Bible Commentaries
Ezra 3

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


The Altar of Burnt-Offering Erected, the Feast of Tabernacles Celebrated, and the Foundations of the Temple Laid - Ezra 3:1-13

On the approach of the seventh month, the people assembled in Jerusalem to restore the altar of burnt-offering and the sacrificial worship, and to keep the feast of tabernacles (Ezra 3:1-7); and in the second month of the following year the foundations of the new temple were laid with due solemnity (Ezra 3:8-13). Comp. 1 Esdr. 5:46-62.

Verses 1-7

The building of the altar, the restoration of the daily sacrifice, and the celebration of the feast of tabernacles. - Ezra 3:1 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. The year is not stated, but the year in which they returned from Babylon is intended, as appears from Ezra 3:8, which tells us that the foundations of the temple were laid in the second month of the second year of their return. The words, ”and the children of Israel were in the cities,” are a circumstantial clause referring to Ezra 2:70, and serving to elucidate what follows. From the cities, in which each had settled in his own (Ezra 2:1), the people came to Jerusalem as one man, i.e., not entirely (Bertheau), but unanimously ( ὁμοθυμαδόν , 1 Esdr. 5:46); comp. Nehemiah 8:1; Judges 20:1.

(Note: The more precise statement of 1 Esdr. 5:46, εἰς τὸ εὐρύχωρον τοῦ πρώτου πυλῶνος τοῦ πρὸς τῇ ἀνατολῇ , according to which Bertheau insists upon correcting the text of Ezra, is an arbitrary addition on the part of the author of this apocryphal book, and derived from Nehemiah 8:1.)

Ezra 3:2

Then the two leaders of the people, Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the prince (see on Joshua 2:2), with their brethren, i.e., the priests and the men of Israel (the laity), arose and built the altar, to offer upon it burnt-offerings, as prescribed by the law of Moses, i.e., to restore the legal sacrifices. According to Ezra 3:6, the offering of burnt-offerings began on the first day of the seventh month; hence the altar was by this day already completed. This agrees with the statement, “When the seventh month approached” (Ezra 3:1), therefore before the first day of this month.

Ezra 3:3

They reared the altar על־מכונתו , upon its (former) place; not, upon its bases. The feminine מכונה has here a like signification with the masculine form מכון , Ezra 2:68, and מכוּנה , Zechariah 5:11. The Keri מכונתיו is an incorrect revision. “For fear was upon them, because of the people of those countries.” The ב prefixed to אימה is the so-called ב essentiae , expressing the being in a condition; properly, a being in fear had come or lay upon them. Comp. on ב essentiae , Ewald, §217, f, and 299, b, though in §295, f, he seeks to interpret this passage differently. The “people of those countries” are the people dwelling in the neighbourhood of the new community; comp. Ezra 9:1; Ezra 10:2. The notion is: They erected the altar and restored the worship of Jahve, for the purpose of securing the divine protection, because fear of the surrounding heathen population had fallen upon them. J. H. Mich. had already a correct notion of the verse when he wrote: ut ita periculi metus eos ad Dei opem quaerendam impulerit.

(Note: Bertheau, on the contrary, cannot understand the meaning of this sentence, and endeavours, by an alteration of the text after 1 Esdras, to make it signify that some of the people of the countries came with the purpose of obstructing the building of the altar, but that the Israelites were able to effect the erection because a fear of God came upon the neighbouring nations, and rendered them incapable of hostile interference.)

Comp. the similar case in 2 Kings 17:25., when the heathen colonists settled in the deserted cities of Samaria entreated the king of Assyria to send them a priest to teach them the manner of worshipping the God of the land, that thus they might be protected from the lions which infested it. The Chethiv ויאל must be taken impersonally: “one (they) offered;” but is perhaps only an error of transcription, and should be read ויּעלוּ . On the morning and evening sacrifices, see on Exodus 28:38., Numbers 28:3.

Ezra 3:4

They kept the feast of tabernacles as prescribed in the law, Leviticus 23:34. “The burnt-offering day by day, according to number,” means the burnt-offering day by day, according to number,” means the burnt-offerings commanded for the several days of this festival, viz., on the first day thirteen oxen, on the second twelve, etc.; comp. Num 29:13-34, where the words כּמשׁפּט בּמספּרם , Numbers 29:18, Numbers 29:21, Numbers 29:24, etc., occur, which are written in our present verse כּם בּמספּר , by number, i.e., counted; comp. 1 Chronicles 9:28; 1 Chronicles 23:31, etc.

Ezra 3:5-6

And afterward, i.e., after the feast of tabernacles, they offered the continual, i.e., the daily, burnt-offering, and (the offerings) for the new moon, and all the festivals of the Lord (the annual feasts). עלות must be inserted from the context before לחדשׁים to complete the sense. “And for every one that willingly offered a free-will offering to the Lord.” נדבה is a burnt-offering which was offered from free inclination. Such offerings might be brought on any day, but were chiefly presented at the annual festivals after the sacrifices prescribed by the law; comp. Numbers 29:39. - In Ezra 3:6 follows the supplementary remark, that the sacrificial worship began from the first day of the seventh month, but that the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. This forms a transition to what follows.

(Note: Bertheau, comparing Ezra 3:6 with Ezra 3:5, incorrectly interprets it as meaning: “From the first day of the seventh month the offering of thank-offerings began (comp. Ezra 3:2); then, from the fifteenth day of the second month, during the feast of tabernacles, the burnt-offerings prescribed by the law (Ezra 3:4); but the daily burnt-offerings were not recommenced till after the feast of tabernacles, etc. Hence it was not from the first day of the seventh month, but subsequently to the feast of tabernacles, that the worship of God, so far as this consisted in burnt-offerings, was fully restored.” The words of the cursive manuscript, however, do not stand in the text, but their opposite. In Ezra 3:2, not thank-offerings ( זבהים or שׁלמים ), but burnt-offerings ( עלות ), are spoken of, and indeed those prescribed in the law, among which the daily morning and evening burnt-offering, expressly named in Ezra 3:3, held the first place. With this, Ezra 3:5, “After the feast of tabernacles they offered the continual burnt-offering, and the burnt-offerings for the new moon,” etc., fully harmonizes. The offering of the continual, i.e., of the daily, burnt-offerings, besides the new moon, the feast-days, and the free-will offerings, is named again merely for the sake of completeness. The right order is, on the contrary, as follows: The altar service, with the daily morning and evening sacrifice, began on the first day of the seventh month; this daily sacrifice was regularly offered, according to the law, from then till the fifteenth day of the second month, i.e., till the beginning of the feast of tabernacles; all the offerings commanded in the law for the separate days of this feast were then offered according to the numbers prescribed; and after this festival the sacrifices ordered at the new moon and the other holy days of the year were offered, as well as the daily burnt-offerings, - none but these, neither the sacrifice on the new moon (the first day of the seventh month) nor the sin-offering on the tenth day of the same month, i.e., the day of atonement, having been offered before this feast of tabernacles.)

Ezra 3:7

Preparations were also made for the rebuilding of the temple; money was given to hewers of wood and to masons, and meat and drink (i.e., corn and wine) and oil to the Sidonians and Tyrians (i.e., the Phoenicians; comp. 1 Chronicles 22:4), to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa (i.e., to the coast of Joppa), as was formerly done by Solomon, 1 Kings 5:6., 2 Chronicles 2:7. כּרשׁיון , according to the grant of Cyrus to them, i.e., according to the permission given them by Cyrus, sc. to rebuild the temple. For nothing is said of any special grant from Cyrus with respect to wood for building. רשׁיון is in the O.T. ἁπ. λεγ. ; in Chaldee and rabbinical Hebrew, רשׁא and רשׁי mean facultatem habere; and רשׁוּ power, permission.

Verses 8-13

The foundation of the temple laid. - Ezra 3:8 In the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, i.e., after their arrival at Jerusalem on their return from Babylon, in the second month, began Zerubbabel and Joshua to appoint the Levites from twenty years old and upwards to the oversight of the work (the building) of the house of the Lord. That is to say, the work of building was taken in hand. Whether this second year of the return coincides with the second year of the rule of Cyrus, so that the foundations of the temple were laid, as Theophil. Antioch. ad Autolic. lib. 3, according to Berosus, relates, in the second year of Cyrus, cannot be determined. For nothing more is said in this book than that Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, issued the decree concerning the return of the Jews from Babylon, whereupon those named in the list, Ezra 2, set out and returned, without any further notice as to whether this also took place in the first year of Cyrus, or whether the many necessary preparations delayed the departure of the first band till the following year. The former view is certainly a possible though not a very probable one, since it is obvious from Ezra 2:1 that they arrived at Jerusalem and betook themselves to their cities as early as the seventh month of the year. Now the period between the beginning of the year and the seventh month, i.e., at most six months, seems too short for the publication of the edict, the departure, and the arrival at Jerusalem, even supposing that the first year of Cyrus entirely coincided with a year of the Jewish calendar. The second view, however, would not make the difference between the year of the rule of Cyrus and the year of the return to Jerusalem a great one, since it would scarcely amount to half a year. ויּעמידוּ ... החלּוּ , they began and appointed, etc., they began to appoint, i.e., they began the work of building the temple by appointing. Those enumerated are-1. Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two rulers: 2. The remnant of their brethren = their other brethren, viz., a, the priests and Levites as brethren of Joshua; b, all who had come out of captivity, i.e., the men of Israel, as brethren of Zerubbabel. These together formed the community who appointed the Levites to preside over, i.e., to conduct the building of the temple. For the expression, comp. 1 Chron 23:4-24.

Ezra 3:9

The Levites undertook this appointment, and executed the commission. The singular ויּעמד stands before a plural subject, as is frequently the case when the verb precedes its subject. Three classes or orders of Levites are named: 1. Jeshua with his sons and brethren; 2. Kadmiel with his sons, the sons of Hodaviah; 3. The sons of Henadad, their sons and brethren. Jeshua and Kadmiel are the two heads of orders of Levites already named (Ezra 2:40). From a comparison of these passages, we perceive that יהוּדה בּני is a clerical error for הודויה (or הודיּה ) בּני . This more precise designation is not “a comprehensive appellation for all hitherto enumerated” (Bertheau), but, as is undoubtedly obvious from Ezra 2:40, only a more precise designation of the sons of Kadmiel. כּאחד , as one, i.e., all, without exception. The third class, the sons of Henadad, are not expressly named in Ezra 2:40 among those who returned from Babylon; but a son of Henadad appears, Nehemiah 3:24 and Nehemiah 10:10, as head of an order of Levites. The naming of this order after the predicate, in the form of a supplementary notice, and unconnected by a ו cop., is striking. Bertheau infers therefrom that the construction of the sentence is incorrect, and desires to alter it according to 1 Esdr. 5:56, where indeed this class is named immediately after the two first, but יהוּדה בּני is separated from what precedes; and of these בני יהודה is made a fourth class, υἱοὶ Ἰωδά τοῦ Ἡλιαδούδ . All this sufficiently shows that this text cannot be regarded as authoritative. The striking position or supplementary enumeration of the sons of Henadad may be explained by the fact to which the placing of כּאחד after בני יהודה points , viz., that the two classes, Jeshua with his sons and brethren, and Kadmiel with his sons, were more closely connected with each other than with the sons of Henadad, who formed a third class. The הלויּם at the end of the enumeration offers no argument for the transposition of the words, though this addition pertains not only to the sons of Henadad, but also to the two first classes. hm' עשׂה is plural, and only an unusual reading for עשׁי ; see on 1 Chronicles 23:24.

Ezra 3:10-11

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they (Zerubbabel and Joshua, the heads of the community) 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. The perf. ויסּדוּ , followed by an imperf. connected by a Vav consecutive, must be construed: When they laid the foundations, then. מלבּשׁים , clothed, sc. in their robes of office; comp. 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 20:21. ידי על as 1 Chronicles 25:2. On Ezra 3:11, comp. remarks on 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, and elsewhere. Older expositors (Clericus, J. H. Mich.), referring to Exodus 15:21, understand בהלּל ויּענוּ of the alternative singing of two choirs, one of which sang, “Praise the Lord, for He is good;” and the other responded, “And His mercy endureth for ever.” In the present passage, however, there is no decided allusion to responsive singing; hence (with Bertheau) we take יענוּ in the sense of, “They sang to the Lord with hymns of thanksgiving.” Probably they sang such songs as Ps 106-107, or Ps 118, which commence with an invitation to praise the Lord because He is good, etc. All the people, moreover, raised a loud shout of joy. גּדולה תּרוּעה is repeated in Ezra 3:13 by השּׂמחה תּרוּעת . הוּסד על , on account of the founding, of the foundation-laying, of the house of the Lord. הוּסד as in 2 Chronicles 3:3.

Ezra 3:12

But many of the priests and Levites, and chief of the people, the old men who had seen (also) the former temple, at the foundation of this house before their eyes (i.e., when they saw the foundation of this house laid), wept with a loud voice. Solomon's temple was destroyed b.c. 588, and the foundation of the subsequent temple laid b.c. 535 or 534: hence the older men among those present at the latter event might possibly have seen the former house; indeed, some (according to Hagg. Ezra 2:2) were still living in the second year of Darius Hystaspis who had beheld the glory of the earlier building. Upon these aged men, the miserable circumstances under which the foundations of the new temple were laid produced so overwhelming an impression, that they broke into loud weeping. בּיסדו is connected by its accents with the words preceding: the former temple in its foundation, i.e., in its stability. But this can scarcely be correct. For not only does no noun יסד , foundation, occur further on; but even the following words, “of this house before their eyes,” if severed from בּיסדו , have no meaning. Hence (with Aben Ezra, Cler., Berth., and others) we connect בּיסדו with the parenthetical sentence following, “when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes;” and then the suffix of the infinitive יסדו expressly refers to the object following, as is sometimes the case in Hebrew, e.g., 2 Chronicles 26:14; Ezra 9:1, and mostly in Chaldee; comp. Ew. §209, c, “But many were in rejoicing and joy to raise their voice,” i.e., many so joyed and rejoiced that they shouted aloud.

Ezra 3:13

And the people could not discern (distinguish) the loud cry of joy in the midst of (beside) the loud weeping of the people; for the people rejoiced with loud rejoicings, and the sound was heard afar off. The meaning is not, that the people could not hear the loud weeping of the older priests, Levites, and heads of the people, because it was overpowered by the loud rejoicings of the multitude. The verse, on the contrary, contains a statement that among the people also (the assembly exclusive of priests, Levites, and chiefs) a shout of joy and a voice of weeping arose; but that the shouting for joy of the multitude was so loud, that the sounds of rejoicing and weeping could not be distinguished from each other. הכּיר , with the acc. and ל , to perceive something in the presence of (along with) another, i.e., to distinguish one thing from another. “The people could not discern” means: Among the multitude the cry of joy could not be distinguished from the noise of weeping. למרחוק עד as 2 Chronicles 26:15.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezra 3". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.