03.03.02 515 B.C. Second Temple Completed
As the result of the gracious King Cyrus II, Zerubbabel was the principal builder of the second temple at the exact same location of the previous Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:1-13; 5:1-17; 6:14-18). The first segment rebuilt was the altar for sacrificial worship and completed on October 5, 537 B.C. This was followed by the construction of the rest of the temple which began on April 23, 536 B.C. and was finished twenty years later (Ezra 6:19-22). On March 12, 515 B.C., the long awaited temple was completed and dedicated, although it was a very humble structure in comparison to the majestic structure of King Solomon. The new temple was dedicated with great celebration on the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
It was not a shadow of King Solomon’s glory, but God encouraged His people that one day the modest temple would have Someone greater than Solomon. And in the fullness of time, the Prince of Peace came and glorified the temple of God.
“The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the Lord of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”— this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.
Solomon walked in the first temple, but the Greater than Solomon walked the second temple.
The second temple remained unchanged until 20/19 B.C. when Herod the Great undertook a massive remodeling work that took more than eight decades to complete. The reconstructed temple provided an identity for the people of God. It was the religious center, the place where God lived (Ps. 68:18), the place for sacrifice and forgiveness, and the focal point for Jewish festivals (which had religious significance); not only for Jews, but for Gentiles who converted to the Jewish faith. It was simple, and famed more for its sacredness than for its architecture. Nearly five centuries later Herod the Great would enlarge it. Detailed descriptions of Herod’s temple can be found in the first century writings of Josephus and in the second century Jewish book of the Mishnah.
The second temple was now completed, but there were some significant differences between it and the earlier one. This one did not have,
- The sacred Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:10-16)
- The Holy Fire on the altar (Lev. 1:7)
- The Glory of God (Shekinah Glory)
- The tables of stone upon which the finger of God had written the Commandments.
- The Urim and Thummin no longer shown mysteriously from the breast of the high priest, but by the Second Temple Period, the Scriptures were used to determine the will of God.
Of these six differences, most commentators focus on the highly prized Ark of the Covenant which for centuries was in the Holy of Holies. It was not there during the time of Jesus, since according to the Mishnah only a stone was in its place upon which the Ark once stood. The location of these missing objects has given rise to many legends and fanciful stories. Only God knows where they are and what will become of them, if anything.
. For further study, see Ritmeyer, “Locating the Original Temple Mount.” 24-45, 64-65; and Ritmeyer, The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
. It should be noted that some scholars believe that there have been three temples in Jewish history: 1) Solomon’s temple; 2.) Zerubbabel’s temple completed in 515 B.C., and 3) Herod’s temple. However, most scholars do not count these as three temples, because Herod’s temple was an enlargement of Zerubbabel’s temple.
. Josephus, Antiquities 15.11 and Wars 5.5; Mishnah, Middoth.
. Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 1:87.
. Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 21b; and Moed 3:94; Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 5, Session 2.
. See also Ritmeyer, “Where the Ark of the Covenant Stood in Solomon’s Temple. 46-55, 70-72.
. As of this writing, the location of the Ark of the Covenant remains a mystery. According to 2 Kings 24:13, King Nebuchadnezzar cut into pieces all of the golden temple articles. The possibility does exist that the Ark escaped his capture. However, it is not mentioned in the future third temple (Ezek. 40-43) and, therefore, it is possible that God’s purpose for it has terminated.
. Mishnah, Joma. 5.2.