Ezra 3: Rebuilding the Altar and the Temple


(13 verses, 2:46 to read)

What I an about to READ

  • The altar is constructed, and the foundation of the foundation of the temple is built.


  • The outline of the chapter is simple. Verses 1-7 tell of the rebuilding of the altar of burnt offering. They began to offer the morning and evening sacrifices, and they celebrated the Feast of Booths (see below for more). In verses 8-13 the rebuilding of the temple is begun. The Levites are appointed as overseers of the work. The foundation is laid, and the people celebrate.


Here’s the Feast of Booths info from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible: 

Feast of Booths (Tabernacles or Ingathering). The Feast of Booths took place on Tishri 15, five days after the Day of Atonement, in what is now mid-October. The festival is described in Leviticus 23:33-43 and Deuteronomy 16:13-15, but the most elaborate presentation of the details of this week is found in Numbers 29:12-40. For seven days the Israelites presented offerings to the Lord, during which time they lived in huts made from palm fronds and leafy tree branches. The stated purpose for living in the booths was to recall the sojourn of the Israelites prior to their taking of the land of Canaan ( Lev 23:43 ). The offering of the first day was thirteen bulls, two rams, and fourteen male lambs as burnt offerings, with one goat as a sin offering. Each day thereafter the number of bulls offered was decreased by one. The eighth day was exceptional: one bull, one ram, seven lambs, and one goat were offered ( Num 29:12-38 ). These were all in addition to the grain offerings and freewill offerings ( Num 29:39 ). The week was to be a time of joy as a final celebration and thanksgiving for that year’s harvest ( Deut 16:14-15 ).

The series of offerings for this week constituted an extraordinary expense (71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, and 8 goats). A burnt offering was entirely consumed by fire; even the priests could not eat it. That expense, coupled with the requirement that the Israelites abandon the comfort of their homes for a week and live in flimsy huts, implies that a principal lesson behind this week was that all the good things of the promised land are gifts from God. They cannot be hoarded or taken for granted. At the same time, returning to a period of living as aliens in huts helped to recall the sense of national community experienced in the period of the exodus.

Zechariah 14:16-19 looks for an eschatological celebration of the Feast of Booths. The time will come when all the Gentiles will join Israel in participating in this festival and worship the Lord; any nations that do not will suffer drought. Zechariah’s point is that the Gentiles must identify with Israel in its deliverance and sojourn.

John 7 describes a visit of Jesus to Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths (vv. 2-10). On the last day of the feast Jesus promised that any who came to him would experience streams of living water flowing from within (i.e., the Holy Spirit; vv. 37-39). By New Testament times, the tradition had developed that during the feast a priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it in a sacred procession to the altar. This apparently was behind Jesus’ metaphor. The New Testament also reflects the theology and symbolism of the Feast of Booths in its use of the term “tent” as a metaphor for the mortal body awaiting the glory of the resurrection ( 2 Cor 5:1-4 ; 2 Peter 1:13-14 ).

  • The prayer “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever,” is the basic verse of praise in the Old Testament, see Psalm 136. It is used specifically in celebrating the building of the Lord’s house (see especially 1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13 and 7:3).
  • Notice, in verse 12, that the old men who remember Solomon’s temple weep, probably at the humility of this new temple. But the sound of weeping is mixed with the sound of joy, especially from the young people who had never seen the Lord’s temple at all.


  • We remember the importance of the temple in the old covenant. Moses built the tabernacle to be a reflection of the heavenly throne room he visited on Mt Sinai. It was at the temple that the Lord’s people heard the preaching of the Gospel, that God was pleased to accept the death of another in place of the sinner. The temple meant that God was dwelling with His people to bless them.
  • The church of the new testament rejoices in the temple of the body of Jesus. “Tear down this temple,” Jesus said, “and I will build it up in three days.” He was speaking of the temple of His body, and wherever the body of Jesus is, there the Lord is pleased to dwell with us, to bless us and keep up in His mercy.

Thoughts? Questions? Join the conversation in our facebook group.

Lord’s Blessings,
Pr Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, CO


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