Flavius Josephus records that Herod the Great completely rebuilt the Temple, even going so far as to replace the foundation stones and to smooth off the surface of the Temple Mount. This Temple became known as Herod's Temple.
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE under Titus, decisively ending theGreat Jewish Revolt that had begun four years earlier. The lower levels of the Western Wall form part of the few surviving remains of Herod's complex.
Traditional rabbinic sources state that the Second Temple stood for 420 years and based on the 2nd-century work Seder Olam Rabbah, placed construction in 350 BCE (3408 AM), 166 years later than secular estimates, and destruction in 70 CE (3829 AM).
Rebuilding the Temple
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. 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, the foundations of the Second Temple were laid. A wide interest was felt in this great movement, although it was regarded with mixed feelings by the spectators.
The Samaritans made proposals for co-operation in the work. Zerubbabel and the elders, however, declined all such cooperation, feeling that the Jews 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 later, Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple, died, and was succeeded by his son Cambyses. On his death, the "falseSmerdis," 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, amid great rejoicings on the part of all the people although it was evident that the Jews were no longer an independent people, but were subject to a foreign power. The Book of Haggai includes a prediction that the glory of the second temple would be greater than that of the first.
Roman triumphal procession with spoils from the Temple, depicted on the inside wall of the Arch of Titus in Rome
Since some of the original artifacts were, according to the biblical account, lost after thedestruction of the First Temple, the Second Temple lacked the following holy articles:
- The Ark of the Covenant containing the Tablets of Stone, before which were placed the pot of manna and Aaron's rod
- The Urim and Thummim (divination objects contained in the Hoshen)
- The holy oil
- The sacred fire.
- The Menorah (golden lamp) for the Hekhal
- The Table of Showbread
- The golden altar of incense, with golden censers.
The Second Temple also included many of the original vessels of gold that had been taken by theBabylonians but restored by Cyrus the Great. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma22b), however, the Temple lacked the Shekinah, the dwelling or settling divine presence of God, and the Ruach HaKodesh, the Spirit of Holiness, present in the first.
Rededication by the Maccabees
Following the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid empire, the Second Temple was rededicated and became the religious pillar of the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom, as well as culturally associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The Temple itself was located on the site of what today is the Dome of the Rock. The gates let out close to Al-Aqsa.
The project began with the building of giant underground vaults upon which the temple would be built so it could be larger than the small flat area on top of Mount Moriah. Ground level at the time was at least 20 ft. (6m) below the current level, as can be seen by walking the Western Walltunnels. Legend has it that the construction of the entire complex lasted only three years, but other sources such as Josephus say that it took far longer, although the Temple itself may have taken that long. During a Passover visit by Jesus the Jews replied that it had been under construction for 46 years. It is possible that the complex was only a few years completed when the future Emperor Titus burnt the place to the ground in 70 CE.
Pilgrimages to Jerusalem
The gleaming white marble of the edifice was visible from well outside the walls of the city. The scale of the building was designed to impress, and it dominated the landscape, effectively becoming the focal point of Jerusalem. Even the three great towers near Herod's palace seemed small in comparison.
The first thing a pilgrim would do would be to approach the public entrance on the south side of the Temple Mount complex. He would check his animal,[clarification needed] then visit a mikveh, where he would ritually cleanse and purify himself. The pilgrim would then retrieve his sacrificial animal, and head to the Huldah gates. After ascending a staircase three stories in height, and passing through the gate, the pilgrim would find himself in the "Court of the Gentiles."
Court of the Gentiles
The priests, in their white linen robes and tubular hats, were everywhere, directing pilgrims and advising them on what kinds of sacrifices were to be performed.
Behind them as they entered the Court of the Gentiles from the south was the Royal Porch, which contained a marketplace, administrative quarters, and a synagogue. On the upper floors, the great Jewish sages held court, priests and Levites performed various chores, and from there, tourists were able to observe the events.
To the east of the court was Solomon's Porch, and to the north, the soreg, the "middle wall of separation", a stone wall separating the public area from the inner sanctuary where only Jews could enter, described as being 3 cubits high by Josephus (Wars 5.5.2 [3b] 6.2.4).
Inside the Soreg
Within this area was the court of the women where all Jews, male and female, were permitted. Even a ritually unclean Cohen could enter to perform various housekeeping duties. There was also a place for lepers (considered ritually unclean), as well as a ritual barbershop for Nazirites. In this, the largest of the temple courts, there could be seen constant dancing, singing and music.
The Court of the Israelites could only be entered by men. Sacrifices of the high priest in the court of the priests were visible from here. The Court of the Priests was reserved for Levite priests.
Destruction of the Temple
The destruction date according to the Hebrew calendar was the 9th of Av, also known as Tisha B'Av, (29 or 30 July 70).
On September 25, 2007 Yuval Baruch, archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authorityannounced the discovery of a quarry compound which may have provided King Herod with the stones to build his Temple on the Temple Mount. Coins, pottery and an iron stake found proved the date of the quarrying to be about 19 BCE. Archaeologist Ehud Netzer confirmed that the large outlines of the stone cuts is evidence that it was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves.