Bible Commentaries
Ezra 3

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-13


Ezra 3:1 to Ezra 6:22

Early Efforts (3:1-13)

As would be expected, the first efforts at reconstruction of a regular worship in Jerusalem had to do with the construction of an altar. The work is represented as having begun in "the seventh month," although it is not clear precisely what the original point of reference in the date is. In earlier times the altar had been used I independently of the Temple, and so it was now (see II Sam. | 24:25).

The leaders are identified as "Jeshua" (Joshua) the high priest I (see Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Zechariah 3:1-10) and "Zerubbabel." The chronology is by no means certain, for both Haggai and Zechariah seem to suggest that the work here described went on at a later date (during the reign of Darius). The construction of the altar according to the specifications in the Law of Moses (note again the strong sense of continuity with the past) is described as having been accomplished (quickly?) because "fear was upon them because of the peoples of the lands [neighboring countries or aliens settled in Palestine]" (vs. 3). Whether this means that the Jews feared that these people would bring informing action, against them to Persia, or whether they naturally desired the help I of God in their new and critical situation, is not clear. At any rate, they felt that a rapid reinstitution of the sacrifice ritual was necessary. It is described, moreover, as having incorporated from the beginning the characteristic which it later had, that of continual sacrifice, morning and evening.

Along with the reinstitution of the sacrifice went an observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, traditionally the most joyful of the feasts of the Israelite calendar. Since it was also traditionally the celebration of the wilderness life of Israel, it made a fitting commemoration of the new exodus and the new settlement of the land.

The third step was the beginning of construction of the Temple itself, although probably not much work was accomplished at first. The story is told with overtones reminiscent of the building of the great Temple of Solomon (see 1 Kings 5). The description j also indicates something of the magnitude of the task, since such expensive materials would have to be brought from faraway places.

The chapter closes with an account of the mingled joy and weeping which attended the actual laying of the foundation. There were those whose eyes were turned backward and who wept because they remembered, or had heard of, the former magnificence of the Temple. Although this new Temple would not compare with the Solomonic Temple, certainly not in this preliminary stage, the beginning of work on it represented real sacrifice on the part of the people, and its completion in a time of poverty would represent greater dedication than did the former Temple. That it was started at all is a credit to the faith and loyalty of the returning Jews and to the loyal love of God, whose power and mighty acts were celebrated in the antiphonal song sung on the occasion. The translation of verse 9 is awkward, and the name "Judah" does not belong here (see Nehemiah 7:43).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 3". "Layman's Bible Commentary".