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Ezra was a priest, scribe and religious reformer who led a group of exiles back to Jerusalem in 458BCE during the reign of Artaxerxes I. His name means ‘God Helps.’ Ezra is the son of Seraiah, a High Priest who was taken captive by the Babylonians.
Ezra is mentioned in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the word of God. The Bible describes him as a “scribe skilled in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6).
Through the hand of God Ezra was able to secure permission from the king to return back to Jerusalem with any of the Israelites, priests or Levites who were willing to go back. The king offered a significant amount of gold, silver and provisions for the temple of God and extended all support for this task. Ezra was given authority to ensure that the worship and sacrifices take place in the temple of God in Jerusalmen, to appoint judges to administer justice to the people, and to teach the Law of God to those who do not know it. Ezra was given the authority to punish any disobedience to the Law of God either by death, banishment, property confiscation and imprisonment.
Ezra was able to gather a number of exiles to return with him. He started his journey on the first day of the first month (Nisan, which is April) and reached Jerusalem traveling via the ford of Euphrates at Carchemish on the first day of the fifth month (Ab, which is August)—a journey of nearly nine hundred miles, taking four months.
He assembled all the people at the River Ahava. On checking the people he could not find Levites among them and then summoned certain leaders and sent them to Iddo the leader in Casiphia who sent him 38 Levites. At the River Ahava Ezra proclaimed a fast so that they may humble themselves before God and to ask for protection during their journey back. He was not willing to ask the king for soldiers to protect them. Ezra appointed 12 leading priests and 12 Levites to be in charge of all the gold, silver and other articles given by the king, his advisers and other people for the temple of God. There were 25 tons of silver, 3.75 tons of silver articles, 3.75 tons of gold, 20 bowls of gold, and 2 articles of very precious bronze. They then started on their journey from Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month (Nisan).
On reaching Jerusalem, they rested for three days and on the fourth day weighed out the gold and silver into the hand of the priests, and the total weights were recorded.
Ezra came to know through the leaders that the Jewish people living in the land have not been faithful to the covenant of separation from the Gentiles that God told them to have and had intermarried with the Gentiles. They were also following their detestable practices. Ezra was heart-broken at the state of affairs and tore his clothes in sorrow and prayed to God for forgiveness. He was praying, confessing, and weeping before the house of God. A large crowd of Israelites gathered there and confessing their failure to adhere to the Law of God, decided to send away their foreign wives and children. They encouraged Ezra to implement this decision throughout the land.