QUESTIONS ON LESSON XIII
1. How long after the Return was the Temple finished? Who hindered? Who helped?
2. What are the scene and the date of the book of Esther?
3. Compare the return of the Jews to Jerusalem under Ezra with that under Zerubbabel (a) in date, (b) in numbers, (c) in purpose and result.
4. Tell the story of Nehemiah: the occasion of his return, his enemies, his achievements. In what did Ezra help him?
5. Associate the ministry of the three prophets of this period after the Exile with the leaders and movements they respectively helped.
Israel's Religious Life
It has often been said that while civilization owes its art and letters to Greece and its law and order to Rome, it owes its religion and ethics to Palestine. This is true, within limits, provided we understand that what Israel contributed was not the product of its "native genius for religion," but was due to the persistent grace of its God, who took this "fewest of all peoples" and made of it the custodian of his revelation and the cradle of his redemption for the whole world. When, however, the Hebrew claimed preeminence through these two things, a saving God and a righteous Law, it was no idle boast. So Moses eloquently asks in Deuteronomy: "What great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" Deut. 4:7, 8.
Religion as developed in Israel had two sides, an inward and an outward. On its inward side it consisted of a faith in Jehovah cherished in the hearts of the people, together with the sentiments of reverence and love, and the purposes of loyalty and consecration, which grew out of that faith. On its outward side religion consisted of certain objects and ceremonies, adapted to express by act and symbol the relation between God and his people.
But there is also another distinction often made in speaking of religion, the distinction between individual religion and national religion. Each member of the Hebrew nation held a personal relation to his God. The Law of God addressed him individually as it said to him, "Thou