03.03.01 538 – 444 B.C. Exiles Return to Judah; Temple Reconstruction Begins
A new chapter of Jewish history began when the Medo-Persian (a/k/a Persian) Empire defeated the Babylonians. This created one of the most peaceful times in Jewish history. They had self-government and religious liberty as they desired; a joyful period of history that they seldom experienced. It began with the fulfillment of Daniel’s unique prophecy. And while they clearly understood it, the prophecy is seen by modern scholars as having two possible interpretations.
- From the first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 605 to the issuing of the edict of Cyrus was a period of seventy years.
- From the destruction of Solomon’s temple and Jerusalem to the rebuilding of the second temple was also seventy years.
In essence, the interval from the beginning of the captivity to the beginning of the restoration was the same time as that from the completion of the captivity to the completion of the restoration – seventy years. The significance is that since Daniel’s short term prophecies were literally fulfilled, then it can be assumed that his long term prophecies concerning the Messiah would also be literally fulfilled.
The ten northern tribes appear to have remained lost in unknown areas far to the east. However, the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah in Babylon were granted permission to return in three migrations. In the history of their restoration to their homeland, three distinguished leaders as well as three Persian kings appear. Most significant was Zerubbabel, a descendent of King David who returned to Judah with about fifty thousand followers. They were only a small portion of the exiles that chose to return while others either stayed in Babylon or relocated elsewhere throughout Asia. By relocating in foreign nations, they helped distribute the knowledge of the one true God, the promise of a coming messiah, and thus prepare the way for the gospel that would follow centuries later. The “missionary era” was actually begun by the Jews, but it would be catapulted by Christians who would later travel into distant lands to spread the gospel as they fled from persecution.
Zerubbabel, who was a descendant of King David, was instrumental in the construction of a new temple and served briefly as governor, but not as king. He and the prophets continued to anticipate a Messiah who would personally fulfill the eternal requirements of the Davidic Covenant.
. See 03.02.14.A.
. For the historical trail of the Davidic Covenant from David to Jesus, see the blue “Mystery Unveiled” boxes in 03.02.01, 03.02.03, 03.02.06, 03.03.01, 04.02.02, and 13.04.05.
. Some scholars believe Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in 440 B.C.; See Rousseau and Arav, Jesus and His World. 345.
. Dan. 9:24-27; Zech. 9:9; 14:3-9; Mal. 2:1; 3:1-3.