The books of Ezra and Nehemiah have not been the most popular of the books in the Hebrew Bible. Yet they have had great influence on how the Jewish religion is assumed to have developed. They describe the reconstruction of the Jewish temple and state after their destruction by the Babylonians in 587/586 BCE and set the theme for the concerns and even the basis of Early Judaism which is usually seen as the Torah. The figure of Ezra has been profoundly associated with the origin or promulgation or interpretation of that Torah. The consequence is that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are in many ways the foundation of much scholarship, not only about the development of the Jewish religion but even of how the Old Testament (OT) literature emerged.
The aim of this book is to make a contribution to a better understanding of these two books which, in my opinion, are crucial writings in the Hebrew Bible. My study has implications for the history of
Israel and , the religion of Israelites and Judeans, the literary development of the OT, and OT theology. This is inevitable because of the importance of Ezra and Nehemiah for all these areas. All the various implications are not drawn here because of my focus purely on Ezra and Nehemiah. Some of the consequences were drawn in chapter 2 of my Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (1992a) and will be dealt with in more detail in my forthcoming Yehud: The Persian Province of Judah (in preparation). Judah