Esra schreibend und Nehemia bauend: Die Bücher Esra und Nehemia in (christlichen) Bildern

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This article presents an overview of depictions of Ezra and Nehemiah and the motifs taken from their books in visual art, mostly in Christian context. A rich variety of the motifs is to be found in biblical manuscripts and prints of the Bible until the 19th century. While at the beginning of the book of Ezra, the Persian king Cyrus is often depicted giving the order to rebuild the temple, the book of Nehemiah frequently starts with an image of Nehemia as cupbearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes. Other popular motifs are king Cyrus giving back the temple vessels (Ezr 1), exiles returning to Jerusalem (Ezr 2), the foundation of the temple (Ezr 3), Ezra praying for the people (Ezr 9.10), Nehemiah hearing about the bad condition of Jerusalem (Neh 1), Nehemiah visiting the destructed city (Neh 2), rebuilding of the city wall (Neh 4), repentance of the people, while
Ezra reading the Tora (Neh 9). Beyond biblical manuscripts and early prints of the Bible there are surprisingly many depictions of Ezra and Nehemiah, preferred contexts are books of history and edification literature. The figure of Ezra is shown as wise scribe and prophet, who wrote the Tora of Moses and all other books of the Old Testament. This motif derives not primarily from the canonical
Book of Ezra, but from the apocalyptic book 2 Esdras. The figure of Nehemiah appears mostly as governor of Judah who rebuilt Jerusalem and took care of the social order in the community.


Original languageGerman
Number of pages29
JournalDie Bibel in der Kunst : BiKu
Publication statusPublished - 2021

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0002-6729-4109/work/142249055