Altar and Sacrifices Restored
1 When the seventh month came and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the (a)Law of Moses, the man of God. 3 So they set up the altar on its [old] foundation, (b)for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, morning and evening. 4 They celebrated the Feast of (c)Booths, as it is written, and offered the fixed number of daily burnt offerings, in accordance with the ordinances, as each day required; 5 and afterward, there was the continual burnt offering, the offering at the New Moons, and at all the appointed festivals of the Lord that were consecrated, and the offerings of everyone who made a voluntary offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. 7 They gave money to the masons and to the carpenters, and gave food, drink, and [olive] oil to the people from Sidon and Tyre, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the seaport of Joppa, in accordance with the authorization they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
Temple Restoration Begun
8 In the second year of their coming to God’s house at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began [the work], with the rest of their brothers—the priests and Levites and all who came to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers stood united with Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah and the sons of Henadad with their sons and brothers the Levites, to oversee the workmen in the house of God.
10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with their cymbals, to praise the Lord in accordance with the directions of David king of Israel. 11 They sang [responsively], praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness (mercy) toward Israel endures forever.” 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. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first house (temple), wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.
a. Ezra 3:2: The Hebrew word here is torah, usually translated “law.”
b. Ezra 3:3: Lit for a state of terror was upon them. Some prefer “in spite of the hostility [or fear] upon them,” indicating that setting up the altar was an act of bravery in the face of external threats. But the real problem seems to be that they had delayed construction of the temple, even on the foundation (vv 6, 10), for fear of their neighbors. So now they conducted services in the open, with the bare minimum of the altar in its proper position. One can credit Zerubbabel and his associates (v 2) for taking the initiative to begin worship services and festivals, but having to do so with nothing more than the altar paints a pathetic picture, especially since the nation had the full support of Cyrus.
c. Ezra 3:4: Or Tabernacles.