Ezra (480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (Ezra ha-Sofer) and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra, was a Jewish scribe and a priest. According to the Hebrew Bible he was a descendant of Seraiah (Ezra 7:1) the last high priest to serve in the first temple (kings 2 25:18), and a close relative of Joshua the first High Priest of the second temple (chronicles 1 5:40-41. see also Ezra 3:2). He returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem (Ezra 7–10 and Neh 8). According to 1 Esdras, a Greek translation of the Book of Ezra still in use in Eastern Orthodoxy, he was also a high priest. Rabbinic tradition holds that he was only a common priest.
Several traditions have developed over his place of burial. One tradition says that he is buried in al-Uzayr near Basra (Iraq), while another tradition alleges that he is buried in Tadif near Aleppo, in northern Syria.
His name may be an abbreviation of Azaryahu, "God-helps".
The Book of Ezra describes how he led a group of Judean exiles living in Babylon to their home city of Jerusalem (Ezra 8.2-14) where he is said to have enforced observance of the Torah. He was described as exhorting the Israelite people to be sure to follow the Torah Law so as not to intermarry with people of particular different religions, a set of commandments described in the Pentateuch.
Ezra, known as "Ezra the scribe" in Chazalic literature, is a highly respected figure in Judaism.
The books of Ezra–Nehemiah were originally one scroll. (Nehemiah 3:32, footnote) Later the Jews divided this scroll and called it First and Second Ezra. Modern Hebrew Bibles call the two books Ezra and Nehemiah, as do other modern Bible translations. A few parts of the Book of Ezra (4:8 to 6:18 and 7:12-26) were written in Aramaic, and the majority in Hebrew, Ezra himself being skilled in both languages. Ezra, a descendant of Seraiah the high priest, was living in Babylon when in the seventh year (c. 457 BCE) of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women. He tore his garments in despair and confessed the sins of Israel before God, then braved the opposition of some of his own countrymen to purify the community by enforcing the dissolution of the sinful marriages. Some years later Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah (a Jewish noble in his personal service) to Jerusalem as governor with the task of rebuilding the city walls. Once this task was completed Nehemiah had Ezra read the Law of Moses (the Torah) to the assembled Israelites, and the people and priests entered into a covenant to keep the law and separate themselves from all other peoples.