7.47 Ezra-Nehemiah -- Rebuilding the Temple
The first priority was to build the altar of God, so as to be able to sacrifice burnt offerings according to the Law of Moses (Ezra 3:2-3). This was the heart of the religion (NIC, p.16). No atoning sacrifice had been offered since the year 586 -- a break of 50 years. The altar was the meeting place of God and man, and without it sin could not be removed, and true worship could not take place. Setting up the altar on its original location took precedence over all other reconstruction. However, it also probably precipitated conflict with the local inhabitants (Ezra 3:3), who may have been using the site for their own non-orthodox sacrifices (NIC, p.59).
Following the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, the returned exiles began rebuilding the Temple itself. As with Solomon's Temple 400 years earlier, cedar logs were imported from Phoenicia (Ezra 3:7). Once the foundation was laid, a joyful celebration was held. Yet the older men, who had seen Solomon's temple, wept with disappointment (Ezra 3:12).
Just because God initiated the process of returning and rebuilding does not mean things went smoothly. In fact, very soon the entire project was halted because of local opposition.