Scriptures

Herod’s Temple

Introduction

When Herod the Great became the king of Jerusalem one of the first things he did to win over the people was to expand and beautify the temple of Zerubbabel. Herod’s temple cannot actually be spoken of as a third Temple, for Herod himself said, in so many words, that he only intended to enlarge and beautify the Temple of Zerubbabel.

You can be sure that his primary interest was to gain fame for himself.  The temple that Solomon built brought him much fame.  Herod no doubt thought that by doubling the size that Solomon built would bring him great fame.

Since the temple stood on the top of a hill, the only way to enlarge the area was to build massive retaining walls and fill in the area inside the walls so as to create a large flat area.  Herod would double the size of the original platform of Solomon’s temple.  He had the materials for the new building collected before removing what remained from the old Zerubbabel temple.

He trained 1,000 priests to be masons and carpenters for work on the Temple itself.  In all 10,000 skilled workmen were employed in this gigantic reconstruction effort.  The temple was commenced in 20-19 B.C. in the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign. The Temple itself in which only the priests and Levites worked was finished in a year and a half.  It took eight years to complete the courts.

Subsidiary buildings were gradually added so that it was not actually completed till the time of Agrippa II in A.D. 62, which would be about 81 total years of construction.  It was completely destroyed eight years later in A.D. 70 by the Romans.  Some of the foundation walls of the temple are visible today.  It is called “The Wailing Wall.”  Jews go there today to pray.

On one of His trips to Jerusalem for the Passover Jesus made a whip and drove out the animals and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. He said,

‘Take these things away!  Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’  And His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’  Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?’  Jesus answered and said, to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and will You raise it up in three days?’ John 2:16-20

This shows that at the time Christ visited Jerusalem the temple had been under construction for forty-six years.  Herod dedicated the Temple in 18 B.C.  The full realization of his plan actually took 84 years according to Josephus.  He tells us that ‘the expenditure was incalculable and its magnificent was never surpassed’. It is probable that the major part of the work had been accomplished when Jesus was there.

Interestingly, Jesus refers to Herod’s Temple as ‘my Father’s house’ even though Herod is the one who had it rebuilt.  Evil men often fulfil God’s purposes not knowing how their self-centred deeds can be used to bring about God’s purposes.  Even though moneychangers and merchants were polluting the temple area with their animals along with a corrupt priesthood the temple itself remained the house of God.

It was built of white marble, covered with heavy plates of gold on the front side rising high above everything around it.  Josephus compared it to a snow-covered mountain.  Some said it was so dazzling that it was difficult to look directly at it when the sun was shining. Whichever side you approached, it was a dazzling sight.

The Jews for the most part hated Herod yet they had great admiration for what he built.  Even the disciples show their admiration for the beautiful buildings on the temple grounds.  On one occasion upon leaving the temple it is said, ‘His disciples came to Him to show Him the building of the temple.’

They must have felt he had not shown much interest in the many buildings located on the grounds of the temple and they wanted him to see their beauty.  It must have shocked them when He told them, ‘not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.’  As soon they reached the Mount of Olives they asked Him ‘Tell us when will these things be?’  His answer must have mystified them.

The area inside the massive retaining walls has been estimated as anywhere from 26 to 35 acres. The shape was an irregular oblong shape, broader at the north than at the south.  The walls had several gates.  Looking at the drawing below you would be standing at the Southwest corner of the temple looking east toward the Mount of Olives. The Wall immediately in front is the west wall.  Part of it remains today known as the ‘Wailing Wall.’

Just beyond this wall, you can see the Temple (centre area) but we are seeing the backside of the Temple which faced toward the east and the Mount of Olives.  Beyond the Temple, you can see what was called Solomon’s porch. It was covered allowing protection from rain and the hot sunshine. At the northwest corner was Antonia’s Fortress.

Roman soldiers were placed there to keep an eye on the Jews and what was going on inside the Temple area.  Pilate lived there at one time.  On the south side (right) was a magnificent structure called the Royal Porch.  The roof was of carved cedar.  It may be that some of the chambers were for the priest, rabbis, officials and the Sanhedrin.

Herod’s Temple figures prominently in New and Old Testament history.  Mary and the infant Jesus would have entered from the east through the ‘Golden Gate’ located on the east wall which opened into the court of women directly in front of the temple.

They were greeted by Simeon and Anna, Luke 1:25-38.  At 12 years of age, the boy Jesus amazed the temple rabbis by his understanding and answers, Luke 2:46-47. The court of the Gentiles was to the right of the Temple (south). Driving out the animals, moneychangers and merchants by Jesus was probably in the Court of the Gentiles.

At the second cleansing, he would not allow anyone to carry anything through that part of the temple, Mark 11:15-17.  He said to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of thieves.’ Many times, at festivals He walked in the temple courts, and taught and disputed with the Jews.

He ‘sat down over against the treasury’ and observed the people casting in their gifts and praised the poor widow who cast in her two mites which were above all who cast in out of their abundance, Mark 12:41-44.  Part of the western wall still remains.  It is the holiest shrine in the Jewish world.  It was part of the retaining wall supporting the temple mount.

After the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., Jews were not allowed to come to Jerusalem until many years later.  Then they were only allowed to visit once a year on the anniversary of the temple’s destruction and weep over the ruins of the Holy Temple.  Thus this wall became known as the Wailing Wall

One interesting project by Herod was his raising an immense shrine over the cave of Machpelah, the burial place of the Patriarchs.  It was constructed of massive stones characteristic of his structures.  Much of this building remains today.

More recently a long staircase leading down to the Tyropoem valley where there were public gardens and pools.  The pool of Siloam was located in this area.  On the day of Pentecost, the only place that meets the conditions of Acts 2 would be around Solomon’s Porch.  Which would accommodate a large gathering of people. Their meeting ‘day by day’ after Pentecost was in the temple area – again at Solomon’s Porch.  Years later Paul would be accused of profaning the temple by bringing Greeks into a forbidden area of the temple.

Summary Of Herod’s Temple

One of the first things Herod did to try to win the people over in his favour was to rebuild the temple. Stood on the highest point of Jerusalem.  The only way to enlarge the area was to build massive retaining walls. He trained 1,000 priests to be masons and carpenters.  In all 10,000 skilled workmen were employed.

Began around 20-19 B.C.   Temple was finished in a year and a half.  Eight years to complete the court. Subsidiary buildings were gradually added.  Christ visited the temple it has been 46 years under construction. The building would continue until A.D. 62 making a total of 81 years in all.  Destroyed within eight years.

On one visit He drove out animals and overturned tables of Moneychangers.

‘Take these things away!  Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!  And His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’  Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do you show to us, seeing that You do these things?’  Jesus answered and said, to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and will You raise it up in three days?’ John. 2:16-20

Construction went on until A.D. 62 probably involving minor buildings, works, etc. Interesting that Jesus calls Herod’s Temple ‘My Father’s house.’  God can use evil self-serving men to accomplish His purposes.  Polluted by moneychangers, merchants and corrupt priests, the temple remained the House of God.

Built of white marble, covered with heavy plates of gold on the front side.  Josephus compared it to a snow-covered mountain.  So dazzling it was difficult to look directly at it when the Sun was shining on it. The Jews for the most part hated Herod but admiration for what he built.  Even the disciples showed their admiration.

‘His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.’  Must have felt Jesus did not notice all the buildings.  It must have been a shock to them when he said, ‘Not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.’ As soon as they reached the Mount of Olives they asked Him, ‘Tell us when will these things be?’  His answer consisted of a long description of the dismantling of the temple.

The area inside the massive retaining walls is estimated at 26 to 35 acres.  The shape was irregular oblong, broader at northern end than at the south. Part of the western wall remains today and is called the ‘Wailing Wall.’

The temple sets in the middle of the mound.  Beyond (the eastern wall) was Solomon’s Porch.  It most likely fits into the events of Acts 2 (Pentecost).  Their ‘day by day’ activities fit into the area of Solomon’s Porch.

Herod’s Temple figures prominently in both Old and New Testament history.  Significant events occurred in Herod’s temple.

1. Mary and the infant Jesus would have entered the court of women on the East Side.

2. Greeting by Simeon and Anna, Luke 1:25-38.

3. At the age of 12 Jesus probably visited Jerusalem for the first time. He was found in the Temple ‘sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.’

4. Satan brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple to tempt him. Driving out the animals, moneychangers and merchants by Jesus from the court of Gentiles

5. At second cleansing would not allow anyone to carry anything through that part of the Temple. ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.’

6. He ‘sat down over against the treasury’ observing the people casting in their gifts and praised the poor widow who cast in her two mites. See Mark 12:41-44.

7. Jesus often taught and debated the scribes, teachers and priests at the Temple.

8. A major part of the activities of Pentecost took place within a temple court.

9. There was day by day activities of the early Christians in the Temple courts.

10. Paul was arrested and accused of bringing Gentiles into sacred areas of the Temple.

11. The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans. Thousands of Jews were killed, and many were carried away into slavery. With the destruction of the Temple Judaism as a system ceased to exist.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

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