Ezra 3:8
Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.
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(8) In the second year.—The second year of Cyrus, B.C. 537, was their second year in the holy place.

In the second month.—Zif, chosen apparently because it was the same month in which Solomon laid the first foundation (1 Kings 6).

Appointed the Levites, from twenty years.—Their appointment to superintend, and their specified age, are in strict harmony with the original ordinances of David (1 Chronicles 23).

Ezra 3:8. In the second month began Zerubbabel, &c. — The building of the temple was begun as soon as ever the season of the year would permit, and as soon as they had ended the solemnities of the passover. They took little more than half a year for preparing the ground and materials; so much were their hearts upon the work. And Jeshua, and their brethren the priests and Levites, &c. — Then the work of God is likely to go on well when magistrates, ministers, and people are zealously affected toward it, and agree in their places to promote it. It was God that gave them one heart for this service, and it promised a happy issue.

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.Unto the house of God - i. e., to the place where the house of God had been, and where God was believed still to have His special dwelling.

And appointed the Levites - This is the emphatic clause of the present verse. Though so small a number of Levites had returned from Babylon Ezra 2:40, yet they were especially singled out to be entrusted with the task of superintending and advancing the building of the temple.

Ezr 3:8-13. The Foundation of the Temple Laid.

8. appointed the Levites … to set forward the work—that is, to act as overseers of the workmen, and to direct and animate the laborers in the various departments.

No text from Poole on this verse.

Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem,.... The place where it formerly stood; the Jews seem to have set out from Babylon, in the spring of the preceding year, as it was now of this; which to Jerusalem was a journey of about four months, as Ezra performed it, Ezra 7:9, but might take up longer time for such a body of people to do it in, being larger than that with him; wherefore, after they had visited their respective cities, and settled their affairs there, they came to Jerusalem on the seventh month, or September, and kept the feast of tabernacles, and then they returned to their cities again, the winter season being an improper time to begin the building of the temple; having given money to workmen to purchase materials with, and no doubt left a sufficient number to clear away the rubbish, and get things ready by the returning spring to set about the work:

in the second month; the mouth Ijar, as Jarchi observes, answering to part of April and May, having, as may be supposed, kept the passover the month before:

began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak: the prince, and the high priest:

and the remnant of their brethren, the priests and Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; whose names and numbers are given in the preceding chapter:

and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and upwards to set forward the work of the house of the Lord; to put men to work upon it, and direct them what to do, and urge them to attend closely to it; ever since David's time the Levites were employed at twenty years of age, when before not till thirty, or twenty five; see 1 Chronicles 23:24.

Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the {e} second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.

(e) Which contains part of April and part of May, for in the mean season they had provided for things needed for the work.

8–13. The Foundation of the Temple

8. The Second Year of the Return.

of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem] cf. Ezra 2:68. Where the old Temple had been and the new was to be.

began] The meaning of this verb standing by itself, without an object and without a verb depending upon it, is not at first sight obvious. There are two ways of explaining it. (1) = ‘they made a beginning and appointed’—referring to the work generally; the verb ‘began’ being used without an object expressed. (2) = ‘began to appoint’—the two words ‘began’ and ‘appointed’ being, by a common Hebrew usage, placed coordinately. Of these two the former is the preferable. ‘Began to appoint’ gives a feeble sense. ‘Began and appointed’, i.e. ‘began by appointing’ expresses the full meaning.

Zerubbabel &c., and the remnant &c.] R.V. … and the rest &c. We find mentioned here (a) the two leaders, Zerubbabel the head of the royal, Jeshua the head of the priestly house, (b) the priests and Levites, (c) the rest of the returned community.

Zerubbabel here has the place of honour (see Ezra 3:2) in connexion with the building of the Temple, the commission which he had received from Cyrus. The prominence of the Levites in comparison with the smallness of their numbers (cf. Ezra 2:40-42) deserves attention. ‘Their brethren the priests and Levites’. (Cf. Ezra 3:2, Jeshua—his brethren the priests.)

appointed the Levites] The word ‘appointed’, lit. ‘to cause to stand’, is one very common in our author. Used of a building ‘to set up’, Ezra 2:68, Ezra 3:3, Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 3:13; Nehemiah 6:1; Nehemiah 7:1; of persons ‘to appoint’, ‘set over’, Ezra 3:9, Nehemiah 4:13; Nehemiah 6:7; 1 Chronicles 6:31; 1 Chronicles 15:17.

from twenty years old and upward] The limits of age for the Levite laid down in Numbers 8:24-25 excluded from service those younger than 25 and older than 50. The religious reorganization under David required the services of the Levite ‘from twenty years old and upward’; so 1 Chronicles 23:24; 1 Chronicles 23:27. The small number of Levites available made it all the more important to lower the standard of age. (For modification of original legislation see also on Ezra 6:20.)

to set forward the work] R.V. ‘to have the oversight of’, (Marg.) ‘set forward’. A rare word used in Ezra and 1 Chronicles 23:4. Elsewhere it occurs only as a participle in titles to Psalms and in Habakkuk 3:19 ‘for the Chief Musician.’

The Latin version ‘ut urgerent opus’ has suggested the rendering of the A.V. But the sense, suggested by the participial title ‘the Chief Musician, Conductor or Director’, is that of superintendence and direction. The R.V. construes ‘to have the oversight of’ here, and ‘to oversee’ in 1 Chronicles 23:4, the word being in both places used of the Levites appointed to superintend the work to be done in the ‘House of the Lord’.

Verse 8. - In the second year. In B.C. 537, the second year of Cyrus in Babylon, which was also the second year of their coming (i.e. after their coming) to the (ruined) house of God (Ezra 2:68), began Zerubbabel, and the others, and appointed the Levites. Small as the number of the Levites who returned with Zerubbabel was, to them especially was intrusted the work of the house of the Lord, i.e. the superintendence of the workmen employed to rebuild it (see ver. 9). Ezra 3:8The foundation of the temple laid. - Ezra 3:8 In the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, i.e., after their arrival at Jerusalem on their return from Babylon, in the second month, began Zerubbabel and Joshua to appoint the Levites from twenty years old and upwards to the oversight of the work (the building) of the house of the Lord. That is to say, the work of building was taken in hand. Whether this second year of the return coincides with the second year of the rule of Cyrus, so that the foundations of the temple were laid, as Theophil. Antioch. ad Autolic. lib. 3, according to Berosus, relates, in the second year of Cyrus, cannot be determined. For nothing more is said in this book than that Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, issued the decree concerning the return of the Jews from Babylon, whereupon those named in the list, Ezra 2, set out and returned, without any further notice as to whether this also took place in the first year of Cyrus, or whether the many necessary preparations delayed the departure of the first band till the following year. The former view is certainly a possible though not a very probable one, since it is obvious from Ezra 2:1 that they arrived at Jerusalem and betook themselves to their cities as early as the seventh month of the year. Now the period between the beginning of the year and the seventh month, i.e., at most six months, seems too short for the publication of the edict, the departure, and the arrival at Jerusalem, even supposing that the first year of Cyrus entirely coincided with a year of the Jewish calendar. The second view, however, would not make the difference between the year of the rule of Cyrus and the year of the return to Jerusalem a great one, since it would scarcely amount to half a year. ויּעמידוּ...החלּוּ, they began and appointed, etc., they began to appoint, i.e., they began the work of building the temple by appointing. Those enumerated are-1. Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two rulers: 2. The remnant of their brethren equals their other brethren, viz., a, the priests and Levites as brethren of Joshua; b, all who had come out of captivity, i.e., the men of Israel, as brethren of Zerubbabel. These together formed the community who appointed the Levites to preside over, i.e., to conduct the building of the temple. For the expression, comp. 1 Chronicles 23:4-24.
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