The Symmetrical Structure of Ezra-Nehemiah

[-adapted from Dorsey and from T. Eskenazi (JBL, 1988, 641-56)]

A. Decree to the community to build the house of God (Ezra 1:1-4)

B. the return under Zerubbabel and list of returnees (Ezra 1:5-2:70)

C. building of Temple and opposition (Ezra 3-6)

D. Ezra’s return (Ezra 7-8)

E. Purification of the community (Ezra 9-10)

D’. Nehemiah’s return (Nehemiah 1-2)

C’. Building the walls and opposition (Nehemiah 3-7:3)

B’. the return under Zerubbabel and list of returnees (7:4-72)

A’. Dedication by the community, to the Torah, and of the wall (Neh 8:1-13:31).

Note: the earliest Hebrew manuscripts have Ezra and Nehemiah as one scroll. The repetition of the long list of returnees under Zerubabbel, rather than being a needless repetition or editorial error should be seen as marking the boundaries of a symmetrical structure, and giving an emphasis to the role of ordinary people in the restoration of the community. This symmetry gives central prominence to the separation of the people from intermarriage and thereby loss of essential identity as the people of God.


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