BIBLE BASIS: Ezra 3:8-13
BIBLE TRUTH: God is a restorer.
MEMORY VERSE: READ – Ezra 3:11
LESSON AIM: That you will know that God will provide joy in restoration.
Question of the Week: Has God been really good to you?
New International Version (NIV)
8 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord.
9 Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah[a]) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel.
11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:“He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.
13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
3:7-9. There was a period of preparation for building the temple foundation for the work did not begin till the second month of the second year after their arrival (May-June 536, exactly 70 years after the first deportation in 605). Why this delay of seven months after the altar was built? Because they had to get organized and secure the building materials. The wood (cedar logs) came from Lebanon, shipped along the coast to Joppa and then carried overland to Jerusalem (see the map ”The Persian Empire“ near 1:1). Lebanon was well known for its cedar forests and its fine woodworkers. For the first temple, 430 years earlier (in 966 b.c.), Solomon had received much of his building materials (cedar, pine, and algum logs) and craftsmen from Lebanon (1 Kings 5:1-10, 18; 2 Chron. 2:1-16). Solomon began his project in the second month (May-June; 1 Kings 6:1), the same month this rebuilding began under Zerubbabel. Since Tyre and Sidon in Lebanon were under the Persian Empire, Cyrus had to authorize this transaction (cf. Ezra 6:3-4), in which the logs, as in Solomon’s time, were paid for by money . . . food . . . drink, and oil.
Zerubbabel appointed the Levites as supervisors of the construction project. Centuries earlier Levites were involved in the tabernacle construction (Ex. 38:21) and in caring for and transporting it (Num. 1:50-51; 3:21-37). Now they were involved in the temple construction. Three Levite groups of supervisors were mentioned (Ezra 3:9)—Jeshua and his family, Kadmiel (cf. 2:40) and his family, and the family of Henadad.
3:10-11. Nothing is mentioned about the actual process of laying the temple foundation or the length of time involved. This is because the focus was on the results of this project on that community of people who had braved the rugged conditions. They were following the command of Cyrus but, more importantly, they were following the command of their God with whom they were in covenant. As the foundation . . . was laid the people were careful to follow in the traditions of their forefathers who had been rightly related to God under the Mosaic Covenant. As the priests . . . and the Levites led the dedication service for the temple’s foundations, they did the things that were prescribed by David. The order followed was the same as when David brought the ark to Jerusalem. At that time priests blew trumpets and Asaph sounded cymbals (1 Chron. 16:5-6). Here the priests blew trumpets and sons (descendants) of Asaph played the cymbals. The order was also similar to the time when the ark was brought to the temple in Solomon’s day (2 Chron. 5:12-13), when Asaph and others played cymbals, harps, and lyres; and the priests blew trumpets. In this rebuilding service the priests and Levites sang, He is good; His love to Israel endures forever, words almost identical to the song of praise in 2 Chronicles 5:13 (cf. Ps. 136:1). This song of praise is highly significant for by it the religious leaders were acknowledging that Yahweh had again established His loving protection over the nation. The word ”love“ (ḥeseḏ) is God’s covenantal loyal love which exists forever with His people Israel. Now that the temple worship was being reestablished, the people again recognized the commitment of God’s unending covenantal love.
3:12-13. In contrast with the joy many people experienced on that occasion, a few of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple (destroyed 50 years earlier in 586 b.c.) were discouraged. Perhaps they contrasted the roughness of the current project with the grandeur of the Solomonic temple. Sixteen years later (in 520 b.c.) the same emotion of discouragement again hit the builders of the temple (Hag. 2:1-9). The two sounds, the joy and the weeping (from sadness), mingled together and were so loud that they were heard far away.
2. the rebuilding opposed (4:1-6:12)
Ezra did not record all the events in those 21 years (from 536) till the temple was finished (in 515). That is because he was making a theological point that the temple of the Lord was completed despite opposition that might have stopped any other project. The temple was the basis for the postexilic community’s fellowship with God. Not till the temple was built could the people really live in accord with the covenant. Ezra’s account of this interim period differs in tone from Haggai’s account of opposition (from 520 to 518). Ezra did not dwell on the sinful condition of the people as they lived in the land as did Haggai (Hag. 1). Ezra’s account focused on external pressures from the surrounding peoples, whereas Haggai focused on the internal attitudes of the people who valued material possessions above spiritual things (Hag. 1:4-6).
cf. confer, compare
Lesson for July 7, 2013: Restoring the Temple (Ezra 3:8-13)
By Sam E. Stone
This is the second week of studies from the book of Ezra. It describes the time when God’s people were able to worship in Jerusalem once again. Being released from Babylonian captivity was not enough. Now they needed not only to rebuild the altar but also to restore the entire temple, following God’s directions for worship. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther contain the inspired record of what took place at this time period.
James E. Smith explains, “The first six chapters of the Book of Ezra cover a single generation, 538-515 BC. The major concern of this period was the rebuilding of the house of God. For forty-nine years the ruins of that magnificent structure bore testimony to the sin which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.”
Laying the FoundationEzra 3:8, 9In last week’s lesson we studied the construction of a new altar of burnt offerings in Jerusalem. It was used on the first day of the seventh month. In today’s lesson seven months have passed since then. During this time the people gathered the necessary supplies to rebuild the temple itself. The two leaders mentioned last week—Zerubbabel and Joshua—directed the project. Zerubbabel represented the Davidic line and Joshua the priestly line. At their side were other priests and Levites. Responsibility was given to even the younger Levites (age 20 and older) to supervise the work. Ruben Ratzlaff points out that previously such responsibilities did not begin until a person reached the age of 30 (Numbers 4:46, 47) or 25 (Numbers 8:24). “They are the only group for whom the age requirement is made; perhaps this is to tell us their care in conforming to the sacred ordinances.” The Levites could be counted on to make sure everything was ritually correct.
Celebrating CompletionEzra 3:10, 11Once the foundation was completed, the people were ready to celebrate! The importance of the occasion is seen both by the special vestments the priests wore and the music that was included. Cymbals are mentioned (compare 1 Chronicles 16:4, 5; 25:1) as well as trumpets (compare Numbers 10:8). Some suggest there were two choirs singing antiphonally as well (see Psalm 136:1; Jeremiah 33:11). C. F. Keil suggests, however, that since there is no definite allusion to responsive singing, it may simply refer to their use of Psalms like 106 and 107, both of which encourage praising the Lord for his goodness. Regardless, surely they made the heavens ring with their hosannas. Those who like a high-decibel level in their worship music would have felt right at home in Jerusalem that day!
Whether in our worship or theirs, the Lord looks at the hearts of those participating, not at their accuracy of pitch, volume level, or musical skill. Bible students note that when David celebrated moving the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (about 1000 BC), it was Asaph who played the cymbals (1 Chronicles 16:5). He played them again at the dedication of the first temple in 959 BC (2 Chronicles 5:12). Now it was thesons of Asaph who played on this significant occasion. The praises being sung by the people were, “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.”
In addition to the music, there was shouting as well. These uninhibited worshippers wanted to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This had been prophesied by Jeremiah before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. God assured him that, after a time of desolation, the Lord’s praises would again be heard in the holy city (Jeremiah 33:1-11).
Contrasting ResponsesEzra 3:12, 13Some 50 years before, Jerusalem had been destroyed. Many of the older priests and Levites and family heads . . . had seen the former temple. Many of them wept now. Their weeping might indicate their sorrow that the new temple would not be nearly as grand as the previous one. But they might also have been remembering their years of captivity and mistreatment, their long trip back home, and the difficult days as they worked to rebuild the foundation of the temple.
Ratzlaff sums it up: “Verse 13 concludes the scene as the two emotions, the shout of joy and the sound of weeping, are blended into one distinguishable but impressive tone. For in worship there is a place for both: the tears of sorrow and the shout of joy.”
*Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2009, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|July 1: 2 Chronicles 2:1-9|
|July 2: 1 Kings 8:14-21|
|July 3: 1 Kings 8:22-30|
|July 4: Matthew 21:10-16|
|July 5: Psalm 66:1-12|
|July 6: Psalm 5|
|July 7: Ezra 3:8-13|