Ezra Chapter 3
By Ken Yeo
Last Updated: 2021-6-8
1. Big picture of rebuilding the temple (Ch. 1-6)
a) Return (chapter 1-2)
b) Building the temple (Ch. 3-6)
2. Chapter 3 outline
a) rebuilding the altar (3:1-6)
i. building the altar (3:1-2)
ii. responses at the alter completion (3:3-6)
b) rebuilding the temple foundation (3:7-13)
i. building the temple’s foundation (3:7-9)
ii. responses at the temple’s foundation completion (3:10-13)
3. Building the altar (3:1-2)
i. The seventh month is a literary inclusio for v1 to v6.
ii. The seventh month is the Jewish second set of feasts: Trumpet, Atonement, Tabernacle (Lev 23). It is known as Tishri, in September-October in our calendar.
i. The two leaders of the return are introduced: Jeshua, the high priest (Zech 3:1), and Zerubbabel, the descendent of David. Zerubbabel is the grandson of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24)
ii. Jeshua is the high priest. His grandfather, Seraiah, was killed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18-21). Ezra is also from the line of Seraiah (7:1). Normally Zerubbabel’s name is mentioned first (Ezra 3:8; Hag 1:1, 12, 14); this time, Jeshua’s name is first, probably because he, as the high priest, was the leader in building the altar.
i. Israel is used instead of Judah. Although most people were from the southern kingdom, namely the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, they represent the entire kingdom of Israel.
ii. The people are children of Israel (v1), the altar is the altar of the God of Israel (v2). Many returned, but all gathered as one man before God(v1). This is corporate worship in unity.
i. They build the altar of the God of Israel first. There is no worship without an altar.
ii. They offered burnt offerings by following the Law of Moses, the man of God. Worship must follow God’s way. We will see the importance of Laws again when Ezra returned later in Ezra 7:2, almost 80 years later.
iii. Moses is called the man of God (also in Deut 33:1; Josh 14:6), just like Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha (1 Sam 9:9; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 4:7). It is another name for prophets.
4. Responses at the alter completion (3:3-6)
a) They worshipped God despite fearing the peoples of the lands.
b) They offered burned offerings to the LORD in the morning and evening according to the law (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:1-8): first offering since exile, the last offering was 50 years ago. These are daily offering.
c) They kept the Feast of Tabernacle according to the law. They lived in tents to remind them how God had provided them during the 40 years of wilderness. The feast was celebrated in the original temple dedication (2 hr 5:30). On Ezra’s return, they would also celebrate the Feast of Tabernacle (Ezra 8:17).
d) Other offerings were made, including the new moon and freewill offerings. The new moon offering is offered monthly, and the freewill offerings can be offered any time. The point is, Israel has reestablished the sacrifices commanded by Yahweh.
e) They offered burnt offerings on the 1st day of the seventh month, at the feast of Trumpet.
f) All these offerings are done before the temple foundation has laid, similar to what David did, he built an altar and offered sacrifices before the Solomonic temple was built (1 Ch 21:28-22:1)
5. Building the temple’s foundation (3:7-9)
a) The foundation of the temple was not yet laid.
b) They hired masons and carpenters to build the temple foundation
c) It was God’s provision that the Israelites could use the grand from Cyrus to build the temple’s foundation
d) They give food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and Tyrians (non-Jews) to bring cedar trees from Lebanon via Joppa, just as the 1st templet (1 Kings 5:1-10; 2 Chro 2:1-16). These activities passed through two provinces of Cyrus. It would be tough to accomplish without Cyrus’s decree, another sign of God’s provision.
e) Zerubbabel and Joshua are mentioned again. They are the leaders
f) They became the work on the second month of the second year (May 536BC), 70 years after the first exile in 605BC. The work of the original temple was also started in the second month (1 Kings 6:1).
g) They appointed the Levites, who are 20-year-old and up, to supervise the work
h) Jeshua and family, and the sons of Henadad and the Levites supervised the workmen
i) The Levites Jeshua and Kadmiel were mentioned in 2:40.
6. Responses at the temple’s foundation completion (3:10-13)
a) When the builders laid the foundation, the priests and Levites, including the sons of Asaph, praised the Lord according to the arrangements set up by King David of Israel (1 Chr. 16:5-6).
b) The laying of the temple’s foundation is a fulfillment of God’s prophecy (Is 44:26).
c) They sang: "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel." The Israelites sang the same song when the first temple was built (2 Chr 5:13). They praise God’s goodness and steadfast love to them as the people of Israel because it was God who brought them back to the land. Jeremiah has prophesied that Yahweh would bring his people back to the land, and the land would once again filled with a voice of gladness and would sing the song again (Jer 33:10-11). God is indeed faithful, good and His steadfast love endures forever. This song is also the basis of many of David’s songs for David understood God’s character. Many Psalms (Ps 106,107,118) have the same theme. The name of Yahweh reveals His characters as He revealed to the Israelites through Moses in Ex 34:5-7.
d) All people shouted with a great shout to praise the Lord because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid
e) Those who have seen the first temple wept with a loud voice that can be heard far away. They might be comparing the size of the foundation. Haggai (Hag 2:3, 9) and Zachariah (Zec 4:10) preached against it. God said He would fill this house with glory; the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former (Hag 2:7-9). They could also weep because they remembered it was the nation’s sin and idolatry and disobedience to God’s law that had brought divine judgment upon them. If that is the case, these were the tears of repentance.
f) They could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the weeping.
g) The emphasis of this section is the celebration, not the actual building.
1. God raised Jeshua and Zerubbabel as leaders to the Israelites to rebuild the altar and temple. God always raises up leaders to lead His people to worship Him. We are all leaders in different capacities, and maybe God is raising you as a leader for a small group or a leader in your community. Are you willing to respond to God’s leading?
2. The Israelites built the altar first because it is the most important thing. Christians ought to make our worship to the Lord our number one priority in life. Do you have a "family altar" in your home? How important is worship to your family?
3. Just as the Israelites worshiped God despite fear for the surrounding peoples, Christians ought to worship God despite fear of persecution from the world.
4. Just as the Israelites worship God as one, we as Christians are members of the body of Christ. When we interact with Christians from different backgrounds, we should always keep the unity of Christ’s body in mind by concentrating on our similarities, not our differences (John 17; Eph 4).
5. The Israelites who returned rebuilt the temple’s foundation knew it was Yahweh’s goodness and steadfast love that allows them to return to reestablish their worship to Yahweh. God is good. His steadfast love endures forever. We as Christians ought to worship God and praise Him for His goodness and steadfast love, for He would never forsake us; when we drift away, He always works to bring us back to Him (John 10:29).