Outline of the Old Testament (6): Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are the last of the historical books. In these books we have kingship taken away. Israel had been taken into captivity by Assyria, and Judah had been taken into captivity by Babylon, because they had forsaken the living God and turned to idols. Kingship was gone from the land and God gave it to the Gentiles. Unto this day Israel has been without a king of their own and they will be without a king until the true King comes back to reign. The King they rejected will one day reign supreme. From this we learn that failure to give the Lord His rightful place in our lives will rob us of spiritual blessing.


This book commences in the first year of the reign of Cyrus king of Persia and is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10-14, concerning the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon to build the Temple and restore Temple worship. It has 10 chapters and covers a period of about 75 years. It shows that every work for God will meet with opposition from the devil. The book is divided into two sections. The first section, chapters 1-6, covers the return of the captives of Judah from Babylon to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel. In chapter 1 we have the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, concerning the building of the Temple in Jerusalem (vv1-4), the response of the Chief Fathers, the Priests, and the Levites to the proclamation (vv5-6) and Cyrus’ return of the Temple vessels to be taken back to Jerusalem (vv7-11). In chapter 2 we have the list of all who returned (vv1-67) and the arrival, settlement in Jerusalem, and the offerings of the Chief Fathers, Priests, and Levites (vv68-70). In chapter 3 the people gathered themselves together (v1), the brazen altar was rebuilt (vv2-3), the feast of the Tabernacles was kept, offerings and worship to God were restored (vv4-6), and the foundation of the Temple was laid with both joy and sadness (vv7-13). In chapter 4 the Samaritans, the Jews’ adversaries, opposed the building of the Temple. They first sought to join in the building of the Temple to hinder and stop the work. However, Zerubbabel and Joshua refused their offer (vv1-3); they then troubled and discouraged the Jews by sending a letter to King Ahasuerus accusing them (vv4-6). Two letters were sent to King Artaxerxes, slandering the Jews and asserting that Jerusalem was a rebellious city (vv7-16). The King’s reply commanded that the Jews cease building (vv17-24). In chapter 5 the building of the Temple was resumed (vv1-2). Governor Tatnai and others immediately opposed this return to work and questioned their authority for building by asking them who had commanded them to build and what were the names of those who were building (vv3-4). However, God was watching over the Jews so they continued building. The governor took the matter by writing to King Darius (v5).

The second section, chapters 7-10, covers the further return of Jews to Jerusalem. Whereas Ezra is taken up with the House of God, Nehemiah is taken up with the City of God. Esther is the second book in the Old Testament that bears the name of a woman in its title. Ruth was a Gentile among Hebrews, but Esther was a Jew amongst Gentiles. In Ruth we have the preservation of the inheritance of God; in Esther we have the preservation of the people of God. In Ruth, Gentiles are brought into blessing through the great Redeemer, while in Esther, Jews are brought into blessing through the great King.

In these 12 historical books we find a wonderful record of Israel’s history, with the theme of kingship running right through, reminding us that God will establish kingship in Israel again, in the Person of His Son. This kingship will never be removed, and will bring Israel into blessing.