I'm reading Ezra and Haggai together right now in the NET Bible. Some of the footnotes refer to the time period certain kings ruled. I'm confused about the chronology of chapters 4-5. Ezra 4:6 begins the account of the accusation against Judah, which was at the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus, ~486 B.C. Then Ezra 4:24 says the construction was halted until the second year of the reign of King Darius, ~520 B.C. How could construction be resumed before the accusation was made? -- Nick Karastamatis

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah have occasioned a good deal of chronological confusion--not that I am charging the word of God will error. To answer your question, the earlier part of chapter 4 is set around the year 520. Zerubbabel is mentioned. Then in verses 6-23 we have a long parenthesis. After this comes verse 24, which refers back to verse 5. Haggai and Zechariah are mentioned in 5:1. They minister and prophesy around 520 BC, until the temple was rebuilt around 516/515 BC.

Just as in modern cinema, it is not uncommon for biblical narratives to feature flashbacks and fast-forwards (which is the case in chapter 4). Presumably the original readers/hearers of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were sufficiently familiar with the story (and the history) that such flashbacks and fast-forwards did not distract them. To us, however, who are millennia removed from the events and far less familiar with them, the historical parentheses are confusing. (Welcome to the club!)

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