In Ezra 2.1-70 we have a list of those who returned with Ezra. In Ezra 2.1-2 we have those who were closely associated with him, and they were called the “children of the province” and this means the province of Judah. Zerubbabel was the governor and he bore the Persian title of “Tirshatha” (Ezra 2.63). There were twelve people who came with Zerubbabel. Nahamani’s name is omitted in Ezra but is included in Neh 7.7, and this alludes to the twelve tribes. There are two names that many will recognize and they are Nehemiah and Mordechai. It is not known whether these two are the same people in the book of Nehemiah and Esther, but there are those who believe they are. If so, they came with Zerubbabel and then went back to Persia at a later date.
Ezra 2.3-35 contains a list of the families returning to Judah and Jerusalem. This list is just the heads of the families, with the number of males in that family. The total number would be more because they are listed by the family leaders. Then in Ezra 2.36-60 we have a list of the priestly families, Levites and Temple workers are given, plus the children of Solomon’s servants. The Temple Servants are called the “Nethanim” and they were Gibeonites whose ancestors deceived Joshua. Their employment was to minister to the Levites and work for the Temple.
Now, this list of those who are coming back from Babylon is teaching us something. We know that the Lord is stirring up the hearts of the people to return back to the land (1.5). They took advantage of the opportunity to “come out of Babylon.” This alludes to Torah-based believers in Yeshua whose hearts have been stirred to come out of religious Babylon.
In Ezra 2.61-63 we learn that there were people who claimed to have a priestly lineage but could not prove it through a genealogy. They were not allowed to eat of the Most Holy Things (Kodshai Kodashim) until they could consult with the Urim V’ Thummim. This is also spoken about in Neh 7.63. Evidently, they did not have this item at this time, along with other things that were in the First Temple.
In Ezra 2.65 we learn about the male and female singers. The Levitical women could participate as singers, but not in the Temple courts on the Duchan where the Levitical choir sang on the three steps. There had to be at least twelve singers on the Duchan to sing in the Temple.
In the Mishnah, Arakhin (vows of valuation) 2.6 it says, “There were never less than twelve Levites standing on the platform (duchan), and their number could be increased without end. None that was not of age could enter the Temple court to take part in the Temple service save only when the Levites stood up to sing; and they did not join in the singing with harp and lyre, but with the mouth alone to add spice to the music. R. Eliezer B. Jacob says: They did not help to make up the required number, nor did they stand on the platform; but they used to stand on the ground so that their heads were between the feet of the Levites; and they used to be called the Levites Tormentors.” They were called tormentors because they sang so well.
There are some rabbis who believe that women did enter the Temple court, called the Azarah. There was a gate on the north side called the Women’s Gate. They believe that the women entered through that gate to enter the Azarah. On the other hand, women also entered this gate to partake of the food that was set apart for the priest’s family, so that was the reason they called it the Women’s Gate. The priestly women came to a room on the north side of the Azarah to eat of the Kodshai Kodeahim (Most Holy) and the Kodshai Kelim (Holy) offerings. The Kodshai Kodeshim were the sin and guilt offering and could only be eaten in the Temple, but the Kodshai Kelim could be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem.
There is another reason that women were not allowed into the Azarah and it had nothing to do with sexism, but it did have something to do with paganism. Paganistic cults (meaning worship) were based on two things. The first thing was it was based on war and survival, and the second thing was it was based on the economy, centering on fertility. The priest and the priestess were prostitutes and homosexuals in pagan temples. God didn’t want that impression so women were not allowed into the inner courts. True worship was about so much more. It is totally separate from the pagan concept.
However, women sang when coming to the festivals and they sang at weddings, funerals and other occasions. They also worked with the men to tutor the younger Levites in the music of the Temple. They gave voice lessons and helped with the music. We have seen that the younger Levites would join the Levitical choir to add “sweetness” to the sound. If women were in the Levitical choir, you wouldn’t need the young voices to reach the high notes.
The people who arrived in the land gave offerings to rebuild the Temple (v 7). They gave freely and according to their ability. Paul may have had this in mind when he wrote the same thing in 1 Cor 16.2 and 2 Cor 8.3. After exile there seems to have been a large Jewish presence in the land as promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. During the exile, Judea was uninhabited however. The land kept its sabbaths and was not worked for seventy years. As a result, the land was empty until the exiles came back.
Ezra 3.1-3 deals with with restoration of the services (Avodah) and it is a very prophetic chapter. The people gathered together in the seventh month of Tishri according to the Religious calendar to Jerusalem. Neh 7.73 says the same thing. The Altar was rebuilt by a High Priest named Yeshua the son of Jozadak, and he is also called Joshua in Zech 6.11-12. This is prophetic because Yeshua the Messiah will be the first high priest after the return of the Jewish people after the Birth-pains, and he will rebuild Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek 40 through 48). Notice that they builot it in Jerusalem.
They could have reasoned, like many people do today, that they were “the Temple” and the Temple and the Altar could have gone anywhere. After all, where the people were, that was where the true Temple is anyway, right? Wrong. In Hebrew thought based on the Torah, there was only one place to rebuild it, and that place was Jerusalem, on God’s “holy mountain” (Psa 2.6, 99.9; Isa 2.2-3; Mic 4.1-3).
Yeshua the son of Jozadak is the grandson of Seraiah the high priest who was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar in 2 Kings 25.18-21. Notice that they built the Altar before the Temple was rebuilt, and that is an important concept to remember. They understood the spiritual significance of the Altar. It was where sin was dealt with and where the common man could come and meet and conduct his business with Yehovah. Only the priests could enter the Sanctuary building. They needed to resume the korbanot like the Korban Olah and the Tamid as it is written the Torah. So we learn that there can be no Temple without the Altar, but there can be an Altar without a Temple. We also know they built this Altar on the foundations of the previous Altar, on the exact spot. We have already discussed the history of this spot in other teachings.
In Ezra 3.4-7 we learn that they celebrated the festival of Sukkot and they offered the appropriate korbanot (v 4). During their exile, the Jewish people were unable to offer any korbanot or keep any festivals because that could only be done in Jerusalem, at the Temple, with a priesthood, Altar and the holy things. After this, they gave money for the masons and carpenters on order to build the Temple (v 7).
Ezra 3.8-13 tells us that they began to work on the Temple with great joy in the second month (Iyar), which was the same month Solomon’s Temple was started (1 Kings 6.1). They also assigned Levites who were twenty years old and above to oversee the work (1 Chr 23.24). The Torah stated that the Levites were to start their work at thirty years of age (Num 4.1-37), but David changed that because they were no longer in the wilderness at the direction of Yehovah.
Then they laid the foundation of the Temple and there was an elaborate ceremony. The priests were dressed in their priestly robes, the musicians were ready for music and what they sang was possibly the Hallel (Psa 113-118) and the Great Hallel (Psa 136). This scene greatly resembled the scene in 2 Chr 5.13-14 but with lesser numbers. However, this gave the people hope that the Temple would be rebuilt again.
There was, however, a mixed reaction to all of this among the people. The men who had seen the First Temple wept because it just wasn’t the same, and many things had changed (v 12). There was no Ark of the Covenant, no divine fire, no Shekinah or king, or a palace for the king just south of the Temple. There was no Mercy Seat (Kipporet), pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, spirit of prophecy or the Urim V’ THummim. Solomon had spent much more on the First temple, so the kedusha on this Temple was not seen as the same, and it was diminished. The people could not distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the weeping of the people, and the sound could be heard from far away.
But regrets over the past is never productive. It can paralyze us in our present work. The prophets also warned against despising this Temple because it was not at the same level (Hag 2.1-9; Zech 4.8-10). Many shouted for joy also, and these were the younger ones who had never seen the Temple at all sitting on the site of so much history. So, there were many mixed emotions. There is also another thing to remember. Messiah himself would come to this Temple bringing the ultimate redemption of not only mankind, but also the creation.
Now, we have an eschatological picture in Ezra 3.1-6. First off, we see that the first high priest after the restoration and return of the people to begin Temple worship was a priest named Yeshua (v 2). This alludes to the fact that Yeshua the Messiah will be the high priest when worship begins in Ezekiel’s Temple after the restoration and return of the believers back to the land in the Second or Messianic Redemption.
Prophetically, we know that the Birth-pains are 2520 days long, and the first half will be 1260 days and the second half will be 1260 days. We also know that Yeshua will return on Yom Kippur at the end of the seven years. That means the Birth-pains will begin around a Yom Kippur. The Atid Lavo (Lord’s Day, Seventh Day, Sabbath of God, Millennium, etc) is also known as the Day of the Lord. This is the last one thousand years of the seven thousand year plan of God.
The first day of that last one thousand year Day of the Lord is Tishri 1, or Rosh Ha Shanah (Head of the Year). Ten days later we have the beginning of the Birth-pains on Yom Kippur. We believe that the Altar will be set up on Mount Moriah by Tishri 1 and the sacrifices will begin on Tishri 1, year 6001 from creation, just like they did in Ezra 3.1-6. We also believe that the Natzal, or the catching away of the believers to heaven, will also happen on Tishri 1, year 6001 from creation, possibly the same day that the sacrifices begin on the Altar in Jerusalem. The Altar must be built and cleansed at least seven days prior to it being used, so that means believers will see this process going on in Jerusalem. Those that understand what is going on will know that the Natzal could be near (1Thes 4.13 through 5.4). For the next few days after the Natzal (rapture), many other events will occur, like the destruction of Babylon (USA), the salvation and anointing of the 144,000 and their return to the land, and the identification of the False Messiah. Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, the Birth-pains will begin when the False Messiah signs a military treaty with Israel.
In Part 3 we will pick up in Ezra 4.1-24.