Return to Zion and the Construction of the Second Temple (I): A Historical Overview of the Period (I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion






Rav Yitzchak Levi



Now in the first year of Koresh King of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Yirmiyahu might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Koresh King of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus says Koresh King of Persia, The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Yehuda. Whoever is among you of all His people, let his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Yehuda, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel; (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem… Then rose up the chiefs of the fathers' houses of Yehuda and Binyamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had stirred to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all they who were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. Also Koresh the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nevukhadnetzar had brought out of Jerusalem… Those did Koresh King of Persia bring out by the hand of Mitredat the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbatzar, the prince of Yehuda… All these did Sheshbatzar bring, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)


            In this shiur we will discuss the background of the period of the return to Zion and try to understand its chronological framework and primary issues.


            The period of time under discussion, from Sheshbatzar's return to the end of the days of Nechemya, which lasted about 115 years, can be subdivided into two distinct periods, very different in character. The first period is from Sheshbatzar's return to the end of the leadership of Zerubavel son of Shealtiel and Yehoshua son of Yehotzadak. This period, described in chapters 1-6 in the book of Ezra and paralleling the prophecies of Chaggai and Zekharya, lasted about 21 years, from the first return to the construction of the second Temple, and its most prominent feature was the rebuilding of the Temple in its various stages. At the end of this period, we come to a 58-year interval about which we know almost nothing. The second period is the period of Ezra and Nechemya, which parallels the prophecy of Malakhi[1] and is described in Ezra (7-10) and in Nechemya; it lasted about 30-35 years, and it is marked by the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the political, social and religious strengthening of the country.


            To this shiur, we have appended a table that outlines the chronological framework of the period. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the books of Ezra and Nechemya[2] and the history of the period of the return to Zion is advised to study this table before proceeding.[3]




We will try to provide a brief description of the main characteristics of the period.




In a number of places, Scripture views the period of the return to Zion as paralleling the Exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the wilderness, on the one hand, and as a continuation of the period of the First Temple, on the other:


a)         The books of Ezra and Nechemya are formulated as a continuation of the book of Melakhim: The book of Melakhim ends with a description of the destruction and the exile of the holy vessels of the Temple together with the people to Babylonia; the book of Ezra opens with the permission granted by Koresh to the nation to return to Eretz Yisrael together with the Temple's vessels and to build it anew.


b)         Fulfillment of the prophecy of Yirmiyahu: Scripture (Ezra 1:1) emphasizes that the return to Zion constitutes a fulfillment of Yirmiyahu's prophecy: "That after seventy years are accomplished at Babylonia I will take heed of you" (Yirmiyahu 25:11; 29:10-14).[4]


c)         Parallels between the return to Eretz Yisrael and the Exodus from Egypt:


*           The gifts of silver and gold and the other goods that were given to the returnees by their Babylonian neighbors (Ezra 1:4, 6) parallel the borrowing of gold and silver utensils as well as clothing from the Egyptians (Shemot 3:22; 12:35-36).

*           The census taken of the returnees (Ezra 2) parallels the census taken in the wilderness (Bamidbar 1).

*           The donations of the leaders to the house of God (Ezra 2:68-69) parallels the donations made to the Mishkan (Shemot 35:21-29).


d) The leaders continue the lines of leadership of the late First Temple period:


*           Some identify Sheshbatzar with Shenatzar mentioned in I Divrei Ha-yamim 3:18, as the son or grandson of Yehoyakhin King of Yehuda (see Radak and Metzudot Tziyyon, ad loc.)

*           Zerubavel son of Shealtiel is the son or grandson of Yehoyakhin (ibid. 19; and see Radak and Metzudat Tziyyon).

*           Yehoshua son of Yehotzadak, the High Priest, is the grandson of Sarya, the head priest at the end of the First Temple period (see II Melakhim 25:18; and I Divrei Ha-yamim 5:40-41).


These points are not merely genealogical facts; they are paralleled by a prophetic vision concerning the restoration of the monarchy and the High Priesthood, one alongside the other, in the form of Zerubavel and Yehoshua:


On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubavel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, says the Lord, and will make you like a signet ring: for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts. (Chaggai 2:23)


And take from them silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Yehoshua the son of Yehotzadak, the high priest; and speak to him, saying, Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold a man whose name is Tzemach, and who shall grow up out of his place; and he shall build the Temple of the Lord: he shall build the Temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and there shall be a priest before his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zekharya 6:11-13; and see commentators, ad loc.)


e) Representing the entire Jewish people: Even though the returnees, in their vast majority, stem from the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin, an attempt is made to represent the entire people: At the head of the returnees stand twelve leaders "according to the number of the tribes of Israel" (Nechemya 6:7), and at the dedication of the house of God twelve goats are sacrificed as sin-offerings "according to the number of the tribes of Israel" (Ezra 6:17).[5]




The realization of the license granted by Koresh to rebuild God's Temple is undoubtedly the primary concern of all the leaders of the period.


On this issue as well, we see many parallels to the construction of the First Temple:


*    Tatenai, then the governor on this side of the river, writes in his letter that the elders of Yehuda informed him that they were rebuilding the Temple that had been built many years ago by a great king in Israel (Ezra 5:11).

*    The returnees hire the Tzidonites and the Tzorites with food products "to bring cedar trees from the Lebanon to the sea of Yafo" (Ezra 3:6) for the construction of the Temple (a plan that apparently was never realized) – just as Shelomo and Chiram had done in their day (I Melakhim 5:16-25; II Divrei Ha-yamim 2:14-15).

*    Chaggai's critique, "Is it time for you, yourselves, to dwell in your well timbered houses, whilst this house lies waste?" (1:4), might echo the words of David to the prophet Natan, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within curtain" (II Shemuel 7:2).

*    There is a certain parallelism regarding the dates of construction of the two Temples: Following the dedication of the altar on Rosh Ha-shana (Ezra 3:1-3), the returnees celebrate the festival of Sukkot, on which the First Temple had been dedicated (I Melakhim 8:65; II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:8-9), and offer the festival sacrifices (Ezra 3:4); construction of the Temple itself begins in the second month (Ezra 3:8), as was the case in the days of Shelomo (I Melakhim 6:1).

*    It is not by chance that when the foundation of the Temple was set, the Levites "praised God, according to the form prescribed by David King of Israel" (Ezra 3:10).


Scripture also emphasizes that everything was done in accordance with Moshe's Torah (thus in Ezra 3:2, regarding the construction of the altar and the offering of the sacrifices, and ibid. 6:18, regarding the division of the priests and the Levites into watches).


The book of Ezra emphasizes that the Temple was rebuilt by virtue of the active hand of God (ibid. 1:1-4; 6:22). Indeed, the prophets of the period see lofty visions of the greatness of the rebuilt city and Temple. The prophet Zekharya describes in various places God's return to and renewed selection of Jerusalem:


Therefore thus says the Lord; I have returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be rebuilt in it, says the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth over Jerusalem. Proclaim further, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem. (Zekharya 1:16-17)


I lifted up my eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I said, Where do you go? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth of it, and what is the length of it. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went out, and another angel went out to meet him, and he said to him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled towns because of the multitude of men and cattle that shall be in it: for I, says the Lord, will be to her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. (ibid. 2:5-9)


Thus says the Lord; I have returned to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called The city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, The holy mountain. (ibid. 8:3)


            The prophets promise that the rebuilding of the Temple will be accompanied by material blessing:


I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you tuned not to Me, says the Lord. But now consider from this day onwards, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord's Temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? And do the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, still not bring forth? From this day I will bless you. (Chaggai 2:17-19)


Thus says the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, you that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, saying that the Temple might be built. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; nor was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the adversary: for I set all men everyone against his neighbor. But now I will not be to the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts. For there shall be the seed of peace; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall yield its increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Yehuda, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. (Zekharya 8:9-13)


            And most importantly, the glory of the new Temple will be greater than the glory of the First Temple, and the new Temple will be an international center of holiness, enjoying the same lofty status as the Temple in the days of Shelomo, as is promised by the prophets:


The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, says the Lord of hosts: and in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts. (Chaggai 2:9)


Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be My people: and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And the Lord shall inherit Yehuda as His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord: for He has roused himself out of His holy habitation. (Zekharya 2:14-16)


Thus says the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities. And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will go also. And many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men out of all the languages of the nations shall take hold, and shall seize the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. (ibid. 8:20-23)


And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations who came against Jerusalem, shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And whoever does not come up of all the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, upon them shall be no rain. (ibid. 14:16-17)




a) Cessation of the construction and its causes: Despite the importance attached to the construction of the Temple, the work is interrupted for a period of fifteen years. Scripture offers two different reasons for the cessation of work. According to the book of Ezra, the obstacle is primarily external: the efforts of Yehuda's enemies to stop the construction, starting from day one and continuing until the building was completed. The prophet Chaggai (1:4), on the other hand, hangs the problem on the fact that the people remained holed up in their homes, making no effort to speed up the construction process. It might be that the people interpreted the external interruptions as a sign that the time had not yet arrived to rebuild the Temple (similar to the explanation offered by Shelomo to Chiram as to why the Temple had not been built in the days of David; see I Melakhim 5:17).[6]


b) "Weeping with a loud voice": Scripture describes the conduct of the people at the time that the foundations of the Temple were laid as follows:


But many of the priests and Levites and the chiefs of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house; when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; but many shouted aloud for joy. So that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people. For the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. (Ezra 3:12-13)


            The joy is not complete. At the time of the destruction, God removed from Israel five voices – "the voice of mirth, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the ride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the lamp" (Yirmiyahu 25:10) – and He promised to restore them all: "Again there shall be heard in this place… the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts. For the Lord is good; for His loyal love endures forever. Then they shall bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captivity of the land to return, as at the first, says the Lord" (ibid. 33:10-11). But this promise was not fulfilled during the period of the return to Zion: when the foundation was laid for the Second Temple the voice of gladness is mixed with the voice of weeping.


c) The dedication of the Temple – without the resting of the Shekhina: The dedication of the Temple – the most important project undertaken by the leadership of the first generation, Zerubavel and Yehoshua – is a very modest event. The description found in Scripture is relatively short and concise in comparison to the descriptions of the dedication of the Mishkan and the First Temple:


And this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Daryavesh the king. And the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the exile, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, and they offered at the dedication of this house of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. And they set the priest in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moshe. (Ezra 6:15-18)


            Besides the small number of sacrifices in comparison to the dedication of the First Temple (see I Melakhim 8:63-64), this description lacks the most important element: all the phenomena connected to the resting of God's Shekhina familiar to us from the dedications of the Mishkan and the First Temple – fire coming down from heaven to the altar, the covering of cloud, and the appearance of the glory of God – all these are missing. As Chazal have commented on the keri (the way the word is actually read) and ketiv (the way the word is written) in Chaggai's prophecy concerning the building of the Temple:


But surely Rav Shemuel bar Inya said: What is the meaning of that which is written: "And I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified" (Chaggai 1:8), [written as "va-ikaved"] but read as va-ikavda? Why is it missing the [letter] heh? These are the five differences between the First Temple and the Second Temple, which are: The aron, kaporet, and the keruvim, fire, the Shekhina, the holy spirit, and the urim ve-tumim. (Yoma 21b)


            We see here that the prophecies concerning the superiority of the glory of the latter house over that of the former house, and concerning the renewed resting of the Shekhina in and selection of Jerusalem have vanished. So too the prophecy about the renewed greatness of the High Priest – for he too did not provide spiritual leadership of the type that might have been expected (see below; and see Yoma 9a). The Second Temple remained void of the Shekhina.


d) The dates marking the various stages of the establishment of the Temple also indicate a change of objective.


The altar was built and dedicated in Tishrei (Ezra 3:2-6), in conjunction with the holiday of Sukkot – the same time chosen by Shelomo, owing to its universal character, to dedicate the First Temple. It seems that initially the builders of the Second Temple wanted to follow in the footsteps of Shelomo, who saw the permanent Temple as an expression of the universal recognition of the kingdom of God and wanted all the nations of the world to participate in its dedication (see shiur 10). This continued when they set the foundations of the Temple in the month of Iyyar – just as Shelomo had done in his day.


The construction of the Temple, however, started (according to some commentators) on the twenty-fifth of Kislev (Chaggai 2:10,15),[7] the day on which the construction of the Mishkan came to an end, according to Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Melakhim 184); and its dedication took place in the month of Adar – close to the month of Nissan, during which the Mishkan had been dedicated. We see then that, in contrast to the original plans, the Second Temple was in the end built on the more modest model of the Mishkan, which was unique to Israel, and does not encompass the entire world.


e) There is no renewal of the monarchy or independence: The end of Zerubavel son of Shealtiel's rule is shrouded in haze, and there is no mention of any attempt to ensure that his office would pass down to his descendants. Thus, the hope for a renewal of the kingdom of the House of David was buried, and the subjugation to and dependence upon Persian authority and permission continued. The Rambam describes this well in his commentary to what is stated in the Mishna in Middot (1:3) that the capital city of Shushan was pictured on the eastern gate (the entrance gate) of the Temple Mount: "When they came up from Shushan the capital city… the king order them to draw a figure of the city of Shushan in the Temple so that the fear of the king would be on them, and they would remember the time that they dwelt there and not rebel against the king. Accordingly, they drew [the figure] on the eastern gate of the gates of the Temple Mount."


The struggle with the neighboring peoples continues as well.


At the same time, a power struggle develops between two foci of power – Yehoshua the High Priest and Zerubavel the Nasi (the king) – as is alluded to in chapters 4-6 of Zekharya.


f) "A day of small things" in all senses: Despite all the attempts on the part of the prophets to strengthen and encourage the people and despite all the grand messianic hopes, in the meantime the redemption proceeds very slowly:


Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes as nothing? (Chaggai 2:3)


For who has despised the day of small things? For those seven shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubavel; the eyes of the Lord, they rove to and fro through the whole earth. (Zekharya 4:10)


            We will devote a separate shiur to the question why in fact the Second Temple had the quality of "a day of small things," and why the Shekhina did not reside therein.




            The first period concludes at a difficult point: The Temple was rebuilt, but the Shekhina does not reside therein, there is no significant leadership, and Jerusalem remains in ruin, as is reported by Nechemya:


The words of Nechemya the son of Chakhalya. And it came to pass in the month Kislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the capital, that Chanani, one of my brothers came, he and certain men of Yehuda; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, The remnant who are left of the captivity there in the province suffer much hardship and insult. And the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. (Nechemya 1:1-3)


            We get the feeling that with the building of the Temple – the strongest desire of the early leaders – a climax was reached, from which the only direction was down.


            Here we come to a time gap of fifty-eight years, about which we know virtually nothing. Is there a leadership, and if yes, whom is it made up of? Did Malakhi already begin to prophesy, or are we dealing with a period during which the voice of God was not heard? The only information regarding the regime at that time comes from a solitary verse in which Nechemya describes the way the king's officers would abuse the people:


But the former governors who had been before me laid burdens upon the people and had taken of them for bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants bore rule over the people. (Nechemya 5:15)


            Besides this, we know that in the early days of Achashverosh (when, against the background of the rebuilt Temple[!], the center stage of biblical history leaves Eretz Yisrael and moves to Shushan), accusations were leveled against the inhabitants of Yehuda and Jerusalem (Ezra 4:6). The substance of the accusations is not spelled out, but since the Temple had already been built by that time, it may be assumed that it related to the building of the wall around the city, similar to the letter of Rechum in the days of Artachshasta (ibid. 8-23).[8]


(Translated by David Strauss)






The Kings of Persia

The Leaders of Israel

The Prophets

Important events in the history of Jerusalem and the Temple.



Koresh (530-538)


Chaggai and Zekharya

Koresh's permission to rebuild the Temple

Sheshbatzar brings up the Temple's vessels as well as the voluntary offerings for the construction of the Temple

Laying the foundations of the Temple and settling in Yehuda


Ezra 1-2; 5:15


Zerubavel ben Shealtiel and Yeshoshua ben Yotzadak

Rosh Ha-shana: Erection of the altar "with fear upon them because of the people of the countries" and the beginning of the sacrificial service

Bringing of the materials for the construction of the Temple

Ezra 3:1-7




Iyyar of the second year: Laying the foundations of the Temple

The proposal made by the enemies of Yehuda and Binyamin to build together with Israel and ZeruBabylonia's rejection of the proposal

Ezra 3:8-13

Ezra 4:1-5




Cessation of the building of the Temple for 15 years: from the end of the days of Koresh, the entire period of Kanbuzi, and until the second year of Daryavesh, because of the interference of Yehuda's enemies (according to the book of Ezra) or because of a deficiency of faith and weakness (according to Chaggai 1)

Ezra 4:24

520 – Resumption of construction of the Temple in the second year of Daryavesh

The letter of Tatani to Daryavesh and the permission granted by Daryavesh

516 – Conclusion of the construction of the Temple in the sixth year of Daryavesh

3 Adar – Dedication of the Temple

         Observance of Pesach

Ezra 5-6


Achashverosh (485-465)

"But the former governors who had been before me laid burdens upon the people"

Accusations against the inhabitants of Yehuda and Jerusalem at the beginning of the reign of Achashverosh

Ezra 4:6


Artachshasta (464-424)



Rachum's letter regarding the construction of the walls of the city and its cessation

Ezra 4:7-23


Ezra and Nechemya


1 Adar – Ezra goes up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artachshasta and with his permission

20 Kislev – The great assembly in the open place before the house of God in Jerusalem to put an end to the matter of the non-Jewish wives

Ezra 7-8


Ezra 9-10


1 Av – Nechemya goes up to Jerusalem in the twentieth year (serves as governor until the thirty-second year of Artachshasta – Nechemya 5:14)

Construction and strengthening of the walls of Jerusalem in the framework of conflict with Yehuda's enemies

25 Elul – Dedication and sanctification of the walls of Jerusalem after fifty-two days of construction (Nechemya 6:15)

Nechemya 1:1-2: 9

Nechemya 2:10-4:6

Nechemya 12:27-43

Tishrei – Rosh Ha-shana – great assembly and reading of the Torah by Ezra

Observance of Sukkot


24 Tishrei – great assembly; confession and making of a covenant; tenth of the people settle in Jerusalem

Nechemya 7:72-8:12

Nechemya 8:13-18

Nechemya 9-11


Nechemya's enactments

-                     for the benefit of the poor

-                     for the security and settlement of Jerusalem

-                     for the benefit of the Temple and the observance of Shabbat and against intermarriage

Tracing the lineage of the people

Nechemya 5

Nechemya 7:1-4

Nechemya 12-13

Nechemya 7:5-71




[1] The primary reasons for a relatively late dating of the prophecy of Malakhi within the period of the return to Zion are that 1) it makes no of the leadership of the House of David; and 2) it relates to the Temple as already built and standing.

[2] It should be noted that according to rabbinic tradition, these two books are in fact one book named Ezra (see, for example, Bava Batra 14b), and they are counted as one on the list of 24 books of Scripture.

[3] We will not relate here to the disagreement between the view of Chazal that the Second Temple period lasted 420 years, and the view of modern scholarship that it went on for 600 years. See Chayyim Chefetz, "Malkhut Persia u-Madai bi-Tekufat Bayit Sheni u-Lefaneha, Iyyun me-Chadash," Megadim 14 (Sivan, 5751), pp. 78-147, and Rav Yaakov Medan's introduction to that article, ibid. pp. 47-77.

[4] The commentators disagree about how to compute these seventy years (from exile to redemption? from the destruction of the Temple to its reconstruction?). What is important for our purposes is the emphasis placed on the fact that the word of God via the mouth of Yirmiyahu was fulfilled during the period of the return to Zion.

[5] Interestingly, this tendency continues at the time of Ezra's arrival: "They offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel… twelve he-goats for a sin offering" (Ezra 8:35).

[6] In this context the difference between the plan to bring the wood to be used in the construction from Lebanon (Ezra 2:7) and the actual bringing of the wood from the mountain (Chaggai 1:8) is quite interesting (some identify the "mountain" with Mount Olives, see Da'at Mikra, ad loc., though it is possible that it is a general term for the mountains of Yehuda). The disturbances caused by their neighbors might have precluded the steady supply of wood from Lebanon, so that the prophet encouraged the people to bring wood on their own, from wherever they were able to find it.

[7] The date that is mentioned there is indeed the 24th of Kislev, but some understand that date as referring to the eve of the laying of the foundations of the Temple, see Da'at Mikra, ad loc. See also Rav Yoel Bin Nun, "Yom Yissud Heikhal Hashem," Megadim 12, pp. 95-97.

[8] The events discussed in this chapter, as well as the chronology of the kings of Persia mentioned in the books of Ezra and Nechemya, are subject to sharp controversy. This is not the forum in which to discuss these issues.