[b-hebrew] Ezra is Malachi???

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jun 24 18:50:32 EDT 2006


>> > Yigal wrote:
>> > Tradition considers Malachi, a.k.a. Ezra (and yes, I know that there's 
>> > no scriptual basis for that
>> > >identification!)

>> To which Lisbeth S. Fried responded:
>> Huh? But why is the identification necessary?

> To which Yitzhak Sapir answered:
> Maybe this depends on an idea that only those prophets who are included
> in the Neviim were true prophets.  But if that is so, that would mean Ezra
> missed the boat, and came just a few years too late to be considered a
> true Navi, unless he was Malachi and so was born just in time to achieve
> the title of true prophet before the Neviim was canonized...
>

Dear Liz and Yitzhak,

I think it's more than that. First of all, the rabbis of the Talmud had a 
tendency to identify everyone with someone, in order to give them "more to 
work with" when expanding on a character. This is especially true with 
characters about whom the Bible gives us little to go on. I've already 
mentioned that Ruth was the daughter of Eglon King of Moab. Sennacherib is 
the father of Nebuchadnezzar. Zerubabel and Nehemiah are the same person, as 
are Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes - all just one Persian King! 
Never mind that these identifications are historically impossible; the 
rabbis were not historians, and anyone who even thinks that they were 
intended to be taken as "history" is missing the point!

In the case of Ezra/Malachi, the book of Malachi tells us nothing about the 
person, and the rabbis wanted to know more. "Malachi", meaning "my 
messenger", could very well be a title rather than a proper name. But the 
"problem" is actually about Ezra. The rabbis considered Ezra to be "the 
great reformer", who basically founded Second-Temple Judaism. He was the 
person who authorised the transfer from old Hebrew script to the square 
(Aramaic) script, the adoption of Babylonian month-names (Tishri, Marheshvan 
etc, rather than just "first, second" and so on), the public reading of the 
Torah on weekdays (Moses founded the Sabbath readings) and more. In fact, 
Ezra is considered to be the person who "sealed" (cannonized) the Tanakh - 
no books later than his own could achieve the status of scripture. In other 
words, the Rabbis realized that Second-Temple Judaism was very different 
than the religion of the Bible, and needed an authority with whom to credit 
the change. And so Ezra "the scribe" (in other words, a rabbi) was 
posthumously made head of the Sanhedrin (actually, the term used is "Great 
Assembly", since the rabbis realised that "Sanhedrin" is a Greek word that 
could not have been used so early). He was also endowed with the authority 
of the High Priest - never mind that the book of Ezra does not call him one, 
the genealogy in chapter 7 shows that he had the right lineage to be one. So 
what was missing was pophetic authority - identifying him with Malachi, an 
accredited prophet who did live at about the same time and about whom we 
know nothing anyway - solved the problem. The rabbis stated: Ezra was 
fitting that the Torah could have been given to Israel by him, except that 
Moses came first. So Ezra was seen as a kind of "Second Moses" - Rabbi, 
Priest and Prophet all in one.

And yes, I know that all of this does not quite accord with what we know 
about the "historical" Ezra. So what? To the rabbis of 700 years later, it 
seemed right on the button!

Yigal 




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