account of Jewish history from Josiah's
reforms, through the return from exile
and the public reading of the Law by Ezra.
The book begins with
an account of the restoration of true worship by King Josiah at the end
of the seventh century B.C. Josiah's successors were unfaithful to God,
however, so that the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and sent
many into exile. Cyrus allowed the exiles to return and to rebuild the Temple,
which they did despite opposition from neighboring peoples. Ezra the scribe is a leading figure in the story.
After leading a group of exiles back to Jerusalem,
he called upon the people to repent and to dismiss their foreign wives in
order to preserve true worship in Israel. The people did so, and the book
culminates with Ezra's public reading of the Law of Moses in Jerusalem.