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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

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Commentary on 2 Esdras

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

5.41–6.10 :

The second set of eschatological * predictions covers essentially the same content as 4.26–52 .

5.50–6.10 .

50–55 :

It was a popular belief in the ancient world that the people of earlier generations had been bigger and better than those of recent ones. The idea that the successive children of one mother decline in size, however, has no known parallel and no scientific support.

5.56–6.6 :

Ezra's question about who will execute the judgment on creation evokes a poetic response by the angel to the effect that God alone is the creator and judge of the world. Compare Prov 8.22–31 .

8–10 :

The symbolic language of this prediction alludes to an eschatological * interpretation * of Gen 25.26 in which Esau is identified with the Roman Empire and Jacob with the messianic kingdom of Israel. In other words, the end of this age will coincide with the fall of Rome and the beginning of the new age with the immediate appearance of the messiah. * This timing conflicts somewhat with eschatological scenarios elsewhere in the book ( 7.26–33, 113; 12.31–34 ), in which the messianic kingdom is the last stage of the present age and the day of judgment ushers in the new age.

6.11–28 :

A voice from heaven foretells the end. In response to Ezra's request for further signs of the end (a continuation of those given in 5.1–12 ), the angel prepares him to hear God's own voice.

14–16 :

In the Bible, the shaking of the earth accompanies theophanies * and is often a sign of God's anger; see Ps 18.7; Nah 1.5 .

17 :.

Like the sound of mighty waters: Compare Ezek 43.2 .

20 :

When the seal is placed: A seal, placed either on a scroll or a container, signifies completion. The books shall be opened: The idea that everyone's deeds are recorded in heavenly books that will be opened on the day of judgment is common to many apocalypses * ; compare Dan 7.10; Rev 20.12 .

21–24 :

These “signs,” even more than those in 5.1–12 , signify a reversal of the natural order at the time of the judgment.

25 :

Whoever remains: It becomes clear later in the book ( 9.7–12 ) that only the righteous will survive the “signs,” which will bring about the destruction of sinners.

26 :

Those who were taken up: Enoch * (Gen 5.24 ) and Elijah (2 Kings 2.11 ), according to traditional interpretation, * were taken up into heaven alive and thus never died, and Ezra is promised the same end in 14.9 .

6.29–35 :

Conclusion of the second episode.

31–34 :

This is the first of several assurances by Uriel that God considers Ezra a righteous person.

35 :

Three weeks: Compare Dan 10.2–3 ; this is the first indication that Ezra had already fasted for a week before the beginning of the first episode.

6.36–59 :

Creation for the sake of Israel.

Like the first two dialogues, the third begins with a prayer that seems to praise God at first, but ends with a complaint about the fate of Israel. Ezra's first prayer began with the creation of Adam (like Gen 2 ), but here he follows the creation account of Gen 1 .

46 :

Ezra emphasizes that all of creation was for the sake of humankind, a notion already implied in Gen 1 .

49–52 :

This passage elaborates on the reference to “the great sea monsters” in Gen 1.21 . Traditions about Leviathan * and other sea monsters are scattered throughout the Bible (for example, Ps 74.14; Isa 27.1 ). A post-biblical tradition held that Leviathan and Behemoth * would be devoured by the righteous in a great banquet at the end of the age.

54 :

Here Adam is presented as the ancestor of Israel, whereas Ezra's first prayer emphasizes that Adam was the father of all humanity.

55 :

The notion that creation was for Israel's sake is not found in the Bible.

56 :

On the other hand, the belief that other nations are relatively unimportant to God is biblical. Ezra is quoting from the Septuagint * version of Isa 40.15 , which ends “…and they shall be counted as spittle.”

57–59 :

Ezra's initial question is still unanswered: Why has God allowed other nations to defeat and dispossess his chosen people?

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