Second Temple

Second Temple

The Second Temple (בית המקדש, romanized: 'Beit HaMikdash' meaning 'Holy House') was the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem which stood between 516 BCE and 70 CE. During this time, it was the center of Jewish worship, which focused on the sacrifices known as the korbanot. Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was destroyed in 586 BCE when the Jews were exiled into Babylonian Captivity. Construction of a new temple was begun in 535; after a hiatus, work resumed ca. 521, with completion occurring in 516 and dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Second Temple on August 4th 70 CE, ending the Great Jewish Revolt that began in 66 CE.

Nation reorganized

After the return from captivity, under Zerubbabel, arrangements were almost immediately made to reorganize the desolated Kingdom of Judah after its demise seventy years earlier. The body of pilgrims, forming a band of 42,360 including children (besides their male and female servants, who numbered 7,337, and 200 singing men and women; cf. ), having completed the long and dreary journey of some four months, from the banks of the Euphrates to Jerusalem, were animated in all their proceedings by a strong religious impulse, and therefore one of their first concerns was to restore their ancient house of worship by rebuilding their destroyed temple and reinstituting the sacrificial rituals known as the korbanot ("sacrifices" in Hebrew).

On the invitation of Zerubbabel, the governor, who showed them a remarkable example of liberality by contributing personally 1,000 golden darics, besides other gifts, the people poured their gifts into the sacred treasury with great enthusiasm (Ezra 2). First they erected and dedicated the altar of God on the exact spot where it had formerly stood, and they then cleared away the charred heaps of debris which occupied the site of the old temple; and in the second month of the second year (535 BCE), amid great public excitement and rejoicing (befitting Psalms 116; 117; 118), the foundations of the second temple were laid. A wide interest was felt in this great movement, although it was regarded with mingled feelings by the spectators ().

Samaritans offer

The Samaritans made proposals for co-operation in the work. Zerubbabel and the elders, however, declined all such cooperation, feeling that Judea must build the temple without help. Immediately evil reports were spread regarding the Jews. According to Ezra 4:5, the Samaritans sought to "frustrate their purpose" and sent messengers to Ecbatana and Susa, with the result that the work was suspended.


Seven years after this Cyrus the Great, who ordered and declared the rebuilding of the temple, died (); he was succeeded by his son Cambyses. On his death the "false Smerdis," an imposter, occupied the throne for some seven or eight months, and then Darius I of Persia became king (522 BCE). In the second year of this monarch the work of rebuilding the temple was resumed and carried forward to its completion under the stimulus of the earnest counsels and admonitions of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It was ready for consecration in the spring of 516 BCE, more than twenty years after the return from captivity. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. ()

Missing articles

This second temple was missing the Ark of the Covenant, the Urim and Thummim, the holy oil, the sacred fire, the Ten Commandments, the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod. The Kodesh Hakodashim was separated by curtains rather than a wall as in the first Temple. As in the Tabernacle, there was in it only one golden lamp for the holy place, one table of showbread, and the incense altar, with golden censers, and many of the vessels of gold that had belonged to Solomon's Temple that had been carried to Babylon but restored by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11).

This second temple also differed from the first temple in that, while in the older temple there were numerous trees planted in the courts of the Lord, there were no trees in the second temple. The second temple also had for the first time a space, being a part of the outer court, provided for non-Jewish worshippers who were worshippers of God and subject only to those laws incumbent upon gentiles.

This temple was adorned with gold and it was the holiest site in Judaism.


The temple, when completed, was consecrated and the sacrificial observances known as the korbanot resumed, amid great rejoicings on the part of all the people (Ezra 6:16), although it was evident that the Jews were no longer an independent people, but were subject to a foreign power. The Book of Haggai records a prediction (2:9) that the glory of the second temple would be greater than that of the first. This temple, during the different periods of its existence, is often regarded by believers as but one house, the one only house of God.

Christian views

Many Christians argue that the glory here predicted is spiritual glory and not material splendor, in that Jesus would be present during his life at the second temple.

Other Christians read the prophecy quite differently. Some say that in Haggai 2:3, the "former glory" of the house refers to the temple that Solomon had built. Thus, since the former glory of the place identified as "this house" in verse 9 is not the glory of the second temple but of the first one, there is no reason to necessarily say that the latter glory of it is a reference to the glory of the second temple either, but that it could be referring to the glory of the third temple, the one that Ezekiel prophesied. As such, this prophecy is seen as referring to the future temple to be built during the Messianic Kingdom. This explanation is common among those who hold to the dispensationalist and other premillennial models, but those who hold to amillennialism and postmillennialism repudiate it.

Renovation under Herod

Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great began a massive renovation and expansion of the Second Temple Complex. The Temple itself was torn down and a new one built in its place. The resulting structure is sometimes referred to as Herod's Temple, but it is still called the Second Temple because the sacrificial rituals continued unabated throughout the construction process.


In 66 CE the Jewish population rebelled against the Roman Empire. Four years later, in 70 CE, Roman legions under Titus reconquered and subsequently destroyed much of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The arch of Titus, located in Rome and built to commemorate Titus's victory in Judea, depicts Roman soldiers carrying off the Menorah from the Temple. Jerusalem itself was razed by the Emperor Hadrian at the end of the Bar Kochba Rebellion in 135 CE.

Discovery of quarry

On September 25 2007 Yuval Baruch, archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced their discovery of a quarry compound which provided King Herod with the stones to renovate the Second Temple. It houses the Temple Mount. Coins, pottery and iron stake found proved the date of the quarrying to be about 19 BCE. Archaeologist Ehud Nesher confirmed that the large outlines of the stone cuts is evidence that it was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves.

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