According to the Jewish history, the Second Temple period started in 530 BCE and ended in 70 CE and this is the period during which the Second Temple existed in Jerusalem. The sects of Judaism that include Zealots, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadduccees also formed during this time period. With the end of the First Roman-Jewish War, this period also came to an end along with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans.
As for the Second Temple, it is considered to be a significant Jewish Holy Temple that was constructed on the Temple Mount in the city of Jerusalem and was constructed during the Second Temple period between the aforementioned years. After the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 BCE, the Second Temple replaced it during the time in which the Jewish nation was in exile in Babylon. It is believed in the Jewish eschatology that a future Third Temple will replace the Second Temple[footnoteRef:2]. [2: Tammy, Hellemism during the Intertestamental Period, 2013]
A theological crisis was also faced by the Jewish nation that involved the power, nature and goodness of God. They also had to face racial, cultural and ceremonial threats as they were forced to become a part of other people and religious groups. Moreover, during this time, the Jews were also deprived of any recognized prophets and therefore there was no one who could give them divine guidance especially at the time when they needed it the most[footnoteRef:3]. The second crisis that the Jewish nation was troubled with was the increasing influence of Hellenism in their religion, which resulted in the Maccabean Revolt in the year 167 BCE. The Roman occupation of Judaism, which started Pompey after he sacked the city of Jerusalem in the year 63 BCE, was the third crisis for the Jewish nation. The appointment of Herod, by the Roman Senate, as the King of Jews was also a part of this crisis. Israel, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority were included in the Kingdom of Herod. [3: Sameulson, Revelation and the God of Israel, 2002]
Planning and Construction of the Second Temple
It is important to note here that the construction of the Second Temple reached its final stages under the supervision and guidance of the last three prophets of Judaism that included Malachi, Zechariah and Haggai with the financing and approval of the Persian. About five decades after the destruction of the First Temple, the destroyers of the temple (the Babylonians) were taken over the rising Persian Empire. Cyrus, also known as Alexander the Great, gave the approval to the Jews for rebuilding the Temple[footnoteRef:4]. However, the construction of the Temple came to temporary halt after the Samaritans interfered in the matter. In the year 353 BCE, just seventy years after the First Temple was destroyed, the Jews started the construction of the Temple. First the Jews started the construction independently but King Darius approved their effort soon after some time. The construction of the Second Temple was completed in the year 349 BCE. The community in Judea became secure and vibrant once they came under the supervision of Nehemiah and Ezra. [4: Butler, Alexander the Great and the Hellinstic Era, 2007]
Seven years after allowing the Jewish nation to return to their homeland and reconstruct the Temple, Alexander the Great died and was his son Cambyses took over the throne. At the time of his death, an imposter known as "false Smerdis" took over the throne for about seven to eight months after which Darius I of Persia was declared the King in the year 522 BCE. As stated earlier, the work of reconstruction of the temple was resumed in the second year of this reign and was taken to the point of completion under the supervision and leadership of the prophets Zechariah and Haggai. At this point, the Temple was ready for dedication in the year 516 BCE, which was 21 years after the Jews returned to their homeland. The construction of the Second Temple was completed in the month of Adar during the sixth year of the rule of King Darius, while all the people were busy rejoicing. The celebrations of Jews at this point were significant because the Jews were not considered to be independent people, but people who were being ruled by foreign power. A prediction has been included in the Book of Haggai that the Second Temple will prove to be greater and more powerful that the First Temple.
The Second Temple period lasted for about 420 years and came to an end with the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the year 70 CE. For most of this time period, Judea was being ruled by the foreign powers. First the Persians ruled the Jews and then after some expeditions that were under taken by Alexander the Great, Judea came under the domination of Greeks. The With the Hasmonean revolt that took place in 140 BCE, there was a period of Jewish monarchy. However, the Hasmoneans could remain in power for long.
Herod the Great
In the year 36 BCE, Herod who was an Idumean came in power as the ruler of Judea. He was known as Herod the Great, and it was known that he suffered from paranoia and dominated Judea with ruthless cruelty. It has been known that he killed 46 leaders who were the members of Sanhedrin and then went on to murder the rest of the members of the Hasmonean family that included his wife and children.
Herod the Great was a man of ambitions and he dominated with great zeal and expanded his reign. Some of his projects that significantly mentioned in the history include the construction of the fortress in Massada, the building of the port city that is known as Caesaria and the construction of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. However, needless to say, his most ambitious construction project was the reconstruction and expansion of the Temple[footnoteRef:5]. He took over this project by 19 BCE. [5: The End of Days, 2002]
The consequences of the aforementioned project were spectacular. The Temple of Herod was made up of white marble that was covered with plates of gold. Josephus has stated that it was a reflection of a blaze of fire that was so fierce that the people who made an attempt to look at it had to turn their heads since they felt like they were staring at the sun. To the people who watched it from a distance, the Temple gave an impression of a mountain that had been covered with snow. Sages have also been reported as saying that the person, who had not witnessed the Temple of Herod, missed out on a very beautiful building.
During the reign of Herod, the region was mostly peaceful and there was significant economic prosperity as well as a boom in building and construction. The King also made sure that he has good ties with the rulers of the neighboring regions. This is one of the main reasons why he enjoyed a favorable relationship with King of Rome. Herod was quite generous towards him and therefore he was able to enjoy a great deal of freedom of action to control the city and the state from all sides, without troubling Rome.
According to history, Herod was the ruler of Jerusalem for 33 years. His domination began in the year 37 BCE and ended 4 BCE. During his reign, he constantly remained loyal to the patron of Rome and always lived up to the commitments that he made with the Jewish people. On the other hand, the Jews had a great deal of hatred for Herod and they used to refer to him as "Edomite slave." He was given this title because of his foreign origin and because he carried subservience with the Roman patron. During the early period of his rule, Herod wanted to acquire legitimacy for his domination. Therefore, he decided to marry Mariamme who was a Hasmonean princess. She was also the sister of Aristobulus III. Soon after their marriage, the princess started to disobey Herod and therefore she was executed by him. Herod's next attempt to acquire legitimacy was through the high-scale renovation of the Temple.
It is important to note here that during the domination of Herod, Jerusalem again became a Hellenistic city and included the entire essential elements and establishments of a Polis. During his rule, Herod also ordered the construction of a huge theatre in which he used to hold wrestling tournaments in the respect of the Emperor. Apart from this, there were also performances in which the men used to fight with wild animals. Herod also facilitated the movement of gentile to Jerusalem. As Herod was an ambitious builder, he was in love with the Hellenistic architecture and decorations that demonstrated the pagan gods. The currency that was used during his domain also had a pagan motif.