Ezra 1-3 The people could not distinguish the sound

From Ezra 1-3

15 Laying foundations of temple


The book of Ezra begins where 2 Chronicles ends. As prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 44:28), the Persian King Cyrus had sent exiles led by Zerubbabel back to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. (Persia had defeated Babylon in 539.) Despite opposition from the non-Jewish inhabitants of Judea, and after encouragement by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was rebuilt (515). Then in 458, Ezra led the second of three waves of returning exiles. By the time Ezra arrived, the people had again fallen into sin. Ezra preached God’s word and the people repented (10:9–17). Ezra succeeded because God’s hand was upon him (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31). This book, perhaps written by Ezra, shows God’s power in covenant faithfulness, moving even pagan kings to accomplish his redemptive purposes. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ezr). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)


Ezr 1.1-11; Cyrus; The Proclamation of Cyrus
Ezr 2.1-70; Records; The Exiles Return
Ezr 3.1-7; Cyrus; Rebuilding the Altar
Ezr 3.8-13; Cyrus; Rebuilding the Temple

Passage and Comments

The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. It describes the end of the exile when Judah was released by king Cyrus from captivity to return to the promised land and rebuild the temple. Over the course of the book four foreign kings are mentioned. Cyrus (539-530 B.C.), Darius I (522-486 B.C.), Xerxes (a.k.a. Ahasuerus) (485-464 B.C.) and Artaxerxes I (464-423 B.C.). Initially Ezra is not with the returnees. He will be introduced later.
The return from exile is a significant event. It was predicted by Jeremiah (Jer 25.11-14; 32.36-38) and a record is kept of the people who returned (Ezra 2). The first thing they built when they returned was the altar. Once they completed it they offered the ritual burnt offerings to the LORD and observed the feast of Booths. Then they began constructing the house of the LORD. Our passage picks up during the second year after they returned.

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. (Ezr 3:8–9)

As the building progresses they become increasingly organised and the priests supervise the works.

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. (Ezr 3:10-11)

The foundation is a milestone in the construction of a building. It is much cause for celebration that they have done so. But it is also bittersweet for some. They blow their trumpets and make music in worship of the LORD. They acknowledge it is through his direction that they have been allowed to return and build the temple.

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. (Ezr 3:12–13)

It is a time for celebration, but also grief. The older ones are grieving because the first temple was much more grandiose. They are weeping because they know why is was destroyed.

Story of Israel

00 OT Story Israel Jesus
Before the exile LORD spoke through Ezekiel the prophet and predicted this would happen. He predicted that he would restore them to the land and they would grieve for what they had done.

28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Eze 36:28–32)

The response of the people to the laying down of the foundation was in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. The LORD was faithful to his promise.

Story of Jesus

The same sort of reaction is experienced by some believers when they turn to Christ as well. Paul has just been explaining to the Roman believers that have been incorporated into Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6.1-14). He argues in light of this, for a new mindset of who they are and how they should behave.

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:16–23)

As with the people of Israel in Ezra, the Roman believers experience joy in knowing Jesus and what he has done for them. But they also grieve over their former lives, repenting and being warned against further sin.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.