Enjoy this overview from the Bible Project
In this book we jump over the 70-year chasm called the Exile and land in the period of Israel’s history called The Restoration. After the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian Empire, the tides changed for the Jewish people living in Exile. Under the permission of the Persian king, three separate waves of people returned to the city of Jerusalem to begin rebuilding that holy place. These three waves were led by three men: Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. While the kingdom of Judah was never fully established with a truly autonomous king, this restoration was vitally important for God’s redemptive plan. In order for the Messiah to come to save His people, the Temple had to be rebuilt. Under the political leadership of the pagan, Persian Empire, God began paving the way for His Son, Jesus, to enter the world and establish His throne eternally.
Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-6)
The first leader to return to Jerusalem was Zerubbabel. King Cyrus issued a decree that Zerubbabel was to receive free passage through the region known as the Trans-Euphrates, and full cooperation from the governors over the various areas through which he must travel.
Relatively speaking, only a handful of Jewish people chose to make the long journey back to Jerusalem. This is understandable, since the journey was a 900 mile trek on foot or camel back, across rough terrain, and through potentially hostile people groups.
Due to interference from the surrounding people, Zerubbabel was forced to stop construction on the Temple for a long period of time. Through the encouragement and teaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and with the backing of King Darius, Zerubbabel completed the construction of the second Temple.
Ezra (Ezra 7-10)
After the reign of King Xerxes had come and gone and the story of Queen Esther unfolded, in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes, a wise teacher of the Law, named Ezra, went to Jerusalem. When he arrived he found that the people, since the time of the rebuilding of the Temple had slipped into the same old problems and had begun intermarrying with their pagan neighbors. Through Ezra’s direct teaching and confrontation of sin the city was purged and recommitted to God’s ways.