Ezr 3:1-13. The Altar Set Up.
1. when the seventh month was come -- The departure of the returning exiles from Babylon took place in the spring. For some time after their arrival they were occupied in the necessary work of rearing habitations to themselves amid the ruins of Jerusalem and its neighborhood. This preliminary work being completed, they addressed themselves to rebuild the altar of burnt offering. As the seventh month of the sacred year was at hand -- corresponding to the latter end of our September -- when the feast of tabernacles (Le 23:34) fell to be observed, they resolved to celebrate that religious festival, just as if the temple had been fully restored.
2. Jeshua -- the grandson of Seraiah, the high priest, put to death by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah (2Ki 25:18-21). His father, Josedech, had been carried captive to Babylon, and died there, some time before this.
Zerubbabel -- was, according to the order of nature, son of Pedaiah (1Ch 3:17-19); but having been brought up by Salathiel, he was called his son.
builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon -- This was of urgent and immediate necessity, in order, first, to make atonement for their sins; secondly, to obtain the divine blessing on their preparations for the temple, as well as animate their feelings of piety and patriotism for the prosecution of that national work.
3. they set the altar upon his bases -- They reared it upon its old foundation, so that it occupied as nearly as possible the site on which it had formerly stood.
they offered burnt offerings ... morning and evening -- Deeming it their duty to perform the public rites of religion, they did not wait till the temple should be rebuilt and dedicated; but, at the outset, they resumed the daily service prescribed by the law (Ex 29:38, 39; Le 6:9, 11), as well as observed the annual seasons of solemn observance.
Ezr 3:4-7. Offerings Renewed.
4, 6. They kept also the feast of tabernacles ... From the first day of the seventh month -- They revived at that time the daily oblation, and it was on the fifteenth day of that month the feast of tabernacles was held.
7. They gave ... meat ... drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon -- They opened negotiations with the Tyrians for workmen, as well as for timber, on the same terms and with the same views as Solomon had done (1Ki 5:11; 2Ch 2:15, 16).
Ezr 3:8-13. The Foundation of the Temple Laid.
8. appointed the Levites ... to set forward the work -- that is, to act as overseers of the workmen, and to direct and animate the laborers in the various departments.
9. Jeshua with his sons -- not the high priest, but a Levite (Ezr 2:40). To these, as probably distinguished for their mechanical skill and taste, the duty of acting as overseers was particularly committed.
12. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers ... wept with a loud voice -- Those painful emotions were excited by the sad contrast between the prosperous circumstances in which the foundations of the first temple had been laid and the desolate, reduced state of the country and city when the second was begun; between the inferior size and less costliness of the stones used in the foundations of the second (1Ki 7:9, 10), and the much smaller extent of the foundation itself, including all the appurtenances of the building (Hag 2:3); between the comparative smallness of their present means and the immense resources of David and Solomon. Perhaps, however, the chief cause of grief was that the second temple would be destitute of those things which formed the great and distinguishing glory of the first; namely, the ark, the shekinah, the Urim and Thummim, &c. Not that this second temple was not a very grand and beautiful structure. But no matter how great its material splendor was, it was inferior in this respect to that of Solomon. Yet the glory of the second far outshone that of the first temple in another and more important point of view, namely, the receiving within its walls the incarnate Saviour (Hag 2:9).
13. the people could not discern the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people -- Among Eastern people, expressions of sorrow are always very loud and vehement. It is indicated by wailing, the howl of which is sometimes not easily distinguishable from joyful acclamations.