Just as the people went into captivity in three waves, they return from captivity in three waves. The first wave of people, led by Zerubbabel, a descendant of King Jehoiachin from King David’s bloodline, and Jeshua, the priest, return to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. Eighty years later, Ezra will lead the second wave and return Bible literacy to the people. The third wave will be led by Nehemiah in 445 B.C. to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and establish a government with Nehemiah as governor.
When the first wave returns, Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Jeshua (Joshua), the High Priest, along with fellow priests and family, rebuild the altar on the same ground where it once stood in Jerusalem. Then they gather the people as one in Jerusalem and worship the Lord with offerings and by keeping the feasts as written in the law. Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead the people in rebuilding the temple, with the Levites appointed to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. When the foundation is laid, they sing praises to the Lord: “For He is good, for his mercy endures forever toward Israel.” There are mixed emotions in the crowd of people. The younger ones, who don’t remember the first temple or who were born in exile and never saw the first temple, are rejoicing with great joy. However, the older ones who remember the glory of the first temple and how the glory of the Lord departed are weeping because the new temple is not as magnificent as the one they remembered.
While they are building, some men of the region come and try to discourage the people of Judah. “They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purposes all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” According to the ESV Study Bible, “Therefore, the opposition continued over a period of about 20 years, up to the completion of the temple in 516 B.C. The discouragement apparently involved turning local officials against the project. Even though the project actually had the full authority of King Cyrus behind it, local enemies would exploit the distance of Jerusalem from the imperial center to their own advantage.”
The people weeping over the foundation of the new temple are emotionally led by what they see instead of trusting the Lord and His plan as He is working behind the scenes. The people don’t know that one day the Messiah, who is coming as the final Sacrifice to take away the sins of the world, is going to preach in this very temple that they are building. The Lord will continue to urge the people to trust Him and walk with Him by faith until the work is complete, believing that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him.
Tomorrow Daniel receives another vision over in Babylon, so keep reading. (Ezra 2:1-4:5, 1 Chronicles 3:19-24)