Ezra 1-3 tells the story of how Israel returns to the Promised Land from slavery in Babylon. They return to find a land, city, and temple in ruins. The Persians appoint a man named Zerubbabel as governor who by God’s grace is a descendant of David.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encourage the people in the rebuilding of the temple. Once the altar is rebuilt the people celebrate Passover in the land for the first time in seventy years. It would have been a very joyful event remembering the exodus out of Egypt and their own recent exodus out of Babylon.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe the remnant’s attempts to reestablish the law of Moses, build the walls of Jerusalem and reestablish the nation.
The book of Chronicles was also written at this time. Chronicles tells the story of David, Solomon, and the divided kingdom. In some ways it is the parallel to the book of Kings – but with two major differences.
- The book of Kings is written when Israel is in exile. It emphasizes the wickedness of the kings of Judah and Israel – and the common people – that caused Israel to be in Exile.
- The book of Chronicles is written when the remnant has returned after the Exile. It emphasizes things like how Solomon built the first temple and how good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah restored the temple and reestablished temple worship after it had been neglected. This is to encourage the remnant as they seek to restore things. Chronicles also teaches how King Jehoshaphat trusted in God to win battles over enemies like the time they just sung praises to God and the enemy was defeated – the remnant face enemies greater than they but they can follow Jehoshaphat’s example. Chronicles is about before the Exile but the example of good kings from Judah is to instruct and inspire the remnant to restore things and put their trust in God. Chronicles also starts with many chapters of genealogies that go from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all the way down to David’s time and then to the remnant themselves – they are being reminded who they are!
The return from Exile is full of hope.
- God has been faithful to his promises to restore Eden through Abraham’s family and through David’s family by preserving a remnant even in very dark days.
- God has used the discipline of the Exile to drive idolatry from his people – his discipline is not necessarily a bad thing in our lives.
- The faith and trust in the LORD by those in the past are a source of encouragement in the present.
- We, like the remnant, need to remember who we are as the people of God we are not citizens of Babylon.