Ezra and Nehemiah are books about coming home. However, homecomings can be more difficult than expected, even disappointing in some ways. You know, like when you came home from summer camp to find your parents had turned your bedroom into an office with a treadmill desk and now you have to share a room with your annoying little brother. Ezra and Nehemiah are concerned with creating an ideal home but this means making a lot of changes: forcing people not to work on the Sabbath, rebuilding the city, and condemning mixed marriages. It's not exactly the glorified return to Jerusalem that all the Major Prophets were talking about.
Plus, by the time the exiles got back to Judea, it had become home to lots of other people, including the poorer Judeans who were allowed by Babylon to stay behind, as well as other tribes like the Not-So-Good Samaritans. They made life difficult for the exiles. The Samaritans knew that a brand-new Temple in Jerusalem would draw Jews from all over, which would threaten their control of their own lands. So they tried everything to stop the building.
Questions About The Home
Is the homecoming underwhelming? If you read Isaiah or Ezekiel, were you expecting a bit more, based on those prophecies?
What did the returned exiles find different about Judea?
How do Nehemiah and Ezra think of their home? What needs to be done to make it familiar and inviting?