Ezra 2 closed with the exiles each returning to their own cities. But in the seventh month the Israelites all came to Jerusalem. The Feast of Trumpets was observed on the first day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6). Special sacrifices were offered at the beginning of each month, the new moon (Num. 28:11-15). But the blowing of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month signified that this month was set apart in a special way for the worship of God. The Day of Atonement and the Feast of Booths occurred in this month (EDBT, 252).
The Israelites were not required to come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Trumpets as they were for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths (Dt. 16:16). However, on their first year back in the land, the Israelites gathered “as one man” to Jerusalem. This emphasizes the importance of worship to the returned exiles, and it shows their unity (Brenneman 1993: 89).
Certain sacrifices were supposed to be offered on the Feast of Trumpets (Num. 29:2-6). For these sacrifices to be offered the Temple altar needed to be rebuilt. This is precisely what Joshua, the high priest, the other priests, Zerubbabel, and his kinsmen did. It is appropriate for Joshua and the priests to be mentioned first in this endeavor, but since temple building is the in the provenance of the Davidic son (2 Sam 7:13), it is appropriate for Zerubbabel and his kinsmen to also be involved.
Sheshbazzar was probably the governor at this time, but if he was not in the Davidic line, as Zerubbabel was, then it was more appropriate for Zerubbabel to take the lead in matters relating to the rebuilding of the Temple and for Ezra to highlight Zerubbabel’s role.
Though the sacrifices for the Feast of Trumpets were the first sacrifices that the altar was built for, Ezra notes they also offered the other sacrifices required by the law: “the continual burnt offering (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:1-8), the New Moon offering (Num 28:11-15), the three annual pilgrimage feasts (e.g., Ex. 23:14-17) and voluntary contributions (e.g., Lev 22:17-25)” (Steinmann 2010: 190).
After the Feast of Trumpets, the returned exiles also kept the Feast of Booths (3:4). This was an appropriate feast to celebrate soon after their return to the land because it commemorated the first exodus. To observe the Feast of Booths, the Israelites would travel to Jerusalem and live in temporary shelters (the booths that gave the feast its name) (McConville 1985: 20; Steinmann 2010: 213). It may also have been the case that the Feast of Booths was closely connected with bringing the ark into the first temple (1 Kings 8:2; Shepherd and Wright 2018: 18).
The other feast celebrated in the seventh month was the Day of Atonement. Ezra does not mention that feast, however, because it was impossible to observe. Not only was there no temple, but there would never be an ark of the covenant in the Second Temple. This meant that the Day of Atonement, as prescribed in the law of Moses, could never again be carried out.
In the end, the typological Day of Atonement would find its fulfillment in the actual atonement of Christ on the cross. But from the exile until the death of Christ there was a significant gap Israelite worship. The exile was due to human sinfulness, and yet the central ceremony having to do with atonement from sin was not observable in the way that God had ordained it to be observed.