Bible Commentaries
Ezra 3

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-13


1. The altar set up (Ezra 3:1-3 )

2. The feast of tabernacles celebrated (Ezra 3:4 )

3. The sacrifices brought (Ezra 3:5-7 )

4. The foundation of the temple laid (Ezra 3:8-13 )

Ezra 3:1-3 . How long the journey lasted is not stated. The previous chapter in its close states that all dwelt in their cities--”and all Israel in their cities.” The significant seventh month (Tishri) with its holy convocation (feast of trumpets, day of atonement and feast of tabernacles) having come, the remnant gathered “as one man to Jerusalem.” It was the time for such a general gathering, for the feast of trumpets is typical of the restoration of Israel, a restoration which was not fulfilled in the return of this remnant; only foreshadowing it. This gathering “as one man to Jerusalem” reminds us of that other gathering in Jerusalem centuries later “when they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 ) and the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and all were baptized into one body, the Church. There is only one body, and all true believers are put into that body by the same Spirit. This oneness was manifested in the beginning of the church on earth (Acts 2:41-47 ; Acts 4:23 ; Acts 4:32 ). While its outward expression is lost, yet still the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace can be kept. (Sectarianism is a denial of that unity.) Whenever the Spirit of God is permitted to manifest His power unhindered among God’s people, the result is always in bringing them together. The Spirit of God never divides, but unites.

Then Jeshua the high priest with his brethren priests, also Zerubbabel and his brethren, built the altar of the God of Israel, to be enabled to bring the burnt offerings as commanded in the law. Obedience to the Word of God was their first concern. Fear was also upon them because of the people of those countries, therefore they felt the need of protection. They knew Jehovah is the Shield and the Refuge of His trusting people. First they were obedient to His Word by setting up the altar for worship and approach to God in the appointed way, and then they trusted Him that He would keep them in the midst of their enemies. The altar and the burnt offerings morning and evening are typical of Christ, who is the altar and the burnt offering. Whenever the Spirit of God sends a true recovery and revival He will make the Lord Jesus Christ and His blessed finished work the first thing. He leads His people together, and then in true worship around the Person of the Lord. This worship centers for the true Church in the Lord’s Supper, that precious feast of remembrance.

Ezra 3:4 . Next they kept the feast of tabernacles--as it is written (Leviticus 23:33-36 ). They manifested a holy zeal in rendering a complete obedience to the law of their fathers. The feast of tabernacles typifies the consummation when the kingdom has come and the full harvest. Another remnant of Israel will return in the future, under different circumstances, and then when Messiah, the King, is in the midst of His people, the feast will find its fulfillment. We learn from this how exact the returned exiles were to be in obedience to the Word of God. Without having the house to worship in, destitute of almost everything, they earnestly tried to please God by leaving the ways of Babylon and submitting to the Word of God. This is another mark of the power and energy of the Spirit of God in His gracious work or recovery; He leads back to the Word of God and gives power to walk in obedience.

Ezra 3:5-7 . It was a complete return to the law of God. Continual burnt offerings were offered, new moons and the set feasts of Jehovah were kept. Then the spirit of sacrifice was also manifested--they offered a free-will offering unto the LORD. And though the foundation of the temple was not yet laid, they gave money to the masons and to the carpenters in anticipation of the laying of the foundation and building of the temple. Meat, drink and oil were given to them of Zidon and Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa. Permission had been given to do this by King Cyrus.

Ezra 3:8-13 . We doubt not that their faith also was tested in the beginning, for nine months passed by before the work began. It was in the second month of the second year after their arrival in Jerusalem, when the Levites from twenty years and upward were appointed by Zerubbabel and Jeshua “to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.” The leaders were foremost in the work, and associated the people with themselves in the blessed enterprise. They were “laborers together” (1 Corinthians 3:9 ). They took hold of the work in earnest. The order in this chapter is the building of the altar-worship; obedience to the Word of God, and then whole-souled and united service for the Lord. This is the order still for God’s people. And in that work God’s order was not ignored but conscientiously followed, for the Levites are mentioned first (Numbers 4:0 ; 1 Chronicles 23:24 ). In all things they adhered strictly to the Word of God. And when the work was actually begun a holy enthusiasm took hold of them, and all the people praised the LORD with a great shout. It was a great celebration, led by the priests in their apparel, with trumpets. Next came the sons of Asaph with cymbals. Their praise was after the ordinance of David, King of Israel. They sang together by courses in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD “because He is good, for His mercy endureth forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout. The Spirit of praise took hold upon their hearts. They celebrated the goodness and mercy of Jehovah towards His people, which are endless. But there were also tears. The old men, Priests and Levites, and others who still remembered the Solomonic temple in its great beauty, wept with a loud voice; while others shouted aloud for joy. The voice of the shouting and of the weeping was so mingled together that it could not be discerned. The tears were occasioned by remembering the glories of the former days, which had passed away.

Joy was in His presence and acceptable. Tears confessed the truth and testified a just sense of what God had been for His people, and of the blessing they had once enjoyed under His hand. Tears recognized, alas! that which the people of God had been for God; and these tears were acceptable to Him. The weeping could not be discerned from the shout of joy; this was a truthful result, natural and sad, yet becoming in the presence of God. For He rejoices in the joy of His people, and He understands their tears. It was, indeed, a true expression of the state of things (Synopsis of the Bible).

And when we too remember the former things and present conditions in the ruin and confusion all around us in that which professes His Name, we also weep. And yet we shout and praise Him when we remember His mercy, which endureth forever.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Ezra 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.