Ezra 3:11
And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever 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.
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(11) They sang together.—They answered each other in chorus, or antiphonally.

Shouted.—As afterwards in religious acclamation.

Ezra 3:11-12. And they sang together by course — That is, answered one another alternately. And all the people shouted with a great shout — The people were very differently affected upon this occasion. Those that had only known the misery of having no temple at all, praised the Lord with shouts of joy when they saw the foundation of this laid, for to them this was as life from the dead. But many that had seen the first house — Which divers of them had, because it had not been destroyed quite sixty years ago, and who remembered the glory of that temple, wept with a loud voice — “Not only because this temple was likely to prove far inferior to that of Solomon, as to its outward structure, but because it was to want those extraordinary marks of the divine favour wherewith the other temple was honoured. Both the temples, without all doubt, were of the same dimensions; but here was the sad difference which drew tears from the eyes of the elders, that in all appearance there were no hopes that the poor beginnings of the latter temple would ever be raised to the grandeur and magnificence of the former, since the one had been built by the wisest and richest king, and constantly adorned by some one or other of his posterity; the other now begun by a small company of exiles just returned from their captivity: the one in a time of profound peace and the greatest opulence; the other in a time of common calamity and distress: the one finished with the most costly stones and timber, wrought with exquisite art, and overlaid with vast quantities of gold; the other to be raised out of no better materials than what could be dug from the ruinous foundation of the old one. But the occasion of their grief was not only this, that the materials and ornaments of the second temple were even as nothing in comparison with the first, (Haggai 2:3,) but that the ark of the covenant, and the mercy- seat which was upon it, the holy fire upon the altar, the Urim and Thummim, the spirit of prophecy, the Shechinah or divine presence, the five great things for which the former temple was so renowned, were lost and gone, and never to be recovered to this other. This was a just matter of lamentation to those who had seen these singular tokens of the divine favour in the former temple, and a discouragement of their proceeding with the building of the present; and therefore the Prophet Haggai was sent to inform them that all these wants and defects should be abundantly repaired by the coming of the Messiah, the true Shechinah of the Divine Majesty, in the time of the second temple: (Ezra 2:7-9 :) I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory: the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts.” — Dodd.

3:8-13 There was a remarkable mixture of affections upon laying the foundation of the temple. Those that only knew the misery of having no temple at all, praised the Lord with shouts of joy. To them, even this foundation seemed great. We ought to be thankful for the beginnings of mercy, though it be not yet perfect. But those who remembered the glory of the first temple, and considered how far inferior this was likely to be, wept with a loud voice. There was reason for it, and if they bewailed the sin that was the cause of this melancholy change, they did well. Yet it was wrong to cast a damp upon the common joys. They despised the day of small things, and were unthankful for the good they enjoyed. Let not the remembrance of former afflictions drown the sense of present mercies.They set the priests - Or, according to another reading, "The priests stood."

The Levites the sons of Asaph - i. e., "such of the Levites as were descendants of Asaph." It would seem as if no descendants of Heman or Jeduthun had returned.

9. Jeshua with his sons—not the high priest, but a Levite (Ezr 2:40). To these, as probably distinguished for their mechanical skill and taste, the duty of acting as overseers was particularly committed. No text from Poole on this verse.

And they sang together by course,.... They sang by turns in responses, and answered one another, as the word signifies; when one company had performed their part, another took theirs:

in praising and giving thanks to the Lord; for returning them to their own land, and giving them opportunity, ability, and will, to set about the rebuilding of the temple of the Lord, and restoring the pure worship of God:

because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever towards Israel; which words are often repeated in Psalm 136:1 and which might be the psalm the Levites now sung by responses:

and all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord; to express their joy, in the best manner they could, on this solemn occasion:

because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid; which gave them hope the temple in due time would be rebuilt, and the service of it restored; see Job 38:6.

And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever 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.
11. And they sung together by course] R.V. And they sang one to another, literally ‘and they answered’, the same word as is rendered ‘answered’ in Ezra 10:12; Nehemiah 8:6. The traditional interpretation of this expression has seen in it an allusion to antiphonal singing, whereby a Psalm such as Psalms 136 would be rendered by two choirs, one choir singing the clause ‘O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good’, the other replying ‘for His mercy endureth for ever’ &c. There can be no doubt that certain Psalms, such as Psalm 24:7-10; Psalms 106, 107, 118, 136, lent themselves very readily to such musical rendering; and it is possible that Nehemiah’s division of the people into two companies on a great festal occasion may favour the view that antistrophic chanting was then in vogue (Nehemiah 12:31 &c.). But, in our ignorance of early Jewish music, it is impossible to speak with certainty upon the subject, while it is very easy to import modern and Western notions into our conceptions of Oriental music. The present verb very probably means that the chant of praise was responded to with a great burst of chorus, vocal and instrumental, the substance of which was some well-known sacred refrain. Cf. Exodus 15:20-21.

because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever] R.V. ‘saying, For he is good, for his mercy &c.’ The clause quotes the refrain. It has been natural perhaps to suppose that the allusion is made to Psalms 136. But reference to other passages, where the same refrain is quoted (1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Jeremiah 33:11) shows that the words are not a quotation from a Psalm, but rather a liturgical response in frequent use at sacred festivals, upon which the well-known Psalm was founded. The present verse constitutes an interesting fulfilment to the prediction of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:10-11).

because the foundation … was laid] The word here used occurs in 2 Chronicles 3:3, where the student will find the rendering of the R.V. (not of the A.V.) illustrated by this verse.

Verse 11. - They sang together by course. Literally, "They replied (to each other)," or sang antiphonically; the burthen of their song being, that God was good, and his mercy towards Israel everlasting (comp. 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, where the Levites of Solomon's time are reported to have praised God similarly). All the people shouted with a great shout. Shouting on occasions of secular joy and triumph has been practised by most nations, both in ancient and modern times. But religious shouting is less common. Still we hear of such shouting when the ark of the covenant was taken into the Israelite camp near Aphek (1 Samuel 4:5), and again when David solemnly brought it up from Kirjathjearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:15). Shouting appears also in the Psalms (Psalm 47:5) and in Zechariah (Zechariah 4:7) in connection with religion. It is always indicative of religious joy. Ezra 3:11When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they (Zerubbabel and Joshua, the heads of the community) set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord after the ordinance of David. The perf. ויסּדוּ, followed by an imperf. connected by a Vav consecutive, must be construed: When they laid the foundations, then. מלבּשׁים, clothed, sc. in their robes of office; comp. 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 20:21. ידי על as 1 Chronicles 25:2. On Ezra 3:11, comp. remarks on 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, and elsewhere. Older expositors (Clericus, J. H. Mich.), referring to Exodus 15:21, understand בהלּל ויּענוּ of the alternative singing of two choirs, one of which sang, "Praise the Lord, for He is good;" and the other responded, "And His mercy endureth for ever." In the present passage, however, there is no decided allusion to responsive singing; hence (with Bertheau) we take יענוּ in the sense of, "They sang to the Lord with hymns of thanksgiving." Probably they sang such songs as Psalm 106-107, or Psalm 118, which commence with an invitation to praise the Lord because He is good, etc. All the people, moreover, raised a loud shout of joy. גּדולה תּרוּעה is repeated in Ezra 3:13 by השּׂמחה תּרוּעת. הוּסד על, on account of the founding, of the foundation-laying, of the house of the Lord. הוּסד as in 2 Chronicles 3:3.
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