The books of Ezra and Nehemiah relate the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon during the rule of the early Persian kings. For a long time, interpretations of these two books by Christian exegetes characterized the Judaism of the post-exilic age as narrow and nationalistic. This interpretation led to a separation of post-exilic Judaism from its pre-exilic Israelite roots that allowed for a supersessionist reading of the Old Testament based on perceived deficiencies in the religious views of the post-exilic era.
Informed by recent advances in our knowledge of the Persian Empire, this commentary, demonstrates that Ezra and Nehemiah offer a compelling story of a people’s attempt to reassemble the fragments of their heritage as they face the future in a greatly changed world.
Thomas M. Bolin is associate professor of religious studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. His research focuses on ancient Israelite history and religion, wisdom literature, postexilic texts, and theological hermeneutics.
Thomas Bolin's commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah provides a wealth of background information as well as insight into the literary construction of this scroll divided into two biblical books. This is a ready introduction for anyone interested in appreciating the history in, as well as the history of the making of, the Bible. Clearly written in a style that maintains the interest of the reader, this commentary succeeds in making an often obscure section of the Bible a lively, relevant and fascinating text. Highly recommended for clergy and laity alike.
Lowell K. Handy, Indexer-Analyst, American Theological Library Association
Erudite and accessible, this commentary addresses the numerous challenges that arise when one reads Ezra and Nehemiah closely and takes seriously the books' historical context, the wake of the Babylonian exile. By chapter and verse, Thomas Bolin shows how the missions of these two biblical figures paralleled and complemented each other with a common emphasis on theological themes such as repentance, renewal and reconstruction. Bolin's commentary is essential reading for all who seek a deeper and fuller understanding of a seminal period in biblical history, the fifth century BC when Ezra and then Nehemiah helped chart the course of the Judean community.
Richard J. Bautch, Associate Professor of Humanities and Associate Dean of the School of Humanities, St. Edward's University