In the early Achaemenid Persian period, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of Yahweh. This volume investigates issues surrounding the rebuilding of this temple, focusing on the timing and purpose of the project, and the social and political circumstances in which it was undertaken.
The study reflects on certain passages from the Old Testament, such as Ezra 1-6, Haggai, and Zechariah 1-8; early Achaemenid Persian administrative practices; and Judean hopes for restoration in order to question the contention that the Jerusalem temple was established as an economic and administrative centre around which competing groups struggled for socio-economic and political power.
Ezra-Nehemiah is widely recognized as stressing the separation of Judeans repatriated from Babylonian exile from those they found living in and around Judah at their return. A related theme has received little attention, namely, the on-going relationship between the repatriates and their parent community in the Babylonian-Elamite diaspora. The present article highlights features of this relationship, noting that as a colony of the Babylonian exiles, the community of repatriates remained dependent on the diaspora for leadership and for instruction in religious culture and practice. It is suggested that in tandem with the emphasis on separatism, this view of diaspora-homeland relations reflects a concern current in the mid- to late-fourth century Judah to articulate a Judean identity that reinforced the connection of the Babylonian diaspora to the homeland. In its view of diaspora-homeland relations, Ezra-Nehemiah displays certain features in common with other late-Persian and Hellenistic biblical texts such as Esther and Daniel i-vi.