People of Israel were living in their towns

Chapter 3

v1 When the *people of Israel were living in their towns, they all met in Jerusalem together. It was the 7th month.

Verse 1 The people who had returned from *exile started to live in the towns in Judah. But soon after they arrived in the country, they all met in Jerusalem. It was important to start to *worship God together again. The 7th month was a very important month for the *Jews. There were three special holidays to *worship God during that month.

v2 Then Jeshua (the son of Jozadak) and his companions the priests began to build the *altar of the God of Israel. Zerubbabel (the son of Shealtiel) and his companions also began to build the *altar of the God of Israel. They needed the *altar so that the priests could burn animals on it, as *sacrifices. That was what the law of Moses, the man of God, ordered. v3 They were afraid of the people who lived in the other places round them. However, they built the *altar in its proper place. And they burned *sacrifices on it to the *LORD. They burned *sacrifices in the mornings and in the evenings. v4 Then they had the holiday of the shelters. And they burned the correct number of *sacrifices every day. They were careful to do all that the law ordered. v5 After that, they made the other regular *sacrifices. They made the *sacrifices at the beginning of each month. And they made the *sacrifices for all the special holy holidays of the *LORD. They also made *sacrifices for everyone who brought special gifts to the *LORD. v6 On the first day of the 7th month, they began to burn their *sacrifices to the *LORD. They did that although they had not yet laid the base of the *LORD’s *temple.

Verses 2-6 The *Jews had returned to Judah to build the *temple. They had not yet started this work. But they started to give honour to God. The leaders of the priests burned animals as *sacrifices to God. They were very careful to do everything that the law of God ordered. They knew that their *ancestors had not obeyed God. So God had sent them into *exile. Now God had allowed them to return to Judah. And Judah was part of the country that God had promised to his people. So the people were very aware that they should obey God.

They were afraid of the other people who lived round them. These other people did not want the *Jews back in the country called Judah. But the *Jews knew that the real God was with them. So they built the *altar. They made *sacrifices and they gave honour to God.

The holiday of the shelters (or, holiday of tents) lasted for a week. God wanted to remind the people about an event that happened long before. Then, God had rescued their *ancestors from the country called Egypt. When the people left Egypt, they lived in tents. (Those tents were just temporary homes, so they were like shelters.) God had taken care of them and he led them to their own country. Judah was part of the country that he had promised to give to his people. So, afterwards, God said that his people should make shelters during the 7th month of the year. The people should use the branches of trees to make the shelters. And they should live in the shelters for 7 days. On the 8th day, the people had to meet together. God told the people to be happy during this holiday (Leviticus 23:33-36; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

v7 Then the people gave money to the men who made things from stone and wood. Also they gave food, drink and oil to the people who lived in Tyre and Sidon. They did this so that the people from Tyre and Sidon would bring them wood. This wood was from their best trees, called cedars. The people from Tyre and Sidon would bring this wood by sea from Lebanon to the port called Joppa. Cyrus the king of Persia had allowed the *Jews to do this.

Verse 7 Then the people prepared to start to build the *temple. The people were generous. They gave money and goods for the work. They paid the skilled men. And they bought good wood from other countries. King Cyrus had allowed them to do this. This might mean that he had given money or goods to pay for the wood. The *Jews had not been back in Judah long enough to produce their own wood.

Many years earlier, King Solomon built the first *temple for God. He too had paid the people from Tyre to send him good wood. The people from Tyre also sent that wood by sea to the port called Joppa. Joppa is a convenient port for Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:1-16).

v8 Later, the people started the work to build the house of God. They were Zerubbabel (the son of Shealtiel), Jeshua (the son of Jozadak) and the rest of their companions. Those companions were the priests, the *Levites and all the people who had returned to Jerusalem from the *exile. They appointed *Levites who were 20 years old or older. These *Levites would organise the work to build the house of the *LORD. This happened during the second month of the second year after they arrived at the house of God in Jerusalem. v9 These are the names of the *Levites who *supervised the work:

·    Jeshua and his sons and brothers;

·    Kadmiel and his sons (who were *descendants of Hodaviah);

·    the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers.

They acted together to *supervise the men who worked on the house of God.

Verses 8-9 A few months later the people started to build the *temple. In the meantime, they were working on their new homes and they were planting their crops. Now it was time to build the *temple, which is also called ‘the house of God’.

The *Levites led the work. They were men from a group of families that had responsibility for the *temple. Usually nobody could carry out the work of the *Levites until he was 25 years old (Numbers 8:24). But perhaps there were not enough *Levites of the correct age. So *Levites who were 20 years old or older shared these duties.

This also happened at the time of King David (1 Chronicles 23:24-27). He prepared for the first *temple which his son (King Solomon) built. David had wanted to build that *temple himself, but God did not allow him to do so. However, God permitted David to gather materials and to make preparations (1 Chronicles 22:2-5).

v10 The builders made the base of the *temple of the *LORD. Then the priests and the *Levites (the *descendants of Asaph) took their places. The priests were wearing their special clothes. And they had musical instruments called trumpets. The *Levites had other musical instruments, called cymbals. They praised the *LORD in the manner that David, king of Israel, had ordered. v11 They praised and they gave thanks to the *LORD. They sang, ‘He is good. He will always love Israel.’ And all the people praised the *LORD with a loud shout. They did that because they had built a base for the house of the *LORD. v12 But many of the older priests, *Levites and the heads of the families had seen the previous *temple. So they wept aloud when they saw the base of the new *temple. Many other people shouted because they were happy. v13 The people made so much noise that people far away could hear the sound. But those people could not distinguish between the sound of happiness and the sound of the people who were crying.

Verses 10-13 After the builders had made the base of the *temple, the people met to *worship God. The priests and the *Levites led the people as they praised God. They sang the same words that their *ancestors had sung at the time of King Solomon. That was when Solomon built the first *temple (2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3).

The people were so happy that they shouted aloud. But some of the older people were not so happy. They remembered the first *temple. They had only built the base for the new *temple. But the people could see that it would be much smaller than the first one.

The first *temple was much bigger and more beautiful than the next one. But the people who lived during those earlier times had not obeyed God. So God had punished them. He had sent them into *exile. And he allowed their enemies to destroy the beautiful first *temple.

The new *temple gave hope to the *Jews. Many of them had waited all their lives for this day. They had left their homes in Babylonia and they had travelled to a distant country to make this possible. They wanted this event to be the start of a new nation where the people would always obey God. But the *Jews realised that many of these things could not happen yet. And that is why many of them were sad, even on this happy occasion.

God wanted the *Jews to return to their own country. He wanted them to realise that their punishment was over. And he wanted to carry out his promises to them. In particular, he wanted to send Jesus, who would give his life as a perfect *sacrifice for *sins. This could only happen when the *Jews were living in their own country.