Ezra 3:12
But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
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(12) But many of the priests and Levites . . . wept with a loud voice.—This most affecting scene requires the comment of Haggai 2 and Zeeh. 4. The first house was destroyed in B.C. 588, fifty years before. The weeping of the ancients was not occasioned by any comparison as to size and grandeur, unless indeed they marked the smallness of their foundation stones. They thought chiefly of the great desolation as measured by the past; the younger peoplc thought of the new future.

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.Wept ... shouted ... for joy - Compare the marginal reference and Zechariah 4:10. It is implied that the dimensions of the second temple were smaller than those of the first. Hence, the feeling of sorrow which came upon some. They, however, who had not seen the former temple, and so could not contrast the two, naturally rejoiced to see the sanctuary of their religion begin to rise from its ruins. 12. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers … wept with a loud voice—Those painful emotions were excited by the sad contrast between the prosperous circumstances in which the foundations of the first temple had been laid and the desolate, reduced state of the country and city when the second was begun; between the inferior size and less costliness of the stones used in the foundations of the second (1Ki 7:9, 10), and the much smaller extent of the foundation itself, including all the appurtenances of the building (Hag 2:3); between the comparative smallness of their present means and the immense resources of David and Solomon. Perhaps, however, the chief cause of grief was that the second temple would be destitute of those things which formed the great and distinguishing glory of the first; namely, the ark, the shekinah, the Urim and Thummim, &c. Not that this second temple was not a very grand and beautiful structure. But no matter how great its material splendor was, it was inferior in this respect to that of Solomon. Yet the glory of the second far outshone that of the first temple in another and more important point of view, namely, the receiving within its walls the incarnate Saviour (Hag 2:9). Had seen the first house; which divers of them might very well do, because it was destroyed not quite sixty years ago, as is manifest from 2 Kings 25 2Ch 36 Eze 40:1.

Wept with a loud voice; partly, because of the poor and small preparations made for this in comparison of what was made for the other temple; partly, because this temple was divested and destitute of those things which were the principal glory of the former temple, to wit, the ark, and the Urim and Thummim, &c.; partly, because these foundation stones were far inferior to the former, both for quantity and price, 1 Kings 7:9,10; and partly, because these foundations were of a far narrower compass than the former; for although the foundations of this house of the Lord, strictly so called, were at least of equal largeness with those of the former, by comparing 1 Kings 6:2, and Ezra 6:1-3; yet the foundations of the whole building belonging to the first temple, and adjoining to it, or in the courts of it, were far larger than these. But many of the priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men,.... Seventy or eighty years of age:

that had seen the first house; the temple built by Solomon, as they very well might, since then it had been destroyed but fifty two years; for the seventy years captivity are to be reckoned from the fourth of Jehoiakim, when it began, and which was eighteen years before the destruction of the temple; the beginning of the next clause:

when in the foundation, according to the Hebrew accents, is to be connected with this:

that had seen the first house; not when first founded, for that was five hundred years ago, but in "its foundation"; they saw it standing upon its foundation, in all its glory, and so the Septuagint version; and we may read on, when

this house was before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; seeing what it was like to be by the foundation now laid, and was in their sight as nothing in comparison of the former; see Haggai 2:3 but Aben Ezra connects this clause as we do:

when the foundation of this house was laid; not but that the dimensions of this house strictly taken were as large as the former: see Ezra 6:3, but not the courts and appendages to it: besides, what might affect them, there was no likelihood of its being so richly decorated with gold and silver as the former temple, and many things would be wanting in it, as the Urim and Thummim, &c.

and many shouted aloud for joy; of the younger sort, who had never seen the grandeur of the first temple, and were highly delighted with the beginning of this, and the hope of seeing it finished.

But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, {g} wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:

(g) Because they saw that it was not nearly as glorious as the temple Solomon had built, nonetheless Aggeus comforted them and prophesied that it would be more beautiful than the first, meaning the spiritual temple, they who are the members of Christ's body.

12. But many &c. and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that] R.V. But many &c. and heads of fathers’ houses, the old men who, i.e. the heads of the people who would be most conspicuous, priests, Levites, and heads of families. The Vulgate ‘et seniores’ has apparently introduced a fourth official class, ‘the Elders’. The elders are not mentioned here; but see chap. Ezra 5:5.

had seen the first house] Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 587. The foundation of the new Temple was laid in 536. There were even some alive sixteen years later (520) to whose recollection of the former building the prophet Haggai could appeal (Haggai 2:3).

when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes] The traditional interpretation preserved in the Hebrew accents connects this clause with the one preceding, ‘the first house standing on its foundation, when this house was before their eyes’ (so marg. R.V.) The objection to this rendering is the concrete use of the word rendered ‘foundation’ not found elsewhere. But the construction is more vigorous and more vivid than that of the A.V. preferred by most commentators, which connects the whole clause with the words following.

wept with a loud voice] Clearly not tears of joy; expressions of joy are noticed in the next clause: nor tears of grief, because they could never live to see the completion of the building, or because the character of the work was by comparison with the former Temple poor and insignificant. Only the foundations were being laid, and the general plan was on a larger scale than that of Solomon’s Temple (see on Ezra 6:3). Disappointment at the small scale of the beginning may have taken possession of some (cf. Haggai 2:3-9; Zechariah 4:10). But the thoughts of the disasters of their youth, the sorrows cf. their manhood in exile, the gaps in their numbers, the insignificance of the new community by comparison with the splendour of Messianic hopes (Isaiah 60), were enough to cause sadness and weeping.

shouted aloud for joy] the younger and middle-aged men. If memory was sad, hope was joyful.Verse 12. - Many... who were ancient men, that had seen the first house. The old temple had not been destroyed so much as fifty years. Consequently, there would be many who could remember its grandeur and glory. These persons, when the foundation of the (new) house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice. It was "the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10). The new house, in comparison with the old one, was "as nothing" (Haggai 2:3). The difference was perhaps not so much in the dimensions (see note on Ezra 6:3) as in the size and quality of the foundation-stones (1 Kings 5:17), the excellence of the masonry, and the like. Solomon had employed the best workmen of one of the greatest of the Tyrian kings; Zerubbabel had only the arms of his own subjects to depend upon. And afterward, i.e., after the feast of tabernacles, they offered the continual, i.e., the daily, burnt-offering, and (the offerings) for the new moon, and all the festivals of the Lord (the annual feasts). עלות must be inserted from the context before לחדשׁים to complete the sense. "And for every one that willingly offered a free-will offering to the Lord." נדבה is a burnt-offering which was offered from free inclination. Such offerings might be brought on any day, but were chiefly presented at the annual festivals after the sacrifices prescribed by the law; comp. Numbers 29:39. - In Ezra 3:6 follows the supplementary remark, that the sacrificial worship began from the first day of the seventh month, but that the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. This forms a transition to what follows.

(Note: Bertheau, comparing Ezra 3:6 with Ezra 3:5, incorrectly interprets it as meaning: "From the first day of the seventh month the offering of thank-offerings began (comp. Ezra 3:2); then, from the fifteenth day of the second month, during the feast of tabernacles, the burnt-offerings prescribed by the law (Ezra 3:4); but the daily burnt-offerings were not recommenced till after the feast of tabernacles, etc. Hence it was not from the first day of the seventh month, but subsequently to the feast of tabernacles, that the worship of God, so far as this consisted in burnt-offerings, was fully restored." The words of the cursive manuscript, however, do not stand in the text, but their opposite. In Ezra 3:2, not thank-offerings (זבהים or שׁלמים), but burnt-offerings (עלות), are spoken of, and indeed those prescribed in the law, among which the daily morning and evening burnt-offering, expressly named in Ezra 3:3, held the first place. With this, Ezra 3:5, "After the feast of tabernacles they offered the continual burnt-offering, and the burnt-offerings for the new moon," etc., fully harmonizes. The offering of the continual, i.e., of the daily, burnt-offerings, besides the new moon, the feast-days, and the free-will offerings, is named again merely for the sake of completeness. The right order is, on the contrary, as follows: The altar service, with the daily morning and evening sacrifice, began on the first day of the seventh month; this daily sacrifice was regularly offered, according to the law, from then till the fifteenth day of the second month, i.e., till the beginning of the feast of tabernacles; all the offerings commanded in the law for the separate days of this feast were then offered according to the numbers prescribed; and after this festival the sacrifices ordered at the new moon and the other holy days of the year were offered, as well as the daily burnt-offerings, - none but these, neither the sacrifice on the new moon (the first day of the seventh month) nor the sin-offering on the tenth day of the same month, i.e., the day of atonement, having been offered before this feast of tabernacles.)

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