Who was the author? Most scholars are said to think that the Divinely-inspired author of Ezra and Nehemiah was the same person as the author of Chronicles, who tradition says was Ezra. Nehemiah may have finished what Ezra started, and yet another later editor might have put finishing touches on the work of both. The book of Ezra and Nehemiah may have been written separately, but they were already merged in early Hebrew manuscripts and remained merged in Greek translations, apparently being separated possibly as soon as the late second or early third century.
What is the book? The book continues (or, the books continue) the narrative of the people of Judah returning from exile, restoring sacrificial worship, and rebuilding the Temple. The book was presumably written for the returned exiles, but it pretty much gives us all we know of the community of Judah at the time.
Where was it written? If Ezra was the author, the book, like Chronicles, was most likely written back in Jerusalem or Judah.
When was it written? The writing of Ezra may be dated to 440 B.C., but a definitive date is probably impossible to fix.
Why? Apparently much like Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah were written to show the post-exile community that God was still with the community and would fulfill His promises of the Messiah through them and how they were to live faithful to Him.
How? God's work through Ezra and Nehemiah together is said to have been vital to Judaism's surviving the influence of the Persians, Greeks, and Maccabees. Ezra's ministry worked to restore the community to God's "law", His torah, and thus Ezra stood within the Old Testament tradition even as he is said to have set the stage for the developments that will lead to the distortion of the Old Testament that we know in the New Testament. Ezra might be said to be the first major "scribe", as we think of scribes in the New Testament as Biblical scholars and interpreters. Ezra and his work also point us the time in which we live and our interim waiting for Christ's final return, faithful in worship and giving glory to God.
For further reading on the book of Ezra:
- Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume III: I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, translated by Sophia Taylor and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (This volume has 136 pages specifically on Ezra.)
- Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume I, The Historical Books of the Old Testament: Genesis to Esther. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1923. (This volume, one that is in our Grace library, has 16 pages on Ezra.)