Ezra 3

Ezra Chapter 3

Faithfulness Brings Opposition (3:1 – 4:23)

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “After resettling in various towns in Judah, the community turned to restoring worship of God at Jerusalem. They quickly rebuilt the altar and began regular sacrifices in time to celebrate Jewish festivals (3:4), and then they began the more difficult task of rebuilding the Temple itself (3:8). Soon they faced opposition from local foreigners (4:1-5).”

Rebuilding the Altar

      • By the 7th month the Israelites had settled in their towns, and the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Jozadak’s son Jeshua joined his fellow priests and Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel with his colleagues, and began to rebuild the altar of the God of Israel so that they could offer burnt offerings on it in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They built the altar on its foundation, and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to Yahweh, even though they were in terror of the peoples around them. Then in accordance with what is written, they observed the Festival of Booths with the required number of daily burnt offerings prescribed for each day. Afterward, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the new moon offerings, and the offerings at all of the appointed annual festivals of Yahweh, as well as the freewill offerings brought to Yahweh. They began to offer burnt offerings to Yahweh on the 1st day of the 7th month, even though the foundations of Yahweh’s temple had not yet been laid.

        • NET Bible points out that, “Jozadak (also in 3:8) is a variant spelling of Jehozadak.”

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “According to Israel’s calendar of pilgrimage feasts, the seventh month, Tishri (roughly September), was the month of the great Day of Atonement (Lev 23:26-32), followed by the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles; Lev 23:33-43), which celebrated the exodus from Egypt. Thus in the first year of the return, the people make their first pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On this occasion, the broken altar had first to be repaired so that sacrifices could once again be made. The leading roles of Jeshua and Zerubbabel are again emphasized, with some stress on the role of the priests. There may have been visible remains of the original altar (as perhaps implied by Jer 41:4-5); in any case, its exact location was evidently known. The altar has absolute priority, as it had at the first entry into the land, many years before (Deut 27:1-8). The haste to erect it is perhaps heightened by the fear of the peoples of the lands. This phrase refers to residents of Judah, and perhaps neighboring areas, who were not part of the group returning from exile. Some may have had Jewish origins, but they present themselves as a distinct group, and they would soon oppose the work. The exiles’ fear is another echo of their first occupation of the land, when fear had at first overwhelmed the Israelites (Num 14:1-3). On this occasion, despite their fear, they are resolute. Burnt offerings were to be offered daily on the altar, morning and evening, as Moses commanded in Ex 29:38-42. The people kept the Feast of Booths, with its proper sacrifices (see Num 29:12-38). The perspective shifts to the regular sacrificial worship (see 2 Chron 2:4), since the particular acts of worship in the seventh month are essentially portrayed as a renewal and a beginning. The next task is to rebuild the temple, and the preparations recall those made by King Solomon half a millennium earlier (Ezra 3:7; cf 1 Kgs 5:13-18; 1 Chron 22:4, 15; 2 Chron 2).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Jeshua (Hagg 1:1; Zech 3:1) was the high priest (Neh 12:1). However, Ezra never used this title…which suggests that the title was given after the Temple was completed. Zerubbabel served as the Persian-appointed governor of Judah (Hagg 1:1), most likely after the death of Sheshbazzar…He was the grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah (1 Chr 3:17). The local residents were foreigners resettled from abroad by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) after the people of the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled in 722 BC (2 Kgs 17:24-40). Some had moved into the Jerusalem area during Judah’s seventy-year exile. A pagan altar might have been erected on the site, and it needed to be torn down before the new one, dedicated to the Lord could be built…The catalog of sacrifices, offered even before the Temple’s foundation was laid, showed the people’s enthusiasm for faithfully worshiping God at every opportunity. They did everything exactly as they were instructed. The new moon celebrations took place on the first day of every Hebrew month; the sacrifices and blowing of trumpets reminded the people of God’s covenant with them (Num 10:10; 28:11-15).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible points out, “Scholars have seen a tension between this statement [Jeshua…and Zerubbabel in verse 2] and that of 5:16, which states that Sheshbazzar laid the foundations for the temple. Moreover, Haggia, who dates his prophetic activity in Hag 1:1 to the ‘second year of King Darius’ (520 BC), mentions Zerubbabel (Hag 1:1) but not Sheshbazzar. It is possible that a foundation laid by Sheshbazzar had deteriorated over 20 years and had to be done again.”

      • HCSB offers these remarks, “Some scholars claim that the Pentateuch came into existence through a gradual process of additions and edits, which started some time around 950 BC. However, this community attributed its origin to Moses. The returnees knew that there was a proper way to worship God and that any form of religious expression was not necessarily pleasing to God. This is an important principle for today when so many people advocate that there is more than one way to God. Jesus said that He is the only way to God (Jn 14:6). The people began to offer sacrifices to God before they built the temple. Relationship with God does not depend on a building or any other religious structure. The institutions of worship may facilitate worship but they can never substitute for it.”

Temple Foundation Completed

      • So they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre so that they would bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the seaport in Joppa in accordance with the authorization given to them by Persia’s King Cyrus. In the 2nd month of the 2nd year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel, Jozadak’s son Jeshua, along with the rest of their associates, the priests and Levites, and all those who were coming to Jerusalem from the exile, began the work. They appointed the Levites who were at least 20 years old to supervise the work on Yahweh’s house. So Jeshua appointed his sons and relatives, Kadmiel and his sons (who were the descendants of Hodaviah), the sons of Henadad, their sons and their relatives the Levites, to supervise those working on the house of God.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Work begins on the temple itself, with the laying of the foundation in the second year of the return (c 537 BC). The second month, Ziv (1 Kings 6:1)- the same time of year when Solomon had begun his temple (2 Chron 3:2)- is in the spring. The time of the return from exile is dated with the formula after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem. Even though the temple still lies in ruins, the place could be called ‘the house of God’ because of its consecration for worship (see Jer 41:5). The narrator stresses that it is those who have come from captivity who do this. The priests and Levites are emphasized, and the qualifying age for Levitical service is mentioned (cf 1 Chron 23:24).”

      • Anyone comparing translations will quickly realize v. 9 is very difficult to render. I’ve essentially sided with NET Bible’s translation, however, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges provides this extensive discussion along with their view of how the text should likely be understood:

          • This verse presents considerable difficulty: (a) The English reader cannot fail to be struck with the awkwardness of the final clause, ‘the sons of Henadad … the Levites’. (b) The names here mentioned have been understood by different commentators to represent four, two and three families.”

          • (a) The manifest dislocation of the verse has caused some to conjecture that it is a gloss, which has found its way into the text, having been originally introduced to supplement the previous verse by the names of those who had been appointed to the work and by emphasizing the fact that they undertook the duty. This conjecture, which is not without probability, would assign a very early date to the gloss, since the verse appears in the LXX. and, though in a corrupt form, in 1Es 5:58, ‘Then stood up Jesus, and his sons and brethren, and Cadmiel his brother and the sons of Madiabun, with the sons of Joda the son of Eliadun, with their sons and brethren, all Levites, with one accord, betters forward of the business, labouring to advance the works in the house of God’ (A.V.).”

          • If we dismiss this conjecture on the ground of its lack of external evidence, we must be prepared to treat the verse as having come down to us in some way corrupted or mutilated.”

          • The key to the verse lies in the last words, ‘the Levites’. The verse describes who the Levites were that received the commission (described in Ezra 3:8), and how they discharged it. The student therefore will take care not to confound the Jeshua here mentioned with the Jeshua (the high-priest) mentioned in the previous verse. This Jeshua is the Levite whose name occurs in chap. Ezra 2:40.”

          • The natural arrangement of the words (illustrated by 1Es 5:58 quoted above) would be, ‘Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, (and) the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren (i.e. all) the Levites together, to have the oversight of the workmen in the house of God.’ The verse thus specifies the Levites who undertook the oversight of the workmen.”

          • (b) The names of the Levitical families who returned appear in chap. Ezra 2:40, where there is some uncertainty whether the expression ‘of the children of Hodaviah’ refers to Kadmiel alone or to ‘the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel’ taken together.”

          • The ‘Judah’ of our verse is probably a misreading for Hodaviah, not, as some prefer, an alternative name of the same person.”

          • (1) Some see in the verse a mention of four Levitical families, i.e. those of Jeshua, Kadmiel, Judah, and Henadad.”

          • (2) Others think that only two are intended, i.e. those of Jeshua and Kadmiel, who are further defined as sons of Hodaviah (=Judah), and as sons of Henadad.”

          • (3) It seems better to suppose that there are three families referred to: (i) ‘Jeshua with his sons and his brethren,’ apparently a complete family, (ii) ‘Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Hodaviah’, apparently a special branch of the family of Kadmiel, (iii) ‘And the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren’, who, though not mentioned in Ezra 2:40, are represented in Nehemiah’s time (Nehemiah 3:18; Nehemiah 3:24; Nehemiah 10:9).”

          • The absence of Henadad’s name from the list in chap. Ezra 2:40 is strange. But we must account for it by supposing either that the Henadad family never left Palestine, or that they came to Jerusalem between the arrival of Zerubbabel and the beginning of the second year, or that they belonged to the class more numerous than scholars have hitherto taken account of, i.e. those who returned to Jerusalem from exile in other countries. Perhaps the family of Henadad (‘the grace or favour of Hadad’, cf. Hadad, Benhadad, Hadadrimmon) had Syrian connexions or had found refuge in Syria during the disasters of Israel and Judah. Compare Ezra 6:21, ‘all such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the heathen of the land’.”

      • When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of Yahweh, the priests, dressed in their robes and holding clarions, and the Levites descended from Asaph holding their cymbals, stood to praise Yahweh according to the directions of Israel’s King David. They sang responsively, with praise and thanksgiving to Yahweh: “He is good; His steadfast love toward Israel endures forever.”

        • On the “clarion,” NET Bible says, “This was a long, straight, metallic instrument used for signal calls, rather than the traditional ram’s horn (both instruments are typically translated ‘trumpet’ by English versions).”

      • Then all the people gave a loud shout, praising Yahweh because the foundation of the house of Yahweh had been laid. But, while many others shouted for joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family leaders who had seen the first house wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house being laid. People were unable to tell the difference between joyous shouting and the sound of people’s weeping because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The laying of the foundations occasions praise, which echoes the celebrations of King David when he prepared for the building of Solomon’s temple (cf 1 Chronicles 16, esp vv. 7, 34, 37). Sadness is mixed with this rejoicing, for some of the very old remembered the temple’s glory. The picture of mitigated celebration is a small symbol of the whole event of the return, which was in itself a triumph yet fell far short of the great hopes the people might have had (cf Hag 2:2-9).”

Jerusalem at the Time of Zerubbabel 538-515 BC image via ESV Study Bible p. 808

        • ESV Study Bible: “Among the first task undertaken upon the exiles’ return was the rebuilding of the altar and the temple. Almost immediately the altar was set up, and regular burnt offerings were resumed. About a year later the foundations of the temple were laid, but opposition from other local governors halted the completion of the temple for over 20 years. Finally, in 515 BC (during the reign of Darius) the temple was completed. The city walls, however, would not be rebuilt until about 70 years later under the leadership of Nehemiah.”

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