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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

7.116–8.3 :

Conflicting views of the judgment.

116–126 :

Ezra recapitulates his point of view: Sin is universal, inherited from Adam, and therefore the promises of the world to come can only sharpen the sorrow of life in this world.

127–131 :

Uriel insists, quoting from Deut 30.19 , that salvation has always been promised only to those who choose to live according to God's law.

132–140 :

Ezra expresses his belief in God's mercy through a word-by-word commentary on Ex 34.6–7 , a passage frequently quoted in Jewish prayers. The style of the commentary resembles a rabinic midrash. *

8.1–3 :

The angel's only response is to remind Ezra of the illustration from nature that he used earlier ( 7.52–61 ) to justify the destruction of the many.

8.4–36 :

Ezra's prayers for mercy. Unable to accept Uriel's hard-line position, Ezra decides to appeal directly to God.

4–5 :

To show his exasperation with the angel, he first addresses himself, in much the same way that he invoked the earth in 7.62 .

6 :

Ezra seems to be praying for a reversal of the situation described in 3.20–22 . Who bears the likeness of a human being: The original probably read, “who bears the likeness of Adam”; the name Adam means “human being” in Hebrew.

7–12 :

The author views pregnancy and child-rearing as creative acts of God.

13–14 :

Ezra cannot believe that God would create so many people only to destroy them.

15 :

He gives up on his appeal for the mass of humanity and reverts to his earlier concern with the fate of Israel.

19 :

The beginning…He said: This heading is present in all the extant versions, but it appears to have been added to the original text. For the idea that Ezra was taken up to heaven, see 14.9 and comment on 14.48 .

20–36 :

Although influenced by the prayers of confession found in Ezra 9, Neh 9 , and Dan 9 , Ezra's prayer is more a petition for mercy than an acknowledgment of guilt.

20–23 :

The prayer begins with praise of God's might.

24–30 :

Like the biblical intercessors he named in 7.106–111 , Ezra pleads the cause of his people.

31–33 :

God's reputation for mercy (compare 7.132–140 ) rests on his treatment of sinners; the righteous have no need of mercy.

34 :

Compare Job 7.17–18; Ps 8.4 .

35–36 :

Although Ezra continues to define righteousness as freedom from sin, he acknowledges Uriel's claim that some people have a store of good works (see 7.76–77 ).

8.37–62 :

Final dispute.

37–40 :

Completely ignoring the emotional intensity of Ezra's appeal, Uriel reaffirms that God has no interest in sinners.

41 :

He uses the familiar analogy of sowing to imply that God does not have as much invested in the creation of human life as Ezra supposes.

42–45 :

For the first time, Ezra finds fault with one of the angel's analogies, arguing that humanity is created in God's own image (Gen 1.26–27 ). He again appeals directly to God for mercy.

46–62 :

Uriel does not even acknowledge Ezra's point; he simply recapitulates his own points, beginning with the doctrine of the two worlds.

47–51 :

More emphatically than above ( 7.76–77 ), he assures Ezra of his own salvation.

52 :

Compare 7.119–125 .

53–54 :

Compare 7.113–114 . The root of evil is equivalent to the “evil heart”; see 3.22 .

56–58 :

Compare 7.22–24 .

59–60 :

God is not to blame for the destruction of the many; human beings choose their own fates (compare 7.72 , 129–131 ).

62 :

A few like you: The revelations of the dialogues are to be shared only with other righteous persons. Later in the book, Ezra is told to keep his visions secret from all but the wise: 12.37–38; 14.26, 46–47 .

8.63–9.22 :

The purpose of the signs. In spite of Ezra's question, this discourse is less specific about the timing of the signs than those at the end of the first two dialogues. The emphasis is on their punitive purpose (see comment on 6.25 ).

9.2 :

To visit often connotes punishment; compare 5.56 .

3 :

Compare Mk 13.7–8 .

5–6 :

The text of these verses is corrupt, but Uriel may be likening the world to a living being, in that it has a clear beginning and end.

7 :

Throughout the book, faith and good works are assumed to go hand in hand; therefore, the author is probably not suggesting that these are two alternative paths to salvation.

8 :

The survivors of the signs will enjoy the earthly rewards of the messianic kingdom (compare 7.27–28; 12.34 ) prior to the day of judgment.

9–12 :

The terrible signs that will bring about the death of the ungodly who are living at the time of the end will be only a foretaste of the punishments that await them after the judgment.

15–16 :

Ezra has accepted the fact that only a few will be saved, but his feelings about it remain the same.

17–20 :

In life as in agriculture, results depend on both materials and effort. God gave humanity the materials for success in this world, but they have nearly destroyed the earth along with themselves.

21–22 :

The imagery (compare 5.23 ) suggests the biblical notion that God will spare only a tiny remnant of Israel (see Isa 17.4–6; Am 3.12 ). The concept of a remnant, however, contradicts what Uriel has been saying all along about the righteous saving themselves, and about Israel having no privileged status.

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