Do the Names of Kanan and Ezra Give Us Clues About the Fate of the Jedi?
The most talked about line in the trailer for The Last Jedi is when Luke Says, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Similarly, the biggest question fans of Rebels have, especially as the show enters its last season, is whether powerful Jedi like Kanan and Ezra are alive during the events depicted in episodes IV, V, And VI. Fans look for clues in every scrap of news, such as the casting of Benicio Del Toro as “DJ” in the The Last Jedi and how he seems to have a scar on his cheek that matches Ezra’s.
However, maybe we are looking too deeply for the hidden and not paying attention to things right under our noses.
When the names of the characters in Rebels were first announced, it struck many people how some of the names didn’t exactly sound like they were from a galaxy far, far away. Actually, a couple sounded very familiar and downright biblical. James Burns actually addressed this when he spoke to Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg for his article for StarWars.com.
The main thing I take away from that article is that Filoni said he and his writers are very purposeful when they use a name. Admittedly, part of the use of biblical names is to connect to the religious nature and seriousness of purpose found in the original movies. That being said, there are thousands of names in the Bible. Why settle on Ezra, Kanan, and even Caleb?
Biblical History of the Names
I am not the first person to delve into the biblical references of the Kanan and Ezra. StarWarsReport.com did a good job of breaking down what the names could mean about the characteristics of our heroes.
Although I will address some of the same biblical history of the names, I want to do so with an eye toward what it means as to the impact Kanan and Ezra have on the Jedi as a whole.
Kanan’s name is symbolic, but also the least complicated of the three names, for that reason, I will address it first. It clearly evokes images of the Land of Canaan, which, in the Bible, is a land promised to God’s chosen people. It is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. It contains resources necessary to make life easier and even enjoyable.
Even so, it does not mean that the land is inhabited easily. During several extended periods of time, Hebrew people have been dispossessed of the land. Control of the land is something that is won and lost over and over. Like anything of value, it must be guarded and not taken for granted.
In Star Wars, the land is a metaphor for the balance of the Force the Jedi desire. Other groups want to use the Force in a way the Jedi see as improper. The Jedi need to remain vigilant and respectful of the Force to keep the proper balance.
The Clone Wars and Order 66 are like a time when control of the land was lost. The schemes of groups opposed to the Jedi, as well as a loss of proper perspective from within the order itself, led to the Jedi being pushed out of their rightful place. However, as many times as the land was lost, it was regained by the Hebrew people.
Do the other biblical names in Rebels indicate that the Jedi will reinhabit the position they once held?
The biblical Ezra was a religious leader of the Hebrew people. He had been exiled in Babylon, but returned to the Land of Canaan. Once there, he restored the study of the Torah, the law of God, to the Jewish people. Instead of focusing on physical projects, like rebuilding the temple or city wall, he wanted to restore the spiritual relationship between his people and God.
The name most closely associated in the Bible with Ezra is Nehemiah. Nehemiah returned from the same Babylonian exile as Ezra, and he wanted to restore his people much the same way Ezra did. Nehemiah’s most notable act in this regard was the rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem.
Whereas Ezra’s desire was for a spiritual defense of his people, Nehemiah wanted a physical defense. Ezra’s actions were in the sphere of the religious. Nehemiah’s actions were more tactical, representing the projects undertaken by a military or governmental leader.
If Ezra Bridger is comparable to his biblical namesake, then his contribution to the future of the Jedi will not be in an administrative or ruling capacity. His leadership will be in the area of spiritual connection to the Force. It would be Ezra who would take the Jedi back to their roots, focusing on communion with the Force and avoiding political entanglements.
Caleb Dume changed his name to Kanan Jarrus after Order 66. Being a Jedi hunted by Darth Vader will cause one to do that. The name Caleb may say more about this Jedi’s character than the name Kanan.
There are similarities between the biblical Caleb and what we already know about Kanan’s life. Caleb was an Israelite during the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. As they neared the land of Canaan, Moses picked twelve spies for reconnaissance of the land. The spies came back and reported on the bounty of the land, but they also reported on the threat of its inhabitants. Caleb was one of only two spies to tell Moses that the Israelites should enter the land and take it.
The other spy who said the Israelites should go and take the land, because God had promised it to them, was Joshua. Joshua became the leader of the Jewish people after Moses died. He took on the political and military leadership of the Israelites.
Caleb did not take up a role as a spiritual leader per se. However, he is singled out as the one who spoke out before all the people, and he said they should trust God and enter the land. He is also described by God as having a different spirit and being a wholehearted follower. He was held up as the example of faith.
Because a majority of the spies advised against entering the land, and therefore showed a lack faith in God, the Israelites were forced to wander in the desert for forty years. This allowed the faithless generation to die off before the nation entered the Promised Land.
Kanan spent time wandering in the vastness of the galaxy. During that time, the older members of his religion were killed, victims of a loss of connection to their faith. The only question is, will Kanan survive long enough to enter the “Promised Land?”
Implications for the Destiny of Kanan and Ezra
The prevailing theory of the ultimate fate of Kanan and Ezra is that they will die. The logic is that such powerful Jedi/light side force users would have been noticed and at least mentioned in Episodes IV through VI. However, the deaths of these characters would not correlate with the biblical implications of their names.
I believe their names indicate Kanan and Ezra will survive into the era of A New Hope. I believe this could happen one of two ways. Either Kanan and Ezra are in wild space during that time, or they remove themselves from battling on the side of the Rebellion when Luke, Leia, and Han fight to bring down the Emperor.
The popular choice is that the duo are in wild space. The second trailer for the fourth season of Rebels provides a manner in which this can occur. Grand Admiral Thrawn is seen telling his bodyguard, Rukh, to capture Captain Syndulla. We know from the novel Thrawn that the Grand Admiral does not want to turn over all enemies of the Empire to the Emperor. He wants to send competent operatives back to his own people, in the far off reaches of wild space, to help against a more evil threat. The capture of Hera could cause Kanan and Ezra to voluntarily trade themselves for her. Then the two could go help Thrawn’s people.
This does resemble the paths taken by the biblical characters each was named after. Caleb and Ezra were captives in foreign lands. Although in different ways, one through slavery and one through assimilation, both carried out plans of the foreign rulers. This would be a satisfactory explanation of how Kanan and Ezra survived the Empire but were not part of its collapse.
The other theory is that Kanan and Ezra turn away from the use of militaristic tactics to further their view of the Force and simply put their faith in the Force. In other words, they leave the Rebellion to follow a more peaceful, nonviolent path,
This theory is also bolstered by the new trailer. In the new trailer, Ezra tells Kanan that maybe they have chosen to fight the wrong way. Many have heard this and assumed Ezra is talking about going darker, as he seemed to be doing at the beginning of season two. Also, Saw Gerrera is heard in the trailer saying that our Rebels must fight differently than Mon Mothma, and we know how dark Saw’s tactics can be.
But maybe there’s a twist. When Ezra is heard saying this in the trailer, it is right after Kanan is seen reaching for his lightsaber. The symbolism is that deadly weapons are the wrong way to fight.
Perhaps Ezra means they should move closer to the light side. Perhaps they should abandon the decision to operate militarily which doomed the previous generation of Jedi to all but extinction. This move could mean they put more trust in the Force. Because the Force is in all living things, they would cease taking actions which took life, even the lives of Imperial soldiers.
This would reflect the actions of their namesakes, embracing the spiritual side and foregoing the tactical side.
This would also juxtapose them with another young Jedi, Luke Skywalker. Luke, who took his weapons into the Dagobah Cave even though Yoda told him he would not need them. Luke, who fired the shots that destroyed the first Death Star. Luke, who tried to strike down the Emperor with his lightsaber. Luke, who only ultimately had success when he laid down his weapon and embraced his role as a Jedi.
The military leader, Luke Skywalker, began training the next generation to be Jedi. Hopefully The Last Jedi will tell us in what manner he taught. However, something went wrong, the Knights of Ren went dark, and seemed to have killed Luke’s other students. Perhaps this was because Luke was too much a man of action and not enough a man of peace.
Perhaps Kanan and Ezra stopped fighting and focused on the spiritual side of the Force. Maybe they became involved with the Church of the Force or the Guardians of the Whills. It is possible they taught a defensive, nonlethal style of fighting.
Maybe that’s why Chirrut Imwe uses a staff instead of a saber.