Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary

By Joseph Blenkinsopp
Philadelphia : Westminster (1988). 366 Pages.

Reviewed by
3.1 (Spring 1992) : 97-98

Joseph Blenkinsopp, John A. O'Brien Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is perhaps best known for his work on prophecy. He now provides a stimulating commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah.

No lack of commentaries exists on this dyad, but few give as focused attention to the history of Israel during the period of Persian domination as this one. This uniqueness is surprising because to understand the issues within Judaism, the ministry of Jesus, and the early church, these subjects "must be traced back to a formative period of the two centuries of Persian rule . . ." (p. 38).

Even though authorship of the two books is disputed, Blenkinsopp stresses "how essential it is to maintain the structural unity of Chronicles and Ezra`Nehemiah" (p. 37). In terms of its function, the overarching message purposes "to sustain the life and energy of the community . . ." (p. 37). Yet maintaining the structural unity does not necessarily require a single author for Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. "Author," the writer suggests may "stand for a plurality or school rather than an individual . . ." (p. 48). Thus Blenkinsopp supports his case for structural unity by tracing common foci and subject matter throughout the two works without linking these to a common hand.

The commentary weds theology and the early history of postexilic Israel. Those with such interests will find this volume helpful for filling gaps in this little-understood but important period.