artaxerxes I (464-423 B.C.).