‘The Elders…built, and they prospered…. And they built (God’s House), and finished it, according to the commandment of God.’ Ezra 6:14.
Ezra the Scribe was a Leader of the people and a Teacher of the Law. With Artaxerxes’ consent, together with Nehemiah he led a migration of his people from Babylon back to Palestine, and organized life there. Everything was then restored and ordained according to the Law of God, which was completed by Ezra with much zeal and faithfulness.
Ezra must have been held in esteem at Artaxerxes’ court. For that king entrusted him with authority to appoint Magistrates and Judges, with the power of life and death in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:12-26). At the River Ahava (Ezra 8:15), he gathered together the members of the expedition and ordered a fast and prayer for divine protection. Arriving in Jerusalem, he delivered up the gifts the
king had sent to the Temple (Ezra 8:36). He then returned to Persia, elevated the Mosaic Law, and surrounded himself with a corps of supporters with whose aid he read and expounded the Law.
Accompanied by 1500 exiles, he arrived in Jerusalem in 450 B.C. He then had the Law of Moses read to the entire people, and appointed it as the lawbook of the community. He is considered to be the first Scribe and the Founder of the Great Assembly (Kenesset haa-Gedolaah). Indeed, he is described as the Scribe (or Soofeer) — the Scribe, par excellence.
Ezra was a diligent student of the Law. He conceived the idea of infusing new life and ideals into the community. The Law of God was to be enforced. In B.C. 444, the Book of the Law was read by Ezra before the people in solemn assembly, who pledged themselves to obey it. Within the same month, the first of its injunctions were carried out.
Ezra is an austere and commanding figure. He left a lasting impression upon the religious life of his people. He made God’s Law the possession of the entire community, calling the Pentateuch the “Canon of Ezra.” And he endowed the people with a cohesive power which was proof against all attacks from without.
He was President of the Great Synagogue, and the Collector and Editor of the Canon. The latter is indeed very probable, remembering the interest he aroused in the Law. And in this interest, a desire to have also the writings of the Historians and Prophets, would certainly be begotten
After Cyrus, Darius commanded the Temple to be rebuilt. Then ‘the Elders…built, and they prospered — through the prophesying of Haggai the Prophet and Zechariah…. And they built and finished (God’s House)…, according to the commandment of God’ (Ezra 6:14).
May we likewise build and expand the New Testament Church according to the commandment of God! And may our “Elders” too build — and prosper!