The Book of Ezra describes a glorious moment in the history of the Jewish people: their return from Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem. From the standpoint of the Divine Principle, this period marks the ending of their period of exile and return, and the beginning of the period of preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
A number of interesting points emerge for Unificationists through a close reading of the Book of Ezra. One is the person of Zerubbabel, a descendant of David hailed by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah as a possible Messiah. Divine Principle makes it clear that it was never predestined in God's providence that Jesus of Nazareth be the Messiah. Indeed, the Principle states that there were several earlier opportunities for God to send the Messiah, such as at the time Moses if the Israelites had been completely faithful, and at the time of King Solomon if he had not fallen into idolatry, as well as during the period of Divided Kingdoms, if Israel and Judah had united centering on the ideal of the temple. It is not out of the question, therefore, that Zerubbabel or one of his descendants could have become the Messiah around Ezra's time. In fact, one of the Zerubbabel's descendants was chosen as the Messiah several centuries later. That person was none other than Jesus of Nazareth (see genealogies at Matthew 1:13 and Luke 3:27).
Another interesting incident is the offer of the local inhabitants around Jerusalem—those who had not gone into exile in Babylon—to join in building the temple. The book characterizes these people as the adversaries of the Jews, but their initial offer does not appear insincere. Rather, it seems that they acted to thwart the completion of the temple only once their offer was insultingly rebuffed. Were Zerubbabel and the other leaders of the Jews providentially correct to reject these locals? Might Zerubbabel have succeeded in his mission if he had accepted them?
The Jews were clearly in the position of Abel, while the locals were in the position of Cain. Normally the Divine Principle takes the view that it is God's will for Abel and Cain to unite and for Abel to bring Cain to God's altar. This seems to have been a golden opportunity for the two groups to unite centering on what DP calls the "ideal of the temple." The biblical account clearly implies that the rejection of the locals also is what spurred them to block the temple's completion. The divide between Abel and Cain became even deeper when Ezra declared that all Jews must divorce any non-Jewish women they had married. Ultimately those with mixed marriages who would not divorce their wives became the Samaritans, a nation which developed an independent and competing Israelite religion from the Jews. The nation of Samaria was quite successful for several centuries and the Samaritans still survive in very small numbers today. It is interesting to ponder what the fate of the Samaritans might have been if Jesus had fulfilled the original plan intended by God as described in the DP—for the Samaritans are depicted as being somewhat receptive to his message (Luke 17:16, John 4:39-40).
Whether or not God intended for the Jews to establish a broader foundation than they did when they initially returned to Judea, from the standpoint of the Principle, God used the Jewish religion centering on the Temple of Jerusalem
as His providential instrument to establish the national level foundation for the Messiah. The Book of Ezra represents a moment of victory in God's providence, when the Jews resolved to unite strongly centering on the Temple of Jerusalem and the Law of Moses. This unity created the foundation that would ultimately enable God to fulfill the providence to the send the Messiah to the Jewish people.