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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

5 - The Restoration of Israel in the Persian and Hellenistic Periods

from Part II - Restoration Eschatology and the Construction of Biblical Israel


The events of Ezra-Nehemiah are frequently treated as though they represent the end of the exile. This chapter argues that this was not how Ezra-Nehemiah was understood by early Jewish readers. Instead, the chapter argues that Ezra-Nehemiah records multiple attempts to initiate Israel's restoration but presents the efforts of its protagonists as admirable failures, accomplishing only a "little reviving" in the midst of an exilic and servile condition portrayed as continuous with the Assyrian hegemony centuries earlier. The book and its protagonists see the restoration as contingent on obedience, and the returnees' unfaithfulness and lack of holiness/separation show that the restoration has not happened—and also prevent it from being initiated. The chapter argues that the authors of Daniel, 1 Enoch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees all understood the events of Ezra-Nehemiah as inadequate and hoped for the promised restoration in their own day. The chapter also suggests that the appearance of "Israel" language in this literature is strongly correlated with restoration eschatology and the hopes of the renewal of a people including but not limited to the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin.