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Ezra: Chapter 3

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Text view alone

1When the seventh month came, and the Israelites were in the towns, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. 2Then Jeshua son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his kin set out to build the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God. 3They set up the altar on its foundation, because they were in dread of the neighboring peoples, and they offered burnt offerings upon it to the LORD, morning and evening. 4And they kept the festival of booths, b Vg: Meaning of Heb uncertain as prescribed, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the ordinance, as required for each day, 5and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the sacred festivals of the LORD, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the LORD. 6From 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 was not yet laid. 7So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from King Cyrus of Persia.

8In the second year after their arrival at the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their people, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to have the oversight of the work on the house of the LORD. 9And Jeshua with his sons and his kin, and Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and Hodaviah c 1 Esdras5.46 : Heb lacks lived in Jerusalem and its vicinity along with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, their sons and kin, together took charge of the workers in the house of God.

10When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the LORD with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,

“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.


a Vg: Meaning of Heb uncertain

a 1 Esdras5.46 : Heb lacks lived in Jerusalem and its vicinity

Text Commentary view alone

3.1–6.22 : First stage of reconstruction: building the Temple.

3.1–7 : First step: rebuilding the altar.

The restoration of the altar and a functioning priesthood allows a return of sacrificial worship, a central means of religious expression in the preexilic period.

1 :

The seventh month, September‐October.

2 :

Jeshuaand Zerubbabel, Ezra‐Nehemiah assumes a pattern of dual leadership. The law of Moses, most likely the Torah, more or less as we now have it (see notes to Neh 8 ).

3–6 :

The detailed catalogue of sacrifices underscores the official, institutional nature of the resumption of worship according to “the law of Moses.”

3 :

Dread of the neighboring peoples, introducing a major theme of the book. Tension with local inhabitants emerges because renewed Jewish cultic life is perceived by neighbors as intrusion and competition. Additionally, some of these tensions reflect a debate over the nature and composition of “Israel.” The festival of booths, see Lev 23.34 . Offerings at the new moon, see Num 29.6 .

7 :

Sidon and Tyre helped build Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 5–6 ).

3.8–13 : Second step: founding the Second Temple.

8 :

Second year, implicitly 537 or 536. Hag 2.18 dates the founding differently, to 520 BCE. Ezra 5.16 credits Sheshbazzar, not Zerubbabel and Jeshua, with laying foundations. Ezra‐Nehemiah idealizes and compresses various events.

10–13 :

Celebration of temple foundings is a common ancient Near Eastern practice.

10 :

Vestments, formally dressed to underscore continuity with earlier practice. David's crowning achievement for Ezra‐Nehemiah (as for Chronicles) is the development and organization of liturgy.

11 :

For he is good, a frequent phrase in the Psalms (Ps 100.5; 106.1; 118.2,3,4,29; 136.1–26 ).

12 :

Old people … wept, postexilic sources consistently contrast the splendor of Solomon's Temple with the less glorious, postexilic Second Temple. Only in the first century BCE would Herod renovate extensively the Second Temple.

13 :

Sound was heard far away, the rejoicing alerts the neighbors and triggers the opposition of the following chapter.

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