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C O U R S E 
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Emory University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Ezra-Nehemiah and Haggai on Temple Rebuilding
Notes taken on January 20, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
often distant communities would not celebrate traditions based on the text of the Torah but would write back to religious authorities in Jerusalem
letters back, however, would often not quote the Torah or religious texts
how this period is depicted within the Bible
subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity
first part
the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great (538 BC)
the completion and dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem in the sixth year of Darius (515 BC)
second part
the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from what the book calls the sin of marriage with non-Jews
told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah
the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws
Nehemiah is a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court
together Ezra and Nehemiah are the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible
only two chapters
historical setting dates around 520 BCE before the Temple has been rebuilt, around the time of the start of the Persian empire in 539 BCE a period that saw major leaders such as Zerubbabel help lead the Jews in their return to the land.
filled with an urgency for the people to proceed with the rebuilding of the second Jerusalem temple
book ends with the prediction of the downfall of kingdoms
the common story of captivity and return
Babylonians came
destroyed Jerusalem
took all the Jews and went to Babylon
there the Jews wept by the rivers of Babylon when they remembers Zion
the collected their writings and they longed to return
as soon as Jewish captives are allowed to go back, they do
when they come back they bring their Biblical writings with them
archeologically we have evidence that there were communities of Jews who were not interested in returning
documents that come decades and centuries after 586 BC
some Judeans remain there in and around Babylon living, thriving, and not interested in going up to Zion
Ezra-Nehemiah on this period of time
538 BC begins with the first year of Cyrus
he conquers Babylon
with Persians, he takes over the Babylonian empire
Ezra 1:1-4
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem."
Jewish community begin work on temple
set up the altar
lay the foundation
the enemies of the Judeans come and thwart their building project
the enemies want to participate but are not allowed
therefore they try to stop the project
building of temple is delayed until the reign of Darius (522-486 BC)
one of the most historical sources through the Bible is found in this book
Nehemiah memoir
450 BC: a cup bearer who comes from the court of Artaxerxes
wants to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem
but the problem is that he faces many obstacles
from enemies from around the area
but the community that lives in Jerusalem is in collaboration with these enemies
a prophet who rises up in the second year of Darius
issues a word of the Lord, a prophecy
In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest: This is what the Lord Almighty says: These people say, The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.
the point is:
it is not going well with you guys
you are very interested in your own individual houses
while you allow the temple to lie in ruins
so go up to the hill and start rebuilding, and then things will start changing for you for the better
this is not any more historically accurate than Ezra or Nehemiah
but offers a new perspective
Ezra-Nehemia says the reason why we didn't finish it when the decree was sent out by Cyrus was because the enemies stopped us
Haggai indicates that the reason they were not building is because they didn't really want to
Ezra-Nehemia explains
Jewish community was all taken to Babylon
returns all together
they are given the decree to rebuild, but then they are stopped
this is a very positive image of Judahite history
they want to rebuild the temple but were not allowed to because of enemies
Haggai gives us a more pessimistic view
the community itself was really not committed to the project at all
the Biblical authors of these books are facing a situation in which the community is
torn apart
not committed to coming together
not committed to doing something collectively in order to rebuild their temple and ruins
not committed to education and the study of the Torah
yet all of this is often thought to be case in the post-exilic period