Many of them would have received their introduction through Henry Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader--a heavily annotated copy is among the books of Ezra Pound in the Pound archives in Texas--so it is appropriate that Mark Atherton here places Sweet in his own cultural context.
The trauma of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and the Babylonian Exile gave Jews a more "international" focus, although an internal dialectic persisted between exclusiveness (the mass divorces, say, at the end of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah) and inclusive-ness (the Book of Ruth, with a Moabitess turning out to be the great-grandmother of David).
choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant." The inclusion of the formerly excluded becomes a prime expression of God's initial command to the newly returned from exile, fearful of miscegenation and idolatry (see the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ruth), to "maintain justice, and do what is right." Justice, not only pastoral sensitivity and freedom of conscience, needs to be the plumbline of the church's struggle with issues of who's in and who's out in our day as well.
When you read the strongly spiritual books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you get a glimpse of the passionate concern which these two men had for the religious observances and the political aspiration of the Jews in exile.