Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, the last three books of the history of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, are related to God’s chosen people in their captivity (2 Chron. 36:17-21). Ezra concerns the return of God’s people from their captivity (cf. Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, and Nehemiah concerns the repair, the rebuilding, of the city. Esther presents to us a pattern of how the omnipresent and omnipotent God becomes the hiding God who secretly preserves and cares for His chosen people in their captivity.
The book of Ezra provides a record of the two returns of the children of Israel from their captivity, which fulfilled God’s promise, spoken through Jeremiah, that the captivity would last only seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:21-22; Dan. 9:2). The first return was under the kingly leadership of Zerubbabel (chs. 1—6), a descendant of the royal family of David who was appointed to be the governor of Judah by Cyrus (Ezra 5:14; cf. note Ezra 1:81). The second return was under the priestly leadership of Ezra (chs. 7—10).
The return of Israel to Jerusalem from their captivity was crucial in four points:
1) it recovered the purpose of God’s calling Israel to make them His testimony according to His law (see note Exo. 20:11);
2) it recovered the oneness of Israel on the unique ground of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5, 11-14);
3) it recovered Israel’s enjoyment of the good land promised by God; and
4) it allowed God to fulfill His intention of having His house built and His kingdom established on the Satan-usurped earth in order to carry out His eternal economy through Israel’s participation in and enjoyment of the good land. All the foregoing crucial points typify today’s recovery of the church life, which is a recovery of the church out of captivity in the great Babylon (Rev. 17:1-6) back to the unique ground of God’s choice, the ground of oneness.