Ezra 3
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - When the seventh month was come. The seventh month was Tisri, and corresponded nearly to our October. It was the most sacred month of the Jewish year, commencing with a blowing of trumpets and a holy convocation on the first day (Leviticus 23:24), which was followed on the tenth day by the solemn day of atonement (ibid. ver. 27; comp. Leviticus 16:29-34), and on the fifteenth day by the feast of tabernacles or "ingathering," one of the three great annual festivals, which lasted to the twenty-second day. Zerubbabel and Joshua determined to risk a disturbance rather than defer the restoration of the altar beyond the commencement of this sacred month. The people gathered themselves together. The people were bound to attend the feast of tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-16); but something more than this seems to be intended. The restoration of the altar and the re-establishment of the daily sacrifice having been announced, there was a general influx of the country Israelites into Jerusalem to witness the proceedings. As one man. Very emphatic (comp. Judges 20:1, 8; 2 Samuel 19:14).
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.
Verse 2. - Jeshua the son of Jozadak. The position of Jeshua, both here and in vers. 8, 9, sufficiently marks him as the high priest, though Ezra does not give him the title. Haggai, however (Ezra 1:1, 14; 2:2), and Zechariah (Ezra 3:1, 8; Ezra 6:11) distinctly assign him the office. His father, Jozadak, or Josedech, was the son of Seraiah, high priest at the destruction of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 6:14). The name Jeshua is a mere variant of Joshua, and so corresponds to Jesus, of whom Jeshua may be regarded as a type. His brethren the priests. As being all of them equally descended from Aaron, the priests were "brethren." Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. See note on Ezra 2:2, where Zerubbabel's actual descent is given. And his brethren. Such other members of the royal house as had returned with him. As it is written in the law. See Leviticus 17:2-6; Deuteronomy 12:5-11. It was an express command of God to the Israelites that sacrifice should be offered only at Jerusalem in the place which he should appoint. Moses the man of God. That is, "the Prophet;" but the phrase is emphatic, and characteristic of Ezra (comp. 1 Chronicles 23:14 and 2 Chronicles 30:16).
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.
Verse 3. - They set the altar upon his bases. They built the new altar upon the foundations of the old one, making it exactly conform to them. This was done, no doubt, to indicate that the religion which the exiles brought back from Babylon was in every respect identical with that which they had possessed before they were carried thither. Many moderns hold the contrary; but it has not yet been proved that the sojourn at Babylon modified the religious ideas of the Jews in any important particular. For fear was upon them. Or, "though fear was upon them." Notwithstanding their fear of the surrounding nations, they set up the altar. We must remember that their neighbours were not Persians, but descendants of various idolatrous nations - Hamathites, Babylonians, Susianians, Elamites, Cuthaeans, etc. - bitterly opposed to anything like a pure spiritual religion (see 2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:9, 10). Though the exiles had permission from Cyrus to raise up not only their altar, but their temple, it was not at all certain that his nominal subjects would passively submit. It was as if a modern Turkish Sultan should decree the erection of a Christian altar and a grand Christian cathedral at Kerbela or Bussorah, towards the verge of his empire. There would be great danger in acting on such a decree. Burnt offerings morning and evening. So the law required (see Exodus 29:38, 39; Numbers 28:3, 4). CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES (ver. 4). Emboldened by their successful restoration of the altar of burnt sacrifice, Zerubbabel and Jeshua allowed the people to gather themselves together and celebrate the autumnal festival, though they can scarcely have made it on this occasion a "feast of ingathering."
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;
Verse 4. - As it is written. According to the mode of celebration prescribed in the law; i.e. for seven consecutive days, from the fifteenth to the twenty-second of Tisri, with burnt offerings every day, and a holy convocation on the first day and the last, and a "dwelling in tents" during the whole period (see Leviticus 23:31-42). The daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom. The offerings for each day of the festival are carefully laid down in Numbers 29:13-38. We must understand that all the particulars there enjoined were carefully observed. PERMANENT ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DAILY SACRIFICE, THE SET FEASTS, AND THE OFFERING OF FREE-WILL OFFERINGS (vers. 5, 6). Having set up the altar, and celebrated the particular festival which the revolving year happened to have brought round, and which it would have been wrong to neglect, the exiles re-established permanently three things: -

1. The daily sacrifice;

2. The celebration of the new moons and other regular feasts; and

3. The practice of allowing the people to bring offerings whenever they pleased, to be offered on the great altar by the priest or priests in attendance.

The first of these was for atonement; the second for public thanksgiving and acknowledgment of God's mercies; the third for private devotion, the payment of vows, and the like.
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.
Verse 5. - The continual burnt offering. This is beyond a doubt the daily morning and evening sacrifice, called "the continual burnt offering" in Exodus 29:42 and Numbers 28:3-6. The clause is not modified by the succeeding words, which are additional, not exegetical, and which should not be translated, as in the A. V., both of the new moons, but, "and those of the new moons." The returned exiles kept henceforth regularly both the daily morning and evening sacrifice, and also that appointed for the new moons (Numbers 28:11-15), and those appointed for the other "set feasts,"such as the passover and the feast of Pentecost. And of every one that willingly offered. Nor was this all. The practice was resumed of sacrificing on the great altar at any time any free-will offerings that individual Israelites might bring (see Leviticus 1, 2, 3, etc.). Thus provision was made for all that was most essential in the ritual of religion, while the temple itself still remained unbuilt (see ver. 6). PREPARATION OF MATERIALS FOR THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE (ver. 7). When the restoration of religion had pro-greased thus far, the civil and ecclesiastical rulers turned their attention to that object which had been specially mentioned in the "decree of Cyrus" (Ezra 1:2, 3), the rebuilding of the temple. And, first of all, it was necessary to collect building materials, wood and stone, which were the chief materials of the first temple, and which Cyrus had particularized in a supplementary decree (Ezra 6:4) as those to be employed in the construction of the second.
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.
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.
Verse 7. - They gave money also unto the masons. The exiles had no doubt been employed by the Babylonian monarchs to a large extent in building, as their ancestors had been during their sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 1:2). Consequently, among those who returned there were many masons and carpenters. These were now set to work by Zerubbabel, and received their wages in money. And meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre. The Phoenicians, on the other hand, received their wages in kind. As Phoenicia was a narrow strip of country, and grew but little corn, it had always to depend mainly for its supplies of food on its neighbours, and generally drew the greater part from Palestine (see Acts 12:20). Hiram had furnished materials to Solomon for the first temple on condition of receiving wheat, barley, wine, and oil (2 Chronicles 2:15). Zerubbabel made a similar arrangement at the present time with the Tyrians and Sidonians. To bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa. Having cut the timber in the mountains, the Phoenicians conveyed it to the coast, perhaps sometimes letting it pass down the rivers, and, collecting it on the coast into large rafts or "flotes" (2 Chronicles 2:16), took these by sea to the roadstead of Joppa (Jaffa). Hence it was conveyed by land a distance of thirty-five miles to Jerusalem. Lebanon cedar was in great request in the East, and appears to have been cut and carried off both by the Egyptians and the Assyrians. The forests must in the ancient times have been far more extensive than at present. According to the grant that they had of Cyrus. A special grant of Phoenician timber, made by Cyrus, seems to be intended. Though Cyrus had not conquered Phoenicia ('Herod.,' 3:34), he might regard his conquest of Babylon as involving the submission of what had for some time been a Babylonian dependency.

CHAPTER 3:8-13

§ 3. REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE AND OPPOSITION MADE TO IT. LAYING OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE TEMPLE AND CEREMONIAL ON THE OCCASION (vers. 8-13). Seven months were occupied with preparations. The winter was past, and the spring had arrived. It was the second month, Zif, the month of "blossom," corresponding to our May - the same month in which Solomon had laid the foundation of the first temple (1 Kings 6:1) - when Zerubbabel judged that the time had come for commencing the foundation of the second. The correspondence of the month was no doubt intentional, like the correspondence of the foundations of the altar (ver. 3), and was to mark that all was to be as before, that nothing was to be wantonly changed. Zerubbabel and Jeshua presided; but to Zerubbabel is assigned the chief part in the work. "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house" are the words of God himself to Zechariah (Zechariah 4:9). It was arranged that the work should commence with a religious ceremonial, natural piety here suggesting what was not recorded of the "first house," though it may have occurred and not have been put on record. The ceremonial consisted chiefly of praise, and was accompanied with sacred music, according to the pattern set by David and Solomon in their sacred processions and ceremonies (1 Chronicles 15:19, 24; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 2 Chronicles 5:12, etc.). Their special parts in it were assigned beforehand to the priests, the Levites, and the people.
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.
Verse 8. - In the second year. In B.C. 537, the second year of Cyrus in Babylon, which was also the second year of their coming (i.e. after their coming) to the (ruined) house of God (Ezra 2:68), began Zerubbabel, and the others, and appointed the Levites. Small as the number of the Levites who returned with Zerubbabel was, to them especially was intrusted the work of the house of the Lord, i.e. the superintendence of the workmen employed to rebuild it (see ver. 9).
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.
Verse 9. - Jeshua here is the head of the Levitical family mentioned in ch. 2:40 as "the children of Jeshua," and Kadmiel is the head of the other family. Judah represents the "Hodaviah" of that place, and is probably a corrupt reading, as Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:43) has "Hodevah." The sons of Henadad, who are here united with the Jeshuites and Kadmielites, constitute a third Levitical family, which (as the text stands) was also engaged in superintending the work. But there is some reason to suspect that the passage is an unauthorized addition to the true text.
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.
Verse 10. - When the builders (Zerubbabel and Jeshua) laid the foundation of the temple, they set the priests in their apparel - the rich apparel, designed "for glory and for beauty," which the law required (Exodus 28:40; Exodus 40:27-29), and which the people had recently provided (Ezra 2:69). With trumpets. To blow with trumpets was always the duty of the priests (Numbers 10:8; Numbers 31:6; Joshua 6:4; 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 16:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12), to praise God with cymbals the task of the Levites (1 Chronicles 15:16, 19; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 2 Chronicles 5:12, 13; 2 Chronicles 29:25, etc.), perhaps because the trumpet was regarded as the instrument of greater dignity. After the ordinance of David. David's ordinance on the subject is first expressed briefly in 1 Chronicles 15:16; afterwards, more fully, in vers. 17-21 of the same chapter. The musical service of Zerubbabel fell short of the "ordinance of David," since it comprised neither psalteries nor harps, which were an essential part of David's system. Apparently, the musical skill of the Levites had declined under the depressing circumstances of the captivity (see Psalm 137:2).
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.
Verse 11. - They sang together by course. Literally, "They replied (to each other)," or sang antiphonically; the burthen of their song being, that God was good, and his mercy towards Israel everlasting (comp. 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, where the Levites of Solomon's time are reported to have praised God similarly). All the people shouted with a great shout. Shouting on occasions of secular joy and triumph has been practised by most nations, both in ancient and modern times. But religious shouting is less common. Still we hear of such shouting when the ark of the covenant was taken into the Israelite camp near Aphek (1 Samuel 4:5), and again when David solemnly brought it up from Kirjathjearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:15). Shouting appears also in the Psalms (Psalm 47:5) and in Zechariah (Zechariah 4:7) in connection with religion. It is always indicative of religious joy.
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:
Verse 12. - Many... who were ancient men, that had seen the first house. The old temple had not been destroyed so much as fifty years. Consequently, there would be many who could remember its grandeur and glory. These persons, when the foundation of the (new) house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice. It was "the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10). The new house, in comparison with the old one, was "as nothing" (Haggai 2:3). The difference was perhaps not so much in the dimensions (see note on Ezra 6:3) as in the size and quality of the foundation-stones (1 Kings 5:17), the excellence of the masonry, and the like. Solomon had employed the best workmen of one of the greatest of the Tyrian kings; Zerubbabel had only the arms of his own subjects to depend upon.
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.
Verse 13. - The people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping. One, it would seem, was as loud as the other; neither predominated. This, which would scarcely be possible among ourselves, was not unnatural in the East, where those who lament utter shrill cries, instead of weeping silently. Herodotus describes the lament of the Persians for a lost general as "resounding throughout all Boeotia" (Ezra 9:24).

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