Ezra 3






On their arrival in their own land, the exiles, it would seem, proceeded first of all

to their several cities, reconnoitring the ground, as it were, and at first taking no

step that could arouse the hostility or jealousy of the previous inhabitants.

After a while, however, “when the seventh month was come,” they

ventured with some misgivings to restore and rebuild the great altar of

burnt sacrifice, which Solomon had formerly erected in the principal court

of the temple, directly opposite to the porch (II Kings 16:14; II Chronicles 4:1),

and on which, until the destruction of the temple, the morning and evening

sacrifice had been offered. We gather from Ezra’s narrative, that when the ruins

were carefully examined, the site of the old altar was ascertained, and care was

taken to put the new one in the old place. The restoration of the altar thus

considerably preceded even the commencement of the temple; the one being

essential to the Jewish service, which could not exist without sacrifice, while

the other was only a convenient and desirable adjunct. The altar must have been

completed by the last day of the sixth month (see v. 6).


1 “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.”  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. v. 27;

compare ibid. ch. 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

(compare Judges 20:1, 8; II Samuel 19:14).


2 “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.”

Jeshua the son of Jozadak. The position of Jeshua, both here

and in vs. 8-9, sufficiently marks him as the high priest, though Ezra

does not give him the title. Haggai, however (Haggai 1:1, 14; 2:2), and

Zechariah (Zechariah 3:1, 8; 6:11) distinctly assign him the office. His father,

Jozadak, or Josedech, was the son of Seraiah, high priest at the destruction

of Jerusalem (I 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 ch.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 (compare I Chronicles 23:14 and II Chronicles 30:16).


3 “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.”  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 neighbors 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 ch.4:9-10; II Kings 17:24). (Sounds like the 21st

century in America – CY – 2015)  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).



                                    The Altar Rebuilt (vs. 1-3)


The return from Babylon is supposed to have been in the spring. The first

employment of the people would be to construct for themselves huts, or so

to repair dilapidated buildings as to make them fit for habitation. This

accomplished, no time was lost in setting about the great work of reestablishing

their ancient worship. So “when the seventh month was come,” the month

Tisri, corresponding to portions of our September and October, they repaired to

Jerusalem to encourage and witness:




Ø      They saw it placed upon its old bases.


o       They regarded it as the same altar. No ceremonies of

      consecration needed — wanted no novelties in religion.

      Here is a useful lesson to Christians. The religion of their

      fathers was Divine, and was associated with a wonderful



Ø      They saw it rise to its completion.


o       They had hostile neighbors (see Ezra 4:1, 9-10). Idolaters of all

                                    sorts will ever oppose true worship.

o       These were overawed by the multitude. The wicked are cowards at

                                    heart.  (Unfortunately, so must be many Christians since in our

                                    day roles seem to be reversed. – CY  - 2015)

o       The hands of the elders were encouraged. This is the force of the

                                    particle, “Then stood up,” etc. Learn the great value of

                                    witnessing for Christ.



                        Numbers 28:1-8.


Ø      The offerings. These were:

o       The burnt offering — a lamb of the first year, type of Christ,

      consumed in fire, and so called the “food of God.”

o       The meat offering — fine flower mingled with oil, consumed

      by the worshipper or his representatives.

o       The drink offering — wine — like the meat, partaken of by

      God and man. This feasting the symbol of friendship.


Ø      These were continual.


o       Morning, evening, day by day the year round, so forward

      year by year continually” (see Hebrews 10:1).

o       Kept up a continual remembrance of sin.

o       Continually procured the “forbearance of God” until His justice

      should be satisfied in the perfect sacrifice and offering of



Ø      But there was no sacred fire.


o       The Jews confess the absence of this after the captivity. No

      account of any in the more recent Scriptures.

o       Strange fire would scarcely be used. No account of its

     authorization. Without this would it be accepted? (see

          Leviticus 10:1-2)

o       Burnt offerings without fire! Significant of the waning of the

                                    dispensation. Designed to wean the Jews from Moses in favor

                                    of Jesus.  Strength of prejudice! Strong tendencies even in

                                    Christians to ritual rather than to the spiritual in worship (see

                                                                        Galatians 3:1-3). We witness here:




Ø      There was concert among the priests.


o       The high priest was there. Joshua is not here expressly so

      styled; implied in the words, “Then stood up Jeshua the son

      of Jozadak and his brethren.” Thus distinguished elsewhere

      (see Haggai 1:1; 2:2; Zechariah 3:1). He was the grandson of

      Seraiah, the high priest who was slain by Nebuchadnezzar

      (see II Kings 25:18-21). He was a type of Christ not only in

      virtue of his office, but also in his name, which is the

                                    same as Jesus, and in his leading the captivity out of Babylon.

o       The “brethren” of Jeshua were with him. The sons of Aaron

      in general.


Ø      There was concert among the nobles.


o       Zerubbabel was there. He heads the roll of names (Ezra 2: 2)

      as a principal leader of the restoration. He was the representative

      of the royal family, and now a worthy successor of his ancestors,

      David and Solomon, who were so gloriously concerned with the

      first temple.

o       His “brethren” were with him.


Ø      The people were there as one man.


o       Responsive to the summons of the chiefs. They assembled

      fifteen days earlier than the feast of tabernacles, when all

      the males should appear (see v. 6).

o       They came with exemplary unanimity; their heart was in it;

      they were the noblest of the nation, under 50,000, leaving

      the indifferent ones in Babylon. Such unanimity could never

                                    have been secured by coercion.  Value of the voluntary principle.




                                    The First Sacrifice (vs. 1-3)


The third chapter begins much as the second chapter concluded, with a

picture of the restored Israelites in their respective “cities” or homes. But

they do not stay there very long. The temple and the temple worship, for

which they had laid by (ch. 2:68-69) before dispersing, is still much

on their minds. These verses tell us of the consequent action next taken in

that direction:


1. on the part of the people specially;

2. on the part of their leaders specially; and

3. on the part of them all collectively.


  • THE PEOPLE SPECIALLY. They left their “cities” for the city of God;

            of their own consent (they “gathered themselves together”), with one

            consent (“as one man”). ὁμοθυμαδὸν homothumadonunanimously -

            I Esdras 5:46. What stirred them all in this manner? The fact, apparently,

            that the “seventh month” was “come,” or was “approaching”. Certainly,

            connected with that month there were many things which might well have

            this effect. How important this month ecclesiastically, and from the point

            of view of the temple worship. On the first day, besides the new moon,

            came the festival known as the feast of trumpets (Numbers 29:1). On the

            tenth the great day of atonement, the great fast of the Jewish year (Ibid. v.7).

            From the fifteenth to the twenty-second was celebrated the third of the

            three great annual feasts, viz., that of tabernacles or ingathering. No other

            month was equally distinguished. No subsequent month of the twelve was

            distinguished by any universal call to the temple precincts. The next such

            call would be five months afterwards, in the passover month. How

            important, again, this seventh month, as the first month of the civil year,

            the month from which the Sabbatical and Jubilee years were computed

            (Leviticus 25:9). Its first day would answer exactly to our “New Year’s

            Day,” a most natural time for instituting or recommencing a new order of

            things. Historically, also, as being a month in which one of the special

            captivity fasts (see Zechariah 7:5; 8:19) had been observed, this was a

            marked month in these exiles’ minds. How fit a month, therefore, in every

            way, for making a beginning of some kind. “Now, if ever;” almost “Now,

            or never,” the occasion seemed to exclaim. It is by such conjunctions,

            perhaps, that God most frequently signifies His guiding will to His willing

            people (compare Acts 16:6-10).


  • THE LEADERS SPECIALLY. If the time for action was now so near,

            who should take the lead in regard to it? Who, of course, but the natural

            leaders. The leaders in the Church first (Jeshua,” etc.), the matter in hand

            being one so specially concerning them. But not the leaders in Church only;

            Zerubbabel and his brethren,” as laymen, also having their interest in it.

            Together they resolved to begin by rebuilding the sacrificial altar, that

            which had stood in the old temple before the holy place and in the court of

            the priests. Why did they begin in this way? Partly owing to the tenor of

            the “law of Moses,” that being a law of sacrifices from beginning to end

            (see Hebrews 9:21-22), according to which there was no approach to

            the most holy place itself without the previous use of the altar. This

            consideration would probably tell especially on Jeshua and the priests; as

            the example of David, next, who desired to build the house, but was only

            permitted to “find out” its “place,” and so far to begin it as to consecrate as

            it were its altar (I Chronicles 17.; 21:26; 22:1; Psalm 132:5), would

            tell especially on Zerubbabel, David’s representative and descendant, and

            lead him also to wish to begin by erecting the altar upon the old “base”

            (v. 3). There would also be a third reason to influence both sets of

            leaders alike. By this time the returned remnant would find the hostility of

            their new neighbors awakened. Only surprised at first to hear of their

            return (compare Psalm 126:2), afterwards inclined to ridicule and despise

            them (compare Nehemiah 4:2-4), when they saw them settling down in

            their old habitations as a distinct and separate people (Numbers 23:9),

            these strangers would begin in various ways to show their dislike, and

            perhaps to murmur their threats. In this condition of danger how natural to

            follow the example of Samuel (I Samuel 7:10; compare 13:11-12), and

            sacrifice to Jehovah. A very instructive lesson, by the way, for these gospel

            times. Just so our need of an atonement is the very first of our needs. The

            nature of God’s law, the example of God’s servants, the enmity of the

            world and Satan (Revelation 12:11) combine to teach us this truth.


  • THE CONGREGATION EN MASSE. Representatives of all Israel

            having come to Jerusalem, and the leaders having erected the altar, what

            were they all to do next? The place of sacrifice was restored. Out of the

            many kinds of sacrifices connected with it in former days, which should

            they place on it first? That which God had appointed for sanctifying the

            beginning and end of each day (v. 3). This quite in accordance with the

            very first use of the original altar itself (Exodus 29:28), and with the

            happy consequences thereby secured (ibid. 43-45). Also with the many

            remarkable successive injunctions of Numbers 28., 29., where we find it

            expressly commanded that whatever special sacrifices might be ordered on

            any day — whether for the Sabbath (v. 10), or new moon (v. 15), or

            passover (v. 23), or any day of it (v. 24), or Pentecost (v. 31), or

            feast of trumpets (Numbers 29:6), or day of atonement (v. 11), or

            feast of tabernacles, or any day of it (vs. 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38)

    these regular daily sacrifices were always to be offered “beside.”

Also with the prominence given to them in I Chronicles 16:39-40;

            II Chronicles 2:4; 13:11; 31:3. Also with the peculiarly grave character

            attached in Daniel 8:11; 9:27; and 12:11 to their cessation and

            interruption. Indeed, from a spiritual point of view, and regarding this

            people of Israel as a “congregation” or living Church, these daily sacrifices

            seem always presented to us as the very pulse of its life. How fitting,

            therefore, in the endeavor to restore that Church’s suspended animation,

            to attend to them first. How important, also, under the new economy, THE

            PERPETUAL INTERCESSION OF CHRIST!   “He needeth not daily,

            as those high priests” (Hebrews 7:27), to offer for sin; “for this He did once

             [for all] when He offered Himself.” But there is a need that He himself

            should continually be pleading this one sacrifice on our behalf. On this

            depends our justification (Romans 8:34). On this in every way our salvation

            (Hebrews 7:25). Herein is the pulse of our life. So we seem to be

            taught by such passages as Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20. And so,

            with regard especially to the restoration of that life when impaired or

            suspended (just as with Israel in the case before us), in what is said in

            I John 2:1-2 respecting this great Intercessor or “Advocate,” and the

            effectual plea of His death. “If any man sin,” as every man does

            (Ibid. ch. 1:8-10), and so begins to die, as every sinner then does, here

            is his way of escape.





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.”


4 “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;”  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.




                                                  (vs. 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 which was for atonement

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

     thanksgiving and the acknowledgment of God’s mercies; 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.  This for private devotion, the payment of vows, and the like.


5 “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.  6 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.:  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 Authorized Version, 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 freewill

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.



                        The Worship of the First Year (vs. 4-6)


In connection with the worship of the first year after the return of the

children of Israel from Babylon, we notice:





Ø      They had their altar rebuilt.


o       This was the first thing done, because it was essential.

      Sacrifice is interwoven with all the ceremonies of worship

      according to the law. The principle of sacrifice is no less

      essential under the gospel. Ponder the thought that there

      can be no true worship without sacrifice.


o       They lost no time in this. They came forth from Babylon in

      the spring. The journey probably occupied four months (compare

      ch. 7:9). They had therefore barely time to get housed before

      the seventh month came, upon the first day of which they were

      as one man” at Jerusalem. Learn that things essential to

      worship should have prompt and early attention.

§         Forsaking Babylon,

§         seeking Zion,

§         building an altar,

§         keeping the feasts.


Ø      But the foundation of the temple was not yet laid. This recalls the

                        worship of the patriarchs.


o       That of the first family eastward of Eden (Genesis 3:24,

      and 4:3; etc.).

o       That of Noah emerging from the ark (Ibid. ch. 8:20).

o       That of the Hebrew patriarchs in Canaan (Ibid. ch. 12:6-8;

      13:18; 15:9-11; 22:13; 26:25; 33:18-20). Learn, worship

      may be genuine without being elaborate (see John 4:23-24).


Ø      There appears to have been no celebration of the ceremonies of the

                        great day of atonement.


o       The daily sacrifice commenced on the first day of Tisri (v. 6). The

                                    great day of atonement was due on the tenth of the same month,

                                    of which there is no mention. The narrative carries us at once to

                                    the feast of tabernacles, which followed on the fifteenth day.

o       The reason of the omission is found in the want of the temple.

      The sprinkling of the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry

      would be impossible (see Leviticus 16.). There was no most holy

      place for the high priest to enter (see Hebrews 9:7, 25). There was

      no altar of incense (see Exodus 30:10). Lesson: If we cannot

      worship God as we would, we should worship Him as we can.





Ø      Foremost amongst these was the feast of tabernacles. This was one of

                        the great annual festivals.


o       The passover. This was held on the first day of Abib

      instituted to commemorate the events connected with the

      exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:3-4; Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

o       The feast of first-fruits. This commenced with the putting in of

      the sickle for the harvest. Also called the feast of weeks, for

      it lasted seven weeks, while the fruits of the earth were being

      gathered. Lesson: We should recognize God in all our blessings.

      In all this rejoicing the Israelites still kept up the memory of their

      emancipation from Egypt (see Deuteronomy 16:7-12).

o       The last was the feast of tabernacles. In the present case this

      came first. This arose from the accident of its occurring first

      after the return from Babylon. Yet in this accident there was

      a providence, for the feast of tabernacles has a peculiar relation

      to gospel times (see Zechariah 14:18). This feast also called the

      feast of ingathering, for it was a rejoicing over the garnering of

      the harvest and vintage (Deuteronomy 16:13-16).

                                    Not so called here, for there would be no extensive ingathering in

                                    this first year. There was a remembrance of the deliverance from

                                    Egypt in this festival also; it called to mind the dwelling in tents

                                    in the wilderness. In this celebration the people could not but

                                    associate with this their own recent deliverance from Babylon.

                                    Lesson: In all our festivities let the grateful remembrance be

                                    present with us of our spiritual emancipation from the

                                    Egypt and Babylon of sin and error.

o       Particularly note that they “offered the daily burnt offerings

      by number according to the custom as the duty of every day

      required.” On each of the days during which this feast lasted

      there was a difference in the custom (see Numbers 29.).

      “As the duty,” etc. Hebrews, “the matter of the day in

                                    the day.” Learn:

§         Every day brings its own religious duties.

§         We must do the work of the day in the day.


Ø      They offered also the continual burnt offerings.


o       The daily offerings. These were never interrupted. They

      continued morning and evening throughout the year.

o       Those of the Sabbaths (see Numbers 28:9-10). The word

      Sabbath is applied not only to the seventh day of the week,

      but indifferently to all the Jewish festivals (Leviticus 19:3,30).

o       Those of the new moons (see Numbers 28:11-15).

o       Additional to all these were the free-will offerings of the people.


                        The services of religion are not to be taken up fitfully, but must be

                        steadily observed. They are not irksome, but delightful to those whose

                        hearts are brought into sympathy with them by the grace of God. This

                        grace should be diligently sought.



                        PREPARATION OF MATERIALS


              THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE (v. 7).


When the restoration of religion had progressed thus far, the civil and ecclesiastical

rulers turned their attention to that object which had been specially mentioned in

the “decree of Cyrus” (ch.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 (ch.6:4) as those to be employed in the construction of

the second.         


7 “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.”

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

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 neighbors, 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

(II 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 “floats”

(Ibid. v.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.



                                    The First Feast (vs. 4-7)


“Also,” v. 4; “afterward,” v. 5; “but,” v. 6; these are the three

stepping-stones of this passage. After making a good beginning in restoring

the daily sacrifices, the people “also” kept their first feast. “Afterward”

they did what they could in restoring the observance of all the other

ordinances and feasts of Jehovah. “But,” it being impossible to do this

satisfactorily as they were then situated with regard to the temple, they

further proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for commencing its

erection, which was, after all, their great work. Such seems to be the order

here of thoughts and events.


  • The “ALSO,” the SPECIAL FEAST. In the natural order of things, the

            seventh month having now come, the feast of tabernacles would be that

            nearest at hand. We cannot, therefore, exactly consider them to have

            chosen this as their first restored festival; but we can see indications that

            they specially welcomed it, and observed it with much joy. The seventh

            month also brought round the feast of trumpets and the day of atonement;

            yet the observance of these, if now observed at all by them, was not of

            such a kind as to be considered worthy of special mention. The first thing

            mentioned is the daily sacrifice; the next, this feast of tabernacles. If not the

            next thing that occurred, therefore, it was certainly, to their thoughts, the

            next thing in importance. Observe, also, what is expressly recorded as to

            the spirit in which they observed it. The regulations for the observance of

            this feast were amongst the most intricate in the whole book of the Law.

            Many victims of many kinds were required for its due observance; some

            the same, some different, for all its seven days in succession; those required

            for the eighth day being different, again, from them all (see carefully

                        Numbers 29:12-38). All this, as there found “written,” if not as also

            added to by long-established “custom” (see John 7:2, 37-38 for a

            supposed reference to a “custom” of this kind), as “every day required,”

            they fulfilled. How great, how manifest their pleasure in learning, in doing

            all. This not to be wondered at when we bear in mind the peculiar

            joyfulness of this annual feast. As the feast of ingathering or harvest

            (Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Exodus 23:16), and as the feast which

            celebrated the close of their wanderings (Leviticus 23:40, 42-43), it

            was, even more than the passover or the Pentecost, a special season of joy.

            Accordingly, while we read in the passover of the bread of affliction

            (Deuteronomy 16:3), and read once of rejoicing at Pentecost (ibid. 11),

            we read of it twice (ibid. 14-15) in this case. Also, in the history of Israel

            we find mention of certain special cases of peculiar joy, all connected with

            ideas of permanent habitation and finished toil, when this feast was

            celebrated with peculiar glory (see reference to Joshua in I Kings 8:65;

                        I Chronicles 17:1, 5; II Chronicles 7:8-10; Nehemiah 8:9-18).

            No feast, therefore, in every way, could have been more appropriate to

            their case.



            peculiarly suitable to them this timely festival, it was not the only thing they

            observed. On the contrary, besides that which they had previously

            reinstituted (as again referred to in v. 6) they attended henceforward now

            to all things enjoined in God’s law. They kept up still the continual burnt

            offerings (mentioned specially again perhaps because of their special

            importance), and began from this time to order regularly all monthly, or

            annual, or even occasional rites — “the new moons,” “the set feasts,” “the

            freewill offerings” of individuals. All that the Lord had “consecrated” or

            directly enjoined, all that He had also declared His willingness to accept,

            they gladly observed. In short, they restored in spirit the religious year, and

            as far as they could, in their circumstances, brought back in this respect the

            old days.


  • “BUT— for, as we have remarked already, there was a serious

            but in this case — THEY COULD NOT AS YET DO ALL. They had

            the proper altar and priests; to some extent the proper vessels; also the

            requisite knowledge and inclination; and, in a certain way, the requisite

            means. For all this, however, to be done as they should be, with proper

            state and significance, and as Israel’s future functions required perhaps

            more than ever, there was needed a proper house. To this matter,

            accordingly, they next turn. Its very “foundation” at that time was not laid,

            and could not be as things were. But the necessary preparations could now

            be seen to, and must be, indeed, without delay. For example, they could

            arrange as to wages, etc. with those workmen who were to work on the

            spot, as we read in the beginning of v. 7. Also with those to work at a

            distance (“them of Zidon and Tyre,” v. 7), who were to cut the requisite

            cedar trees in Lebanon and convey them for use both by land and sea. In

            which last particular it is to be noted that they followed the example of the

            wise king himself when building the first temple, as well in choosing the

            right persons as in adopting the right route, and in offering the right

            remuneration, viz., not “money,” but “meat” and so on (I Kings

            5:6, 9, 11; II Chronicles 2:8, 16; also Acts 12:20). Further, we find

            that they asked for no more than they were already authorized to ask by

            King Cyrus (end of v. 7). It would be well if all business transactions

            were equally prudent and fair, especially those which have to do in any way

            with God’s service. Seek out the hands that are truly skilful, offer them

            what it is worth their while to accept, ask of them only what is lawful, this

            makes the man of business and the man of honor as well. And in doing

            business on God’s account the man of God should be BOTH. May not this

            whole passage teach us yet another lesson in regard to doing God’s work?

            There is always something, whatever our circumstances, that we can all do

            in that line. We can begin if we cannot complete. We can prepare if we

            cannot begin. Even where we can do nothing ourselves, we may engage

            others to do it. Moreover, if we really seek to use such opportunities as we

            have, our endeavors are quite sure to be accepted and blessed (Mark 14:8;

            II Corinthians 8:12). This applies to learning as well as doing

            God’s will (John 7:17).





                                    Acceptable Service (vs. 1-7)


When the 42,000 Israelites arrived in the land whither they went forth, they

took peaceable and glad possession of their old homes; many, if not most,

of them returning to the very fields and homesteads from which their

fathers had been led away. They then showed a piety which was partly the

fruit of the long discipline they had passed through in Persia. Their service

of Jehovah, on this their return, was characterised by:


  • SPONTANEITY (vs. 1, 5). They must have had much to do to bring

            into good condition the long-forsaken fields; agriculture must have been

            neglected, and there must have been a strong demand for the most active

            and unremitting labor. Nevertheless, without any edict or decree from any

            spiritual or secular authority, “the people gathered themselves together as

            one man at Jerusalem(v. 1). A common impulse urged them all to leave

            business employments and household duties and repair to the sacred city

            for the worship of God. And when there, they “willingly offered a freewill

            offering unto the Lord” (v. 5). Their service was, as ours will be, the

            more acceptable because unconstrained, spontaneous, the prompting of

            individual piety. Not the mandate of an earthly master, but the will of our

            Divine Lord, the love of Christ, should constrain us to activity and



  • RIGHTNESS OF PLACE (vs. 1, 3). They gathered at Jerusalem

            (v. 1), and built an altar on the very same basis as that on which the old

            altar had stood (v. 3). They were right in this. For it had been very

            specially enjoined that only on that one site should sacrifices be offered

            unto God. They had regard to a precise injunction in thus confining their

            offerings to one place. No such restrictions limit our worship. The hour has

            come when neither on one mountain nor another shall men worship the

            Father (John 4:21). Wherever the people of God meet in sincerity and

            earnestness, there they “behold His mercy-seat.” “Every place is hallowed

            ground” to the devout heart. Yet there is such a thing as propriety of place.

            Still “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion,” and to worship Him regularly at

            His house, to unite regularly with His people at the table of the Lord, is a

            useful and acceptable service.


  • UNITY (v. 2). Jeshua and Zerubbabel stood together to build the

            altar of the Lord. It is a most excellent thing for any society when those

            who are influential in the Church and those highly placed in the State unite

            and do not divide their influence, strengthen and do not weaken one

            another’s hands, in the promotion of morality and religion.


  • READINESS THROUGH EAGERNESS (vs. 3, 6). After using

            Solomon’s temple as their sacred edifice wherein to worship, it was natural

            that the people should desire something more than a rude altar reared

            under the skies. But so eager were they to return to the old sacrifices,

            which had so long ceased to be offered, that they could not wait for the

            erection of a building; before the foundation of the temple was laid (v. 6)

            they began to present burnt offerings unto the Lord. The apathetic soul will

            be ready enough to find an excuse for irreligion, for leaving unoffered the

            sacrifice that is due; but the eager-hearted will be prompt to substitute one

            instrument for another, that the service may not be unrendered. A feeble

            piety will yield to the first check. Spiritual earnestness will be ingenious to

            devise means, and will anticipate the hour when all outside circumstances

            compel to devotion. Do not let God’s praise remain unsung because a full-

            toned organ is not at hand for accompaniment, nor let His truth be

            unspoken because there are no fine walls to echo its proclamation.


  • REGULARITY (v. 4). “They offered the daily burnt offerings by

            number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required” (v.

            4). There must be room left for some play of spontaneity, or our spiritual

            life will become mechanical and lose its animation and elasticity and

            beauty. But there must be also regularity: constant services, daily devotion,

            morning and evening prayer. Liberty and law must be reconciled and

            dwell harmoniously together, not only in every home, but in every heart.


  • COMPREHENSIVENESS (vs. 3-4). Opposite feelings led them to

            the mercy-seat: their fear led them to seek God — they set up the altar for

            fear of the people by whom they were surrounded (v. 3); and their joy

            also led to devotion — they kept the joyous feast of tabernacles, and united

            in the service in which gladness of heart prevailed (v. 4). The truly

            devout man is he with whom all paths lead to the throne of grace; to whom

            all things, however varied and unlike one another, suggest the thought of

            God; who brings his burden of grief and fear, as well as his treasure of joy

            and hope, TO THE FEET OF THE MASTER!




                  CEREMONIAL ON THE OCCASION (vs. 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 (I 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 (v. 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 (I Chronicles 15:19, 24; 16:5;

II Chronicles 5:12, etc.). Their special parts in it were assigned

beforehand to the priests, the Levites, and the people.


8 “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.”  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 (ch. 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

entrusted the work of the house of the Lord, i.e. the superintendence of

the workmen employed to rebuild it (see v. 9).


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.”  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.


10 “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.”  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; 40:27-29), and which the people had recently provided

(ch.2:69). With trumpets. To blow with trumpets was always the

duty of the priests (Numbers 10:8; 31:6; Joshua 6:4;  I Chronicles 15:24; 16:6;

II Chronicles 5:12), to praise God with cymbals the task of the Levites (I

Chronicles 15:16, 19; 16:5; II Chronicles 5:12-13; 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 I Chronicles 15:16; afterwards, more fully, in vs. 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).


11 “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.” They sang together by course. Literally, “They replied

(to each other),” or sang antiphonically; the burden of their song being, that

God was good, and His mercy towards Israel everlasting (compare II

Chronicles 5:13; 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 practiced 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 (I Samuel 4:5), and again

when David solemnly brought it up from Kirjathjearim to Jerusalem (II

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.


12 “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:”

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 ch. 6:3) as in the size and quality of the

foundation-stones (I 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.


13 “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.”

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” (Herodotus 9:24).



            The First Stone (vs. 8-13)


We now come in this story to a very critical time. The great work of the

restoration of the house, for the sake of which the partial restoration of

Israel to Canaan had been brought about and was to continue (see again

ch. 1:1-5; also 6:3, noting further how, in fact, all recorded in

Ezra, and even in Nehemiah, may be regarded as introductory, subsidiary,

or supplementary to this point), at last is before us. We read, on the one

hand, of the very last step in the way of prelude and preparation. We read,

on the other, of the very first step in the way of actual construction. In both

we shall find how much importance is attached to the juncture.


  • THE LAST PRELIMINARY. The site being fixed, the workmen

            engaged, as also, we may suppose (the “second month of the second year”

            having arrived), the proper materials being now on the spot, it only remains

            to arrange, before finally starting, for proper superintendence. Who so

            likely for this as those who had a kind of family fitness or hereditary call to

            that work, viz., the Levites of sufficient age? And what so proper an age

            (i.e. if second thoughts are best) as the age fixed by the “last words of

            David” (I Chronicles 23:27, compared with vs. 3, 24-26; and see

                        II Chronicles 29:25 as further evidence of the authority attaching to all

            David’s arrangements concerning the house)? Such, accordingly, was the

            precedent followed by all concerned in this case. All who helped to make

            up the whole “remnant” that had returned to Jerusalem (including by name

            both leaders, and by express mention the priests and Levites, and by

            implication all other Israelites) approved of this plan. And all thus called

            and “appointed,” i.e. all those Levites belonging to those families which

            had that hereditary acquaintance before referred to, equally approved of it

            too. Two families of such have been already mentioned among those that

            came up (ch. 2:40). We find mention now for the first time, though

            not for the only time (Nehemiah 3:18. 24; 10:9), of a third, viz., the

            family or “sons of Henadad.” Possibly these may have come up at some

            subsequent date, or it may be that they only form some minor division,

            which, as being specially qualified for the work now to be entered on,

            come specially now to the front. In any case it is a significant indication of

            the universal readiness on the part of all qualified Levites “to set forward

            the work.” Indeed, in this “last preliminary” this seems the principal feature

            presented to us, this marked unanimity of WILL and JUDGMENT.   As

            they appear to have traveled from Babylon, as they had harmoniously

            arranged in distributing the people (ch. 2:70), as they had all agreed about

            erecting the altar (v. 2), so are they all of one mind also in this

            finishing touch. We may well believe that it was one secret of their happy

            progress so far. There is nothing so fatal as the absence of unanimity in

            building a house (Genesis 11:6-8). Nothing so effectual as its presence,

            especially where God’s house is concerned (see Zephaniah 3:9-10;

                        John 13:34-35; 17:20-21; also Acts 4:32-33; Ephesians 2:19-21; I Peter 2:5).


  • THE FIRST MOVE. This was the action, of course, of placing the first

            stone. (Contrast, as a description of utter destruction, Matthew 24:2.)

            How important a step this was considered may be seen by noting the

            formalities observed on the occasion, being almost identical with those

            observed at that more than royal progress described in II Chronicles

            5:4-14 (compare also I Chronicles 15:27-28). How significant too these

            formalities were in themselves. “Trumpets” are used commonly on

            occasions of state, to notify the approach of the sovereign, to draw

            attention to proclamations made in his name. In the Old Testament we find

            them employed to “sound an alarm,” or assemble the people, or proclaim

            the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:8-10; Numbers 10:9-10; Joel 2:1,15;

                        Amos 3:6); and that generally, though not always, in the hands of

            the priests (Joshua 6:6, 8, 13; Judges 7.; I Chronicles 15:24; 16:4-6;

            II Chronicles 5:12). The priests, therefore, as here, sounding these,

            and clad in official garments, made the occasion one of state in God’s

            name, as though Himself present and speaking peace. On the other hand,

            the cymbals and songs of the Levites, praising God again in the ancient,

            national, and highly-esteemed manner (I Chronicles 16:41; Psalm 136.;

            and the prophecy of Jeremiah 33:10-11), was a kind of response to

            that voice. One is almost reminded of the “goodwill towards man” and

            glory to God in the highest,” when the foundation-stone of redemption

            was laid in Christ’s birth (Luke 2:14). How important also the occasion

            was found to be in practice. Well begun is half done.” A foundation-stone

            is both a proof and a promise — a proof of much, a promise of more. How

            much had now been accomplished! How great a step at last taken I How

            much more might be hoped! When the heart is full of such feelings, what

            can it do but shout out (see Zephaniah 3:14; Zechariah 9:9).

            Compare also the shout of Xenophon’s returning ten thousand when they

            found out how far they had traveled towards the goal they desired on first

            catching sight of the sea. Just so the men here. “The foundation is laid. We

            shall soon have the house. Praise God.” So they felt, so they shouted in the

            exuberance of their joy. So may a Christian also, when laying, as it were,

            by simple faith in Christ, the “foundation-stone” of his hope. With these

            pleasures of hope,” however, there were also sorrows of memory. Some

            fifty years or thereabouts before then there had been another house on that

            spot. There were “ancient men” present there who had seen it in all its

            glory. They could see it still in their minds. To them, therefore, this present

            “foundation-stone” recalled years of shame, and terror, and agony. Oh, that

            such a thing as this should ever have been required! That there should ever

            have been this pitiable necessity for thus beginning again! That there should

            be such a scene around them as they saw at that time (see, even long

            afterwards, Nehemiah 7:4; also Haggai 2:3;  Zechariah 4:10)!

            Bursting into uncontrollable tears at these thoughts, they filled the air with

            their cries. It was impossible indeed for any to distinguish which kind of

            cry prevailed most, the cries of sorrow or those of joy. No wonder the

            story adds that “the noise was heard afar off.” Regarded, indeed, from a

            typical and prophetical point of view, has it ceased echoing yet (see, inter

            alia, Psalm 118:22-24; Isaiah 28:16; I  Peter 2:4-8)?



Thought, Work, and Feeling (vs. 8-13)


  • A TRUE THOUGHT (v. 8). “Now in the second year of their

            coming,” etc. We can easily imagine any orator among the company of the

            returned Jews making out a strong case for leaving the building of the

            temple till better days should dawn. The sufficiency of the altar already

            reared for the practical purposes of devotion; the readiness of God to

            accept any offering that came from the heart, however mean the outward

            circumstances might be; the insecurity of their present state; their

            incompetence to build a temple which would compare with that of

            Solomon; the imperative necessity that existed to spend all their strength in

            consolidating their new-gained liberty; the wisdom of waiting till they

            could do something worthy of the God they worshipped, etc. — all this

            might have been made plausible enough, perhaps was so made. But if so, it

            was overruled by the true thought that to the God who had redeemed them

            from bondage, and given back to them their old liberties and their beloved

            land, they owed the very best they could offer, and that at the earliest

            moment. The first-fruits, they had long learned, belonged to Him who

            gave them everything. It was meet and fitting that as soon as ever they were

            established in their own old land they should build to Him, the Source of all

            their blessings, the best house they could rear. This was a true thought of

            theirs, and should find a home in our minds now. Not anything that will do,

            but the very best that can possibly be done, for God. We should not be

            content that “the ark of the covenant of the Lord should remain under

            curtainswhile we dwell in a “house of cedars” I Chronicles 17:1).

            Whatever, in the affairs of His kingdom, is improvable should be improved.

            The slain lamb is to be “without blemish.” The building should be without

            disproportion; the singing without discord; the service without mistakes.

            Let worthiness, excellency, beauty, grace be offered to Him who has given

            us not only the necessary and indispensable, but:

Ø      the exquisite,

Ø      the delightful,

Ø      the glorious.

      Let nothing detain us from the immediate service of Christ.


  • SYSTEMATIC WORK (vs. 8-9). They set about accomplishing

            their design with great carefulness and method. They committed it to the

            Levites, who were most interested and best instructed — to those of them

            who were of a suitable age (v. 8); they sent to Tyre and Sidon and to

            Lebanon for the best workmen and the best materials that could be had for

            money (v. 7); while, for love, the high priest and the priests overlooked

            and directed the work, and saw that all was according to the book of the

            law of the Lord. The work was quickly begun, but it was not hurriedly and

            slovenly dispatched. Each part was wrought by those who were specially

            adapted for it. No amount of zeal in the cause of God will make up for lack

            of intelligence and adaptation. We must build up the spiritual house of the

            Lord — the Church of Christ — not only inspired by consecration of spirit,

            but guided by a wise and intelligent adoption of the best means and

            appliances. Generous impulses must be sustained by sound methods, or the

            cause we have at heart will suffer, and instead of joy and exultation will

            come sorrow and shame.


  • MINGLED FEELING (vs. 10-13). No more touching and pathetic

            picture can be found even in the Bible itself — that book of tenderest

            pathos and truest poetry — than the scene recorded in the closing verses of

            this chapter. The Jews, pure in heart and godly in spirit, have ever been

            capable of the most profound emotion. Here was an occasion to call forth

            the fullest joy and at the same time the tenderest grief. Once more, on the

            ruins of the ancient sanctuary, the new temple was about to rise. It was the

            hour from which a new era in their nation’s history should date. It was an

            act from which the devotion of a reverent people for many a long century

            should spring. Patriotism and piety lent their strong and hallowed

            influences to ennoble and consecrate the scene. Feeling touched its deepest

            and rose to its highest note. And when the aged fathers, the ancient men,

            remembering the perished glories of the temple on which the eyes of their

            youth once rested with such pride and joy, wept as they looked on its ruins;

            and when their tears and lamentations mingled with the shouts of gladness,

            resounding far and wide, that came from all the younger men, who rejoiced

            with great joy at the sound of the sacred songs celebrating THE GOODNESS

            AND MERCY OF JEHOVAH  there was such a scene as can never have been

            forgotten by any of that goodly throng while life and memory remained.

            Thus hand in hand go joy and sorrow, inseparable companions, along the

            path of life. Thus do they stand together round the same altar, under the

            same roof. Thus do they mingle their smiles and tears at the same hour and

            scene. “Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and thorn,” says the

            aged grandmother in one of our poems; and in another we read most truly



                                    “There’s not a string attuned to mirth

                                    But has its chord in melancholy.”


            “We thank thee more that all our joy is touched with pain,” sighs another

            tender spirit. That which forms so constantly recurring a strain in our

            poetry must be, and is, a prevalent and abiding feature of our life. Ill is it

            for those who have no other portion than the pleasures of the present, no

            other heritage than the satisfactions of earth and time. Well is it for those

            who thankfully accept earthly joy and the shaded brightness of the present

            time as flowers that spring at the touch of God’s finger along the path of

            duty and devotion, intended to help us onward in that goodly way,

            speaking to us of the fuller blessedness which the future holds in its folded

            hand for them that are faithful unto death.



                                    The Founding of the Temple (vs. 7-13)


The worship of Israel during the first year of the restoration from Babylon

was such as could be conducted around an altar in the open. The people

naturally felt how imperfectly they could fulfill the law of Moses without a

temple, with its courts, its veil, and its sacred furniture. They did not let

discouragement paralyze them, but taxed their energies and resources.

These words bring under our notice:




Ø      What was required? (see v. 7


o       Here we read of “masons.” These suggest the quarrying and

      cutting of stones, and their transportation to the site (compare

      I Kings 5:16-18).

o       “Cedars of Lebanon” are mentioned. These suggest also other

      kinds of timber. The trees had to be felled, transferred to Tyre

      or Zidon, thence floated to Joppa, and conveyed across the

      country to Jerusalem (Ibid. vs. 5-10). Other preparations

      suggested by these hints.


Ø      How did they meet the demand?


o       Indirectly, by the gifts and sacrifices offered in connection

      with their worship at the altar. These were required for the

      support of that worship.  But the spirit of the worship thus

      encouraged animated them to further efforts. So it operates

      still under the gospel.

o       Directly, in their additional subscriptions of cash and kind (v. 7).

                                    These gifts rewarded the workmen of Tyre and Zidon (compare

                                    I Kings 5:11; II Chronicles 9:10). Also workmen of their own

                                    nation (compare I Kings 5:13-15). How anticipative of the wide

                                    spirit of the gospel that Jews and Gentiles should be jointly

                                    concerned in this typical work!

o       Do not these efforts shame those of Christian congregations?

      Here were under 50,000 persons, all told (see ch. 2:64-65),

      equal to about fifty out of the many thousands of our Christian

      congregations, undertaking this great work! What are we,

      each individual, doing towards the building of the spiritual



  • THE STONE-LAYING. The arrangements were:


Ø      The appointment of officers for the building (vs. 8-9).


o       Zerubbabel had supreme command (see Zechariah 4.). This he

      had as of the seed royal, and representing David and Solomon.

o       Jeshua the son of Josadak, as high priest, was associated with


o       The priests of the courses were his seconds in command —

      captains of the hosts of workmen.

o       The Levites were made foremen over the workmen. “And

      appointed the Levites,” etc. (vs. 8-9). There should be order

      in everything connected with the work of God.


Ø      The presence of all things essential to the ceremony.


o       The stone itself was there. This was a type of Christ, the

      Foundation of the living temple (see Psalm 118:22-23; compare

      with Matthew 21:42-44; Ephesians 2:20-22; Isaiah 28:16; 8:14;

      compare with I Peter. 2:6-8).

o       Zerubbabel was there to lay the stone. In this he, too, typified

      Christ (see Zechariah 4:6-10). This language has unmistakable

      reference to the triumphs of the Messiah.

o       Jeshua the son of Jozadak was there to witness it (see Zechariah

                                    3:9). In this he, too, was a type of Christ, our great High Priest (see

                                    Zechariah 3., and Zechariah 6:9-15). Essentials in religion are

                                    those things which concern Christ. These should be held as



Ø      The provision for the celebration of praise.


o       There were the trumpeters. These were the priests, distinguished

      by their apparel {see Numbers 10:8, 10).

o       The Levites, sons of Asaph, struck the cymbals. This was “after the

                                    ordinance of David” (see I Chronicles 16:4 6). The Levites also

                                    led the singing. This was responsive. The burden was “Praise and

                                    thanksgiving be unto the Lord;” the response, “Because He is

                                    good, and His mercy endureth for ever towards Israel.” The

                                    leaders of praise in Christian congregations should be godly



  • THE EFFECT OF THE PROCEEDINGS. This was various.


Ø      There was the emotion of the people.


o       Excitement was so strong that it vented itself in shouting.

o       Ours should be intense as we realize the glorious things



Ø      There was the emotion of the ancients.


o       While “all” shouted “because the foundation of the house of

      the Lord was laid,” yet on the part of many the shouting was

      mingled with wailing.  These were the ancients who looked

      on the ruins of the temple of Solomon, which they remembered

      in its splendor. They saw a mere handful of people, THE

      RELICS OF A GREAT NATION as they remembered it.

      They looked upon their chief magistrate, a dependent upon

      the Persian king, in contrast with what they remembered of

      the earlier representatives of David and Solomon.

o       The passion of the weepers was such that it rivaled that of

      the exulters.  No interests are so vital as those of religion.

      None should move us so deeply.                 


Ø      The outsiders heard the sound.


o       Those “afar off” were the Gentiles (see II Kings 27:6).

o       The nations of the world should be made to hear the sounds




            The Joyful and Sorrowful in Religious Worship (vs. 8-13)


Here we have illustrated the power of a right leadership, the wisdom of

devout cooperation, and the progress of a great enterprise (vs. 8-10).


  • THE JOYFUL IN RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. “They sang together” (v. 11).


Ø      That God will deign to consecrate by His Presence the temple erected.

                        God will dwell in the temple made with hands; what a condescension

                        and benediction is this toward man; hence the joy.


Ø      What God is in Himself to those who worship Him. “Because He

      is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel (v. 11).


Ø      In the strength which worship imparts during the trying circumstances

      of life. Who can tell the gladness put into the heart of Israel during their

                        arduous task by their worship. Worship inspires joy in time of difficulty.


Ø      In the progress of religious enterprise. Another house to be erected for

                        moral uses.


Ø      In religious youth the joy of worship is eminently strong. Natural feeling

                        combines with spiritual delight.



      loud voice” (v. 12).


Ø      That sin has thrown life into such a condition that a temple should be

                        necessary. Eden had no temple; heaven has none. Sin has rendered

                        necessary the material aids to worship.


Ø      That disobedience should ever violate the holy sanctuary of God. The

                        first temple had been destroyed; its glory had departed.


Ø      That the best temple man could build should be so poor and imperfect.

                        The poverty of their work awakened tears.


Ø      That the temple should be so little cared for by man, and that so little

                        good should be gained by its frequenters; so many of their comrades

                        were left in Babylon.



            WORSHIP. So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of

            joy from the noise of the weeping of the people” (v. 13).


Ø      A scene in the soul. In the soul joy blends with sorrow.


Ø      A scene in the sanctuary. In the same Church joy and sorrow blend in

                        the experience of the worshippers.


Ø      A scene in the world. Sorrow and joy blend on earth.


Ø      Not a scene in heaven; there no more tears.



            The Foundation Laid (vs. 11-13)


The weeping of these old men was the first check on the enthusiasm of the

builders of the temple. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the

prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai, which illustrate them, are a very

troubled history: sorrow, disappointment, and indignation again and again

break out; but until now there had been no consciousness of hindrances, or

the consciousness had been suppressed. The time of preparation, which is

pre-eminently the time of hope, was over; the people stood face to face

with the work they had undertaken; its difficulties were before them; they

felt the poverty of their resources. But though the enthusiasm of the

multitude was checked, it was not daunted; the hope of the younger men

overrode  the depression of the elders; the influence of their sacred festival

sustained them; the popular feeling was wiser and more healthy than the

despondency of the leaders. The work of preparation had been carried

forward with spirit. Not more than a year, probably a good deal less (v.8),

had elapsed since “the chief of the fathers” had come “to the house of

the Lord which is at Jerusalem (Ezra 2:68), and much work had been

accomplished in the organizing of labor and the collection of materials for

the building (v. 7). Patriotism, wisdom, and piety had been manifested in

their plans. The whole remnant of Israel was enlisted in the cause; this was

the work, not only of those who had returned, but also of those whom the

military leaders of Assyria and Chaldaea had not deemed of sufficient

importance to carry away (compare v. 1 with II Kings 24:14; 25:12). The

daily sacrifices had been early re-established, that the courage of the people

might be sustained by their faith in the God of Israel (vs. 3-6). Great

carefulness was manifested that all things should be done according to the

law; they were scrupulous in their obedience of God (vs. 2, 4, and

ch. 2:59, 61-62). A beautiful simplicity and hope appear in the

counsel of “the Tirshatha (ch. 2:63), the expectation that the LORD

would again reveal His will for their practical guidance. The responsibility

of all this action must have been felt by the “ancient men” “of the priests

and Levites;” overstrained feeling may have been one reason of their

weeping. Among the causes of their grief, notice these:



            There was a great contrast between Solomon’s temple and the ruins which

            were around them; between the glorious past of Israel and the scattered,

            demoralized condition of the nation now. But the greatest contrast was

            between the energies of their own youth and their present inability to rise

            to the demands of a great occasion. “We receive but what we give.”

            Difficulties are a spur to a young man’s courage; the consciousness of

            power shows itself in the desire to struggle and to overcome.



            BEEN MADE TO THE DECREE OF CYRUS. “Forty and two

            thousand three hundred and threescore” was the number of “the whole

            congregation that offered themselves for the return; and of these a large

            proportion were persons professionally engaged about the temple. “The

            priests and Levites” mourned that their readiness met with so small a

            response from the people. Some of the leaders of the nation, noble men

            hearing noble names, were there; but many also of small account, “a mixed

            multitude,” like a great proportion of our modern emigrants, unable to

            succeed anywhere and eager for any change (ch.2:58-63). The “great

            middle class” of Israel never returned. They continued “dispersed among

            the Gentiles.” The feelings of the ancient men would probably exaggerate

            these facts.




            ALREADY APPEARED IN MANY. Only “some of the chief of the

            fathers offered freely” (ch. 2:68; cf. with the phrase “chief of the

            fathersin our text). Zechariah (ch. 7.) speaks of the greed which

            characterized the nation during the captivity; Haggai first, and Malachi

            long afterwards, indignantly rebuked it in the men of the restoration

            (Haggai 1:3-4, 9; Malachi 1:6-10). The great grief of the old men, however

            natural, would have seriously hindered the work. The want of hope, and

            the selfishness which made many plead hopelessness as an excuse for

            abandoning their efforts, were the sins against which Zechariah and Haggai

            had to testify. The frank impulse which led the multitude to shout for joy

            was wiser than the weeping. It anticipated the subsequent teaching of

            Nehemiah under similar circumstances (Nehemiah 8:10), “The joy of

            the Lord is your strength.”




Ø      The mingled character of all human work. We begin in enthusiasm

      and continue in depression. There is the contrast of the actual with

      the ideal; the sense of accumulating difficulties; the consciousness

      of failing powers; the perception of imperfection in all human

      instrumentality. The work remains, though the feeling changes;

      remains to be done, remains when it is done. “Duty remains, and

      God abideth ever.” “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”


Ø      The advantage of fellowship in labor. Many weep and many shout

                        aloud for joy; and this is well, for each can temper the emotion of, and

                        furnish help to the other. “‘Tis held that sorrow makes us wise;” but

                        happy ignorance is also blessed. Care is good, and so is the occasional

                        outburst of joy that sweeps care away. Blend old and young together;

                        the old with memory which is the nurse of great purposes; the young

                        with the passion to make a future for themselves.


Ø      The cause that can bind true men in a fellowship of labor.  IT IS

      THE CAUSE OF GOD, the cause in which we can worship together

      as well as work together. “They sang together by course in praising

      and giving thanks unto the Lord;” “all the people shouted with a

      great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation

      of the house of the Lord was laid.” A  common faith in God and

                        God’s call harmonizes all diversities of feeling.





Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:



If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.