Original Research

The structure of Ezra-Nehemiah as a literary unit

Hans-Georg Wünch
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2317 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2317 | © 2021 Hans-Georg Wünch | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 June 2021 | Published: 05 October 2021

About the author(s)

Hans-Georg Wünch, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria; Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The OT books, Ezra and Nehemiah, are to be considered as one book. This is more or less the common conviction of most OT scholars today. However, their redaction process raises many questions. What is their relation to the book of Chronicles, and how is their actual structure to be understood? Why do we find two almost identical lists of returnees from exile in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7? What about the differences between these lists? This article understands the structure of Ezra-Nehemiah as a consciously created literary unit, where the two lists of returnees serve as an important part of the literary structure. The author works on the assumption of the so-called new literary criticism, understanding the narrative in the book on a synchronic basis. He shows that the book of Ezra-Nehemiah can indeed be understood as one literary unit, and that the two lists of returnees function as a literary means to structure the book. There is therefore no need to ‘re-organise’ the narrated events in Ezra-Nehemiah according to an alleged different chronological order.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The study argued for a canonical and synchronic approach to biblical narratives. The biblical texts should be understood as consciously created narratives, where the apparent discrepancies are important aspects of the narrative fixture.


OT; Ezra-Nehemiah; structure; synchronic exegesis; exile; Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemia; narratology; literary criticism


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