Fourth Ezra (chs. 3–14 ) should be read separately from 5 and 6 Ezra, and preferably first. It is divided into seven episodes, traditionally referred to as visions, which can be read one at a time (see outline). The first three episodes take the form of dialogues between Ezra and the angel Uriel. Each begins with Ezra lamenting * the fate of Israel, after which the angel engages in a theological dispute with him, then makes predictions about the coming end of time. The first two dialogues closely parallel each other, while the much longer third dialogue contains several rounds of dispute followed by predictions. The reader will notice that Ezra never fully accepts the angel's answers to his questions in the course of the dialogues. The fourth episode, which begins with a lament and a dialogue (this time between Ezra and a mourning woman) and ends with a vision, marks a turning point in the book. In the fifth and sixth episodes, Ezra receives visions and accepts the angel's interpretation * of them without argument or complaint. In the final episode, Ezra gladly accepts his commission as leader and comforter of his people, comparable to Moses. Although at the end Ezra appears reconciled to the fate of Israel, the author has left the reader with many unanswered questions. In particular, the nationalistic triumph predicted in the visions of chs. 11–13 is hard to reconcile with the angel's insistence in the dialogues on individual responsibility for salvation.
In reading 5 Ezra, the reader may wish to contrast the author's views of the covenant, * law, and salvation with those expressed in 4 Ezra. It is important to bear in mind the historical consequences of the Christian claim that the Jews forfeited the covenant through their sins. Similarly, in reading 6 Ezra, one could think of modern parallels to the hatred and thirst for revenge expressed here. What sort of circumstances give rise to such delight in destruction?
2 Esd 1–2 (5 Ezra)
2 Esd 3–14 (4 Ezra)
2 Esd 15–16 (6 Ezra) Oracles of the Lord