…at Thy beck the momentf flee by. Grant thereof a ssace,
for our meditations in the hidden things of Thy law, and
close it not against us who knock. For not in vain would-
est Thou haee the darksome secrets of so mayy pages
written; nor are thoee forests without their harts which
retire therein and range and walk; feed, lie down, and ru-
Augustine, Confessions, transl. E.B. Pusey, Liber 11,
II/3, London n.d.
At the conclusion of the canon of the Hebrew Bible, the community of Israel gathers to study the 'book of the torah' When Ezra deposits the 'book of the torah' in their midst, it is not only the people of Israel but we, too – readers and hearers of EzraNehemiah – who are taken back to the beginning, the five books of Moses. In this way, the same text that we already possessed is presented to us again, as it were: Scripture asks to be read anew.
This is not the place to really start all over again, but the clear appeal that sounds from Ezra-Nehemiah does require some sort of resumption if our readings are not to be left dangling in the air. For, if we take a step back from the text for a moment and consider the great arc from Moses to Ezra that we found at the end of the previous chapter, several questions arise from the interpretation provided there. For instance, it is possible to reverse the image of Ezra as the 'second Moses', which begs the question whether Moses should not be seen as a 'proto-Ezra'. Is Ezra the follower of Moses, or is the opposite the case – is Moses not the precursor of Ezra? In addition to this, a careful analysis is required of the situation in relation to the 'books' that link Moses, Josiah, Jeremiah and Ezra. We have seen which role is played by these 'books' in the individual stories, but what can we say about the relations between these stories on the basis of this common motif? In the same way, the relative positions of the four people mentioned require clarification. For instance, what position do Josiah and Jeremiah as king and prophet occupy in relation to the two characters who appear with them? All these topics have been touched on briefly when we passed them in the course of our reading. We must scrutinise them again in a re-reading, if we are to acquire a better view of the route as a whole.