The *Jews return to Jerusalem
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Ezra
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Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
There are many dates in this *introduction. These dates are the number of years before the time that Jesus Christ was born. Each date has the letters ‘*BC’ after it. The letters mean ‘before Christ’. This *introduction also refers to places in the Bible where you can read about these things.
These are the events that happened in Israel before the time of Ezra. This account will help us to understand the book of Ezra better. We can read about these events in Nehemiah 9:5-37.
God chose the nation called Israel to be his special people (Leviticus 20:26). He wanted the people to love him and to *worship him. And he wanted them to obey him. In the city called Jerusalem, which was their capital, they built a great *temple. The people *worshipped God and they gave *sacrifices to him in this *temple. Israel became a powerful nation.
But the people in Israel did not obey God (Nehemiah 9:16-18 and 9:26). They *worshipped the gods of the other nations. So God caused them to suffer trouble and difficulties.
The *Israelites continued to *sin against God (Nehemiah 9:28). God sent many *prophets to warn them about this. But often the *Israelites did not listen to these men and they continued to do bad things (Nehemiah 9:29-30). God loved his people, that is, the *Israelites. He did not want them to suffer. Often their troubles were the result of their own evil behaviour. But God still cared about the *Israelites. He wanted them to turn away from *sin and to obey him again.
The nation divided into two parts. The name of the northern part was Israel and people called the inhabitants *Israelites. The name of the southern part was Judah and people called the inhabitants *Jews. Jerusalem was in the southern part. The Book of Ezra is about the people from Judah. However, sometimes Ezra calls them ‘the *people of Israel’. God gave Jacob the name ‘Israel’ when he promised to make Jacob’s *descendants God’s special people (Genesis 32:28). Most of the families who returned from *exile were originally from Judah. But they were still God’s special people.
In 722 *BC God allowed a powerful nation, the *Assyrians, to overcome Israel. See 2 Kings 17:1-23. (Israel was the northern part of the country.) The *Assyrians forced many *Israelites to live in other countries (2 Kings 17:6; 18:10-11). And they brought other people to live in Israel (2 Kings 17:24). These other people *worshipped false gods. They also tried to *worship the real God, but they did not *worship him properly (2 Kings 17:25-41). People called them *Samaritans because their chief city was Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). Samaria was not far from Jerusalem. The journey between the two cities took about two days to walk. The *Samaritans became enemies of the *Jews who returned from *exile. One of their leaders was Sanballat, who was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. (Jesus often spoke about the *Samaritans. We can read about his conversation with a *Samaritan woman in John chapter 4. He explained to her how people everywhere would *worship God properly. See John 4:23-24.)
Many of the kings from Judah did not obey God. (Judah was the southern part of the country.) But some of them loved God and they encouraged the people to obey him. However, the people in Judah usually refused to obey God (Nehemiah 9:28-30), as the *Israelites had done. So, after many years, God had to punish them too.
In 701 *BC Sennacherib, king of Assyria, overcame some of the cities of Judah (2 Kings 18:13). But he did not overcome Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-36). God saved the city on that occasion.
Many years later, the *Assyrian army became weak and the *Babylonians took control of Assyria. The *Babylonians were the *Jews’ enemies, as the *Assyrians had been. The king of the *Babylonians was Nebuchadnezzar. During his rule, the *Babylonian army overcame Judah. The soldiers took most of the *Jews to Babylonia and forced them to live there. This is called the *Babylonian *exile. It lasted for about 70 years.
God used a foreign king, Nebuchadnezzar, to punish the *Jews. Nebuchadnezzar took them away from the country that God had given to them. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar did not give honour to the real God. He gave honour to false gods. But God still used him to punish the *Jews. In Jeremiah 25:9 and Jeremiah 27:6, God said that Nebuchadnezzar was his servant. But Nebuchadnezzar did not know that. God also said that he would punish the *Babylonians 70 years later. They were wicked too (see Daniel 5:23). God is more powerful than any nation. He often uses people to carry out his purposes. He can even use people who do not know him.
The *Babylonians overcame Judah in three phases:
· In 605 *BC they took King Jehoiakim’s family and the people who served the king (2 Chronicles 36:5-7; Daniel 1:1-7). They forced them to go to Babylonia and to live there. Daniel was one of these people and he became a very important official in Babylonia (Daniel 1:17-21; 5:29-6.3; 6:28). He wrote the Book of Daniel.
· Then, 8 years later, the *Babylonians took Jehoiachin, the next king of Judah, to Babylonia. And they appointed his uncle, Zedekiah, to be king of Judah. They also took all the leaders, soldiers and skilled workmen. The *Babylonians also stole the beautiful and valuable things in the *temple and they took them to Babylonia (2 Kings 24:10-17).
· Later, in 586 *BC, the *Babylonians came again. They destroyed the *temple and the city called Jerusalem. They took King Zedekiah, and most of the people who remained in Judah, to Babylonia. They allowed only the poorest people to live in Judah (2 Kings 25:1-12).
God had warned his people about these terrible events. He would allow these events to happen if the people refused to obey him (Leviticus 26:27-39; Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:64-68; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Isaiah 39:6-7 and Micah 4:10). God waited for a long time for his people to confess their *sins and to obey him. But the people did not listen to him. They did more and more evil things and they gave honour to false gods.
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are two parts of the same story. They tell us about the time when the *Jews returned from Babylonia to their own country, Judah. Babylonia was a long way from Judah. The journey between Babylonia and Judah took about 4 months to walk. The *Babylonians had defeated the people from Judah. They had forced most of the *Jews to go to Babylonia and to live there. After many years, the *Persians defeated the *Babylonians. Then Cyrus, the king of Persia, allowed the *Jews to return to Judah.
The Book of Ezra is the first part. It tells us about the first two groups of *Jews who returned to Judah. This happened about 70 years after the *Babylonians had taken the *Jews into *exile. The book also explains how the *Jews built their *temple again. Many years later a man called Ezra helped the *Jews. He helped them to know God’s commands and to obey them.
The Book of Nehemiah is the second part. It tells the story of a man whose name was Nehemiah. He was a very important official of the king of Persia. God sent him so that he could help the *Jews to build the walls of the city called Jerusalem again. He arrived in Judah about 13 years after Ezra went there. The king appointed Nehemiah to be the ruler of Judah. Nehemiah, like Ezra, helped the *Jews to obey God’s commands.
Verse 1 The army from Babylonia had defeated God’s people the *Jews. The *Babylonians had taken most of the *Jews into *exile in Babylonia. Almost 70 years later the *Persians defeated the *Babylonians. Cyrus was the king of Persia. He did not serve the real God (Isaiah 45:5), but God had an important job for Cyrus to do.
God had allowed the *Babylonians to take the *Jews into *exile. But God also intended to allow the *Jews to return to their own country (called Judah) after 70 years. In fact, God had told his people this by the words of his *prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10).
So God ‘spoke into the heart of Cyrus’. Cyrus did not actually hear God’s voice. But he knew what was the right thing to do. God showed Cyrus that he should allow the *Jews to return to their own country (called Judah). So Cyrus announced that the *Jews could leave Babylonia and he wrote this in the official records. Then everyone would know that this was the king’s command.
Verses 2-4 Cyrus ruled over many nations. We know that Cyrus respected the gods of those nations. This made the people from those nations more loyal to him. And although Cyrus did not really serve the real God, he did give honour to God. He said that God had given to him his vast *kingdom. He believed that God wanted him to build God’s special house, the *temple, in Jerusalem in Judah. Some people think that he knew about the words of the *prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10). They think that he wanted to make those words become true.
The Bible tells us the real reason why Cyrus allowed the *Jews to return to Judah. God made him do it. So although Cyrus was not a real servant of God, God had a special job for Cyrus to do (Isaiah 44:28).
So Cyrus allowed God’s people to return to Judah in order to build the *temple. Anyone could go who wanted to. Cyrus ordered other people to give gifts for the *temple. And he also ordered them to help the people who would build the *temple.
Verses 5-6 God had spoken into the heart of Cyrus. Then he also spoke into the hearts of many of the *Jews. Perhaps, like Cyrus, they did not hear God’s voice. But they knew in their hearts what was the right thing to do. God gave them a desire to go to Jerusalem to build his special house, the *temple.
The *Jews were living in Babylonia which was far from their own country called Judah. They were sad about the state of Judah and Jerusalem (Psalm 137:1-4). But they had lived in Babylonia for many years. Most of the *Jews were born in Babylonia and they had never travelled to Judah. They probably had comfortable lives in Babylonia. Judah was far away and it would take about 4 months to walk there. When they arrived there, they would have to build new homes for themselves. And it would be a hard task to rebuild the *temple. So not all the *Jews wanted to go to Judah. But God spoke into the hearts of many of them. In other words, he gave them a desire to go. God would make them into a real nation again. He did not need all the people to do this. He would do it with those people who really wanted to obey him.
Their neighbours gave them gifts for themselves. And the neighbours gave special gifts for the *temple. These neighbours were probably the people from Babylonia as well as the *Jews who did not want to go to Judah. This would have reminded the *Jews about the time in their history when God rescued them from Egypt. At that time, the people from Egypt had given gifts to the *Jews (Exodus 12:35-36).
Verses 7-11 King Cyrus also gave the *Jews something to take back to Jerusalem for God’s *temple. He gave back the special objects that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the *temple in Jerusalem many years before (Daniel 1:2). Although Nebuchadnezzar had been careful with these objects, a later king, Belshazzar, was not careful (Daniel 5:1-4). But God kept his holy objects safe for the new *temple which the *Jews would build.
In the Book of Ezra, there are many names. Some of these people were leaders. However, Ezra also refers to many people who were not well-known. They lived many years ago, but they were important to God. God cares about all sorts of people. And he is pleased when they obey him. When Ezra records some of the names, he also mentions their families. Families were very important to the *Jews.
Verses 1-2 In this chapter, Ezra recorded the list of the people who returned from *exile in Babylonia. Zerubbabel and Jeshua (who was the chief priest) led this first group of people. The people went back to the towns that God had given to their *ancestors.
God had made special promises to the *Jews (Genesis 12:2-3). So it was important for *Jews to know about their *ancestors. Then they would know that they were real *Jews. But those special promises would not only benefit the *Jews. God’s plan was to use them in order to benefit people from every nation. That is why Jesus was a *Jew.
Many years later, Nehemiah also recorded this list (Nehemiah 7:6-73). Nehemiah’s list is slightly different from Ezra’s list. There are several possible explanations for these differences. Perhaps some people said that they would return. But then they did not go. Or perhaps Nehemiah spelt some of the names in a different way. This might explain why the lists are slightly different.
Verses 3-58 The people who returned to Judah had different jobs to do. Some were priests and *Levites and some were singers. They led the people when they *worshipped God. Some of the people guarded the *temple and the gates and some were servants in the *temple.
Often, this list describes people as ‘the *descendants of’ a person or a place. Usually we use the word ‘*descendants’ to mean that a particular person was the head of the family long ago. But in verses 21 to 35, this list shows the names of places. So probably, the people from these places described their families by the name of their home town.
After Ezra’s record of the family names, he mentions the number of people in each group. This is the meaning of the numbers at the end of the verses.
Verses 59-63 Some of the people could not prove who their *ancestors were. And among these people were some priests. They searched for their family registers. But they did not find them.
God appointed the *descendants of Aaron (the brother of Moses) to be priests. They had to prove that they were *descendants of Aaron. If not, then they could not serve as priests (Numbers 16:40). God had also given to the priests special food to eat. God did not allow people who were not priests to eat that food. So the chief officer did not allow these men to eat the priests’ special food. He was careful to obey God’s law.
God gave some priests the *Urim and Thummim. The priests used these to know what God was telling the people to do. But at that time there was no priest who could use the *Urim and Thummim to make a decision.
Later there might be a priest who could use the *Urim and Thummim. Then that priest could ask God for direction. Then God could tell him about the priests who could not prove their *ancestors. Perhaps then, God would allow them to serve as priests.
Verses 64-69 When the people returned to Judah, they began the preparations to rebuild the *temple. They did not wait until they had comfortable homes in Judah. They considered that the construction of God’s *temple was their most important task.
The *Babylonians had destroyed the *temple when they took the *Jews into *exile. But now the *Jews were very pleased that they could start to rebuild it.
Some of the people became rich when they lived in Babylonia. They were able to be generous when they gave gifts for the work of the *temple.
Verse 70 At the time of Moses, God had promised to give the country called Canaan to the *Israelites. God gave a part of the country to each of the families (Numbers 34:13-15). That country included the southern part, called Judah, where the *Jews came from. When the *Jews returned from *exile they lived in their own towns. These towns were the same towns that God had given to their *ancestors.
Ezra calls the people ‘the *people of Israel’ instead of ‘the people from Judah’. God gave to Jacob the name Israel. At the same time, God promised to make Jacob’s *descendants God’s special people (Genesis 32:28). At the time when the people first returned from *exile, most of them were from Judah. But they were still God’s special people. And that is why Ezra calls them ‘the *people of Israel’.
Verse 1 The people who had returned from *exile started to live in the towns in Judah. But soon after they arrived in the country, they all met in Jerusalem. It was important to start to *worship God together again. The 7th month was a very important month for the *Jews. There were three special holidays to *worship God during that month.
Verses 2-6 The *Jews had returned to Judah to build the *temple. They had not yet started this work. But they started to give honour to God. The leaders of the priests burned animals as *sacrifices to God. They were very careful to do everything that the law of God ordered. They knew that their *ancestors had not obeyed God. So God had sent them into *exile. Now God had allowed them to return to Judah. And Judah was part of the country that God had promised to his people. So the people were very aware that they should obey God.
They were afraid of the other people who lived round them. These other people did not want the *Jews back in the country called Judah. But the *Jews knew that the real God was with them. So they built the *altar. They made *sacrifices and they gave honour to God.
The holiday of the shelters (or, holiday of tents) lasted for a week. God wanted to remind the people about an event that happened long before. Then, God had rescued their *ancestors from the country called Egypt. When the people left Egypt, they lived in tents. (Those tents were just temporary homes, so they were like shelters.) God had taken care of them and he led them to their own country. Judah was part of the country that he had promised to give to his people. So, afterwards, God said that his people should make shelters during the 7th month of the year. The people should use the branches of trees to make the shelters. And they should live in the shelters for 7 days. On the 8th day, the people had to meet together. God told the people to be happy during this holiday (Leviticus 23:33-36; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
Verse 7 Then the people prepared to start to build the *temple. The people were generous. They gave money and goods for the work. They paid the skilled men. And they bought good wood from other countries. King Cyrus had allowed them to do this. This might mean that he had given money or goods to pay for the wood. The *Jews had not been back in Judah long enough to produce their own wood.
Many years earlier, King Solomon built the first *temple for God. He too had paid the people from Tyre to send him good wood. The people from Tyre also sent that wood by sea to the port called Joppa. Joppa is a convenient port for Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:1-16).
Verses 8-9 A few months later the people started to build the *temple. In the meantime, they were working on their new homes and they were planting their crops. Now it was time to build the *temple, which is also called ‘the house of God’.
The *Levites led the work. They were men from a group of families that had responsibility for the *temple. Usually nobody could carry out the work of the *Levites until he was 25 years old (Numbers 8:24). But perhaps there were not enough *Levites of the correct age. So *Levites who were 20 years old or older shared these duties.
This also happened at the time of King David (1 Chronicles 23:24-27). He prepared for the first *temple which his son (King Solomon) built. David had wanted to build that *temple himself, but God did not allow him to do so. However, God permitted David to gather materials and to make preparations (1 Chronicles 22:2-5).
Verses 10-13 After the builders had made the base of the *temple, the people met to *worship God. The priests and the *Levites led the people as they praised God. They sang the same words that their *ancestors had sung at the time of King Solomon. That was when Solomon built the first *temple (2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3).
The people were so happy that they shouted aloud. But some of the older people were not so happy. They remembered the first *temple. They had only built the base for the new *temple. But the people could see that it would be much smaller than the first one.
The first *temple was much bigger and more beautiful than the next one. But the people who lived during those earlier times had not obeyed God. So God had punished them. He had sent them into *exile. And he allowed their enemies to destroy the beautiful first *temple.
The new *temple gave hope to the *Jews. Many of them had waited all their lives for this day. They had left their homes in Babylonia and they had travelled to a distant country to make this possible. They wanted this event to be the start of a new nation where the people would always obey God. But the *Jews realised that many of these things could not happen yet. And that is why many of them were sad, even on this happy occasion.
God wanted the *Jews to return to their own country. He wanted them to realise that their punishment was over. And he wanted to carry out his promises to them. In particular, he wanted to send Jesus, who would give his life as a perfect *sacrifice for *sins. This could only happen when the *Jews were living in their own country.
Verses 1-3 The people who lived near Judah were the enemies of the *Jews. They did not want the *Jews to live in Judah again. So they tried to stop the work on the *temple. At first, they pretended that they wanted to help the *Jews to build the *temple. They said that they *worshipped the real God. This was only partly true. These people *worshipped other gods as well (2 Kings 17:24-41). These people would have encouraged the *Jews to *worship other gods too. God had sent the *ancestors of the *Jews into *exile because they had not obeyed him. Their *ancestors had *worshipped and served other gods. So it was important that the *Jews were careful not to listen to their enemies.
So the leaders of the *Jews were quite right to refuse the offer of help. They knew that these other people were their enemies. These other people did not really want to help to build the *temple. In fact, they wanted to stop the work. So these people were not just opposing the *Jews. They were also opposing God.
Through all history, people have opposed God’s plans. This is not just a human attitude. The devil always opposes God’s work. And there have always been people who have been willing to do the devil’s work for him.
At the time of Zerubbabel, God’s plan was that the *Jews would establish a strong nation in their own country. But they would not be a strong nation unless they served God. So the construction of the *temple was essential for the future of the country. In fact, it was not just important for that one country. God’s plan was to use the *Jews in order to show his kindness to people from every nation (Genesis 12:3). In time, Jesus would be born a *Jew.
Verses 4-5 The enemies of the *Jews were not pleased when the *Jews refused their offer of help. Their plan had not worked. So they had to find another plan to stop the work.
They tried to make the *Jews afraid to build. They even paid people to try to stop the work. They did this for many years. In fact, the *Jews did not complete the construction of the *temple for about 20 more years. The work would not be complete until the rule of King Darius of Persia.
From verse 6 to verse 23, Ezra describes later events when people opposed the reconstruction of Jerusalem. He continues his account of the work to build the new *temple in verse 24.
Verses 6-10 Even after the *Jews had built the *temple, their enemies still opposed them. In the rest of this chapter, Ezra records what happened many years later. The *Jews started to build their capital city called Jerusalem again. And again their enemies tried to stop them. The enemies of the *Jews wrote letters to the kings who ruled after Darius. They wrote to King Xerxes. Later they wrote letters to King Artaxerxes.
Verses 11-16 Ezra recorded what these people wrote in one of their letters to King Artaxerxes.
They told the king how loyal they were. They pretended that they only cared about the king’s benefit. They said that the *Jews were not loyal to foreign kings. They said that the people in Jerusalem would build their city again. Then the people in Jerusalem would stop paying taxes. They asked the king to search in the records. They told the king what he would find in the records. He would find that Jerusalem was not a loyal city.
Many of the ancient records from this time still exist. The officials wrote them on clay. (Clay is a type of earth. It becomes hard if someone bakes it.) People have found some 120 000 such records. The British Museum has a large collection of them.
Verses 17-22 The king read the letter and his officials searched the records. What was in the first letter (verse 11-16) was true. Many years before, the *Jews had opposed foreign kings. We can read in the Bible about some of these events (2 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 24:1). But those events happened very many years earlier. The *Jews who lived during the rule of Artaxerxes were not a strong nation. Only a small number of people had returned to Judah from *exile. They did not have an army so they were not really a danger to the king. And they had no desire to oppose King Artaxerxes’s rule. They were loyal to him.
Also, the *Jews who went into *exile were very loyal to their rulers. In fact, *Jews often became important officials of the foreign kings who ruled them. And those kings trusted them greatly. We can read about that in the Books of Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel.
However, the king ordered the work to stop. But he did say that he could give the order for the work to start again. About 12 years later, Artaxerxes did allow Nehemiah to lead more *Jews back to Jerusalem to build the city again. We can read about that in the Book of Nehemiah.
Verse 23 When the enemies of the *Jews received the reply from the king, they told the *Jews about it. They forced the *Jews to stop work.
Verse 24 In this verse, Ezra returns to his earlier story (which he left at verse 5). He continues his account of the work to build the *temple. The work stopped because the *Jews were afraid of their enemies. The work did not start again until the rule of King Darius. That was about 16 years later.
Verses 1-2 In this chapter, Ezra recorded what happened in the second year of King Darius’ rule. About 16 years had passed since the *Jews started to rebuild the *temple (Ezra 3:2). They had not continued with the work, because they were afraid of their enemies (Ezra 4:4-5).
During the second year of the rule of Darius, God sent *prophets to speak to the *Jews. Their names were Haggai and Zechariah. We can read what they said in the Books of Haggai and Zechariah in the Bible.
The *Jews were living in expensive houses, but they had not built the house of God (Haggai 1:2-4).
Then the *Jews obeyed the word of God, which the *prophets had spoken. The *Jews started to build the house of God again. The *prophets even helped them with the work.
Verses 3-5 However, when the people started to build the house of God there were more problems. Some *Persian officials asked them who had given them authority to build.
Perhaps the other people in the country had complained to the officials. We have already seen that those people did not want the *Jews to build the house of God (Ezra 4:1-5).
During the rule of Darius, many people plotted revolutions against him. So perhaps the officials were worried about what the *Jews were building. The officials saw the large stones that they were using (Ezra 5:8). They might have thought that the *Jews were building a castle and not a *temple.
The *Jews were building the *temple in order to obey God. So God made sure that the work did not stop. The officials did not force the *Jews to stop work. Instead, the officials sent a letter to the king and then they waited for his reply.
Verses 6-10 The officials wrote a letter to the king. They told him what they had seen in Jerusalem. They told the king what they had said to the *Jews.
Verses 11-16 In their letter to the king, the officials explained to him what the *Jews had told them.
The *Jews told the officials that they served the real God. That is, God who made the heaven and the earth. So perhaps the officials wondered why people had been able to destroy the house of such a powerful God. So the *Jews told them about their history.
It was good for the *Jews to remember their history. They knew that their *ancestors had not obeyed the real God. Instead, those *ancestors had served other gods. The *Jews knew that God had punished their *ancestors. God had allowed their enemies to defeat them. And God had sent those *ancestors into *exile far away in Babylonia.
But God did not want his people to stay in *exile. After many years, God spoke into the heart of King Cyrus (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus did not actually hear God’s voice. But he knew what was the right thing to do. God told Cyrus to allow the *Jews to return to Judah. And God told him to allow them to build the house of God again. So Cyrus gave authority to the *Jews to build the house of God again. This was the answer to the question that the officials had asked. Cyrus even gave back to the *Jews the objects which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the first *temple.
Some Bible teachers think that Sheshbazzar is the same person as Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Haggai 1:1).
Verse 17 So the officials reported everything to King Darius. They suggested that the king should order people to search the official records in Babylonia. The records would prove if Cyrus had given authority to the *Jews to build the house of God again.
Then the officials waited for the king to tell them what to do.
Verses 1-2 God cared about the construction of the *temple. So the *Jews did not have to stop the work on the *temple while they waited for Darius’ reply (Ezra 5:5). However, as they waited, their task may have seemed harder. Perhaps they worried that the king would order them to stop work. They probably had to wait quite a long time for the king’s reply.
Darius did what the officials had suggested. He ordered people to search the records and they found the right record. But they found the record in Ecbatana and not in the main city called Babylon. Ecbatana was one of the other cities where the king had a palace.
Verses 3-5 Here, Ezra copies the record of Cyrus’ command.
The record showed that the *Jews had spoken the truth (Ezra 5:13-15). Cyrus had ordered the *Jews to build the house of God again. He even said that he would pay the cost. He also told the *Jews to take the special gold and silver objects back to the *temple at Jerusalem.
The *Persian officials may have been worried about the large stones that the *Jews were using to build the *temple (Ezra 5:8). But Cyrus had actually ordered the *Jews to build the *temple with large stones.
Verses 6-10 Ezra continues with the letter that King Darius wrote to his officials.
Darius told his officials that they must not stop the work. They must allow the *Jews to continue to build the *temple. In fact, the king ordered his officials to help the *Jews. He told them to take the taxes that they collected in the district. They must use this money to pay the costs of the work. He even told them to give to the *Jews whatever they needed for their *sacrifices to God.
Darius gave honour to many false gods. He did not serve the real God. But he still wanted the *Jews to pray to their God for him and for his family.
It is clear that God was using Darius in order to help the *Jews. Like Cyrus, Darius was acting as God’s agent, although neither king actually served God. But both kings also had a political reason for their actions. The *Persian kings were often good to the people whom they had defeated. Then the people would not oppose the king and the country would have peace.
Verses 11-12 Darius made another command. He believed that it was very important for the *Jews to rebuild the *temple. His officials must allow the *Jews to build and they must help the *Jews. Darius would punish greatly anyone who did not obey this command.
God was now speaking into the heart of another king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). God did this so that God’s people, the *Jews, would rebuild the *temple. Like Cyrus, Darius did not actually hear God’s voice. But he knew what was the right thing to do.
Verses 13-15 So Tattenai and the other *Persian officials obeyed the king; and the *Jews were able to build the *temple. The kings of Persia and their officials helped the *Jews. The *prophets helped them too and the leaders of the *Jews led the people well.
They built the *temple as God had ordered. And they finished it 4 years later. That was about 515 *BC. This was about 70 years after the *Babylonians had destroyed the first *temple.
Many years before, God had spoken by his *prophet Jeremiah. The punishment that God gave to the *Jews would only last for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).
Verses 16-18 The *Jews were able to be happy again because they had obeyed God. They had built the *temple again. The new *temple was not as large as the first one. Neither was the opening ceremony as large as the time when the first *temple was complete (2 Chronicles 7:4-6). At that time God had spoken to King Solomon who built the first *temple. God said that he would protect both the people and the *temple. But if the people did not obey him then he would punish them. He would take them away from the country that he had given to them. And he would leave the *temple (2 Chronicles 7:11-22). That is what happened. That is why the *Jews had been in *exile. And that is why they had to build the new *temple.
The people appointed priests and *Levites to serve God in the new *temple. Many years earlier, God had told Moses how the priests and *Levites should serve in the *temple. Moses wrote these commands in his books (Numbers 3:6-9; 18:1-32).
Verses 19-22 Soon after the people completed the *temple, they had the *Passover holiday. This reminded them of the time when God brought their *ancestors out of the country called Egypt. At that time, God told them always to have the *Passover holiday to remember the first *Passover (Exodus 12:1-14). They also had the holiday of the Special Flat Bread. This reminded them of the special bread that their *ancestors ate on that occasion. This bread was flat because the *ancestors left too quickly to allow the bread to rise (Exodus 12:15-20). God told them always to have this holiday to remember their history (Exodus 13:3-10). The holiday would remind them that they, and their nation, have a special relationship with God.
Some *Jews were already living in Judah when the people returned from *exile. These *Jews were poor people whose families remained in Judah at the time of the *exile. Many such people simply joined the other nations that were near Judah. But when the people returned from *exile, some of these *Jews wanted to join them. They too wanted to serve God. And they wanted to be a part of the new nation.
So these *Jews separated themselves from their neighbours who were not *Jews. And they began to behave as God’s law orders. They joined the people who had returned from *exile at the *Passover meal. And together, they were all very glad because of the things that God had done for them.
In the first 6 chapters of the Book of Ezra, we read about the people who returned from *exile. We read how they built the *temple of God in Jerusalem again.
The events in the rest of the book happened almost 60 years later in 458 *BC. At last, the man Ezra appears in the Book of Ezra.
Verses 1-5 The rules of King Darius and King Xerxes have finished and Artaxerxes is the king of Persia. We have already read something about King Xerxes and King Artaxerxes in the book of Ezra (Ezra 4:6-23). We can also read more about King Xerxes in the Book of Esther in the Bible.
God had brought many of his people, the *Jews, back to Judah. They had built the *temple again in Jerusalem. Now there was another step (development) in God’s plan. God wanted to make the people a real nation again. God wanted to make a nation that *worshipped him, the only real God. And God had chosen a special man, Ezra, to have a part in God’s plan.
Ezra was a *descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Only the *descendants of Aaron could be priests. So it was important that a priest knew the history of his family. (See Ezra 2:61-63.)
Verses 6-10 God needed a special man to teach the people about God’s law. Ezra had learned how to copy the books that contained God’s words. So Ezra had studied hard and he knew the law of God. Ezra was also a very good teacher so he could teach the people the law of God. And God was with Ezra because God had chosen him to teach the people.
Ezra lived in Babylonia. He went to the king of Persia to ask for help. And the king gave him everything that he had asked for. God was helping Ezra. God was preparing Ezra for the task that God wanted him to do.
Ezra travelled to Jerusalem in Judah. And *Levites and other priests went with him. Other people who would help in the work of the *temple also travelled with Ezra to Jerusalem. They travelled for 4 months to go from Babylonia to Jerusalem. It was a long journey of about 600 kilometres (370 miles). But they arrived safely because God was helping them.
Verse 11 King Artaxerxes gave a letter to Ezra.
In this letter, the king tells Ezra what to do when Ezra goes to Jerusalem. The letter also has instructions for the leaders of the people whom Ezra will meet in Judah.
Verses 12-20 Artaxerxes did not really *worship the real God. Kings Cyrus and Darius, who ruled before Artaxerxes, did not *worship the real God either. However they all helped the *Jews after the *exile because God was in control. God even used great kings who did not serve him to bring about his plan for his people. God made these kings to be generous to the *Jews and to the work at the *temple.
These kings also had political reasons for their actions. The kings wanted the people that they ruled over to be content. The people would be content if they were freely able to *worship their own gods. Also the kings wanted the gods that their people *worshipped to be kind to them too (Ezra 6:10; 7:23). So God did not force these kings to do his work. They did these things because they wanted to.
So King Artaxerxes sent Ezra to Jerusalem. The king allowed other *Jews to go with Ezra if they wanted to. The king told Ezra to make sure that the people in Judah were obeying the law of God.
The king also gave Ezra silver and gold from Babylonia to pay for the work of the *temple. The king told Ezra to use this silver and gold to pay for the *sacrifices to God. If Ezra needed anything more for the work of the *temple then the king would pay the cost.
Verses 21-24 The king’s letter also gave orders to the leaders of the people in the district round Judah. The king ordered his officials to help the *Jews. He told them to give the *Jews all that they needed for their *sacrifices to God. He even told them not to take taxes from the people who worked in the *temple. The king did not want the God whom the *Jews served to be angry with him.
Verses 25-26 King Artaxerxes knew that Ezra was a wise man. He knew that God had given Ezra this wisdom. The king wanted the people to obey the law of God as well as the laws of the *kingdom. So the king gave the authority to Ezra to appoint men who would be good judges. The king also ordered Ezra to teach the law of God to the people. The king also gave legal authority to Ezra. Ezra should punish anyone who did not obey the law of God or the law of the king.
Verses 27-28 Ezra might have been afraid to go to ask the king for help. (See Esther 4:11.) But he knew that God was with him. He knew that God had made the king do all these things to help Ezra and the *Jews. God had even given these good desires to the men who advised the king.
So Ezra went to Judah with some of the leaders of the *Jews.
Verses 1-14 In chapter 7 we read about the journey that Ezra made to Judah with some of the *people of Israel. Ezra had found some of the chief men of Israel to go with him (Ezra 7:28). These chief men brought members of their families with them. And Ezra recorded the names of these men and the number of family members who came with them. Many of them were relatives of the first *Jews to return from the *exile almost 80 years earlier (Ezra 2:3-65). We do not know much about these men and their families, but they were important to God. God knew that they were leaving their homes in Babylonia. In Babylonia, they probably had comfortable lives and perhaps some of them were wealthy. God knew that they were going on a long journey. They were going to live in a place that, probably, they had never seen before. There they would have to work hard to make God’s people, the *Jews, into a proper nation again. They had made this brave decision because they wanted to serve God. So they wanted to live in the new nation that he was establishing.
Verses 15-17 After the group had left Babylonia they stopped to rest by a river. Ezra took the opportunity to check the people who were travelling with him. Then he discovered that there were no *Levites in the group. Ezra would need *Levites to help him when they arrived at Jerusalem. The *Levites had an important job. They helped their relatives the priests in the work at the *temple.
Ezra was trusting God to help him with the task that he would have to do in Jerusalem. And Ezra realised that he had to do something about this problem. So Ezra chose some of the leaders and wise men from the group. He sent them to a place called Casiphia. The families of many people who used to work in the *temple were living there. That is why Ezra sent these men there. They asked the leader of the *Jews in Casiphia to send them some men to join the group of travellers. Ezra wanted more men to serve in the *temple when they arrived in Jerusalem.
Those *Levites would have the opportunity to serve God in a special way. But it would not be easy for them. They had to leave their homes in order to travel to an unfamiliar country. Sometimes today, God may ask us to do similar things. And sometimes we may not even consider ourselves capable to do his work. But when our lives are difficult, we can always trust God. God will provide the skills that we need to do his work.
Verses 18-20 Ezra was right to trust God and, again, God helped him. The *Jews at Casiphia found some good men who were willing to go to Judah. They sent several *Levites to Ezra. They even sent many other men who would help in the work at the *temple.
Verses 21-23 Before they left their camp by the river the people prayed. Ezra told them not to eat food. Sometimes people do not eat food for a short time in order to be humble.
Ezra knew that it was important to pray to God about the long journey ahead of them. They needed God to protect them. And they needed his protection for the precious things that they were carrying (Ezra 7:15-16; 7:22; 8:25-27). Ezra had not asked the king for soldiers to go with them to protect them. He had told the king about God’s care for the people who love him.
And, again, God helped Ezra. He protected them on the journey although they did not have any soldiers with them. That was how God answered Ezra’s prayer.
(A few years later Nehemiah led another group of *Jews back to Judah. The king did send soldiers with Nehemiah on that journey. Nehemiah believed that God helped him in that way. God made the king give Nehemiah everything that he asked for. See Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 2:18.)
Verses 24-30 The king and his officials had given many precious gifts for the *temple of God in Jerusalem. These things were gold, silver and *bronze objects. People used to polish *bronze well, and they considered it to be precious too. Ezra chose some of the leaders to look after these things on the journey. This was a very important task. Ezra would have chosen men whom he could trust. And these men did what Ezra asked them to do.
Ezra weighed all the objects before they left their camp by the river. Then he could be sure that nobody would steal these precious things.
We must be very careful with the money and other gifts that people give for the work of God. We must find people whom we can trust to look after these things. And we too must be people whom other people can trust. Other people should be able to trust us with anything, not just God’s money.
Ezra wrote this part of the book himself. In the book, he refers to Israel. There was not actually a nation called Israel at the time. But that was God’s name for his special people, the *Jews. And God had promised to Abraham that he would make the *Jews into a great nation (Genesis 22:17-18; 26:1-5).
Verses 31-36 God answered the prayer of Ezra and his companions. They travelled for almost 4 more months to get to Jerusalem. There might have been many thieves on the way, but God protected them. God kept them safe until they arrived in Jerusalem with all the precious gifts.
The travellers rested for three days and then they went to the *temple. They brought the precious objects with them and they weighed them at the *temple. Everything was safe. They did not lose anything on the journey nor did anyone steal anything. So they gave *sacrifices to God. They wanted to thank God because he had kept them and the precious objects safe on the long journey. They also wanted to ask God to forgive them for their *sins.
The travellers also delivered the king’s letter (Ezra 7:21-24) to the officials and rulers in the district. Then those officials and rulers obeyed the king’s command. They helped the people and the work at the *temple.
God had helped Ezra and his companions on their journey. The first part of Ezra’s task had been successful. The next part of Ezra’s task was to teach God’s law to the *Israelites.
Verses 1-2 Not long after Ezra arrived in Judah, some of the leaders came to see him. They had bad news for Ezra. The *Jews had not obeyed God’s law. In fact, the leaders of the *Jews had led the people in this *sin. Even the priests and the *Levites had not obeyed God’s law.
God’s law said that the *Jews must keep themselves separate from the nations round them. The people in these nations did evil things and they *worshipped false gods. God knew that the *Jews would imitate their evil behaviour. So he ordered the *Jews not to allow these people to join them (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:2-6; Deuteronomy 18:9-13).
Some *Jewish men had married women from these other nations. God had ordered the *Jews not to marry these foreigners. Some of these *Jewish men had probably married foreign women for a commercial reason. They wanted to make friends with the people from other nations. Then they could trade with them and they could make more money.
Such things still happen today, of course. People often *sin because of their desire for money. Paul warned Timothy about this matter (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Christians should aim to be content with whatever God provides for them. The person who cares too much about wealth will damage his relationship with God.
The nations called Hittites, Jebusites and Canaanites were among the original inhabitants of the country called Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1). Because of the terrible *sins of these people, God gave their land to the *Israelites. This happened at the time of Joshua.
The nations called Ammonites and Moabites were *descendants of Moab and Benammi. Moab and Benammi were the sons of Lot. They were born after Lot’s daughters made him *sin (Genesis 19:30-38). The Ammonites and Moabites were always the enemies of the *Jews. And the Moabites persuaded the *Jews to serve false gods at the time of Moses (Numbers 25:1-5).
(Ruth was from Moab but she became an *ancestor of Jesus. God even allowed Moabites to join his special people the *Jews if they really *worshipped him. See Ruth 1:16; Ruth 1:22; Matthew 1:1-16.)
God made King Solomon to be very wise. But even Solomon was not wise when he married foreign women. And they led him to *worship other false gods (1 Kings 11:1-13).
The *prophet Malachi lived at about the same time as Ezra. God spoke to the people by Malachi about this matter too. The men of Malachi’s time also married foreign women. So Malachi said that they were not obeying God (Malachi 2:10-16).
God wanted the *Jews to become a strong nation. But they could not become a strong nation if they were not separate from the other nations. And they could not be loyal to God if they did not obey his laws.
Verses 3-4 Ezra felt great shock because of this bad news and he was very sad. He tore his clothes and he pulled out his hair. These things showed how very sad he was. The *Jews used to behave in such a manner when they were sad about someone’s death. At other times, *Jewish men took care of their hair, and they had long beards. If they lost their hair, they would feel ashamed. So Ezra’s behaviour shows how much this news had upset him.
Some of the people did want to obey God. They knew that this *sin would make God very angry. So they were ashamed too and they sat with Ezra.
Ezra sat down until the time when the priests would burn the evening *sacrifice.
Verse 5 Then Ezra started to pray. He went down on his knees and he spread out his hands. He wanted to show God that he felt very humble and ashamed. He did not eat food. Often people did not eat food when they were very sad. Then they would have more time to pray.
Verses 6-7 Ezra did obey God. His job was to teach God’s law to the people (Ezra 7:10). He had not done the wrong things that some of the *Jews had done. But he prayed to God as if he too had done the wrong things.
Ezra confessed to God that the people had done wrong things all through their history. He knew that God had punished the people in the past because of their *sins. God had allowed other nations to defeat the *Jews because the *Jews had not obeyed God. Now, in Ezra’s time, the people still did not obey God’s laws.
Verses 8-9 Although the *Jews had done wrong things all through their history, God loved them. He punished them many times and he sent foreign armies to defeat them. But then he was kind to them and he allowed them to be free again. Now, in Ezra’s time, God had done that again. God had allowed some of the people to return to Judah from *exile. He had helped them to build the *temple in Jerusalem again. He had even made the kings of Persia to be kind to them. Ezra knew that God had allowed all these things to happen.
Verses 10-12 Although God had been kind to his people once again, they still did not obey his laws. God had given to their *ancestors the good country called Israel. God had been angry with the people who had lived in the country. These other people had done very wicked things, so God told the *Jews to be separate from them. God told the *Jews not to marry people from these other nations. If the *Jews obeyed God then he would help them (the *Jews). He would let them be content and successful in the country. Their *descendants would always live there.
But the *Jews during Ezra’s time did not obey God. They did the same things that their *ancestors had done. Ezra knew that they had no proper excuse for their actions.
Verses 13-15 Ezra knew that God had punished those *ancestors. They had not obeyed God, so many bad things happened to them. But Ezra also knew that God had still been kind to them. God had punished them less than their *sins deserved.
Ezra realised that the people’s *sin was very severe. Again the people had neglected God’s law. Again they were guilty. So Ezra asked God to show his kindness, as he had done so many times before. The people deserved nothing from God apart from punishment and death. But God is completely good and fair. He does not desire the death of his people. He wants them to turn to him with a humble and sincere attitude. He wants them to trust him. He wants to forgive.
And this is still the situation, even today. We deserve nothing from God. We have *sinned and we cannot become right by our own efforts. But God sent Jesus, his son, to rescue us from our *sin. And God will forgive us if we humbly confess our *sins to him. We can only have a right relationship with God because of his great kindness.
Verse 1 Ezra was in front of the house of God when he prayed. He had torn his clothes and he had pulled hair from his head and his beard. Many people gathered with him. They did not just come to see what he was doing. They also wept aloud because they too were sad about the *sins of the people (Ezra 9:3-4).
Verses 2-4 A man called Shecaniah spoke to Ezra. Shecaniah was also very sad because of the *sins of the people. He had not married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:18-44), but some of his relatives had (Ezra 10:26). Shecaniah knew that there was still hope for Israel. He knew that God still loved the *people of Israel. But the people had to turn away from their *sins if they wanted God to forgive them. Shecaniah suggested that the *Jewish men should send their foreign wives away. Then they would obey God’s commands again. It was Ezra’s duty to make sure that the people obeyed God’s laws (Ezra 7:25-26). Shecaniah promised that the people would support Ezra in his task.
Verse 5 Ezra agreed with Shecaniah’s proposal. So Ezra made sure that all the people promised to send away the foreign women.
Verse 6 Although the people had made a good promise, Ezra was still very sad. He went to a more private place. And he did not eat or drink. This showed that he was sad. He probably prayed to God again while he was there.
Verses 7-8 The leaders of the people wanted to be sure that the people performed their promise. So the leaders ordered all the people to gather in Jerusalem in three days.
If the people really wanted to be part of God’s special people, the *Jews, then they would come to Jerusalem. Anyone who did not obey would lose all his property. And that person would not continue to belong to God’s special people, the *Jews.
Verses 9-11 So all the people gathered in Jerusalem as their leaders had ordered. The people were very sorry about their *sins. It was the rainy season so they were also unhappy because of the rain.
Ezra reminded the people that they had not obeyed God’s laws. He told them to confess their *sins to God. And he told them to do what would please God. They must send away their foreign wives. Also, they must separate themselves from the evil people who lived round them. They could not continue to have such close relationships with people who opposed God.
Verses 12-15 The people agreed with Ezra. They knew that they had *sinned. They knew that they must obey Ezra’s order.
However, the people did not want to do this in a hurry. They would send their foreign wives away, but the arrangements would take time. So the people made a recommendation to Ezra. They proposed that their leaders should *judge each man with a foreign wife.
Only a few men did not agree with this plan.
Verses 16-17 Ezra agreed with the people’s plan. And he chose the heads of the families who would *judge the people. Ezra chose men who knew the people. They would be able to *judge fairly.
The heads of the families *judged each man who had a foreign wife. They finished this task after three months.
The Bible does not tell us what happened to these women afterwards. Probably they returned to their fathers’ families, as a widow might do. And they took their children with them. It is likely that the men also had to return the wedding gifts from the women’s families. Perhaps the men also paid money to the women.
These men had to separate themselves completely from their foreign wives. Clearly, that was not a nice thing to do. But that was the result of their *sin when they married these women. The result of *sin is never pleasant. Even after God forgives us, we must sometimes suffer the results of our *sin.
Verses 18-44 Ezra recorded the names of the men who had foreign wives. Some of them were priests and *Levites. Some had responsibilities in the *temple.
Verse 18 mentions *descendants of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak. Jeshua was the chief priest when the first *Jews returned from the *exile (Ezra 3:2; 5:2). These men had not been good models for the people.
Over 100 men had foreign wives. This may seem to be a small number as there were thousands of *Jews in Judah. But these men had done a serious *sin against God. So Ezra and the other leaders had to deal with the affair.
Perhaps some of these men had divorced their *Jewish wives before they married their foreign wives. The *prophet Malachi spoke God’s word about this time. He said that the people had made God very angry. The people had married foreign women and they had divorced their first wives (Malachi 2:10-16).
This chapter shows that it is very important to remain loyal to God. The men who married foreign wives had not been loyal to God. These men cared more about the affairs of this world than they cared about their relationship with God. And their *sin had become so serious that it affected their whole nation. That is why the *Jews told these men to divorce their wives. It was an extraordinary decision in an unusual situation.
The *New Testament also teaches that Christians should not marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Sometimes it is necessary for Christians to be separate from other people. *Sin is dangerous. And it is easy for one person to imitate another person’s *sin.
However, the Bible also teaches that divorce is not a good thing (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 5:32). A Christian who is married to an unbeliever should not divorce that person. If the unbeliever is content to live with that Christian, they should continue to be husband and wife (1 Corinthians 7:12-17). The Christian should pray for the unbeliever and for their children, that they too will trust in Christ. A Christian should always show real love to other people, especially to his or her own family.
altar ~ a table (usually stone or metal) where the priests burned animals and gave other gifts as a *sacrifice to God.
ancestors ~ parents, grandparents and previous members of the same family.
Assyrian / Assyrians ~ a person from Assyria or anything that has a relationship with Assyria.
Babylonian / Babylonians ~ a person from Babylonia or anything that has a relationship with Babylonia.
BC ~ years Before Christ was born.
bronze ~ a brown metal. Bronze is usually less precious than gold and silver.
bull ~ the male animal which mates with a cow.
Chaldean ~ a person from Chaldea or anything that has a relationship with Chaldea.
descendant ~ a later member of a family, town, or nation.
Elamite / Elamites ~ a *descendant of Elam or a person from Elam or anything that has a relationship with Elam.
exile ~ a period when people cannot live in their own country. This period may be for many years.
introduction ~ the first part of a book, which explains the book’s purpose.
Israelites ~ *descendants of Jacob who was also called Israel. Sometimes the word ‘Israelites’ means all of Jacob’s *descendants. But sometimes it only means those *descendants who were from the northern part of the country called Israel.
Jews ~ another name for the *Israelites, especially those *Israelites who were from Judah. (Judah was the southern part of the country called Israel.)
Jewish ~ something that has a relationship to the *Jews.
judge ~ to make decisions about the law.
kingdom ~ the place or territory or country where a king rules.
Levites ~ the people from one of the 12 families of the *Israelites; they acted as assistants to the priests in the *temple.
LORD ~ a name for God. It means that he is always God.
New Testament ~ the part of the Bible which the first Christians wrote.
Passover ~ annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from the country called Egypt.
people of Israel ~ another name for the people who are *Jews.
Persian / Persians ~ a person from Persia or anything that has a relationship with Persia.
prophet ~ someone who tells God’s messages; a person whom God sends to speak for him; someone who declares God’s words.
sacrifice ~ a gift to God to ask him to forgive *sins; or to thank him for something. The *Jews offered these to God, often an animal or bird, when they asked God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a *sacrifice for our *sins.
Samaritan / Samaritans ~ a person from Samaria or anything that has a relationship with Samaria.
sin ~ when people do bad things against God or other people; when people do not obey the commands of God.
supervise ~ to lead a group of people who are carrying out a task.
temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.
up to ~ a way to describe a maximum amount.
Urim and Thummim ~ sacred objects that some priests could use in order to know what God was telling the people to do. The name means ‘perfect lights’. They were probably some sort of precious stone.
worship ~ to praise God and to give thanks to him; to show honour to God and to say that we love him very much.
Bibles ~ AV, NIV, RSV, NKJV
Stan K Evers ~ Doing a great work ~ Evangelical Press ~ Welwyn Commentary series
Derek Kidner ~ Ezra and Nehemiah ~ IVP Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
Dave Cave ~ Ezra and Nehemiah ~ Crossway Bible Guides
Warren W Wiersbe ~ Be Heroic ~ Victor
© 2008, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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