Ezra and the Second Wilderness addresses the relationship between Ezra, the Ezra Memoir, and the Pentateuch. Tracing the growth of the Ezra Memoir and its incorporation into Ezra-Nehemiah, Philip Y. Yoo discusses the literary strategies utilized by some of the composers and redactors operating in the post-exilic period. After the strata in Ezra 7-10 and Nehemiah 8-10 are identified, what emerges as the base Ezra Memoir is a coherent account of Ezra's leadership of the exiles from Babylon over the course of a single year, one that is intricately modelled on the multiple presentations of Moses and the Israelite wilderness preserved in the Pentateuch. Through discussion of the detected influences, allusions, and omissions between the Pentateuch and the Ezra Memoir, Yoo shows that the Ezra Memoir demonstrates a close understanding of its source materials and received traditions as it constructs the Babylonian returnees as the inheritors of torah and, in turn, the true and unparalleled successors of the Israelite cult.
This study presents the Ezra Memoir as a sophisticated example of 'biblical' interpretation in the Second Temple period. It also suggests that the Ezra Memoir has access to the Pentateuch in only its constituent parts. Acknowledging not only the antiquity but also efficacy of its prototypes, the Ezra Memoir employs a variety of hermeneutical strategies in order to harmonize the competing claims of its authoritative sources. In closing the temporal gap between these sources and its own contemporary time, the Ezra Memoir grants authority to the utopic past yet also projects its own vision for the proper worship of Israel's deity.