The first Temple was built while Solomon, David’s son, was king over Israel, around 960 BC in Jerusalem. It was a magnificent Temple. The biggest in the world that was dedicated to only one deity. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
The second Temple was built about 70 years later. It took about 10 years or so with a 10 year intermission in the middle because of trouble from enemies. It’s sometimes called Zerubbabel’s Temple because he was a Priest there, and, I believe, oversaw its construction. The book of Ezra recounts the events of the rebuilding of the Temple. It mentions how those who were old enough to remember the first Temple wept because of the size of this second Temple in comparison to how impressive Solomon’s Temple was (3:12)
Now, this Temple lasts for about 500 some years. It is still standing when Herod ‘the great’ comes along. The Herod that was known for his murder of innocent boys in Bethlehem. History recounts Herod’s cruelty, but it also recounts his few positive deeds. One of them being the fact that he had the Temple rebuilt.
Herod was smart enough to realize that his Jewish subjects didn’t like him, and he tried a few different ways to ingratiate himself to them. The Temple project being one of them. There were a few difficulties he had to face, though. He realized that he couldn’t completely tear down the Temple. Sacrifices were being done there daily. Jewish people pilgrimaged from all over the world, and the land, to come to the Temple. You don’t just tear this building down unless you want a full fledged riot on your hands. Also, there’s the issue that only the Priests are suppose to go inside the Temple. How do you rebuild a building no one is allowed to go into?
So, they decided to get creative. Instead of tearing the entire Temple down, they rebuilt it one wall at a time. The sacrifices could continue because the Temple was still there, just missing a wall. They also taught the Priests carpentry. They were the ones who redid the inside of the new Temple. Building the Temple this way took time, it even continued after Herod’s death. I think it was finally done in the ’60s AD. Herod died around 4 BC. How did Herod finance his building project- taxes and importation of merchandise from Judah to Rome.
The new Temple was beautiful. It has been compared to the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was an amazing building, and people from all over the world came to see it. It was a masterpiece and even the Jewish sages who have nothing good to say about Herod the great, praise him for the Temple. Sadly, it didn’t last long and was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans in the Revolt, and Jewish life has never been the same.
One interesting point about the Temple, unfortunately its completion may have been a part of the reason the Great Revolt gained acceptance in Jerusalem. The population in Jerusalem stayed busy and employed by the construction of the Temple. It was a huge building and many people were involved. Once the work was done people had time on their hands and a loss of income. Zealots stirred up the population telling them Rome was at fault for their troubles along with those Jews who would dare to join Rome’s pagan ways.
One thing led to another and the great city of Jerusalem fell to Rome in 70 AD. The soldiers ransacked the Temple and lit it on fire. The stone the Temple was made out of has tiny little air pockets within them. When the stone gets hot enough the air pockets burst and the stone explodes. The amazing Temple came crashing down and was not allowed to be rebuilt.
The pictures above are from a reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem as it may have looked around 66 AD. It is hard to know exactly, but based on archeology, history, and written accounts they have a pretty good idea of what the city basically looked like.
The first picture is Bryan looking at the Temple. You can only see about half the city in this picture.
The second and third pictures are of the Temple. The second picture shows the base on which the Temple was built. Herod had the base built so that the Temple would have a firmer and larger foundation which would allow for a larger Temple. Sadly, the only thing left today is from the base of the Temple. The western wall (also known as wailing wall) is actually a wall from the base of the Temple, not from the Temple itself.