Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(1-13) The altar set up, and the feasts established.
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.(1) The seventh month was come.—Rather, approached. Tisri, answering to our September, was the most solemn month of the year, including the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles, afterwards distinguished as “the feast” pre-eminently.
As one man.—Not all, but with one consent.
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.(2) Builded the altar.—Only as the beginning of their work. The Temple was, as it were, built around the altar, as the centre of all.
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.(3) Upon his bases.—Upon its old site, or its place, discovered among the ruins. Thus was it signified that all the new was to be only a restoration of the old.
For fear was upon them.—Until their offerings went up they did not feel sure of the Divine protection. This was their first act of defiance in the presence of the nations around: near the altar they were strong.
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;(4) According to the custom—It is necessary here to read Deuteronomy 16, Leviticus 23, Numbers 29 The intention obviously is to lay stress on the provision made for an entire renewal of the Mosaic economy of service, as appears in the next verse.
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.(5) Both of the new moons.—And of the new moons. The whole verse is general and anticipatory. The new moons, the three feasts, and the constant presentation of freewill offerings, added to the daily sacrifice, made up the essentials of ritual; all being, like the arrangements in the Book of Leviticus, fixed before the Temple was built, and afterwards observed.
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.(6) From the first day.—The notes of time demand notice. The altar was raised before the month came; from the first until the fifteenth, when the Feast of Tabernacles began, the daily sacrifice was offered. The whole verse recapitulates, and its latter part is the transition to what follows.
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.(7) They gave money.—Their own workmen were paid in money; the Phoenicians, as in Solomon’s days (1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2), were paid in kind. This illustrates and is illustrated by Acts 12:20.
The sea of Joppa.—The Jewish port to which the cedar-trees were sent by sea, and thence thirty-five miles inland to Jerusalem.
The grant.—The authority of Cyrus over Phœnicia seems not to have been doubtful.
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.(8) In the second year.—The second year of Cyrus, B.C. 537, was their second year in the holy place.
In the second month.—Zif, chosen apparently because it was the same month in which Solomon laid the first foundation (1 Kings 6).
Appointed the Levites, from twenty years.—Their appointment to superintend, and their specified age, are in strict harmony with the original ordinances of David (1 Chronicles 23).
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.(9) Together—As one man. Jeshua and Kadmiel, both of the stock of Judah, or Hodaviah (Ezra 2:40), or Hodevah (Nehemiah 7:43), were the two heads of Levitical families; and their fewness is compensated by their unanimity and vigour. Henadad is not mentioned in Ezra 2:40, though it is a Levitical name in Nehemiah. Why omitted there, or why inserted here, it is not possible to determine.
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.(10) After the ordinance of David, king of Israel.—All goes back to earlier times. As the first offerings on the altar were according to what was “written in the law of Moses, the man of God,” so the musical ceremonial of this foundation is according to the precedent of David (see 1 Chronicles 6, 1Chronicles 16:25). The trumpets belonged to the priests, the cymbals to the Levites, in the ancient ordinances of worship.
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.(11) They sang together.—They answered each other in chorus, or antiphonally.
Shouted.—As afterwards in religious acclamation.
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:(12) But many of the priests and Levites . . . wept with a loud voice.—This most affecting scene requires the comment of Haggai 2 and Zeeh. 4. The first house was destroyed in B.C. 588, fifty years before. The weeping of the ancients was not occasioned by any comparison as to size and grandeur, unless indeed they marked the smallness of their foundation stones. They thought chiefly of the great desolation as measured by the past; the younger peoplc thought of the new future.
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.(13) The noise was heard afar off.—The people also mingled in the weeping, which was with shrill cries. The rejoicing and the sorrow were blended, and the common sound was heard from far. All here has the stamp of truth.