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The leaders in this return were evidently conscious of the matters of real importance in the life of the people. Directly they were settled in their cities, the altar of God was established at Jerusalem. The statement, "For fear was upon them because of the people of the countries," has given rise to a great many different interpretations. Perhaps the one that harmonizes best with the whole story is that they were conscious of the fact that in their neglect of the altar of God in the past they had become contaminated by the idolatrous practices of surrounding peoples; and in order to prevent a repetition of such sin they immediately set up the true altar. This is the more likely to be a correct interpretation in view of the fact that whatever failure characterized these people in their history, they never again returned to idolatry.
The first feast they observed, according to the time of year, was the feast of Tabernacles, which was the most joyful of all the feasts of the Lord. They also established all the feasts, and, so far as possible, restored the divinely appointed order of worship. Then immediately they commenced the work of building the Temple. The foundations were laid, and in the second year of the return, with fitting ceremonies of praise, they rejoiced. The mingling of tears and songs is in itself remarkable. Remembering the first house, the old men mourned. This can well be understood when one thinks of the comparative insignificance and poverty of the people as they were gathered back. Yet there was also a great shout of praise, for new hope had taken possession of their hearts.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Ezra 3". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany