With the publication of this volume Cyril Barber brings to a close thirty years of study and research on the books of Joshua through Esther. His treatment of each of these canonical writings is devotional and was written during his busy pastoral and teaching ministry.
The Book of Ezra. Jewish tradition has made Ezra one of the most celebrated personages in all the history of his people. Five great works are attributed to him: (1) The founding of the "Great Synagogue," or synod of learned Jewish scholars; (2) the settlement of the sacred "canon," or recognized list of authoritative Hebrew Scriptures; (3) the establishment of the Hebrew Scriptures in square Assyrian characters; (4) the compilation of the Chronicles, along with the book that now bears his own name, and possibly Psalm 119; and (5) the institution of local synagogues.
The Book of Ezra has been looked upon as Israel's "second exodus," for under the leadership of Zerubbabel a large number of Jewish expatriates journeyed from Babylon to Jerusalem, and in spite of many difficulties rebuilt the Temple. Years passed before Ezra led a second group of exiles to Jerusalem. He based all he did on the Word of God, and in his example we have encouragement for a life of godliness in the midst of the present moral and spiritual decline.
The Book of Esther. The title of this book is based on its main character, Queen Esther. It fits into the gap between Ezra 6 and 7, and records the events in Babylon prior to and immediately following Xerxes' (Ahasuerus's) attack on Greece. Though there is no mention of God in the book, he is nonetheless active.
According to Drs. M'Clintock and Strong, "The character of Esther, as she appears in the Bible, is that of a woman of deep piety, faith, courage, patriotism, and caution, combined with resolution; a dutiful daughter to her adopted father . . . and anxious to share the king's favor with him for the good of her people. She was a virtuous woman, and as far as her situation made it possible, a good wife to the king."