The Second Temple in the Bible
Nolan Keck

If construction began on the First Temple in April of the 480th year after the exodus from Egypt and was finished in the October of the 7th year following, then the Second Temple would outlast the first, being built in 516 BCE. The Second Temple was built on top of the location of the first, with construction commencing at the end of the 70-year Israeli Babylonian exile. God worked through King Cyrus of Persia to proclaim the end of Jewish exile, that they may return to their homeland, and rebuild the city and Temple. Cyrus died, and then King Artaxerxes rose to power, who ordered the work on the Second Temple to cease, and it did so for 15 years. King Darius would finally clear the way for Prince Zerubbabel (1 Chr. 3:16-19, Matt. 1:12) to bring the order from Darius to Haggai the prophet and Joshua the High Priest, and the Second Temple was then finished in 4 years, 520-516 BCE, after Zerubbabel first laid the foundation in April of 537 BCE.

There were three Jewish returns from exile. The first in 536 BCE was led by Zerubbabel, the handpicked governor of Cyrus (Haggai 1:1). Zerubbabel would have been King of Israel if the land of Israel were still a kingdom. The second was led by Ezra in 457 BCE. Ezra was a priest and scribe, and no less than six books of the Bible have been credited to his authorship. The third was led by Nehemiah in 444 BCE to fortify the city, as he was appointed the civil governor of Israel by Artaxerxes, being his cup-bearer (Neh. 1-2). Nehemiah would oversee the completion of the Wall around the city of Jerusalem, and with God’s help, would complete it in 52 days (Neh. 6:15). Jerusalem was again a fortified city 142 years after it’s destruction in 586 BCE. And exactly 480 years from the date that the Jerusalem Wall was rebuilt, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. God worked through Nehemiah to help restore the Jewish way of life (Neh. 12:44-47). The articles of the original Temple that were removed by King Nebuchadnezzar were preserved (2 Chr. 36:7; Dan. 5:1-4) and brought back for the Second Temple, as prophesied by Jeremiah (27:22). The Ark of the Covenant, however, was lost.

The First Temple was built during a Golden Age for Israel, when they enjoyed an enduring peace from all of their enemies, but the Second Temple was built during a time when warfare was rampant throughout the region. When the Second Temple was completed, it was 60 cubits long and 60 cubits high, but even the foundations showed that it would be inferior to Solomon’s Temple. “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundations of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy;” (Ezra 3:12, RSV). Even though the first Temple then laid in ruins, the Jews still called it “the house of God” because of its consecration for worship. Jeremiah 41:5 indicates that worship continued at the site of the first Temple even after it’s destruction. From the time of Abraham, an altar was built at this very place (Gen. 22:9). The Qur’an 2:125 states, “We made the house a focal point for the people, and a sanctuary. Use the shrine of Abraham as a place of prayer.” Even though this Second Temple would be plundered continually by the kings of the North (Syria) and the kings of the South (Egypt) over the next 400 years (1 Maccabees 1-4), it would be Jesus Christ Himself who would speak of this Second Temple as “My Father’s house” (John 2:16-20; Matt. 21:12-15).

Built in 516 BCE, this Second Temple would be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, lasting 586 years. It’s destruction was a fulfillment of the prophecy made by Jesus nearly 40 years earlier (Matt. 23:38; 24:1,2; Luke 19:41-46).

Herod’s Temple
King Herod gave this Second Temple a major renovation, taking 46 years to complete (John 2:20), in order to win the favor of the Jews rather than to glorify God. Great care was taken to respect the sacred area during the work, even to the training of a thousand priests as masons to build the shrine. This Second Temple, sometimes referred to as “Herod’s Temple,” is the setting for when Jesus came, cleared out the Temple twice (once at the beginning of His ministry in the Gospel of John, and once at the end of His ministry in the Synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke), got left behind in it as a boy, and prophesied of its destruction.

The Second Temple was built by Divine command (2 Chr. 36:31), but it would fall short of reclaiming the lost glory of the First Temple, as foreseen by the elders (Ezra 3:12). Even though Jesus, Himself being greater than King Solomon (Matt. 12:42) would call it “My Father’s house”, the Jews would miss their time of visitation (Luke 19:44) by not recognizing who Christ truly was, and the Temple would never reach the height of glory that would have enabled it to surpass the glory of the First. For 14 centuries the Jews had the Passover to point to Christ. Within that fourteenth century and on the night before His death, Jesus celebrated the Passover supper. Once Judas left the group to betray Him, He instituted the Lord’s supper, so that those who believed in Him would remember Him until He came again (1 Cor. 11:26). The Lord, Himself being the Lamb, ate the Passover meal and would give His life on the cross on the same day that lambs were being slain in the Temple in preparation for the Passover holiday, even though Christ Himself fulfilled the Passover. If we apply the principles of Geometry to this question, the Bible itself containing the Theorems of life, Jesus and the Herodian dynasty being the Postulates, and the Temple itself providing the framework for the Proof, then we conclude that Jesus would be proven correct (Luke 19:41-46) in AD 70 and the Herodian dynasty proven wrong once again, emphasized with Herod Agrippa’s death in Acts 12:21-23. A true prophecy only comes true (and proves itself) after the intersection of two straight lines in time is foreseen, not after. And this would certainly not be the first time that Geometry and that which is spiritual would coincide, because as we’ll see in an upcoming ‘Temple’ of mankind, the four-sided building of the Temple of man starts out as “an oblong (or duplicated) square because man’s organism does not consist of his physical body alone. The physical body has its “double” or ethereal counterpart in the astral body which is an extension of the physical nature and compound of the same four elements in an impalpable and more tenuous form.” (William L. Wilmshurst, “The Meaning of Masonry”) The Jews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day of the first month of their calendar (Nisan). The number fourteen means deliverance and salvation to the Jews, as it so rightly does, and this singular geometry throughout history would perhaps have pointed them to Christ as well; this Second Temple being the setting, and rejoicing would then prove louder than any reservation about spacial dimensions (Ezra 3:12).

Additional suggested Bible readings 

Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zech. 6:12-15, Malachi 3:1, Matthew 23:38 - 24:1, Luke 19:41-46, John 2:16-20.

Further reading

Geometry Lesson: Postulates, Theorems, Proofs (Simplifying Math) (


Halley’s Bible Handbook, by Henry H. Halley, Twenty-Third Edition, 1962, Zondervan Publishing House, Ezra - Nehemiah, Luke 16.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, 1962, 1973 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

YouVersion: the Bible app; Devotional “Temples in the Holy Scriptures” by Raymond D. Lombard, 4-day plan; Devotional “Golden Repair” by Grace School of Theology (

The ESV Study Bible, 2008, Crossway Bibles, Ezra 1-4

The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997, Word Publishing, Ezra 1-4

The Qu’ran -

The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, The Inter-Varsity Fellowship, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI

Indiana Monitor and Freemason’s Guide, Published by authority of the MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND LODGE OF FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA, 1997, pg. 117.

“The Meaning of Masonry”, by William L. Wilmshurst, 1922.

Wikipedia - Solomon’s Temple - (Dates)


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