The Altar Was Rebuilt
The priority of the returned captives was to reestablish the worship of Jehovah according to the Law of Moses. To accomplish this, one of the first things needed was the ability to sacrifice to Him. Thus, the people began with rebuilding the altar.
It is important to note they rebuilt the altar “as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:2) and kept the Feast of Tabernacles “as it is written” (Ezra 3:4).
The Law was written about 900 years before this time. Yet, it was still in effect. It would remain so for another 500 years, until God established a new law – the gospel. The lesson is, God’s law remains in effect until He changes it.
The Temple Began
The next order of business was to rebuild the temple. The original one was built by Solomon around 1000 BC (1 Kgs. 5-8). However, in the third wave of Babylonian captivity, it was razed to the ground and its treasures carried off. Now the people start to rebuild the temple, but it is not quite the same.
When the foundations were laid, there was a mixed reaction (Ezra 3:11-13). The younger people were excited and filled with joy. Those who remembered Solomon’s temple wept because the new one was so inferior.
The Work Stopped
Israel’s enemies wanted to join in building the temple, claiming an allegiance in worshipping God. However, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and others rejected their offer because it was not their place to help. In this incident is an important lesson of fellowship – God’s people are not to have it with our “enemies.”
After the rejection, Israel’s enemies labored to stop their work. A deceptive letter was written to the king stating the Jews would rebel if the temple were finished. Fearing an uprising, the king ordered the work stopped.