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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Authorship.

The author of 4 Ezra chose to write under the pseudonym of Ezra, apparently the person depicted in the biblical book of Ezra as the bringer of the law from Babylon. There is, however, a problem about identifying precisely whose persona the author is adopting and it emerges in the first verse of the book ( 3:1 ). This places Ezra in the middle of the Babylonian exile and identifies him with someone called Salathiel. Salathiel is the Latin form of the Hebrew name Shealtiel and it is taken from 1 Chr 3:17 where Shealtiel is identified as the son of King Jehoiachin who was taken into exile in Babylon in 597; 1 Chr 3:19 makes Shealtiel the uncle of Zerubbabel who led the first return from Babylon in 537. Unfortunately, Ezra the scribe as depicted in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah lived 100 years later than this. Box (1912 ) regarded 2 Esd 3:1 as a clumsy attempt by the editor of our text to identify these two originally quite separate figures. He did so because in Box's opinion one of the main sources the author utilized for his work was an apocalypse ascribed to Salathiel. So, on his view, the verse is an editorial attempt to fuse together separate sources. Box's view here is part of a much more elaborate source-critical analysis of 4 Ezra which has since fallen out of favour with most scholars; see Hayman (1975), Stone (1990: 11–23). Most recent scholarly work takes for granted that the text is a unitary composition by a single author who yet had earlier sources available to him. The most probable explanation for the identification of Ezra and Salathiel/Shealtiel is that it arises from a misreading of the Hebrew text of 1 Chr 3:17 (Stone 1990: 55–6). Another seductive reason for the identification has often been pointed out. In Hebrew the name Shealtiel means ‘I asked God’. Since in the book Ezra spends a good deal of time asking pointed questions of God, the name seems quite appropriate.

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