Ezra was a man with a very clear sense of purpose for his life: He had devoted himself to the study and observance of God’s laws and to teaching them to God’s people.
Ezra was both a priest and a scribe. As a priest, he was trained in the rituals and laws regarding atonement for sin and coming before God on behalf of the people. As a scribe, Ezra’s chief goal was to preserve and pass on the scriptures and explain them to others. Ezra led a group of about five thousand Jewish exiles from Babylon to Judea around 459 BC, about seventy years after the first waves of exiles were allowed to return. The dangerous journey took about four months.
After Ezra arrived in Judea, he immediately began addressing wrongs that were being done in the land, and he led the people in repentance and recommitment to follow God’s laws (Ezra 9–10). Soon after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, Ezra read the law from morning until midday, and this sparked a new fervor among the people to follow God’s laws (Nehemiah 8).
Jewish tradition also holds that Ezra founded the Great Assembly, which was the forerunner of the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders.
The book of Ezra, which may have been written by Ezra himself, is one of two books in the Bible that has significant portions of it written in Aramaic, a sister language to Hebrew. The other is the book of Daniel, which was also written around the time of the exile. Aramaic was the language of the Babylonian Empire.