RUNNING HEAD: The Intertestamental Period
The Intertestamental Period
September 6, 2009
The first six chapters of Ezra recount the first return of exiles from Babylonian captivity on a mission to rebuild the temple. Over 42,000 exiles (Returnees), along with more than 7,000 servants, return to Judah under the leadership of Sheshbazzar. They quickly rebuild the altar and found the temple; however, opposition from the peoples of the lands halts the work for over 15 years. Under the leadership of Haggai and Zechariah, the reconstruction resumes and the temple is finally completed. The Returnees celebrate the completion of the temple with great joy.
The reconstruction of the temple is one of many important events during the intertestamental period. The reconstruction moves through four phases: temple construction started (Ezra 3:1-13), successful opposition to God’s people (Ezra 4:1-24), opposition reversed (Ezra 5:1-6:12), and temple construction completed (Ezra 6:13-22). Upon their return, the Returnees quickly restore the altar of burnt offering. At each step in their restoration of proper worship, Ezra notes that they are acting in continuity with God’s word (Ezra 3:2-5). This spiritual continuity with pre-exilic Israel, extending back to the time of its founding under Moses, strengthens the developing theme that the Returnees are, in every way, the continuation of God’s chosen people. Ezra 3:3 also grants a glimpse of the Returnees’ emotional state as they rebuilt the altar: “for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands.” The rebuilding of the temple begins in earnest as Zerubbabel and Jeshua hire laborers, purchase supplies, and appoint overseers to manage the construction. When the foundation is laid, a grand worship celebration marks the occasion. As chapter three ends, the Returnees appear well on their way to seeing the house of Yahweh rebuilt. The Returnees face...