Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
Personalities Of The Old Testament
EZRA – A Skillful Scribe
Ezra 7:10

 1. Throughout this study we have examined men and women of the Bible. Some have been illustrations of unquestioned devotion to the Lord God while others have shown us the tragedy of sin. Our current lesson focuses upon a superb example of fidelity and faith. “Ezra was a holy and zealous man, with a strong mind and a firm will, exercising a commanding influence on his contemporaries, making the word of God the basis and mainspring of his action, seeking and striving for the purity of the people of God” (W. S. Lewis, Ezra, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol 7, 106).

 The study of Ezra is inspiring. This lesson should motivate each student to commit himself/herself to God with a strong devotion.

 2. Before we examine various aspects of Ezra’s character and conduct, look quickly at the facts we know about his personal history.

 a. He was a member of the high priest’s family.
  He descended from Seraiah, the “chief priest” at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction by Babylon (2 Ki 25:18). 7:1 calls him the “son” of Seraiah but he was probably the great-great-grandson. The Hebrew fails to identify the specifics in genealogies. Some suggest that Ezra was probably the third cousin of the existing high priest, Eliashib. These two men are found working in the Post-Exilic Period (Neh 3:1; 8:4). NOTE: There is a practical point in this relationship with Eliashib. Eliashib had lessened the strict Jewish marital laws to allow inter-marriage of the returned Exiles with the non-Jews. This ungodly tolerance would be corrected by Ezra (Ezra 10).  It was because of this tolerance that Nehemiah faced sabotage. The grandson of Eliashib had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite and was thus “allied to Tobiah.” As a consequence these enemies of God’s people were given residence “in the courts of the house of God” (Neh 13:4-7, 28). Ezra knew of this family compromise but he did not wink at it; he did not allow family-blood to blind him to the great tragedy that his family had committed!

 b. He was influential in the Persian court.
  Ezra had access to King Artaxerxes and evidentially had sufficient influence to persuade the King to do certain things (7:6). 

  c. Tradition has identified Ezra as the formulator of Old Testament Canon.

  It is thought that Ezra was the one responsible for forming the books which make up the Old Testament Canon. He is credited with arranging the Scriptures into the general divisions of the Law, Prophets, and Holy Writings which survives to our day. This would be a logical action when Ezra’s deep reverence for God’s Word is understood. In addition to giving Ezra credit for the formulation of the Old Testament Canon, it is often suggested that Ezra authored these Books of Inspiration: Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles.

  d. The lasting influence of Ezra is a fact well-known. “Ezra made a lasting impression upon the Jewish people. His influence shaped Jewish life and thought in a way from which they never altogether departed” (The New Compact Bible Dictionary, 168).

  e. “The personal character of Ezra stands out in the narrative, both of ‘Ezra’ and ‘Nehemiah,’ as that of a thoroughly earnest, God-fearing, and man-loving man, and is without speck or flaw. Not, of course, that he was really perfect; but his defects are unnoticed. In his indefatigable activity as a teacher, in his deep sense of dependence upon God, in his combination of horror at sin with pity for the sinner, he reminds us of St. Paul, while in the depth of his self-humiliation on account of the transgressions of others he recalls the utterances of Daniel. As a servant of the Persian King, he so approves himself to his master as to be singled out for the high trust of an important commission. In executing that commission he exhibits devotion, trust in God, honorable anxiety to discharge his duties with exactitude, and a spirit of prayer and self-mortification that cannot be too highly commended. As supreme governor of Judea, he is prompt and decided in taking the measures necessary to purify the Jewish community, while he abstains from all arbitrary acts, persuades rather than commands, and effects his purpose with the good will and hearty acquiescence of all classes. Placed in a subordinate position under Nehemiah after having held the entire direction of affairs, he shows no jealousy or discontent, but carries out with zeal the designs of his civil superior, is active within his own sphere, and does good service to the nation. Simple, candid, devout, sympathetic, full of energy, unselfish, patriotic, never weary in well doing, he occupied a most important position at a most important time, and was a second founder of the Jewish state . . . he left behind him a reputation among the Jews inferior only to that of Moses” (Lewis, v).

 3. The lasting influence of Ezra was attributable to these facts. As we consider each it will be observed that any Christian who incorporates these same traits will be a lasting impact upon others.


   1) The Scriptures reveal some very interesting facts about Ezra’s position as scribe and priest. 

   a) He was  “ready” or “skilled” in the Law of God. 
    This term illustrates the changing nature of language. It first referred to one who was ever alert and ready for professional writing. The term evolved to mean one who was an intense student who minutely examined and copied the Law and then taught and expounded it to others. It referred to one who was intimately acquainted with God’s Law and that knowledge allowed him to be “skilled” in applying it to life. Ezra was thus an expert in understanding and explaining God’s Law.

    This is repeated three times (7:11,12,21). 

    There are three main duties of the scribe: he is a student; an interpreter; and, a copyist. These three functions indicate three of the most important duties humans can undertake: the duty to SELF is to study God’s Word so that it will dwell within the heart; the duty to OTHERS is to explain how God’s Word applies to their lives; the duty to GOD is to preserve the Law so that it can be passed on to others in a pure state.

    The Scripture is specific in stating that Ezra performed his duty “PERFECTLY” (v. 12). This verse has been translated in two different ways: as a greeting (“perfect peace”) and as a comment on Ezra (“perfect scribe”). Either way is permissible but it seems the supplication of “peace” by translators is unjustified and the marginal rendering in the older translations is best (“Unto Ezra the priest, a perfect scribe of the Law of the God of heaven”). It appears to compliment Ezra as being one whose devotion and studying of the Law entitled him to be recognized as “most learned” or “perfect in learning.”

    Ezra was a man famous for his study and ability to explain the Truth of Scriptures. Such required an investment of a lifetime, but it brought him to an admirable status. Here was one who intelligently understood God’s Truth. He carefully prepared himself for the study of Holy Scripture (v. 10). He wisely recognized the meaning and application of Scripture. No doubt Ezra would rejoice more in this title’s compliment than in any civil designation the Emperor could bestow upon him!

    NOTE: This point challenges every Believer today! Each Christian needs to understand the Law of God and clearly explain it to others. Christians will constantly study and as they do so will constantly ask, “How can I make this Truth understandable to others?”

  Ezra’s commission was two-fold. He was commanded by the King to set up governing officials and to set in force a governing standard (7:25-27). He was also commanded by the King to initiate a religious reformation that would exalt Jehovah God (7:13-24).

  This commission of Ezra highlights vital points that are similar to the New Testament commission for Christians:

   1) Zeal should accompany any work that is performed for God (7:23).

  2) Those ignorant of God’s Laws must be taught (7:25).

  3) Those failing to obey God will be punished (7:26).

  Ezra’s response to this commission is found in 7:27-28. He did not hesitate but immediately began to obey the orders. Such should be the response from modern Believers today!

  This is the greatest point in Ezra’s life. He was wholly devoted to God’s Word. Ezra held a fantastic respect for God’s Law because he recognized the origin of it – “which the Lord God of Israel had given” (v. 6b).

  This great respect for the Scriptures . . .

  1) Came from understanding their ORIGIN.
   “In the estimate of Ezra, the law was not a human code which originated with Moses ... They had God for their author; they were His special gift ... they were sacred things to this earnest and reverent student” (Preacher’s Homiletic  Commentary, Vol 9, 105).

  2) Motivated Self-Denial.
   Ezra’s understanding the Scriptures motivated him to self-sacrifice. He exchanged the comfort of Babylon and the court of Artaxerxes for the hardships and broken fortunes of Jerusalem (v. 6a). This spirit of self-denial was exemplified by Jesus (Philip 2:5ff). It is commanded for all today who obey and fear God (Lk 9:23). Those who truly understand the origin of Holy Scripture will quickly sacrifice the carnal for the eternal!

  3) Focused upon the object of his reverence.
   His profound piety led him to become a “perfect scribe” of the Law. Behind the words of the Law, Ezra saw the authority of the Awesome God. Consequently, Ezra lived in awe of God’s will; held a deep conviction of the evil of sin; communicated God’s Law so that others shared this focused belief (cf 9:4; 10:3; cf Neh 8:1-12). 

  Contrary to what modern thought suggests, the dedicated servant of God, whose trust is in the Word of God and who calls for all to understand and obey God’s Law, Ezra’s devotion to God gained him great favor.

   1) He shared a wonderful influence with King Artaxerxes (v. 6).
   The King was willing to grant Ezra’s request. The King actually went beyond what Ezra thought would be commanded and the priest was overwhelmed with the generosity (7:27-28). So much did Ezra impress the King that the King gave Ezra unlimited power in civil matters (7:11-26). Evidentially Ezra had taught Artaxerxes about Jehovah God (v. 15).

   This point should challenge Believers today. Let us conduct ourselves according to God’s Law so that civil rulers will be influenced by our godliness.

   2) He shared a wonderful influence upon his fellow Jews (v. 7).
   Ezra possessed a mighty influence over his peers. His life influenced those from six classes of Israeli society. His conduct influenced a large number to return to Jerusalem. A total of 1,770 adult males returned with Ezra. When the number of servants, wives, and children are calculated, the total number returning would be from 8,000-9,000.

   These were all volunteers. They were men/women of status and affluence. 

  3) He shared a wonderful influence with all.
   He is uniquely identified as “THE priest” (v. 11). This is an emphatic article that is used to signal Ezra’s uniqueness.

  NOTE: This remarkable reputation which Ezra possessed was attributable to one thing – TRUST. The man was trusted because he honored God’s Law!

 e. His DISTINGUISHED AIM in life.
  Ezra’s objective in life is clearly stated in 7:10. One could not be associated with Ezra very long until this aim would be discovered.  He resolutely sought to know the Holy Scripture. After he understood how the Scriptures applied to his life, he made sure his life conformed to the Scriptures. He then sought to instruct others because unless they also conformed to God’s Law they would be punished!

  NOTE: This godly aim ought to characterize EVERY Christian today! Do YOU make it your “aim” to be well-pleasing unto God? (2 Co 5:9).

  Ezra received great blessings (v. 6b). He received blessings from God. Throughout Ezra’s life he was constantly aware of how greatly God had  blessed him. God blessed Ezra by protecting him in his journeys and prospering him in his undertakings. All who will reverence God’s Word as Ezra will find success and prosperity (Dt 29:9; Josh 1:7; Ps 1:3; etc.).

 g. His CONDUCT was admirable.
  The reverence for Holy Scripture caused Ezra’s conduct to be marked by these features:

  1) Diligence to ACQUIRE divine Truth (7:10).
   Ezra knew that Truth was obtainable. He knew that Truth was knowable to those who applied themselves to the effort of study. Thus he SOUGHT Truth; He sought truth RESOLUTELY; He sought Truth resolutely from THE WORD OF GOD.

  2) Translated knowledge into DEEDS (7:10).
   The Truth which he discovered in study was placed into practice. He knew that it was the “doer” of God’s Truth that would be blessed (cf Jas1:25).

  3) Knowledge was COMMUNICATED to others (7:10).
   Those who acquire Truth are obligation to communicate it to others (2 Ki 7:9). Ezra’s instructions were verbally and by actions. 

  NOTE: Let all Christians look carefully at this example of Ezra and emulate it. First study the Scriptures then apply your studied conclusions to your life and do them. Then teach those conclusions to others.

 4. Ezra reminds modern Believers that wonderful results will come from a proper habit of studying the Holy Scriptures.

 Whenever we study and practically apply God’s Scriptures to our lives we will rejoice in the same results that Ezra discovered. These results bring happiness and inner-contentment.

 a. Greater devotion to God’s Word.

 b. A deeper personal trust and dependence upon God.

  c. The eagerness to teach the wonderful truths we have learned.

 5. What are some lessons that arise from a study of this great man of the Old Testament?

 a. Be DILIGENT in studying God’s Law – “prepare your heart”!

 b. Be EAGER in applying God’s Law – “to do”!

 c. Be INSTANT in teaching God’s Law – “and to teach”!

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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