And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.Ezra 3:1. When the seventh month was come — We may suppose they left Babylon in the spring, and were four months on their journey; for so long Ezra and his company were in coming, Ezra 7:9. The seventh month therefore commenced soon after their arrival in Judea, when, as many of the feasts of the Lord were then to be solemnized, the people gathered themselves together — By agreement among themselves, rather than by the command of authority; to Jerusalem — Though they were newly come to their cities, and had their hands full of business there, to provide necessaries for themselves and their families, which might have excused them from attending on God’s worship in public, till the hurry was a little over, as many with us foolishly put off their coming to the communion till they are settled in the world; yet, such was their zeal for religion, now they were newly come from under correction for their irreligion, that they left all their business in the country to attend God’s altar; and in this pious zeal they were all of a mind, they came as one man.
Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.Ezra 3:2. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak — He was the high- priest, called Joshua, Haggai 1:1. And Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel — That is, his grandson; for, properly speaking, he was the son of Pedaiah. And builded the altar of the God of Israel — Which was of more present necessity than the temple, both to make atonement to God for all their sins, and to obtain God’s assistance for the building of the temple, and to strengthen their own hearts and hands in that great work.
And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.Ezra 3:3. They set the altar upon his bases — That is, in the place where it anciently stood; for fear was upon them, because of the people of those countries — And therefore they made the more haste, lest they should be hindered. Apprehension of dangers should quicken us in our duty. Have we many enemies? We have the more need to have God for our friend, and to keep up our correspondence with him. Some translate the clause, Although fear was upon them; that is, although they were in great fear of their evil neighbours, yet, notwithstanding, they would not desist from restoring the worship of God.
They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;Ezra 3:4. They kept also the feast of tabernacles — This seems to be mentioned for all the solemnities of the month, whereof this was the most eminent; otherwise it is not probable that they would neglect the day of atonement, which was so solemnly enjoined, (Leviticus 23:27-29,) and was so exceeding suitable to their present condition.
And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.Ezra 3:5. And afterward offered the continual burnt-offering — The morning and evening sacrifice. The law required much, but they offered more; for though they had little wealth, they had much zeal. Happy they that bring with them out of the furnace of affliction such a holy heat as this!
From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.Ezra 3:6. To offer burnt-offerings — And the other sacrifices which were to be offered with them upon that first day of the seventh month, which was the feast of trumpets. Burnt-offerings are often put for all sacrifices, and the meaning of these two verses is, that the holy rites of sacrificing were restored, and continued ever after, in their several seasons, on the new moons, and other festival solemnities.
They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.Ezra 3:7. Meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon and Tyre — The inhabitants of those towns wanted provisions more than money, as appears by the history of Solomon’s building, 1 Kings 5:10. To bring cedar- trees from Lebanon — Tyre and Zidon now, as of old, furnished them with workmen, and Lebanon with timber, orders for both which they had from Cyrus. What God calls us to we may depend upon his providence to furnish us with.
Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.Ezra 3:8. In the second month began Zerubbabel, &c. — The building of the temple was begun as soon as ever the season of the year would permit, and as soon as they had ended the solemnities of the passover. They took little more than half a year for preparing the ground and materials; so much were their hearts upon the work. And Jeshua, and their brethren the priests and Levites, &c. — Then the work of God is likely to go on well when magistrates, ministers, and people are zealously affected toward it, and agree in their places to promote it. It was God that gave them one heart for this service, and it promised a happy issue.
Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.Ezra 3:9. Then stood Jeshua with his sons — This person was not the high- priest, so called, but a Levite, of whom see Ezra 2:40. To set forward the workmen — To encourage them to a cheerful and vigorous prosecution of the work.
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.Ezra 3:10. To praise the Lord — The priests, with the trumpets appointed by Moses, and the Levites, with cymbals appointed by David, made up a concert of praise at the laying of the foundation of the temple, to assist the singing of that everlasting hymn which will never be out of date, and for which our tongues should never be out of tune, the burden of Psalms 136. Whatever our condition is, let it be owned that God is good; and whatever fails, that his mercy fails not.
And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.Ezra 3:11-12. And they sang together by course — That is, answered one another alternately. And all the people shouted with a great shout — The people were very differently affected upon this occasion. Those that had only known the misery of having no temple at all, praised the Lord with shouts of joy when they saw the foundation of this laid, for to them this was as life from the dead. But many that had seen the first house — Which divers of them had, because it had not been destroyed quite sixty years ago, and who remembered the glory of that temple, wept with a loud voice — “Not only because this temple was likely to prove far inferior to that of Solomon, as to its outward structure, but because it was to want those extraordinary marks of the divine favour wherewith the other temple was honoured. Both the temples, without all doubt, were of the same dimensions; but here was the sad difference which drew tears from the eyes of the elders, that in all appearance there were no hopes that the poor beginnings of the latter temple would ever be raised to the grandeur and magnificence of the former, since the one had been built by the wisest and richest king, and constantly adorned by some one or other of his posterity; the other now begun by a small company of exiles just returned from their captivity: the one in a time of profound peace and the greatest opulence; the other in a time of common calamity and distress: the one finished with the most costly stones and timber, wrought with exquisite art, and overlaid with vast quantities of gold; the other to be raised out of no better materials than what could be dug from the ruinous foundation of the old one. But the occasion of their grief was not only this, that the materials and ornaments of the second temple were even as nothing in comparison with the first, (Haggai 2:3,) but that the ark of the covenant, and the mercy- seat which was upon it, the holy fire upon the altar, the Urim and Thummim, the spirit of prophecy, the Shechinah or divine presence, the five great things for which the former temple was so renowned, were lost and gone, and never to be recovered to this other. This was a just matter of lamentation to those who had seen these singular tokens of the divine favour in the former temple, and a discouragement of their proceeding with the building of the present; and therefore the Prophet Haggai was sent to inform them that all these wants and defects should be abundantly repaired by the coming of the Messiah, the true Shechinah of the Divine Majesty, in the time of the second temple: (Ezra 2:7-9 :) I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory: the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts.” — Dodd.
But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.Ezra 3:13. So that the people could not discern, &c. — The mixture of sorrow and joy here is a representation of this world. In heaven all are singing and none sighing; in hell all are wailing and none rejoicing: but here on earth we can scarce discern the shouts of joy from the noise of the weeping; let us learn to rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Meantime, let us ourselves rejoice as though we rejoiced not, and weep as though we wept not.