ver half a century after the first return of Jewish exiles, another group was sent to Jerusalem. The first group had arrived under the care of Zerubbabel during the days of Cyrus. A second group; a much smaller group, took the 4 month journey with a scribe and priest named Ezra during the days of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:9).
Zerubbabel's assignment had been the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra's interest was the beautification of the temple and the purification of the people. What is most striking about the story of Ezra's commission is just how liberal the Persian king was in providing for the success of Ezra's mission. Because God was with him, the king gave him everything he wanted (Ezra 7:6, 16, 18, 20 & 21).
It is appropriate that Ezra didn't just set out to improve the decor and the aesthetic flavor of the temple. He intended to call the people to holiness as well (Ezra 7:25 - 26). The hearts and actions of God's people were certainly as important as the state of the temple (Psalm 33:1 & 147:1)... more so, really. And incidentally, Ezra was well qualified to handle this issue. He was a "ready scribe" who had "prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lard, and to do it, and to teach Israel statutes and judgments" and who had been "strengthened" by the presence of God's hand on him (Ezra 7:6 & 10).
There will be more to come about the uniqueness of Ezra's ministry.