Ezra, a priest and “scribe skilled in the law of Moses which the Lord the God of Israel had given” (Ezra 7:6), foreshadowed Christ in numerous ways by his character and by his actions. His greatest deeds were accomplished decades after the first Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem from their foreign exile. The Jews had begun to rebuild the temple, but their local enemies turned the king against them, halting any progress on the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. After a few decades, a new king gave permission to continue the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Ezra left Babylon and made the long journey to Jerusalem with a company of priests, Levites, temple officials, and families to reform the present situation the Jews of Jerusalem found themselves in.
Before he arrived at Jerusalem, Ezra proclaimed a fast and beseeched God for protection and mercy. The Gentile peoples around them were very hostile, and Ezra said that he “was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way; since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all that forsake him.” So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty” (Ezra 8:22-23). Thus Ezra, like Christ, does not require earthly means of accomplishing success and trusts in God to protect His people. He then gave gifts for the rebuilding and decoration of the temple. God listened to Ezra’s entreaties and sacrifices and led the returning Jews safely to the holy city.
When Ezra and his company had arrived, they discovered, to their horror, that the Jews living there had disobeyed the law of God and had intermarried with the heathens around them. By doing so, they had also become attached to the abominable and idolatrous practices to which they had been introduced by their heathen spouses. This corruption had reached all levels of society in Jerusalem, including the highest officials. Ezra made a sorrowful and desperate plea to God to forgive them. Time and time again in history the Jews had forsaken the Law, and on the previous occasion of sin God had punished them by the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Babylonian Exile. With all this in mind, Ezra and the Jews repented of their sin, and under the orders of Ezra, separated themselves from their foreign wives and children. The foreign intermarriages had caused the Jews untold evils before, and it was absolutely necessary that the occasion of sin be removed entirely before it brought the Jews into far worse sins. This corresponds in a way to Christ, who commands us to separate from all evil influences, even those which are most dear to us.
Ezra clearly had great trust in God and shared many of the virtues that Christ exemplified. Like Christ, he led his people back into the Promised Land which they had lost on account of their sins. Ezra and Christ both had an absolute hatred of sin and required that all occasions of sin be removed. By doing so, Ezra revived the stagnant rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, corresponding with the fulfilment of Judaism by the Church.