CHAPTERS 1-6: RESTORATION OF THE TEMPLE
After many years in exile, King Cyrus of Persia gave permission to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia to return to the land of Israel and to rebuild the Temple. Those who were among his people were now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel. (Ezra 1:2)
In the second year after their arrival the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid; but not without opposition. Those adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard the exiles were building a temple and asked to help. However, when they were turned away, they discouraged the building and sent a letter to King Artaxerxes who ordered the building cease. (Ezra 4:21)
It wasn't until King Darius of Persia issued a decree to allow the continued building of this house of God that the people were able to finish.
"The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the returned exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy." (Ezra 6:16)
EZRA 7 - 10: RESTORATION OF THE WORSHIPPING COMMUNITY
"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel." (Ezra 7:10)
In Chapter 7, Ezra is introduced. "He was a scribe, skilled in the law of Moses that the Lord the God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was upon him." (Ezra 7:6)
King Artaxerxes sent the priest Ezra, the scribe, a letter decreeing "that any of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom who freely offers to go to Jerusalem may go with you."(Ezra 7:13) Ezra was also to take silver and gold offered by the king to the God of Israel. "with this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs and their grain offerings and their doing offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem."(Ezra 7:17)
It was also made known that it was not "lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God." (Ezra 7:24) Ezra was also given the power to appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people with the laws of God, and Ezra would teach any who did not know them.
So Ezra, with the steadfast love of God, gathered the family heads based on genealogy. He gathered them by the river Ahava and camped three days. Without an army for protection, Ezra proclaimed a fast and asked God for safe journey; he set apart twelve leading priests and distributed the offerings for the house of God; and after, they set out for Jerusalem. (Ezra 8)
Ezra and his followers made it to Jerusalem. They counted and weighed the silver, gold and vessels; recorded everything; and offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel. After these things were done, the officials approached Ezra and told him that the people of Israel had not "separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations." (Ezra 9:1) Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the people of the lands and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way." (Ezra 9:2) Ezra was appalled.
In the final chapter, all the returned exiles gathered in Jerusalem. "Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, 'you have trespassed and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now make confession to the Lord the God of your ancestors, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.'" (Ezra 10: 10-11) So the heads of the families met and determined who had married foreign women "and they sent them away with their children." (Ezra 10:44)