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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on 1 Esdras

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

2.16–30 : Opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple and the city walls

(Ezra 4.7–24 ). A misplaced account of opposition to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Artaxerxes I (465–424 BCE). Cambyses (530–522) succeeded Cyrus and was followed by Darius I (522–486). Josephus (Ant. 11.2.1–3 ) substitutes Cambyses for Artaxerxes, thus providing the correct sequence of Persian kings.

16–20 : The opponents' letter.

16 :

The name Beltethemus is an error derived from the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic title (“be'el te'em”) of the office held by Rehum.

17 :

The persons named are officials of the region called “Beyond the River” (Ezra 4.10 ), which included the lands of (Coele‑) Syria, Phoenicia, Samaria, and Judah. Rehum is designated “the royal deputy” in Ezra 4.8 ; the title recorder is supported by Josephus.

20 :

The account differs considerably from that in Ezra 4.14 , which contains no reference to the rebuilding of the Temple at this point. However, Ezra 4.24 states that work on the Temple stopped. This revision and reworking of material is consistent with the focus of 1 Esdras on the Temple.

25–29 :

The royal reply.

29 :

Ezra 4.21 includes “until I make a decree,” setting the stage for a reversal at a later date.

30 :

Until the second year of … Darius implicitly refers to Darius I (522–486), the ruler in the subsequent narrative. It is unimaginable to these sources that construction stopped from lack of initiative, so external motivations are found.

1.1–24 : An ideal state of affairs: Josiah's Passover celebration

(2 Chr 35.1–19 ). 1 Esdras begins witha celebration. This event constitutes a high point, with the holy ark duly installed in the Temple. According to 2 Kings 23.21–23 and 2 Chr 34.14–33 , the Passover celebration concluded the religious reform of Josiah, king of Judah (640–609 BCE). In 1 Esdras the account of the reform itself is omitted. The author of 1 Esdras is interested in the continuity between the First and Second Temples, and thus does not depict Josiah as a reforming king.

3 :

See 1 Chr 3.1–5.1 .

5 :

See 1 Chr 23; 28.13,21; 2 Chr 8.14 .

6 :

See Ex 12.1–13; Deut 16.1–8 .

7–9 :

The list of offerings differs slightly from that in 2 Chr 35.7–9 .

20 :

Cf. 2 Kings 23.22.


The evaluation of Josiah in 1 Esdras elaborates on Chronicles.

1.25–58 : Decline and destruction.

25–33 : Josiah's death and the beginning of decline.

1 Esdras largely follows the account in 2 Chr 35.20–27 , omitting the Pharaoh Neco's name, Josiah's disguising himself, and his being struck by an arrow.

28 :

The author of 1 Esdras probably found the Chronicler's account, in which the Pharaoh is depicted as a prophet, difficult, and revised it to suggest that Josiah's death results from ignoring the warning of Jeremiah. No passage in the book of Jeremiah clearly relates to the battle in which Josiah died.

33 :

Josiah is the last good king. His death marks the end of an era.

1.34–49 : The last kings of Judah

(2 Chr 36.1–14 ). Good king Josiah is followed by evil kings.

34 :

Jeconiah as successor to Josiah does not appear in 2 Chr or 2 Kings, and is probably an error for Jehoahaz (ruled briefly in 609 BCE; see 2 Kings 23.30–31 ; also called Shallum in Jer 22.11 ). Jeconiah was an alternate form of the name of Jehoiachin (see v. 43 ); see Jer 28.4 ; cf. Jer 22.24 . The expression men of the nation corresponds to “the people of the land” of 2 Chr 36.1 ; in preexilic times these were probably landowners who often came to the support of reforming kings or who themselves instituted reforms (2 Kings 12.18,20; 21.24; 23.30 ).

36 :

A talent weighed about 34 kg (75 lb).

38 :

The author recasts 2 Chr 36.4 , in which Neco of Egypt removed Jehoahaz from the throne and installed Josiah's elder son Eliakim as king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was taken to Egypt, where presumably he died (Jer 22.10–12 ). In the 1 Esdras account Jehoiakim brings up his brother Zarius from Egypt; the name Zarius may be a corruption of Jehoahaz or of Zedekiah, both of whom were brothers of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24.17 ).

39 :

According to 2 Chr 36.5 , Jehoiakim reigned eleven years (608–598).

43 :

1 Esdras gives Jehoiakim rather than Jehoiachin (see note b) as the name of that king's son and successor; but the king's age at the beginning of his reign is correctly given (eighteen years; not eight, as in 2 Chr 36.9 ; cf. 2 Kings 24.8 ); he ruled in 597.

46 :

Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, ruled 597–586.

1.50–58 : Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians

(2 Chr 36.15–21 ).

52 :

Chaldeans, a biblical name for the Babylonians.

58 :

To keep sabbath means that the land is to lie untended as in the seventh or sabbatical years until the exiles return (Jer 25.11–12; 29.10; cf. Lev 25.1–7; 26.27–39,43 ). Like Chronicles, 1 Esdras stresses the temporary nature of exile.

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