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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezra 3:0


Worship Restored at JerusalemRebuilding the TempleWorship Begins AgainResumption of the Sacrificial Liturgy
Ezra 3:1-7Ezra 3:1-7Ezra 3:1-6Ezra 3:1-6
The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins
Restoration of the Temple Begins Ezra 3:7-9Ezra 3:7-13
Ezra 3:8-11Ezra 3:8-9
Ezra 3:10-13Ezra 3:10-13
Ezra 3:12-13

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 3:1-7 1Now when the seventh month came, and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 2Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose and built the altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God. 3So they set up the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4They celebrated the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the fixed number of burnt offerings daily, according to the ordinance, as each day required; 5and afterward there was a continual burnt offering, also for the new moons and for all the fixed festivals of the LORD that were consecrated, and from everyone who offered a freewill offering to the LORD. 6From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, but the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid. 7Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and food, drink and oil to the Sidonians and to the Tyrians, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the sea at Joppa, according to the permission they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

Ezra 3:1 “the seventh month” This is the month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar (previously named Ethanim, cf. 1 Kings 8:2), which corresponds to our September/October. This was the month of three major annual feast days. On the first of the month was the Feast of Trumpets, on the tenth of the month was the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16:0), and on the 15th through the 22nd was the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (cf. Leviticus 23:23-44; Numbers 29:1-40).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Calendars

“gathered together as one man” This VERB is a Niphal IMPERFECT. The phrase is a Hebrew idiom for unity of mind and heart (cf. Nehemiah 7:72-1 and also Judges 20:1, Judges 20:8, Judges 20:11). This assembly included women and children. The community unity can be seen in Ezra 3:9.

Ezra 3:2 “Jeshua the son of Jozadak” See note at Ezra 2:2. The father's name (cf. Ezra 3:2, Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5:2; Ezra 10:18; Nehemiah 12:26) is spelled Jehozadak in 1 Chronicles 6:14, 1 Chronicles 6:15; Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:12, Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2, Haggai 2:4; Zechariah 6:11.

Jeshua is never called High Priest in Ezra or Nehemiah, but he is in Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:14 and Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:11.

“Zerubabbel the son of Shealtiel” See note at Ezra 2:2.

“built the altar” This is a Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 124, KB 139). The returnees wanted to reinstitute the Mosaic rituals and procedures as much as possible. With the sacrificial altar they could begin the feast/rest/fast days of Leviticus 23:0 and Numbers 29:0.

This altar was covered in bronze (cf. Exodus 27:1-8; Exodus 38:1-7), which the Babylonians had removed. The inner structure of the altar remained. This was repaired and placed back in its original place.

“the man of God” This is literally “ish” of Elohim. This phrase is used in the OT 76 times to describe God's faithful servants. The order of frequency is as follows:

1. Elisha

2. Elijah

3. Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; Psalms 90:1; 1 Chronicles 23:14; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2)

4. Samuel

5. David

6. Shemiah

7. Hanan

8. anonymous (29 times)

Ezra 3:3 “So they set up the altar on its foundation” It is possible that the sacrificial altar was placed on a raised platform. Therefore, Ezra 3:2 refers to the altar itself and Ezra 3:3 to the platform (bama).

“they were terrified because of the peoples of the land” This either refers to (1) the Jews who stayed in Palestine and resented the newcomers rebuilding or (2) Sanballat and Tobiah and their political and/or legal resistance to the rebuilding of the temple (cf. Ezra 4:4). In this context option #2 fits best.

The phrase “the people of the land” (singular) originally referred to the landed nobility (pre-exiled, cf. 2 Kings 24:15), but it came to refer to the poor people of the land (post-exile, cf. 2 Kings 24:14); however, in this context it is plural and must refer to all the people groups in the Persian province called Beyond the River (i.e., Palestine and Lebanon).

“burnt offerings morning and evening” This refers to “the Continual” (cf. Ezra 3:5). Two lambs offered every day at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (cf. Exodus 29:38-46; Numbers 28:1-8).

Ezra 3:4 “they celebrated the feast of booths as it is written” This annual feast is mentioned several times in Moses' writings (cf. Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:32; Leviticus 23:33-36, Leviticus 23:39-43; Num. 19:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17). Its procedures are spelled out in great detail.

Much of the timing and procedures of these Jews in re-initiating the sacrifice system follows Solomon's timing (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:0) and procedures of building the temple (cf. Ezra 3:2 Chr. 2-4, see note at Ezra 3:10). They want to legitimatize themselves as the true Israel, the true covenant people of God.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Feasts of Israel

Ezra 3:5 “new moons” The Hebrew calendar was based on the lunar cycle for its months and the solar cycle for its years (seasons). The phases of the moon marked the beginning of months. The New Moon festival is often mentioned in a list of feast/rest days. It is described briefly in Leviticus 23:24-25 (“first of the month”); Numbers 28:11-15 and mentioned in 1 Samuel 20:0, but it seems to have become more popular after the exile (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:5; Nehemiah 10:30).

“all the fixed festivals” See Leviticus 23:0 and Numbers 29:0.

“a freewill offering” These could be offered at any time (e.g., peace offerings, cf. Leviticus 3:1-17; Leviticus 7:13-34).

Ezra 3:6 “but the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid” This Hebrew VERB (BDB 413, KB 417, Pual PERFECT) has a wide range of meaning (i.e., establish, found, fix, or restore, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 474-475), which seems to solve the contradiction between here (also Ezra 3:10) and Ezra 5:16 (Aramaic VERB, BDB 1095, Peal PERFECT). For the wide meaning of this word see (1) “restored,” 2 Chronicles 24:12ff and (2) “was laid” or “established” (in the sense of continued, not just begun, cf. Kidner, Tyndale Commentary Series, p. 140), Haggai 2:18.

R. K. Harrison, Introduction To The Old Testament, pp. 1139-1140,

“According to Ezra 3:4 and 5:1ff., work commenced in the second year of Dairus, whereas in Ezra 3:8ff. and Ezra 5:16 it is said to have occurred in the reign of Cyrus. This objection rests entirely upon a misunderstanding of the text. The rebuilding of the Temple did in fact commence in the days of Cyrus (Ezekiel 3:8ff.; Ezekiel 5:16), but when opposition to the project arose (Ezekiel 4:1ff.), the work was delayed, and in the end it ceased until the time of Darius (Ez. 4:24), the interval thus occasioned being the principal cause why Haggai and Zechariah were sent to stimulate the people into activity (Ezekiel 5:1ff.). Haggai clearly implies that some preliminary work had been done at the site (Haggai 1:4, Haggai 1:9, Haggai 1:14), while for his part Ezra (Ezekiel 5:16) does not state that the task had been pursued smoothly and without interruption since its inception.”

Ezra 3:7 The payment of these workmen is similar to the account paid for the construction of Solomon's temple in 2 Chronicles 2:9-10, 2 Chronicles 2:15-16. Much of the second temple was patterned after Solomon's temple, but on a much smaller scale.

“Joppa” This was the seaport for Jerusalem. It was about 35 miles northwest of the city. It was the only natural harbor on this part of the Mediterranean coast.

“according to the permission they had from Cyrus” This had become the legal issue of the challenge from Samaria. Cyrus' edict is recorded twice, once in Hebrew in chapter 1 and once in Aramaic in chapter 6.

Verses 8-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 3:8-9 8Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers stood united with Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah and the sons of Henadad with their sons and brothers the Levites, to oversee the workmen in the temple of God.

Ezra 3:8 “the second month” This was the same month when Solomon started building his temple (cf. 1 Kings 6:1; 2 Chronicles 3:2).

“appointed the Levites from twenty years and older” In Moses' day all of the people who were skilled worked on the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 35:10; Exodus 36:4, Exodus 36:8), but Solomon used only Levites (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:4, 1 Chronicles 23:24, 1 Chronicles 23:27) from twenty years old and upward. Ritual service in the temple was limited to priests who were between thirty and fifty years old (cf. Numbers 4:3) or starting at twenty-five (cf. Numbers 8:24) and later changed to twenty, cf. 2 Chronicles 31:17.

For a good discussion of the changing age range see Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 164.

Ezra 3:9

NASB, NKJV“Judah” NSRV, TEV, NJB“Hodaviah”

These are probably the same name but are translated in different ways (cf. Ezra 2:40). However, because the next mentioned name, Henadad (“Hadad is gracious”) had pagan associations, it was possibly changed to Hodaviah. However, the name Henadad appears three times in Nehemiah (cf. Nehemiah 3:18, Nehemiah 3:24; Nehemiah 10:9), as well as the name Hodevah (cf. Nehemiah 7:43).

There are several names which have the same three consonants (hdh).

1. Judah - person and tribe

2. Hodaviah - a royal descendant of Judah, 1 Chronicles 3:24

3. Hodaviah - a chief of the tribe of Manasseh, 1 Chronicles 5:24

4. Hodaviah - a descendant of Benjamin, 1 Chronicles 9:7

5. Hodaviah - a Levitical family of the post exilic period, Ezra 2:40 (Hodevah in Nehemiah 7:43)

Verses 10-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 3:10-13 10Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel. 11And they sang praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, “for He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy; 13so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 3:10 “the builders had laid the foundation” See note at Ezra 5:16.

“trumpets” These were silver trumpets (BDB 348) like those of Numbers 10:2, which were used at festival occasions by the priests (cf. Numbers 10:8; Numbers 31:6; Joshua 6:4; 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 16:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12). See Special Topic: Horns Used By Israel.

“cymbals” This musical instrument (BDB 853) is mentioned several times in the OT (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:19; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 7:6).

“according to the directions of King David of Israel” This phrase is theologically parallel to “as is written in the law of Moses, the man of God,” Ezra 3:2 and “as it is written,” Ezra 3:4. They both reflect the mentality of the returning Jews in wanting to act in conformity to God's word like His covenant people of old and their appointed leaders (i.e., Moses and David). These returnees see themselves as the legitimate covenant people (cf. Ezra 3:11)!

The specific reference is to David's organization of the Levites (cf. Ezra 3:1 Chr. 24-25; 2 Chronicles 29:25-30).

Ezra 3:11 “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever” This phrase was first used by David in 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Chronicles 16:41. Later it was incorporated into the Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 118:1, Psalms 118:29; and Psalms 136:1. It was used by Solomon in his dedication of the temple in Ezra 3:3 and 7:3. Part of it occurs in a Levitical praise text spoken before King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:21.

For a good discussion of the Hebrew word hesed see NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 211-218.


“the LORD. . .His lovingkindness” These are the two special terms for the covenant God. The term “the LORD” = YHWH (BDB 217, KB 394), which is a form of the VERB “to be” (cf. Exodus 3:14). It is the covenant name for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

The theological use of the word “lovingkindness” (BDB 338, KB 336 II, NKJV, “mercy”; NRSV, “steadfast love”; NJB, “faithful love”) speaks of God's covenant love and fidelity. It denotes an aspect of His characterloving faithfulness and trustworthiness. See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (Hesed).

Ezra 3:12 It seems that the climax of this chapter is reached in Ezra 3:11, but Ezra 3:12-13 show the anticlimax for those who personally saw Solomon's Temple. This may have been part of the problem of apathy which plagued these returnees. This same thing recurs at the dedication of the temple in 520 B.C. (cf. Haggai 2:3ff; Zechariah 4:10).

Ezra 3:11-12 is the strongest argument for identifying Sheshbazzar of chapter 1 with Zerubbabel of Ezra 2:0. There would be many more older people alive in the 530s than in 516 B.C.

The question has always been about when the second temple was begun and by whom. I still believe that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are two distinct persons. Sheshbazzar laid the foundation of the temple, but did not finish it, while Zerubbabel completed it along with Jeshua, the High Priest, with the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah (520-519 B.C.). Haggai 1:4 states that the temple was still in ruins in 520 B.C.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is the genealogy of Ezra 2:0 related to that of Ezra 7:0?

2. List the different types of temple workers and explain their duties.

3. Does Ezra 3:6 contradict Ezra 5:16? Why or why not?

4. How many times did Jews return to Judah and under whose leadership?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezra 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezra-3.html. 2021.
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