Isaiah 60:7:

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
   the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
    and I will beautify my beautiful house (ûbêt tipʾartı̂ ʾăpāʾēr).

My ESV Study Bible1 states that Ezra had this text in mind and saw its fulfillment his commission from Artaxerxes (vv. 12-26), to which he responded (v. 27):

Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD (lĕpāʾēr ʾet-bêt yhwh) that is in Jerusalem .

The verbal parallel seems pretty loose, the cross-reference isn't even included in the ESV textual cross-references (nor NASB, NET, NIV; the NASB citations in particular seem to be fairly far-reaching), and Isaiah 60 has a thorougly eschatalogical tone. All of this makes me wonder if it is indeed likely that the author of Ezra both knew the Isaianic prophecy and saw in his text its fulfillment. On the other hand, I have been unable to find other instances in the Hebrew Bible using the terminology of "beautifying" (p-ʾ-r; possibly better: "adorning".... "glorifying"?) a house (temple or otherwise).

Is there good reason to think that Ezra had this passage from Isaiah in mind?

1. Often somewhat unfairly a source of semi-critical questions on my part because the authors are not given the opportunity to explain or defend their claims in the normal way.

1 Answer 1


Walter Brueggemann (Isaiah: 40-66, page 3) says that a long-standing consensus of scholars that continues to dominate scholarship holds that Isaiah chapters 56-66 were written by an anonymous source now known as Third Isaiah, after the Return from Exile, perhaps around 520 BCE.

The composition history of the Book of Ezra is complex, but Ezra chapter 7 was certainly written after 520 BCE, so it is chronologically possible for the author to have had Isaiah 60:7 in his mind. Its author is very likely to have realised that Third Isaiah had written his account not a great deal earlier than his own writing; indeed their lifetimes may well have overlapped. This means that any retrospective he had would be rather unlikely to have seen Isaiah 60:7 as a prophecy to be fulfilled.

Isaiah 60:7 was written either in the knowledge that the temple would be rebuilt or that it had already been rebuilt, saying that God will beautify his temple.

Ezra 7:27 credits God with causing the Persian king to rebuild and beautify the temple. The author of Ezra 7 wrote to say that Ezra himself glorified God for putting into the king's heart the notion of beautifying his house. So, one theme was that God would beautify his house; the other theme was that the Persian king did so, because of God's influence on him. Again, it is certainly possible that Ezra was influenced by 60:7 even if he did not regard the earlier writing as a prophecy, but I believe Isaiah 60:7 is sufficiently different that, at best, this must remain uncertain. More probably, Ezra was simply expressing pleasure in the temple's striking beauty, attributing the result to God through the intermediary of the Persian king.

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