The completion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem

Ezra 5:1-17   During the second year of Darius I’s reign (in 520BC), the Babylonian governor of Trans-Euphrates writes to the king asking who authorised the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Ezra 6:1-22   King Darius searches the Persian archives at Ecbatana and discovers the decree of King Cyrus, made in 537BC, authorising the restoration of the Temple. Work then starts again. The Temple is finally completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius I and is dedicated in time for the Passover festival in March 516BC.

 

The Second Temple

The design and layout of the Second Temple, built by the returned Jewish exiles in the twenty years between 536 and 516BC, is revealed in a vision given to the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 40:1-43:27).

 

Model of the Second Temple

Model of the Second Temple at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

 

According to Ezekiel, the Temple building stood on a raised foundation within an Inner Court and an Outer Court. After climbing from the Inner Court up the steps to the eastern portico, the Outer Sanctuary was entered through a huge doorway. A small wooden incense altar stood inside the Outer Sanctuary.

Beyond this, another monumental doorway led into the Inner Sanctuary containing 'The Most Holy Place' where the Ark of the Covenant was restored. The walls of the Sanctuary were decorated with carved cherubim and palm trees. On the north and south sides of the Inner Sanctuary, a three-storey annex provided ninety small rooms for the priests who officiated in the Temple. On each successive level, the rooms were wider than those underneath, creating an overhanging effect.

The main four-horned stone altar for offering animal sacrifices stood on a raised platform in the Inner Court, reached by steps facing the main eastern gateway leading into the Outer Court. The Outer Court was surrounded by a wall, on the inside of which were thirty rooms. The Outer Court of the Temple was entered by three monumental gateways on the north, south and east sides.

 

Tel Be'er Sheva reconstructed 4-horned altar (gugganij)

 A reconstructed 4-horned altar at Tel Be'er Sheva   (gugganij)

 

The Second Temple was re-modelled and extended by Herod the Great in 23BC, who built new colonnades and enlarged the Temple courtyards to accommodate more Jewish pilgrims. Ezekiel’s detailed description of the original Second Temple, finished in 516BC, cannot therefore be verified, and is the subject of much discussion and speculation.

Many drawings, plans and models of the Second Temple have been produced over the years. Two of the more recent models of Herod’s Second Temple can be seen at the Bible Museum in Amsterdam, and in the grounds of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

 

The prophets Haggai & Zechariah encourage the returned exiles to rebuild the Temple in c.520BC.

The prophet Malachi, writing after the completion of the Temple in 516BC, urges Judah to be faithful as God's people.

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