The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are one book in the Jewish canon of scripture because they are so closely related. They both show the providential working of God as He fulfills His promise to bring the children of Israel back from captivity.
Ezra details the first return of captives and their initial efforts to reestablish worship in Jerusalem. These efforts were not without problems as they faced opposition on a number of fronts. However, with God’s help, they eventually completed the temple.
Nehemiah records the later return of more captives who rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Again, they face opposition because the surrounding people did not want to see the Jews prosper and/or lose their favored status before the king.
The New American Commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, notes the following common themes in Ezra & Nehemiah.
1. Continuity of God’s Plan.
2. Separation (from other people).
3. Scripture (teaching, learning).
6. History (from the perspective of fulfillment of God’s plan).
Though Esther will not be the focus of this class, the book and its events help fill out the picture of what is happening during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The events of Esther fall between Ezra chapters 6 & 7. It is another view of God’s working in the lives of His people.
All three books show the sovereignty of God over the nations. He directed Cyrus to order the return of the captives. He raised up men like Ezra and Nehemiah and women like Esther to lead and protect His people.
Beyond the history of the books, we will note a number of lessons to apply in our lives, including leadership, devotion, sacrifice, boldness, and love of God and His law (among others).