The historical Ezra was a priestly scribe who is thought to have led about 5,000 Israelite exiles living in Babylon to their home city of Jerusalem in 459 BCE. Many scholars credit him as the author of the Book of Ezra and the Book of 1 Chronicles in the Bible.
Unless otherwise specified, all historical information about Ezra in this article is derived from the last four chapters of the Book of Ezra, and Chapter 8 of the Book of Nehemiah. More general historical information about the people and places Ezra would have interacted with is available at Israelites.
Ezra was either the son or grandson of the Biblical character Seraiah (2 Kings 25:18-21), and a lineal descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see also Darius I of Persia), Ezra obtained leave to go to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites (Ezra 8). Artaxerxes showed great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him "all his requests," and giving him gifts for the house of God. Ezra assembled a band of approximately 5,000 exiles to go to Jerusalem. They rested on the banks of the Ahava for three days and organized their four-month march across the desert.