For further study on the book of Ezra, try my study, Ezra.
When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they 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. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From 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 was not yet laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.
10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
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. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Questions to Consider:
1. The book of Ezra deals with the second wave (out of three) of Israelites returning from exile in Persia after the destruction of Jerusalem. Why was it important to them (3) to set up the altar? Why did they begin keeping the feasts and offering sacrifices before the temple was rebuilt?
2. What was the Feast of Booths (4), and which event in Israel’s history did it commemorate? What are some similarities between the Exodus and Israel’s recent return from exile which might have made this celebration of the Feast of Booths especially meaningful for the people? Which attributes of God are on display in both the Exodus and the return from exile?
3. Why would it have been important for the Levites (8) to supervise the work on the temple? How does this show the people’s reverence for God’s house and their desire to do things “decently and in order“?
4. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the average Israelite in verses 10-11. Think about what your experience in exile might have been like and how you might feel finally back, free, in your homeland. Now, the temple is at last being rebuilt so you can worship God – maybe for the first time in your life – in the place and the way He intended. What emotions might you be experiencing? What sorts of things might you be praising God for? Take some time to thank God for some specific things about your own church.
5. For what reasons might the old men have been weeping? (12-13) How could both tears and joy be proper expressions of worship in this passage and in worship today? What gives you joy in worship? What brings you to tears when you worship?