Ezra reads the law, “the scroll of the Teaching,” to the people (Nehemiah 8). In this wall painting from the Dura-Europos synagogue, the writing on the scroll faces out, perhaps to illustrate the passage in Nehemiah, “Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people” (Nehemiah 8:5). On the floor beside Ezra’s right foot rests a cloth-covered box that may be a portable ark, or scroll case, where the scrolls of the law that Ezra brought from Babylon could be kept. Some scholars identify this scene as Moses reading the law after he had received it on Mt. Sinai.

When the small band of returned exiles from Babylon began to build their religious life anew in Jerusalem, Ezra led them in a reaffirmation of their ancient covenant with God (roughly in 435 B.C.).