Important People and Development of Judaism During the Persian Period

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In 538 B.C., the Persian Emperor Cyrus allowed the exiled Jews to return to Judea (formerly Judah) after he conquered the Neo-Babylonians. At first only small groups went back to homeland, which by then was a province of the Persian Empire. The pace of the return picked up when Zerubbabel, a scion of King David, was appointed governor of Judea in about 521 B.C.. Encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, he led 44,000 exiled Jews s back to Judea. With the support of the prophets, Zerubbabel was able to overcome apathy and political and economic obstacles, to rebuild of the Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. The Temple, often called the Second Temple, was rededicated in 516 B.C.. [Source: Paul Mendes-Flohr Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, 2000s,]

Under the leadership of the priest Ezra, another group of exiles returned to Judea in 458 B.C.. Ezra was joined by Nehemiah, whom the Persians appointed governor, and the two worked together to rebuild Jerusalem and to reorganize and reform Jewish communal life. They urged the Jewish people to renew their covenant with God and rid themselves of foreign and pagan influences. Some regard their efforts as the founding of Judaism. For the next 250 years Judea was a vassal state of Persia ruled by a Jewish governor appointed by the Persian leadership and a religious leader in the form of a high priest.

The reconstruction of the Temple failed to reassert the authority of the Torah. Ezra and Nehemiah began their reform process by uprooting and expunging pagan influences.. Nehemiah instituted civil regulations ensuring social justice and the rule of law. Ezra — who tradition says was authorized to do so by the Persian king — impose the laws of the Torah on the community, annulled the marriages with non-Hebrew wives and introduced strict observance of the Sabbath, including a ban on business transactions on that day. Arguably the most important reform was Ezra’s his codification of the Torah as the five books of Moses, which were read and expounded before the people at the Sabbath afternoon prayer and during the morning prayers on Mondays and Thursdays. For resurrecting Jewish devotion to the Torah, Ezra was is often described as a second Moses. His comprehensive reform initiative forms the basis for what later became known as rabbinical Judaism.

Websites and Resources: Virtual Jewish Library ; Judaism101 ; ; Chabad,org ; Bible and Biblical History: ; Biblical Archaeology Society ; Bible History Online Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline Jewish History Resource Center ; Center for Jewish History ; Jewish ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook ; Christianity: BBC on Christianity ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Sacred Texts website

Isaiah on the Persian Period

Isaiah predicting the return of the Jews fom exile

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Reasons for the separation of Isaiah 40-55 from the work of Isaiah of Jerusalem have been stated, but the criteria for dating these chapters in the closing days of the Exile have only been touched upon. To begin, there echoes throughout II Isaiah complaints of abandonment, forsakenness and loneliness similar to those more fully expressed in Lamentations, Ezekiel and Job (cf. Isa. 40:2, 27; 42:24 f.; 43:27 f.), coupled with promises of forgiveness and fulfillment (40:11; 41:8-10, 14-16; 43:1-7, 10-13). The period into which these statements fit best is the Exile. Further evidence for dating is obtained from the allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (44:26-28). It is clear that the Assyrian oppression is long past (52:4) and, despite the fact that there is no mention of the Exile as such, the announcement of the proximity of Babylon's fall (43:14; 47:1-3; 48:14, 20), the naming of Cyrus of Persia as the deliverer (44:28; 45:1) and less direct references to him (41:1-4, 25; 48:14-15) point to a time of writing somewhere between June, 546 when Cyrus began to threaten Babylonian supremacy and 538 when Babylon came under Persian control. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“No mention of Cyrus is found in Chapters 49-55 and it has been suggested that Chapters 40-48 were composed before Cyrus took Babylon when the prophet's hopes for the captive Jews were highest and that Chapters 49-55 represent writings from 538 when Cyrus failed to fulfill the prophetic hope that he would become a Yahweh worshipper. On the other hand, the pattern may reflect editorial organization in which two collections of materials are represented: one of hymns and oracles about Yahweh and Israel and the fall of Babylon and the other centered in the new Jerusalem, Mount Zion and the mission of Yahweh's people. But even so broad a division may be oversimplification, as many themes overlap and are found in both sections.

In Chapter 45, for the first time, Cyrus of Persia is specifically named, and Deutero-Isaiah arguing from the premise of a universal deity draws a neat syllogism to prove that it is Yahweh who directs Cyrus' destiny, whether Cyrus knows it or not! Indirect references to the Akitu festival appear in 45:20 ff. where guess-work predictions arrived at in the assembly of the gods are compared with the accuracy of Yahweh's pronouncements, and in 46:1 f., where one can almost picture the processional. Scorn for those who worship immobile and mute statues, obviously a reference to Babylonians, serves to introduce Yahweh who is beyond representation, whose will is made known and whose purposes come to pass. Here II Isaiah makes one of several clear-cut statements of monotheism (46:9).

“Having promised the deliverance of the exiled people (46:13) Deutero-Isaiah now pronounces the doom of Babylon and mocks the inability of soothsayers and astrologers to deliver the nation (cf. Isa. 3:16 and 47:3). Within the message of hope and redemption, a solemn warning is issued to exiles drawn to Babylonian religion (48:5) or with serious doubts about the prophet's message. The exultant cry of promise draws on the tradition of the Exodus from Egypt, promising that what Yahweh did in the past he would do again (48:20-22). The servant theme in Chapter 49 is far from clear. The servant, chosen in the womb and predestined for his task, is to bring Israel back to Yahweh (49:1-5). This servant will be a light to the nations (49:6). If the prophet is continuing the servant theme in Verse 7, then the servant-redeemer is despised and abhorred. Could a member of the captive royal family be meant here, or is this a group within the exiled people, or is the reference to the exiled people personified as an individual?

Jews return from exile

“The arguments of those who said that Yahweh had forgotten his people (49:14 ff.) or had, as Hosea had phrased it, divorced Israel (50:1 ff.) are denied. II Isaiah's appeal is to tradition, and the promise of redemption is renewed (51:1 ff.). The prophet now calls upon Yahweh to redeem as in the past, beginning his hymn with "Awake, awake" (51:9-11). Yahweh's response is a promise of release, and similar cries "rouse yourself, rouse yourself" (51:17) and "awake, awake" (52:1) are directed toward Jerusalem to encourage the people to rise to the challenge of the new tomorrow.

“Within this section is the portrait of the suffering servant, a motif of redemptive suffering drawn from the Akitu rites where the human scapegoat bore the sins of many to bring new purification to the nation (52:13-53:12). In Deutero-Isaiah's use of this concept, the servant suffers and is cut off from the land of the living like the Akitu victim, but unlike the Babylonian scapegoat, the servant is promised that he will witness the fruits of his suffering (53: 10 f.) and will share the booty of the rich and powerful (53:12). Chapter 54 is a comfort hymn contrasting the state of abject misery with the promised good fortune. The final chapter continues the words of promise and urges repentance, for the time of Yahweh's inbreaking is at hand and the exiles must be prepared. The word of Yahweh had been spoken, the time for fulfillment had come.”

Story of Esther

The story of Esther — the basis of the holiday Purim — takes place in Shishan, the winter capital of Persia. Esther was a beautiful Jewish woman who lived there with her uncle Mordechai, who had adopted her. The leader of Persia was Emperor Akshashversus (also known by the Greek name Xerxes). After dismissing his wife Vashto because she refused to follow his orders, the emperor selected Esther as a new wife. She had been a member of his harem. Akshashversus didn't know she was Jewish. Shortly after she became queen, she warned the emperor of a plot to kill him after being told of the plot by Morechai. Akshashversus was grateful.

Haman, one of the king's favorite ministers and a fanatical anti-Semite, became enraged when Mordecai refused to bow to him and decided to vent his anger on all the Jewish people in Persia. He asked for and received permission from Akshashversus to exterminate the Jews on the false charge of treason.

Esther and the Triumph of Mordecai Mordechai pleaded with Esther to plead with Akshashversus for help but she could only communicate with the emperor if he called her. If she called him she risked being put to death. After fasting for three days she appeared in the inner court. There Akshashversus asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted to invite the emperor to a banquet. He agreed. That night he couldn't sleep and asked that book of records be read to him. From the records he learned that it was Mordechai who uncovered the assassination plot and saved his life. At the banquet, Esther pleaded with the emperor to spare the Jews.

Popular Version of the Esther Story

Esther accuses Haman

Akshashversus decided that the Jews must be saved. But changing a ruling was impossible because it would mean the emperor wasn't infallible. Instead, Akshashversus supplied weapons to the Jews who defeated troops loyal the Haman. Haman, his top aides and 10 of his sons were hung on gallows that had been prepared for the Jews.

According to the version of the story told by the BBC: “The King gave Haman his signet ring (so that Haman could give orders in the King's name) and told him to get on with it. Esther 3:13 reads: Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews-young and old, women and little children-on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.’ |::|

“Mordecai persuaded Esther to beg the King for mercy for the Jews. In fact, Mordecai didn't actually persuade Esther - he tried to frighten her into doing it. Esther 4:13-14: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.’ |::|

“And he pointed out that the reason she had become Queen was so that she could rescue the Jews. Going to see the King was risky for Esther, because if you approached the King without being invited you could be executed. And the King hadn't sent for Esther for a month. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, as did all the Jews in her town, and then went to see the King. Fortunately he was pleased to see her, and she wasn't executed. He welcomed her, and she, eventually, told him of Haman's plan to exterminate the Jews. |::|

“She begged the King to show mercy to the Jewish people. The appalled King granted it at once and the Jewish people were saved. The King had a problem, since it was not within his power to rescind the orders that Haman had given in his name. So Xerxes issued another decree, which allowed the Jews to defend themselves against those who tried to kill them. As a result, the Jews killed over 70,000 of their enemies. The villain Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built to execute Mordecai, and Mordecai was given Haman's job in his place.” |::|

Historical Study of Esther

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The book of Esther is a secular legend with its setting in Susa, the Persian capital. The story may have originated during the Persian period, although it probably was not reduced to the form in which we know it until the beginning of the Hellenistic era. Some scholars have attempted to discover references to Babylonian deities and rituals in the book, identifying Mordecai with Marduk, Esther with Ishtar, and other characters with minor, obscure deities.5 Others have tried to relate the writing to Assyrian springtime rites, to Persian New Year observances,6 to Greek wine festivals, to historical events such as the victory of the Jews over Nicanor in 161, or to other historical or cultic themes. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“That Esther is not history, despite some accurate details about Persian government (cf. 1:14; 3:7), is clear from the numerous inconsistencies and exaggerations. Ahasuerus is usually identified as Xerxes (Khshayarsha), who reigned between 485 and 465 B.C. A Persian administrator named Marduka (Mordecai) is known from this period, but there is no indication that he was a Jew, although some Jewish parents did give their children the name Mordecai, which honored the chief god of Babylon (cf. Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7). According to the Greek historian Herodotus, a contemporary, Xerxes' wife was Amestris, not Vashti or Esther. Nor do these names appear as the wives of other Persian monarchs. However, if Xerxes, like Artaxerxes II, had a concubine for each day of the year, Vashti or Esther may have been among them. Mordecai is supposed to have been one of the Jews that went into exile under Nebuchadrczzar, which would make him well over 100 years old when appointed to the court (2:5 f.). The extermination of 75,000 people by the Jews with Xerxes' permission seems unlikely (9:16). Certain exaggerations are so extreme that they must have been included to delight the audience. For example, the gallows are 50 cubits or about 75 feet high! Haman estimates he could raise 10,000 talents or about $18,000,000 by confiscating Jewish property-a sum estimated at more than one half of the annual income of the Persian empire. It seems best to recognize the story as a legend embodying, as most legends do, some accurate historical details.

“The earliest references to the book of Esther are found in Contra Apion 1:8, the work of the Jewish historian, Josephus (A.D. 1). Josephus drew upon the LXX version of Esther, which includes the "additions to Esther" that we will consider later. The omission of any reference to Esther in the second century work known as Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, written by Jesus ben Sira, in which Jewish heroes are extolled, has led some scholars to date Esther after this time. Arguments from silence are never very convincing.

20120503-Esther Triumph_of_Mordecai.jpg
Esther and the Triumph of Mordecai
“The tendency of the writer of Esther to refer to the events of the story as taking place in the distant past (1:1, 13; 10:2) and the expanded explanations (4:11; 8:8) suggest a time of recording long after the events described. The reference to the dispersed Jews best fits the Greek period (3:8). On the basis of this limited evidence, it would appear that the story was written in the early Greek period, a time when stories about Jewish successes in Persian royal circles would suffer least contradiction and a time when the spirit of Jewish independence appears to have been strong.

“The book is completely secular7 and contains no reference to the deity. It exalts a Jewish heroine who saves the people from persecution, and it delights in Jewish success and victory over the enemy. The writer possessed genuine narrative skill and developed his theme through a succession of dramatic climaxes, alternating tension with delightful humorous touches (cf. 1:21-22; 3:9; etc.). But the story is more than entertainment. It is a grim reminder to a people buffeted by great powers of the ever-present potential of persecution by a tyrant-not necessarily the king, but rather the power-hungry, attention-loving, minor official whose pomposity was so easily threatened by the non-conformist or the man of conviction. In the magnificent characterizations, the author provided his readers with a response to tyranny and oppression and exposed the transparent motives of theoppressor, and exalted the individual who remained faithful to his commitments and to himself. Later the book of Esther was linked to the festival of Purim.

Ezra — the Father of Judaism

Ezra (4th century B.C.) was Jewish religious leader and reformer who returned from exile in Babylon and reconstituted the Jewish community on the basis of the Torah (Law, or the regulations of the first five books of the Old Testament). His work helped make Judaism a religion in which law was central, enabling the Jews to survive as a community when they were dispersed all over the world. According to Encyclopedia Britannica: Since his efforts did much to give Jewish religion the form that was to characterize it for centuries after, Ezra has with some justice been called the father of Judaism; i.e., the specific form the Jewish religion took after the Babylonian Exile. So important was he in the eyes of his people that later tradition regarded him as no less than a second Moses. [Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Knowledge of Ezra is derived from the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, supplemented by the Apocryphal (not included in the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament) book of I Esdras (Latin Vulgate form of the name Ezra), which preserves the Greek text of Ezra and a part of Nehemiah. It is said that Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (which Artaxerxes is not stated) of the Persian dynasty then ruling the area. Since he is introduced before Nehemiah, who was governor of the province of Judah from 445 to 433 B.C. and again, after an interval, for a second term of unknown length, it is sometimes supposed that this was the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 B.C.), though serious difficulties are attached to such a view. Many scholars now believe that the biblical account is not chronological and that Ezra arrived in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II (397 B.C.), after Nehemiah had passed from the scene. Still others, holding that the two men were contemporaries, regard the seventh year as a scribal error and believe that perhaps Ezra arrived during Nehemiah’s second term as governor. But the matter must be left open.

When Ezra arrived the situation in Judah was discouraging. Religious laxity was prevalent, the Law was widely disregarded, and public and private morality was at a low level. Moreover, intermarriage with foreigners posed the threat that the community would mingle with the pagan environment and lose its identity.

Ezra was a priest and “a scribe skilled in the law.” He represented the position of stricter Babylonian Jews who had been upset by reports of laxity in Judah and desired to see matters corrected. Ezra set out in the spring at the head of a sizable caravan and arrived four months later. Ezra apparently had official status as a commissioner of the Persian government, and his title, “scribe of the law of the God of heaven,” is best understood as “royal secretary for Jewish religious affairs,” or the like. The Persians were tolerant of native cults but, in order to avert internal strife and to prevent religion from becoming a mask for rebellion, insisted that these be regulated under responsible authority. The delegated authority over the Jews of the satrapy (administrative area) “beyond the river” (Avar-nahara), or west of the Euphrates River, was entrusted to Ezra; for a Jew to disobey the Law he brought was to disobey “the law of the king.”

The order in which Ezra took the various measures attributed to him is uncertain. He probably presented the Law to the people during the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn, most likely in the year of his arrival. He also took action against mixed marriages and succeeded in persuading the people to divorce their foreign wives voluntarily. His efforts reached their climax when the people engaged in solemn covenant before God to enter into no more mixed marriages, to refrain from work on the sabbath, to levy on themselves an annual tax for the support of the Temple, regularly to present their tithes and offerings, and otherwise to comply with the demands of the Law.

Nothing further is known of Ezra after his reforms. The 1st-century Hellenistic Jewish historian Josephus states in his Antiquities that he died and was buried in Jerusalem. According to another tradition, he returned to Babylonia, where his supposed grave is a holy site.

Zechariah on the Struggle of the Jews to Create a New State

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The next major project facing the people of Jerusalem was the rebuilding of the wall of the city. Zechariah's dramatic claim that Yahweh would protect the city with a wall of fire (Zech. 2:5) was an inspiring ideal, but in real life a city without a physical wall was open to any wild animal or band of marauders that cared to enter by day or night and, in the event of war, offered no protection from the enemy. As in the days of the erection of the second temple, dynamic and determined leadership was needed to accomplish the rebuilding. Such leadership was found in Nehemiah. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“Zechariah provides important information about the struggle of the Jews to form a new state after the Exile and about problems associated with the construction of the second Temple. There can be little doubt that the two prophets were instrumental in bringing the temple to completion. With the new temple, Jewish religion was given a center for worship, an altar for sacrifice and a headquarters for administration and interpretation. In Babylon, Jewish scholars were to continue wrestling with the implications of the faith for centuries, but it was always to Jerusalem that the faithful looked as the center of the religion.

“The effect of the teachings of the Exilic prophets, particularly Ezekiel, is readily recognizable, and belief was strong that fulfillment of Exilic prophecies of the ideal kingdom was at hand. With Haggai and Zechariah the concept of leadership begins to acquire overtones that later become messianic and eschatological, but it was not until the hopes for the future failed and the possibility of an earthly king ruling an ideal kingdom faded that messianic and eschatological themes developed. Zechariah and Haggai are really not concerned with eschatological (end of time) ideas, but rather with the new tomorrow that was so close that it was to follow the completion of the temple, a new day that was imminent in Zerubbabel, the "servant of Yahweh" (Hag. 2:23; Zech. 3:8), "Yahweh's signet" (Hag. 2:23), "the Branch" and the "Rod" (Zech. 3:8; 6:12 f.) of the root of David. The political ends and the national triumph to be experienced under Zerubbabel came not through the monarch but through mighty acts of Yahweh, and it was the conviction that this new day was at hand that give these prophetic oracles their sense of urgency and immediacy, reflections of the enthusiasm and driving power of the two prophets.

“Zechariah's visions show how far advanced the development of angelology was in Jewish thought. Not only is there a court of heaven with the Satan, the accuser, familiar from the Joban prologue, but angelic horsemen and angelic interpreters are added. At this point, apart from the Satan, the angelic functionaries are anonymous and without titles.

“Zechariah and Haggai give no indication of a change in the way in which the "word of Yahweh" was experienced, but they appear to have had experiences much like the early prophets (cf. Zech. 7:8; Hag. 1:2, 7, etc.). Like their predecessors, they believed that Yahweh revealed his intentions to his servants, the prophets.

“A new answer is given to the problem of theodicy. Yahweh was about to act to reward the righteous, not in the distant future but immediately-a prediction that failed. There was no argument with the teachings of the Exilic prophets that the Exile was punishment for sin, a purging, and that a new community would arise. Haggai and Zechariah were convinced they were part of the ideal Israel.

Biblical Material Produced During the Persian Period

Tomb of Zechariah in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Now the second temple stood within the walled city of Jerusalem. Cultic rites, conducted by the Levites, included sacrifice, offerings, prayers and songs. Through the work of Ezra, the people had acquired a new understanding of the law of Yahweh and the nature of the covenant. We can assume that temple literature included scrolls of prophetic oracles, the combined JE epic, the Deuteronomic history and probably a collection of hymns, prayers and liturgical data. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“Nevertheless new material was needed. The history of the monarchy, which had started in Solomon's time and had been reworked by the Deuteronomist, had not been extended beyond the middle of the Exilic period. Now, in the Persian period, princes from the Davidic line had lost the privilege of government and the circumstances called for a new understanding and a new interpretation of the past. The author known as the Chronicler, whose writings include I and II Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, accomplished the task of rewriting and updating the history.

“As in Solomon's time the J writer had combined creation mythology and election and salvation traditions, and as in Jeroboam's day the E writer had done the same for the northern kingdom, now, in the light of the experiences of the Exile, a new interpretation of the combined JE sagas was needed. This need was met by the addition of the so-called P writings. The combined work was linked to the book of Deuteronomy to form the completed Torah.

“The third literary effort in the period was necessitated by the completion of the temple and consisted of a collection of prayers and hymns or psalms designed for worship. The editor of the book of Psalms combined older collections, individual prayers and newer hymns into one massive unit for temple use, and this collection, together with some additions made shortly afterward, constitutes our present book of Psalms.

“To these great literary works from the Persian period we will now turn, remembering that in every instance the writers or compilers made use of older materials. That which was added or omitted was part of an effort to keep relevant traditions that had meaning for the cult and the nation by concentrating on that which was seen to be central. In other words these writers in the Persian period engaged in the responsible task of continuing or progressive interpretation.

The Chronicler

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Deuteronomic interpretation of the nation's past did not go beyond the middle of the Exilic period. Now, in the post-Exilic era, it was deemed necessary to extend that account and to review history from the point of view of more recent theological developments. It has been argued that the Chronicler had no intention of rewriting the history of Judah, but only wished to draw lessons in a homiletic or midrashic1 fashion for the benefit of the community.2 However, in a sense, all history writing is interpretation, and we have noted that the Deuteronomic history was an interpretation of events in the light of the Deuteronomist's "theology of history." The Chronicler continued this process from a somewhat different theological angle of vision. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]


“It has been stated previously that the work of the Chronicler included I and II Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah. The arguments supporting this contention include the recognition of the flow of II Chron. 36:22-23 into Ezra 1:1-4 and the similarity of language, literary style, historical interest and theological outlook in the two books of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. In all documents the writer revealed his deep interest in that which pertained to the temple, the Levitical priesthood, temple singers and worship. There is a consistent emphasis on the importance of genealogies and statistics. Finally, the narratives provide a continuum despite the disrupted order of the Ezra-Nehemiah sequence, and present a unified statement of Jewish history up to the time of Ezra.3 The uniformity of language, style and outlook suggests that the entire work is the product of a single writer, one steeped in Jewish history and cultic life, perhaps a priest or scribe. The affinities of style and outlook between the Ezra memoirs and the work of the Chronicler, first noted by C. C. Torrey,4 have led a number of scholars, including W. F. Albright, to conclude that Ezra was the Chronicler.5

“Whether or not one agrees that the Chronicler was Ezra there is growing accord among scholars that the writing is from the Persian period and that arguments for a date in the Greek period6 can be maintained only with the greatest difficulty. The language of the book is Hebrew strongly influenced by Aramaic and with numerous Persian terms characteristic of the Persian period but which tended to die out during the Greek era. The Aramaic section of Ezra employs the same vocabulary, idioms and spelling forms as the Elephantine papyri and is, therefore, from the same time. Furthermore, the last Persian king mentioned is Darius II (423-405), and the Davidic genealogy in I Chron. 3:10-24 is traced up to the seventh generation from Jehoiachin (598/586); allowing twenty-five years for a generation, we arrive at a date roughly between 420 and 400. It would appear that the Chronicler wrote about 400 or shortly thereafter.

“Like other early historians, the Chronicler drew on sources8 and some of these can be recognized. It is clear that he had before him copies of I and II Samuel and I and II Kings that were substantially the same as our present versions and that he did not hesitate to reproduce large portions of the earlier work.9 He drew also from the "memoirs" of Ezra and Nehemiah and from a long list of official documents which he identifies: "The Books of the Kings of Judah and Israel" (II Chron. 16:11; 25:26; 32:32) or "The Books of the Kings of Israel and Judah" (II Chron. 27:7; 35:27; 36:8), "The Book of the Kings of Israel" (II Chron. 20:34), and a source titled "The Midrash of the Book of Kings" (II Chron. 24:27). He used prophetic material now lost to us but attributed to Samuel (I Chron, 29:29), Gad (I Chron. 29:29), Nathan (II Chron. 9:29), Iddo (II Chron. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22) and an unknown prophet (II Chron. 33:19). He was fascinated by what he could demonstrate by genealogical tables (cf. I Chron. 1-9). These varied traditions were woven into a connected narrative covering history from Adam to Ezra.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860 except Jews return from exile, Bible Resources Book

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Wikipedia, Live Science, Archaeology magazine, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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