The renewal of worship (Ezra 3:1-3:7)

“When the seventh month came, as the Israelites were in the towns, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, set out to build the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to offer burnt offerings upon it, as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set up the altar on its foundations, because they were in dread of the neighboring peoples. They offered burnt offerings upon it to Yahweh, morning and evening. They kept the festival of booths, as prescribed. They offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the ordinance, as required for each day. After that they had the continual regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the sacred festivals of Yahweh. They also had the contributions of everyone who made a freewill offering to Yahweh. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to Yahweh. But the foundation of the temple of Yahweh was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, as well as 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 which they had from King Cyrus of Persia.”

It is difficult to say in what year this took place, either in the 2nd year of King Darius I of Persia around 520 BCE or in 2nd year of King Cyrus, which would it around 538 or 539 BCE. The King Cyrus date seems correct. However, it is difficult to put an exact date on this great assembly. The month and date are clear the 1st day of the 7th month, but the year is not. This was the assembly for the fall festival of booths or tents, which was quite appropriate since they had not yet established a permanent residence. There is the same confusion about Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar and whether they are one in the same. Here it is Zerubbabel. The chief priest was Jeshua who was the 2nd in command after Zerubbabel in the preceding chapter. They built an altar so that the various sacrifices could be made there. This altar was where the foundation was to be for the new Temple since it had not yet been built. Finally like King David and King Solomon they made arrangements with the northern people of Lebanon in Tyre and Sidon to bring cedar wood by sea to Joppa. They had some kind of grant from the King Cyrus of Persia, which would put this at the earlier date of their first arrival.