About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 6:1-6     ch 3:7-13

Rebuilding The Altar (ch. 3:1 - 6) 


Verse 1 tells us that seven months after the Jews settled into their new homes they gathered “as one man” in Jerusalem.   I think Ezra wants us to know and understand the unity that these Jews had as they gathered in Jerusalem.  They were “as one man”.  They were united in goal and purpose.  They had returned to their homeland to rebuild the temple, and they were excited about what they were now ready to do.


Of course, being “as one man” is what New Testament thinking is all about in reference to church.  Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is all about us being united in this oneness, something that is seldom seen in the church.


In many instances, if not most, God’s people, whether Jews in Old Testament times, or the church in New Testament times, start out with all kinds of devotion, enthusiasm and unity.  Sad to say, all this tends to fade away as it did with the Jews in Ezra’s day.   


Verse 2 mentions two men.  One man was name Jeshua and he was the high priest.  The other man was Zerubabbel.  He was the chief of the civil government in Jerusalem. We see how both the civil and religious government worked together on this project.


Verse 2 also tells us that the first thing the Jews would build would be the altar of God so they could worship their God.  Before building the foundation to the temple or anything else, the most important thing to these men was a place of worship, a place where they could offer their sacrifices.


Another thing we note from verse 2 is that they would build the altar exactly as the Law of Moses said it was to be built.  God was very exact in His instructions to Moses in how the original tabernacle should be built.


Verse 3  states that “despite their fear of the peoples around them” they built the altar and offered their sacrifices. The Jews lived in a time of “Polytheistic religion”.  This means that all other cultures believed in multiple gods.  Jews believed in one God.  Partly for this reason the Jews might have had some fear.  Also for the reason that they’re returning to a land where they had not been for seventy years.  They were settling in land that others had occupied.


Verse 4 tells us that after offering the morning and evening sacrifices, they celebrated the “Feast of Tabernacles”. 


The Feast of Tabernacles was the fourth annual festival that the Jews celebrated.  (2 Chron. 8:13; Ezra 3:4; Zech. 14:16)  It was  also called the feast of ingathering. (Ex. 23:16; 34:22)  Its observance combined the ingathering of the labor of the field (Ex. 23:16), the fruit of the earth (Lev. 23:39), the ingathering of the threshing floor and winepress (Deut. 16:13), and the dwelling in booths or tents, which were to be joyful reminders to Israel (Lev. 23:41; Deut. 16:14).  The feast began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, which was five days after the day of atonement.  It lasted for seven days (Lev. 23:36; Deut. 16:13; Ezek. 45:25). On the first day, booths were constructed of fresh branches of trees. Each participant had to collect twigs of myrtle, willow, and palm in the area of Jerusalem for construction of the booths. Every Israelite was to live for seven days in these tents during the festival as a reminder to when their fathers lived in such tents after their escape from Egypt. The dedication of Solomon’s Temple took place at the feast. (1 Kings 8:2)


Verse 5 and 6 tell us that after the Feast of Tabernacles was over, they began to offer all the sacrifices that the Law of Moses required. 


Rebuilding The Temple (ch. 3:7 - 13)


Verse 7 tells us that the money and goods that were given in the last chapter didn’t end there.  They continued to give in support of their building project.  Cyrus even ordered that cedar from Lebanon would be shipped to Jerusalem for the building of the temple. So like the Jews in Jerusalem , Cyrus’ commitment was not a one time commitment.  He was committed in an ongoing way as well.  Once again, you see everyone’s enthusiasm to rebuild the temple.


In verse 8 we see two names mentioned.  As stated earlier, Zerubbabel was a civic leader, while Jeshua was a priest.  All Levites over the age of twenty years of age were appointed leaders and overseers of the building project.  The Levites were important in the building of the temple because the temple had to be built the way in which Scripture said it should be built, and the Levites were the teachers and priest who knew of these instructions.   Verse 9 gives additional names to these men.


In verses 10 and 11 we note that the foundation to the temple was now laid.  Once this part was complete, the Levites led the people in singing of praise to their God as David once did.  We note here that worship and praise as seen in singing songs is important to these people.  Of course, the foundation to any building is important, and in this case it was important as well. 


We note that the first thing these Jews built was the altar, then the foundation.  That was their priority.  And a good priority it is.  Worship and service at the altar is more important than the building that surrounds the altar.


Note the song they sang. It goes like this in verse 11, “He (God) is good and His love to Israel endures forever”.  This is in stark contrast to how the Jews felt some 80 years later when Malachi prophesied that the Jews did not believe that God loved them.  God, in Malachi 1 had to explain to them how and why He did indeed love Israel.


The was great joy among the people at this occasion.  In unison, they gave out a “great shout”.  The unity, the joy, the commitment was still in the hearts and lives of the Jews at this point, but this would not last.


Verse 12 tells us that there were some people there that were still alive from the days before the exile.  These people must have been quite old.  They were in exile for 70 years, but they could also remember the old temple.  These people had to have been in their late 80’s or maybe even 90 plus years old.  These people wept aloud.  You can certainly understand their feelings.  This would have reminded them of the old days, when they once came to the temple in their youth.  We often do the same as Christians today.  Older Christians often remember the days of their youth that brings back many fond memories.


Verse 13 tells us that there was so much sound from both the shouts of joy and the weeping that you could not notice the difference.  They blended into each other.  This sure was one very loud and noisy occasion.


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